Marketing Principles and Tips for Photographers by guest contributor Elena Wilken

As I’ve been working on my business plan and thinking about what it will take to make my dream of transitioning from a full time associate graphic design position to a full time children photographer, I’ve been scribbling down all kinds of notes along the way. My sketch book is filled with “light bulb moment” brilliant ideas, inspiring quotes, thoughts that underline great principles, “never do this again – lesson learned!” insights.

… And that is how this collection of articles was born.
12 tips for building a Photography Portfolio (and reputation)
Marketing Principles and Tips for Photographers :: Part I
Marketing Principles and Tips for Photographers :: Part II
And now another dose of Marketing Principles and Tips for Photographers (you could call it Part III)

By definition marketing is “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” In this case you. Your time, your artistic abilities, your art, your unique ways of creating memories.
So what are some basic ways of doing just that? And how can you stand out from your competition?

1. Treat all your clients well, including the ones that place the small orders. It wouldn’t be a first when the single mom of four who couldn’t afford more than your entry level package will brag about your work and customer service to her dentist and bring you a great new client who in turn will bring others.
Consider giving a little gift to your clients as a thank you. Maybe give a magnet to each customer with your favorite image from the session, include a set of announcements for the newborn session, or a couple of mini accordion books for the grandparents, for your last family session. Always add to these your contact information (your website and a phone number tastefully placed will do).

2. Volunteer. Get involved in local events, help raise money for a charity, give back to the community – it doesn’t go unnoticed. It makes a difference for others, it is good for the soul and it is good for business.

3. Send hand written, personal notes. In a world where we are bombarded with lots of emails and phone calls daily, receiving a hand written, personal note stands out and makes an impression. Send out a thank you note after your ordering session /placing a client’s order, before the clients receive their order. You’ll be remembered and they’ll sing your praises even more so, once they receive their order and show off their portraits to friends and family.

4. Give out referral cards. Hand them out with every order to make it easy for your customers to pass on your information. Consider creating a referral program that rewards clients who spread the word about your business and bring in new clients (with print credit towards future orders, for example).

5. A Blog is a great marketing tool, as I mentioned in “Marketing Principles and Tips for Photographers :: Part II”.
Keep up your blog presence. Someone once said, referring to blogging: “Once you create it, you have to feed the monster”. Once you start blogging you indeed have to update your blog often if you want your blog to become a strong marketing tool, a solid source of traffic and exposure for your business (Taking a break from consistently updating EW Couture, since the baby, gave me an apportunity to test this theory).
Updating on a schedule creates expectations. If people like what they see and what you have to say and show, they will come back for more.
When posting images from your sessions, most images could stand a paragraph or two.
(Check out these recommendations for blogging photographers, in Kristen Kalp’s free FB download article – 10 ways to keep your blog content fresh and spiffy. Great ideas to get you going if you feel stumped!)

6. Shoot personal projects and blog about them. If you don’t shoot clients it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be shooting and blogging. Many times we do our best work when we shoot for ourselves, from the heart, not thinking it through the checkbook and under the stress and expectations that a client shoot can sometimes bring. Many times those are the sessions that bring new clients in or remind older clients how much they want new images created by you.

7. Be specific when creating your marketing materials. I’ve said it before – you don’t want to be perceived as a Jack of all trades, but rather as a master at what you are selling each and every client.
Have different business cards for your different specialties, for example. If you do more than one type of photography (seniors, families, weddings), have cards for each, so you are able to hand out cards specific to the interests of the potential client showing interest in your services.

8. Pay attention to SEO – if you come up on specific photography searches for your area, potential customers will find you.
If there is a special location where you might like to shoot write a post (or more) about this place. Be descriptive and be honest in what you share in the blog post. A personal post with images of my daughter was the reason for an inquiry for a session at the beach, from a family from another town that found the post while researching this location for their upcoming vacation.
On a personal note, this is an area that I haven’t been paying as much attention to, in the name of being too busy to fit one more thing in my schedule. It does take some time commitment and work to do it right.
I’ve realized a while back and evetually embraced the fact that I am looking at it the wrong way. This is an extremely important aspect of marketing to be too busy and not set time aside for. Especially when starting out.
So, I’m now reading Zach Prez’s “Photography Web Marketing Guide“ and planning to pick up “Photographer’s SEO Book“ next.

9. Manage expectations about photography pricing on your blog and website. Let potential clients know about how much they will be spending with you: session fee starts at this price, portrait collections from this price, average investment of this amount.
I’ve started doing this even before I understood the psychological implication and importance of establishing anchors when pricing your work.
Not listing pricing on the website/blog at all will cost you eventually in time spent responding to emails from potential clients that are actually not a good fit and you’ll never hear back from.
If you do list all your prices, you’ll just be another photographer in the list for them to choose from and you’ll simply become a number. You want the potential customer to call and connect with you.
Kristen Kalp of Brand Blog, that I mentioned earlier, has this GREAT free collection of articles on pricing that I think you’ll find extremely valuable. Make sure you check it out. Managing expectations about pricing is one of the things she touches upon in one of the articles.

10. Show only what you want to sell. If you show 5x7s and 8x10s clients will assume that that’s what they should buy. Show large canvas displays and clients will start dreaming bigger, and buy bigger.

11. Read. Read. Read. Soak in the information and apply it. Lots of great ideas and great information (many times free) abound online, on forums and in printed form.
Take advantage of all the valuable information being shared and see how you can fit that into your marketing plan, make it work for you and with the marketing tools that you are already using. Among other resources, I find Professional Photographer Magazine’s Profit Center articles a great source of inspiration and a great reference material.

12. Take advantage of all the free ways you can spread the word about your business. Get your name, website and contact info listed on free online photographer directories that you know of. Don’t know of any? A good way to start finding them is to search in Google for “photo directory“, “photo directory + your town“, “photography directory“, “newborn/wedding/senior/family/your speciality photo directory“, and other similar terms. You get the idea.

The market is abounding with new photographers and seasoned photographers. Standing out, raising above, and maintaing that status is not always the easiest task.
I found out though, that success wants to hold my hand when I stop obsessing over competitors. Obsessing over your competition is one of the sure ways to stall creativity and innovation. And that thought takes me to a wise saying I came across not so long ago – “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities. (Stephen Covey)”
Copying the style, posing and processing techniquesof that one very successful photog that’s your biggest inspiration will not make you successful. It is that “something“ that’s unique to you, that you cultivated and do best, that’s going to set you apart, make you raise above and make you most sought after baby/family/senior/wedding/budoir/school/{…insert your specialty here} photographer in your area.

Elena has also generously offered a beautiful Luxe card template exclusively for RTS readers:

This download is available for a limited time only.  ENJOY!

About the author: Elena Wilken is a graphic designer by trade and education, and a photographer at heart.
A wife and a best friend, mom to two awesome, happy kiddos (a 3 and a half year old feisty little lady and 5 months old mellow little guy).
An avid reader (when she can find the time to get her hands on books) – mystery novels intrigue her most.  Cooking relaxes her and she loves the bounty of flavors in Italian dishes.  Not much of a baker…

The creative mind behind EW Couture Collection, she has an exclusive line of designs through Miller’s Lab Design Market and is working on transitioning to be a full time children photographer.
Connect with her through the EW Couture Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.

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Shelly - April 22, 2011 - 4:13 pm

Thanks so much, Elena. This is very helpful.

Gunnii Sack Photography - April 22, 2011 - 5:49 pm

Great article and super informative!!!! Thank you very much for all of the wonderful advice! I look forward to putting it to good use!

Shannon - April 22, 2011 - 6:24 pm

Thank you so much! I love the insight and learning from others who have been in this businesses longer than I have! :)

Janna Salmela - April 22, 2011 - 9:22 pm

Sweet! I’ve been thinking about making some referral cards. Thank you so much!

elena w - April 23, 2011 - 3:21 pm

thank you for having me ladies!

meg - April 25, 2011 - 2:18 pm

thanks for the free download! :o)

Jen Chesnut - April 25, 2011 - 4:10 pm

I have followed Elena for a quite a while now. She was the first real designer I came across as I started my photography business out. I love her designs, creation and business sense. I highly recommend getting on her email list!!!! You will thank yourself for that decision.

Angela J. - April 26, 2011 - 1:26 pm

Thank you for sharing such great info, tips and for your advice.

Ally - April 27, 2011 - 12:16 am

Great advice Elena! Thanks for the business tips and the free download.

Sarah - April 27, 2011 - 4:00 am

I really enjoyed your article! Very good information. Also, I can’t seem to get the links for the previous “marketing” I & II posts to come up. :( But, anyways… thank you so much for the template as well! Super generous. Blessings!

aga - April 27, 2011 - 11:04 am

so nice! thank you very much!!

Connie Mosier Studio - May 12, 2011 - 2:49 pm

Great template! Just what I was looking for, thanks so much for sharing.

Pete - June 21, 2011 - 1:11 pm

These are great ideas. Having a blog is a wonderful idea, especially if you can blog about local events and include your best photos. I would also include having a website and setting up your profiles on google places and yelp.

Here’s another article that discusses low cost and effective methods of marketing your photography business.

Victoria - Washington Boudoir Photographer - December 4, 2011 - 3:01 am

Great article, I like number 11, (soaking up and applying info) I had some trouble with that, every time we bought a new book on photography I would read it and it would go on the shelf. I thought we were wasting our money but I thought, if we did a review of every book we bought and made a blog post on it we would force ourselves to really read and understand the material. Thanks for the great info, I’m gonna get back to reading all your entries!!

Jeanne - June 27, 2012 - 8:38 am

The link is broken :(

elizabeth johnson - August 28, 2012 - 2:43 pm

the link is broken :(

Dana - November 19, 2012 - 7:47 pm

Helpful tips, as always! TFS!

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