One of the most challenging aspects of being a commercial photographer is marketing to get clients. It’s ironic because we are in a commercial marketing environment, yet reaching the people we want to hire us can seem like a combination of sorcery and dumb luck. But, in my experience, no matter how good you are or how “cool” you are, if no one knows about you, then you’re never going to get work. I’ve tried all kinds of photo business marketing tactics. I’ve read countless books about what you should or shouldn’t do in marketing. I thought I’d share what has worked for me as a commercial photographer to get work.
1. Portfolio – It all starts here. What do you like to shoot? How are you different than the million other photographers out there? Whom do you want to shoot for? Does this shot in your portfolio not fit the theme of your style? These are just some of the questions that you should ask when you edit your portfolio. And don’t try to do it alone. Ask peers and mentors to help you make the edit. Or let me coach you as a member of Photo Authentic. I’ll give you an honest opinion of your work and how I think you should market yourself.
2. Website – Your website and your web presence are the most critical aspects of your marketing plan. I can’t stress this enough. Your website should A) be easy to navigate, B) have big photos that download fast, and C) have your contact information on every page, and D) be mobile friendly. Need a review of your website? I can help you here.
3. Content Marketing – Content marketing starts with doing a blog about what you’re shooting. Blog about what new clients you have. Blog about anything related to your business. Google LOVES blogs, especially one’s that are XHTML compliant (i.e., WordPress). The more you blog, the more search engines will visit your site, making you more relevant. Also, make sure you link out to specific phrases, not just “click here” or “this article.” For example, Lincoln Barbour is a fantastic architectural photographer.
4. Source Sites – Source sites are websites where you pay to be listed with other photographers. These websites charge a premium that keeps most amateur photographers off the platform. This results in a high-quality list of photographers that will appeal to commercial art buyers and photo editors. The source sites will often put together portfolio events or will even show you printed portfolios to agencies for you.
Here are some of the top source sites you should look into to get in front of the people who hire photographers:
There are a bunch of others, but I would say these are reasonably well known and trusted.
5. Professional Photographer Organizations – You absolutely must join either ASMP or APA, or (ideally) both. It gives you credibility because not just anyone can join these organizations. They are only for working photographers. You have to be peer-reviewed before they let you in. ASMP and APA have both built outstanding reputations as a source for excellent photographers. Being associated with them makes you look like the professional you are. Not only that, but you’ll learn incredible amounts of photo business knowledge and get some pretty sweet discounts on everything from computers to insurance to car rentals.
6. Direct Mail & Email – This is the old standard, and it’s still as good today as it was 20 years ago. A good schedule would be a print mailer every three months and an email campaign every week to a list you build on your own. Don’t use a mailing list service to construct a targeting mailing list. Instead, focus on building your list from clients you already have and people you know. Then write down 100 clients you want to work for and send them print promos and personal emails directly. Once you get them to respond, you can add them to your regular mailing list.
7. Social Media – There’s a good way and a wrong way to do social media. If you do it right, you’ll get rewards like web traffic, great feedback, and a sense of interconnection with clients and colleagues. As a business, your social media interactions should stay on message, stay positive, and be helpful to your followers. Nobody that will hire you cares what you had for breakfast, how rad this party is, or how much you hate rush hour traffic. And please, for all that is holey, don’t tweet about the weather. Use your judgment, be real, and keep personal separate from business.
Commercial Photographer Marketing Tips Summary
The real trick is knowing that not just one marketing tactic will get tons of inquires coming in. You have to do all of it, all of the time, forever and ever. It’s part of doing a commercial photography business the right way.
Finally, remember that marketing costs money, time, and effort. Make sure you are charging enough to make it all worthwhile.