Marketing for Photographers

10 Simple Steps To Build an Effective Photo Marketing Strategy

A Proper Plan Produces Real Success


Photographers generally suck at marketing! There, I said it. You know I am right.

No photographer ever fell in love with photography because they wanted to be a marketer. As a result, most photographers need help understanding marketing. This is a common pain point that we all share.

I am lucky that I had a mentor early in my professional career who pushed me to learn marketing basics. That was in the early 1980s, and the beauty of it is that marketing is still very much the same today as it was then.

Today, we use lots of technology, including social media. Still, the steps, values, and thought processes behind an excellent photo marketing strategy have remained unchanged.


Let’s examine what a photo marketing strategy really is. First, we should clarify what marketing means for a photographer.

Marketing is NOT…

  • Marketing is NOT posting a photo with little to no caption and expecting people to hit you up for a shoot. 
  • Marketing is NOT shouting on social media that you have openings on Saturday – Book NOW! 
  • Marketing is NOT telling potential clients they need to hire you because you have a certification from some professional organization.
  • Marketing is NOT posting memes or complaints about clients. It may be funny to other photographers, but those photographers are NOT putting money in your pocket.

Marketing IS…

Photography Marketing combines Advertising, Promotion, Publicity, Public Relations, and Sales.

Wait, don’t click away. You are obviously here because you want to improve your marketing. Give me a few minutes. I promise you it is easier than you think, but you must put some effort into it.


An easy-to-understand photography marketing example:

For this example, let’s presume you are a wedding photographer.

If you post on social media that you shoot weddings or purchase space on a billboard to create brand awareness – that’s advertising.

If you get a cool decal made for your car with your business name, website, and social media URLs, and you drive around town so people see it, that’s promotion.

If your billboard gets people talking because your slogan is “Our photos will last longer than your marriage!” and the local newspaper writes a story about it and even interviews you – that’s publicity.

Billboard with a bold wedding photography advertisement at dusk, featuring a car's light trails on the road.
“Our wedding photos will last longer than your marriage.” — https://www.notthesmartestweddingphotographer.com

If people see the billboard or newspaper article and think it’s so funny that they stop you and mention it when they see you shopping for groceries or at a restaurant – that’s public relations.

If you tell those people about the various photography services you offer, how much fun it is to shoot with you, and how they will love how the pictures look on their walls—that’s sales.

If you planned for it all to happen that way – that’s marketing.

Marketing is the overall umbrella that ties them together. Marketing is having a strategy. Marketing is what you do to communicate the excellent value and experience that you will provide to a client.

And indeed – marketing only works if your photography is excellent.


The Photo Marketing Glossary

Now that you are aware of the five terms under the marketing umbrella let’s ensure we understand what each involves.

Advertising

Paid forms of communication that you have complete control over. 

This includes:

  • TV and radio ads
  • Digital ads (search engine marketing, social media ads, banner ads)
  • Print ads (magazines, newspapers)
  • Outdoor signage (billboards, car, and bus wraps)

Promotion

Short-term tactics to generate immediate interest and bookings or sales. 

Think of:

  • Discounts and coupons (Which any smart photographer will NEVER do)
  • Contests and giveaways
  • Limited-time offers
  • Free trials or samples

Publicity

Unpaid media coverage about your brand or product. 

This can be built through:

  • Word of Mouth
  • Press releases to news outlets
  • Pitching stories to journalists or bloggers
  • Events and sponsorships that get media attention      

Public Relations (PR)

Focuses on building positive relationships with the public to shape your brand’s image. 

This involves:

  • Managing brand reputation / personal branding
  • Building relationships with influencers (Think Senior Ambassadors)
  • Community involvement
  • Crisis communication

Sales

The process of directly converting leads into paying customers. 

It uses techniques like:

  • Sales presentations and pitches
  • Closing deals
  • IPS – In-person sales after a session
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
📸 Did you know?
The term “guerrilla marketing” was inspired by guerrilla warfare tactics, emphasizing creativity and cost-effectiveness, and is often used by photographers to create impactful, memorable marketing campaigns with minimal budgets.

10 Steps To Build an Effective Photo Marketing Strategy

Creating a marketing strategy is a dynamic process that requires ongoing attention and adjustment. This is not a once-and-done project.

Starting with a clear plan and being willing to adapt based on results will help photographers effectively market their services and grow their business.

Here are the 10 steps that I follow and strongly recommend:

1. Define Your Brand

  • Identify what makes your photography unique. This applies to your photographic style and the experience you deliver to your clients. 
  • Develop a consistent brand voice and visual identity. This applies to your website, social media, and how you discuss your business in person.

2. Analyze Your Competitive Landscape

  • Identify other photographers offering similar services in your area.                                   
  • Understand their strengths and weaknesses relative to your services.
  • Determine how you will make your business DIFFERENT!

If you feel that you are in competition with other photographers, you need to read this article:  Stop Thinking Photography Is a Competitive Business.

3. Understand Your Audience

  • Research and define your target market (demographics, interests, behaviors). Simply put, Who is your ideal customer?
  • Create audience personas to better tailor your marketing messages. Your marketing messages shouldn’t be about you; remember, they need to be understood by others. Audience personas force you to look at your business from the outside in.

4. Set Clear Objectives

  • Determine what you want to achieve (increased bookings, higher brand awareness, etc.). This is especially important if you didn’t research before starting your business and are undercharging for your services.
  • Make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant, and give yourself a deadline to work towards.

5. Choose Your Marketing Channels

  • Decide which platforms best help you reach your target audience (social media, email newsletters, blogs, etc.).
  • Consider both online and offline channels based on where your audience spends their time. Depending on your business model, something as simple as a flyer with tear-off phone numbers posted at a supermarket or library is still very effective marketing. The digital version of that is an app like NextDoor Neighbors.

6. Develop Your Content Strategy

  • Plan the types of content that will engage your audience (portfolio images, behind-the-scenes video clips, etc.).
  • Be sure to include caption writing with that content. Just posting a photo or video is the photography equivalent of SHOUTING! You need to be a better storyteller. Stories are emotional and create connections. Stories SELL!
  • Maintain a consistent posting schedule. Don’t buy into all the marketing hype about posting daily at an optimal time—there is no reason for all that stress. If you can post weekly, that’s awesome. Every two weeks should be an extreme minimum. Whatever you do, always favor quality over quantity.

7. Plan Your Budget

  • Allocate resources effectively across different marketing activities. That doesn’t mean you will need to spend money. It means remember that time is money! Use your time wisely.

8. Implement and Monitor

  • Launch your marketing campaigns.
  • Use tools to monitor progress (Google Analytics for web traffic, social media analytics for engagement).

9. Evaluate and Adjust

  • Regularly review the performance of your marketing efforts against your objectives.
  • Use data to understand audience behavior and preferences.
  • Refine your marketing strategy based on actionable insights from analytics.
  • Be prepared to adjust your strategy based on what’s working and what’s not.

10. Foster Relationships and Networking

  • Engage with your audience through comments, messages, and social media. Ignoring a comment on a post is simply rude.
  • Network with other professionals and businesses to expand your reach and opportunities. Look up the Chamber of Commerce in your area. Wait to join; they can be costly, and expect a good deal of your time. (Plus, they are always thrilled to get a new member who is a photographer, so they can get you to shoot lots of stuff with the promise of connections) Look up the Chambers website, where they will usually list all the local businesses that are members. Just Google those businesses and reach out to them to begin a relationship and create awareness.

The Last Frame

Marketing might not come naturally to you. However, with a bit of creativity, strategy, and effort, you can significantly improve your visibility and attract more of your ideal clients. 

Start small by choosing one or two areas to focus on initially, and expand as you become more comfortable with your marketing efforts. 

If you are serious about making money as a photographer, ignore this topic at your own risk and the risk to your business.  

Remember this:

A Proper Plan Produces Real Success

  • AAdvertising
  • Proper Plan – Promotion & Publicity
  • Produces Real – Public Relations
  • Success – Sales

I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman 

Do you have more questions about improving your marketing efforts? Would you like to continue the conversation? Join my TOGKnowledge Photographic Community, where you will find photographers from over 30 countries passionate about learning and sharing their photography as they develop their craft. It is FREE to join and participate!

Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
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