If you’re wondering how you can start a portrait photography business—taking your hobby to the next level—this article is for you. We’ll guide you through building a beautiful portrait photography website to show off your work, how to maximize it, and creative ideas for promoting your photography to land new clients.
Why You Need To Be Marketing Your Photography Business
You might know of some incredibly talented photographers who aren’t making very much money from their craft. It’s likely because they’re not very good at marketing themselves—marketing and photography are entirely different skill sets.
Learning how to market your photography services is a huge component of building a successful business. Whether you’re just starting a portrait photography business or having been at it for a while, promoting your work is necessary to find new clients and projects for consistent work coming your way.
You don’t have to settle for the starving artist trope in pursuing your photography career. There are many ways to create revenue streams that allow you to make a career in photography both rewarding and lucrative. The truth is it’s not enough to have the right gear and a passion for work—you need to put yourself out there and connect with potential clients. These tips will take you through digital marketing tips and other creative promotion strategies to get your work in front of the right people. Unless you’ve got the budget to hire a marketing team to strategize and implement campaigns, you have to pull your sleeves up and do the work yourself.
Luckily for you, we’re here to help you out. Let’s jump right into the tips.
1. Maintain a Flawless Online Portfolio
First thing’s first—set up your photography business website.
The world is becoming increasingly digital, and with people accessing websites for services right from their phones, your business must show up where your potential clients are.
An online portfolio builder offers many benefits that can boost your photography business.
Thanks to intuitive website builders and templates, you don’t have to understand web code or hire a freelancer to make a professional-looking website. You can set up your photography portfolio website within a matter of hours.
Pick A Platform To Showcase Your Work
You have your choice of platforms to choose from. You might as well test the waters and pick a platform that offers a free trial to see if it’s right for you!
Format has over 70 beautifully designed templates for creative businesses—and you don’t need to input your credit card information to start building.
Building an online portfolio website and keeping it up-to-date is one of the most important things you can do to promote your portrait photography business. It gives people a place to see your latest work and get a sense of your style as a photographer.
If you already have a website, let’s help you make the most of it with these extra tips using built-in features from Format’s platform that could help your portrait photography website stand out:
There’s a range of beautiful, modern templates and layouts to choose from that make it simple to build a portfolio that’s attractive and looks on-trend.
- You can easily set up an online store that seamlessly integrates with your portfolio to sell packages.
- It allows you to embed videos in your online portfolio. This could be used for things like giving customers a behind-the-scenes look at how you create your beautiful portraits.
- The ability to maintain an email list of existing and potential customers
- Search engine optimization tools to help maximize your efforts online and increase organic search traffic to your website.
Many photographers might leave it to the photos to sell their services, but we recommend writing an About Page to keep visitors engaged.
Without any clear direction on your site, your visitors will be left with nothing to do but exit your site before getting a chance to get to know you, contact you, or sign up to your email list.
2. Start a Portrait Photography Blog
Now that you have your website set up, the work isn’t over. You should consider starting a blog. Contrary to click-bait articles on the internet, blogging is not dead.
A blog can serve multiple functions in promoting your creative business. Blogging is a great way to tell a story about your work as a photographer— share your creative process to demonstrate your expertise and let your personality shine through.
When people finish reading your excellent blog posts, they’ll be more likely to check out your portfolio and keep you in mind for their portrait photography needs.
Not sure what topics to tackle? Here are some ideas for what creative professionals should blog about. If you’re looking for even more ideas, we’ve curated a list of the best photography blogs to follow for inspiration.
Moreover, maintaining a blog helps to improve your website’s visibility on the web. One factor that Google and other search engines look for when sending relevant traffic is how frequently the site is updated. You’re not likely updating the main web pages on your site, so blogging allows you to update your website regularly, keeping it fresh and relevant for search engines.
3. Attend Portrait Photography Conferences
Portrait photography conferences offer a great place to network with other professionals in the industry. The contacts you make there may be able to cross-promote with you or even refer clients to you. To get the most out of it, you should be giving out your portrait photography business cards to everyone you talk to.
Here are two of the largest upcoming conferences for portrait photographers:
- WPPI conference for Wedding & Portrait Photography
- SYNC Portrait Photography Conference and Trade Show
Networking doesn’t have to be limited to in-person spaces. Online portrait photography Facebook groups and Clubhouse local to your area is a great way to meet other photographers from all experience levels who are generous with their time, advice and might have clients to send your way if you can nurture and add value to these connections.
4. Volunteer Your Time And Photography Skills
When it comes to marketing portrait photography, spending some of your free time volunteering is one way to get your work out there.
For instance, you can volunteer to photograph a charity event such as a fundraising banquet or offer professional website headshots for employees for charitable organizations.
Event organizers will want to use your photos for their social media or website. Lastly, every attendee could potentially turn into a client! Once they see how great of a job you did, they may decide to hire or recommend you for their company.
Other non-charitable organizations may benefit as well. To reconnect with local businesses you would like to work with, consider doing some mini portrait photography work to refresh their social media and website. This could lead to additional paid work in the future.
5. Offer Special Deals
Limited-time offers tend to grab peoples’ attention since they don’t want to miss out on a good deal. So consider offering your previous clients some special deals to encourage booking your services again.
You can also share this special offer on your social media. Places like Linkedin and Instagram might be a great place to start.
One example of an offer to promote your portrait photography business is a mini session: quicker and more affordable shoots that can draw in clients who aren’t ready to hire you for a full shoot.
For example, if you usually charge around $200 for a two-hour portrait shoot, try announcing a special offer where clients can get a half-hour shoot for $80. Besides helping to drum up interest in your portrait photography business, the shorter time commitment means it’s less work for you, and you’ll be able to book more clients.
Special deals may be a good idea if you often have friends and family who turn to you for free work.
Offer special rates to elevate their Instagram grid or update their LinkedIn profile photo. While accepting unpaid exposure may feel like a good place to start, it can make it difficult to leap from a hobbyist into a bonafide business.
There will come the point where you won’t be able to keep up with free work, and you’ll need to start charging for your editing time, equipment, software, and marketing efforts.
Discounted rates help you sustain your craft and help your friends and family consider you a professional photographer.
6. Get Listed in Photographer Directories
Photographer directories can help you find potential clients who are currently looking for a photographer. Typically, there are fees involved to sign up, but it may be less expensive than you think. There are a few that let you get listed for free. Here are a couple of popular directories for marketing portrait photography:
Photography Directory Project is free to join. The only requirement to get your free listing is that you include a link to the directory on your site.
Photographers Black Book is a large directory that lets visitors search for professionals in the photography industry by location, category, and specialization. It costs $15 a month to get listed.
7. Enter Portrait Photography Contests
Entering photography contests is another good marketing strategy, as the contest website or sponsor company will often show off submissions. Even if you don’t win, portrait photography contests can help you stretch your creativity and build on your skillset.
If you manage to win, that’s a great thing to list on your About Me page, as it will contribute to your credibility as a skilled portrait photographer. Some of our favorites contents:
Some of our favorites:
The Critics’ Choice is designed to give rising photographers the best opportunities to break into the global market. Their jury is made up of internationally known photographers, publications, festivals, museums, and art galleries.
The Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest has a grand prize of $2,500. Winning submissions are shown off on the Smithsonian website and also appear in the Smithsonian Magazine.
Check out our list of the best photography contests for a few more ideas of where to submit!
8. Make the Most of Your Social Media
Photography lends itself well to social media platforms. For many photographers, Instagram is a powerful tool for generating leads.
Other social media platforms like TikTok, Pinterest, and Facebook can become powerful tools for promoting your portrait photography business as long as you’re consistent, engage with your community, and produce captivating content. You’ll start to see growth on platforms that can eventually lead to paid work.
Want to make the most of your social media presence? Here are some of the key things to keep in mind:
- Set up a business page on Facebook. A dedicated business page looks more professional than a personal Facebook account and gives you access to additional tools for reaching customers and showcasing your brand.
- Make sure your social media profiles have links to your website.
- Use Instagram analytics tools to understand your audience and whether your following is growing. These tools can identify things like audience demographics and what type of posts perform best.
- Use relevant hashtags on Instagram. This may take research to identify unspammed hashtags. Your image will be lost in the abyss if it’s too large (over a million images). For portrait photography, using local and specific hashtags is ideal.
- Use Instagram scheduling tools as a convenient way to ensure your feed is consistently updated. These tools also enable you to schedule your Instagram posts to go up at the best time of day, so your posts get seen by as many people as possible.
- Be social on social media. Support your other creative friends’ work, and they’ll be sure to return the favor and promote your social media page too.
- Encourage people to promote your business on Facebook. One way to do this is to hold a contest. For example, you could do this by offering a free portrait shoot as the prize and ask people to include a link to your website in their posts.
- Embed your Instagram feed on your online portfolio. Doing this lets you take advantage of your Instagram feed to keep your online portfolio as current as possible.
For more tips on making the most of your social media, check out this guide for growing your business using Instagram.
9. Encourage Referrals
Word of mouth referrals is the most valued form of marketing. People are more likely to reach out to a service if they were recommended by a trusted friend who had a great experience.
Remind your happy clients to tell their friends about you. Offer a small discount if you post your work on their social accounts and tag or refer friends to you.
10. Invest in Advertising Your Photography (Like Facebook Ads)
When you’re starting a portrait photography business, Facebook ad campaigns are a great way to get into paid advertising. One benefit is that the pricing is extremely flexible—you can get started for as little as a dollar.
Another benefit is that Facebook ads offer a lot of tools to help target your ads to users who are likely to be interested in your portrait photography business. For more information on how to make the best use of Facebook ads, check out our guide, Facebook Advertising 101 for Visual Artists.
11. Reach Out To Your Email List
If you’re not already building an email list for your portrait photography business, start now. Email marketing is the best way to keep in touch with your past clients and nurture interested prospects into becoming paid clients.
With an email list, you don’t have to fight with social media algorithms to get seen. As soon as you send out an email, it’ll appear in your recipients’ inbox chronologically. Format has built-in website features that allow you to capture your visitors’ emails, so you can start building a list as soon as you launch your site.
It takes a significant amount of buy-in from someone to give up their email, so make your offer enticing. On your website, you can include a downloadable PDF guide to posing for portrait photography or a discount code for their first booking to convince them to sign up for your newsletter.
You can nurture this email list by sending updates on what you’re working on, service promotions, share open calendar bookings, and send out volunteer model calls for when you want to spruce up your portfolio.
What Can You Do Next?
Marketing ourselves doesn’t always come naturally. The last thing we want to do is come across as spammy or disingenuous. If the reason you’re not promoting yourself is that you feel this way about the marketing process, you’re not alone.
In order to conquer feelings of impostor syndrome, you should shift your mindset—sell from a place of service, not self-promotion.
After all, you’re offering a service to benefit others. You’re bringing life and creativity to someone’s Instagram with your photography services. People are searching for what you have to offer; getting in front of them is all you have to do.
Want more info on the best ways to market, promote, and grow your portrait photography business?
Want more info on the best ways to market, promote, and grow your portrait photography business?
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