Being a photographer and having a photographic way of life is easy. It’s earning money and sustaining a life dedicated to shooting that challenges the senses. A talented photographer can shoot all they want, what happens after is the most important part if they desire to continue with some semblance of earning a living. More important than being a competent photographer is the ability to market those skills.
The question then becomes how to let people know the talent that is available to them and how they can contact the photographer involved. The main challenge here is the concept of continuity; Always being out there and letting people know who it is they can rely on for whatever type of photography they are looking for. Most photographers find this the hardest activity to maintain and pursue constantly.
After each session, sending out a thank you card can set one photographer apart from another. Not kidding. A short note complimenting the client on how they were in the session is also important. Not just a generic thank you card. A personalized note to let them know time spent with them was worthwhile. Include a few business cards and suggest they let friends know is a powerful marketing tool.
Giving discounts to repeat clients and incentives for referrals to other people, family and friends can be another important tool. This builds a word of mouth network and is a valuable asset for future assignments. Give clients more prints than they asked for, attach business cards to the extras and ask them to give them away to their friends, and family. Including a note, as with the thank you cards. And yes, it is a full-time activity. In the long run being generous will pay dividends.
Going to popular events in the community, making contact with the organization who sponsors the event to ask for permission to shoot there and offer them a discount for the photography services can also be a great way to add to a client base. Publish the event on the website, in a monthly newsletter, display prominent individuals at the event for others to see. Advertise a drawing for a free photo session, or just advertise a free photo session during a seasonal event; i.e.; Easter, Christmas, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc. It is an opportunity to collect names, addresses and email contacts. Photographic connections are the best opportunities for marketing skills, illustrating talent, and exercising business acumen.
The photographer should consistently be updating their website, changing photos to keep it updated with fresh images. Only using the best images from whatever event, portrait session, or other activity that is a specialty. If there is a studio, display large prints, 20×30 gallery prints, perhaps a few canvas pieces to advertise to people coming in. By displaying work unrelated to the business end, those images enjoyed on a personal level, someone may enjoy those more than other work and request a print.
For large orders offer discounts. If there is a charity that may strike a chord, offer the work for free, limit this to one or two that have meaning. Offer clients a large discount for blank amount of referrals. Offer a discount during certain times of the year. Photographic presentations are another outlet worth the effort.
Social media is an important aspect of marketing that needs attention. A blogging website can be an important tool for constant exposure. However, it must be attended to on a regular, perhaps a daily basis, and it must be consistent. Facebook, twitter, Linkedin, and many other social sites can have an influence. It is important to filter those and use the sites that feel most comfortable. Then stick with them.
Marketing is a constant activity. It is a 24/7 process that takes time to bear fruit. It will not happen overnight, but if a person is constant and consistent, the results will begin to show up in the form of bookings.
Last and most importantly. Be a brand. Find a niche or market no one else is doing, it will become a way of life if practiced long enough. By being a photographic way of life, a unique product is created that essentially cannot be duplicated. Writers find their own voice, they use it, nourish it, write in it and become a singular entity, that can be recognized when read. This principle holds true for any creative endeavour. Find the creative spirit and use it.
Opinion By Andy Towle