As any professional photographer knows, growing a client list is no small task. No matter how strong your skills are, it can be difficult to land those high paying clients regularly. When you’re just starting out your professional photography business, you might find yourself taking every single gig that comes your way. Even if they’re not exactly well-paying or in line with your creative style, you take what you can get!
However, the dream for many photographers is to consistently land their ideal client. This client understands your value and accepts your photography rates, has projects that you’re excited to be a part of, and shares you with their network so that you can get even more of those dream photo jobs.
Wherever you are in your photography career, these actionable tips can help you level up your business and get more photography clients.
Getting Photography Clients for Beginners
Are you at the very start of your career? If so, there are some things you can do right away to increase your chances of landing those dream clients. These tips are also a great refresher for more advanced photographers since it’s always a good idea to review your marketing strategies, online presence, and any other aspect of your photographer marketing to make sure everything is supporting your goals.
Tip #1: Select Your Best Portfolio Images
The key to putting together a strong online portfolio website is being selective about the images you include. Showing that you’re a jack-of-all-trades may be less effective than showcasing your distinct style.
Your clients likely have an idea of the look they’re going for, and they’re most likely to choose the photographer that is best at creating it rather than one that showcases a mix of styles.
You might find that you want to split your portfolio into several sections, which can make it easier for your potential clients to find exactly what they’re looking for. For example, if you’re a portrait photographer, you can have separate sections for corporate headshots and actor headshots.
If you don’t have suitable images yet, you can offer to shoot free gigs for friends and family as a way to build a collection of photos for your portfolio. You can also volunteer to shoot some images for businesses or events in order to build up your portfolio images. For example, if you’re a real estate photographer, you can reach out to a local real estate agency and see if there are any opportunities to do a photography session for them at one of their new listings. A complimentary photo shoot here and there when you’re just starting out is a great way to make relationships and build your portfolio.
Tip #2: Choose a Good Photography Website Builder
Now that you’ve selected those portfolio images, it’s a good idea to create a website that your clients can visit to view the portfolio, get in touch, and even collaborate with you. You might be wondering if this step is really that important. After all, most people spend hours each day on social media, so surely you can just attract new clients on Instagram, right?
While it’s true that maintaining a social media presence is a really important aspect of marketing for photographers (more on this later), Instagram profiles aren’t necessarily enough to convert visitors into paying clients.
Linking to your portfolio website in your bio shows a higher level of professionalism, especially if you want to justify your photography rates to your customers. While people who actually work in photography find these rates to be totally justified, especially when you take into account the cost of equipment and time spent in pre- and post-production, it’s important that you help your clients feel that they are getting a level of service worthy of the price tag.
Unlike social media, a dedicated portfolio website lets visitors view high-resolution images and get a better understanding of your services. There are some great website builders out there that make it easier than ever to get your portfolio up and running in an afternoon.
Look for a website builder with built in blogging capability so that you can maximize the SEO rankings of your site. Another great feature to look out for, especially if you need a way for clients to make selections from a large catalog of images and provide feedback on your edits, is a client proofing gallery. Finally, make sure the website builder you choose has lots of great themes available so that you can find something that reflects the look you’re going for.
Tip #3: Identify Your Ideal Client
You might already have a target audience in mind. For example, if you’re a pet photographer living in a major city, your target audience could be urban cat and dog owners. However, by getting more specific about this, you can tailor your marketing and communication to help you land more of those clients you truly love working for.
Spend some time thinking about who your dream client is. Where do they spend their time? How do they make their decisions? What are their likes and dislikes? Get as clear as possible on your vision of who this client is. In the pet photographer example, you might narrow down your ideal client to be a dog-owning, condo-dwelling professional in their 30’s, who earns $70,000 – $100,000 annually, and enjoys spending time at local restaurants and parks. You can even get more specific, giving them a name, personality traits and a list of hobbies and interests.
Of course, all your clients won’t all look exactly like this person, but if you keep this target client in mind as your audience each time you craft a blog post, refine your portfolio, create an ad, or come up with any marketing materials, your business will attract more of that type of client since you’ll be communicating in a voice designed to resonate with them.
Marketing for Photography: Tips for Expanding Your Business
Once you have the basics down, there are lots of things you can start doing to get your photos in front of more people. From getting more eyes on your website to leveraging word of mouth referrals, these tips will help a photography business of any size get more photography clients.
Tip #4: Improve Your Website’s SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to actions you can take to give your portfolio website a better chance of ranking highly in Google search results. That way, when people search for, say, “product photographers in my city”, your product photography website is more likely to appear on the first page where they can find you.
A great way to give your SEO rankings a major boost and get in front of more potential clients is to maintain a blog. If you choose a website builder with built-in blog functionality, this will be straightforward to set up.
If you’re a food photographer, you could create things like behind the scenes blogs from recent shoots, posts about your favorite food photography lighting styles, and posts about when it’s a good idea to hire a professional food photographer.
Try to use keywords relevant to your photography niche throughout your blog posts, and update your blog regularly with new content. This will tell Google that your site is relevant, which is great for boosting SEO.
Tip #5: Have a Pricing Page
Does the thought of setting up a pricing page make you pause? If so, that’s completely understandable. Many photographers struggle with the idea of publicizing their pricing. They might feel that it will cause potential photography clients to pass them by before they get a chance to justify their pricing, or that they’ll focus on the prices more than the photographs.
However, if you put yourself in the position of someone browsing for a photographer, you’ll see why having a pricing page will increase the number of photography clients reaching out to you.
We all have many demands on our time, so the more information we can easily access when trying to make decisions, the easier it is to make those decisions. You don’t have to provide full detailed pricing, but some basic starting rates on photography packages will let your clients know if you’re within their budget, weed out lower budget clients, and save people having to ask you awkward questions about pricing without having any idea if they can afford your rates.
Tip #6: Create Promotions
Everyone loves a great deal! If you’re wondering how to get photography gigs during slow periods, promotions can be one way to create a boost in photography clients. Creating regular promotions not only encourages your followers to open your email newsletter or click on your social media profiles to see what’s new, it also gives photography clients who have been on the fence about booking you a little nudge in the right direction.
Your promotions don’t have to be major price slashes, but things like a few extra delivered images on a portrait session or a special photography booklet can be a great, free or low-cost approach to marketing for photographers. You can try to create special offers around specific events or holidays, or offer mini sessions that are shorter than usual at a discounted rate.
Tip #7: Master Client Relations
If you ask a marketer, they’ll most likely tell you that retaining an existing customer is cheaper than gaining a new customer. That’s why acing your client relations can help grow your revenue without necessarily having to go out and seek a new client.
While this includes everything from communicating in a timely manner to establishing a professional and pleasant environment on set, there are little things you can do that go above and beyond to make your clients become repeat customers.
Things like sending a handwritten thank you card after a shoot or mailing them an extra print can make them feel like you really care about their experience, so think about what you can do to make your clients know you truly appreciate their business.
Tip #8: Collect Testimonials
Related but distinct from referrals is the collection of testimonials. You can include these directly on your website to foster trust in your abilities for people who are just checking out your portfolio, or you can ask your clients to leave a testimonial somewhere like Google Reviews or an industry directory where you are listed.
Most people are more than happy to leave a positive review or testimonial if they had a great experience, and just as word of mouth can help boost your business through a referral program, testimonials from real clients provide an air of legitimacy and professionalism, which is great marketing for photographer businesses.
Tip #9: Join Photographer Listings and Freelancer Websites
Industry listings can be a great way to get in front of people who are seeking out your services. This tip applies especially to wedding photographers since these lists are frequently consulted by those planning weddings. Getting on as many of these lists as possible increases your chances of being discovered by someone who loves your style and wants to work with you.
Depending on the type of photography you do, you might also find freelancer websites to be a good way to grow your business. If your photography niche doesn’t require that you be in a particular part of the world, freelancer websites can help you land new clients all over the globe! For example, if you’re a product photographer, clients can send their product to you allowing you to work with people outside of your geographic area
Tip #10: Create a Referral Program
A referral from a trusted source is often more powerful than something like a targeted ad because we value the opinions of those around us. You can reward your existing clients when they refer people to book your services.
The reward for referral can look like a discount on future sessions, extra images delivered on a future session, or any other bonus that fits the particulars of your business.
The best thing about referral programs is that they can be very effective without costing you extra marketing dollars out of pocket, and each new client has the potential of bringing in even more business. Make sure to let all your clients know about the program.
Tip #11: Stay Active on Social Media
No list of tips for how to get photography clients would be complete without mentioning social media. While the correct social media platform for your business will depend on the type of photography you do, being searchable and active on social media can help clients discover you, show people all of the interesting stuff you’ve been working on lately, and provide a place to maintain a conversation with your community.
If you’re a portrait photographer, Instagram might be the place for you. However, if you specialize in corporate headshots, your time might be better spent on LinkedIn. Think about that target customer of yours and try to meet them where they are.
Tip #12: Get Published
Getting your work published in a magazine or on a website in your photography niche can help you land new clients in two ways. Firstly, there are potentially many people who will see your work who may not have come across it otherwise. Secondly, if someone is considering working with you, seeing that your work has been published in an industry publication can help them feel more confident to work with you.
It can also create more perceived value for things like art prints from your online store. For example, prints from a landscape photographer who has been published in a famous travel magazine will likely be able to command a higher price than those from a new and unknown landscape photographer.
Tip #13: Consider Running Ads
While you certainly don’t have to spring for ads to run a successful photography business, some photographers might get a lot of traction from running some highly targeted Google ads or social media ads.
For example, you may consider running advertisements just before the holiday season as families prepare for holiday shoots for their holiday greeting cards. Therefore, searches for photographers will likely be up around that time of year. A beauty photographer could try running ads targeted at makeup artists, who might want photographers to capture their work.
Tip #14: Make a Habit of Networking
Many of us cringe at the thought of networking, but the fact is people can’t hire you if they don’t know about you. By staying active in events in your community, and even cold calling or emailing potential clients to introduce yourself and get a sense of their photography needs, you’ll be spreading the word about your business and establishing yourself as a friendly, engaged person.
Growing a photography business from scratch is hard work, no matter what type of photography you do, but with these tips, you can be on your way to building a portfolio and client list you can be truly proud of. You certainly don’t have to apply every tip here in order to land more clients and grow your photography business, but taking on just a few of these tips and applying them can help you get the ball rolling in terms of landing those clients you dream of.
Want more tips for growing your photography business? Try these: