How to promote yourself as a photographer
I get this question all the time. Most of you thought that since you bought a nice camera, told a few friends you do weddings/headshots/photograph kids, that your cell phone was going to light up & you’d sacrifice your weekends shooting, right? Or maybe you even have a website & now can sit back, put your feet up & you thought the traffic was going to rival Danny Choo’s web traffic (1 million UNIQUE visitors a month) because you bought a $2000 camera . Right?
The phone hasn’t rung, has it?
Truth be told, any person can run down to the camera store & buy a camera. So you’ve done nothing more than what everyone else has done. That’s what we need to change. You need to separate yourself from the crowd & do what other successful photographers do.
1. Get a portfolio website- buy a URL, have it hosted & post pictures. I’d recommend a site that loads quick, stay away from flash based sites & definitely avoid something that plays music every time someone visits. While I surf the web, I’m listening to Zeppelin l o u d l y- I don’t need Andrea Bocelli singing with Robert. All it does is give me a headache- do you want to do that to a potential client? A really fancy website with gimmicks, garbage & flash isn’t going to get you hired- a site showcasing GREAT photos will get you hired. So show them. Best thing you can do for your client is have a website that gets to the point & get to it QUICKLY. Quick loads & show them your best stuff!
2. Have a Blog. Personally, I feel this is the most important. First off, its free. Secondly, Google will pick up any tags you place. The more you post of your photography, the more photos there are on the internet, which means the more likely a client will find you. & its a great way to showcase your talent. The hardest part of a blog is posting- I recommend once a day, but that is difficult- the more you post, the more traffic you will receive & obviously the opposite is true as well. But for me, its a great way to promote my photography & attract clients looking for weddings & head shots.
I recommend WordPress for the best design, features & Google coverage. I had used Google’s blog, but WordPress seemed to be quicker with tags on Google (go figure). Plus, so many free templates & ways to customize your blog on WordPress, it really is amazing.
3. Google +. I love Google +. Its a great way to build a fan base & showcase your work. Or if you are beginning out, there are a lot of pro level photographers you can follow who post techniques & pictures for you to learn from.I wish Google + was as popular as FB because I would jump ship in a second.
4. Facebook. I think this can work, but I only really see this work for “niche” photographers. I think the general mistake people make is they make a FB page & have a picture of a wedding, a dog, an engagement session, landscape, to their friends portrait- they cover this wide range of photography spectrum because they think it will bring in more business, showing they “can shoot anything” (but they only really have their friends on their FB fan page because they look like an amateur photographer because they haven’t specialized in their field yet). I think the goal is go become specialized. I follow this amazing portrait photographer on FB- on her fan page, she focuses only on headshots/portraits and weddings. That’s it. So people looking for either head shots or weddings finds this plethora of the images they are looking for. When she takes a great photo of something else, she posts it on her personal FB page. But she keeps her business page specialized, therefore attracting more clients who are looking for what they need to find.
5. Twitter. I suppose twitter can work. Personally, I think twitter is too saturated to become effective anymore, but that’s my 2 cents. But you might be able to make it work if you really work hard at specializing what you are targeting on twitter- for me, I focus on #photography #photos & promoting my blog. This will bring in clients looking for head shots & weddings, which is what I am targeting. Stay away from the “I’m at Starbucks” posts & focus on promoting yourself. Also, don’t follow people who aren’t what you are looking for. Try to stay in the photo field, otherwise you’re twitter will be a big jumble of random posts you won’t benefit from.
6.Design some quality business cards. Make them nice, simple, with your URL of your portfolio, contact #, any website of yours you want them to find. List what you specialize in on the back of the card. I designed some really nice business cards which I have with me at all times. I prefer a minimalistic design on my cards & no picture, but everyone is different. Any color will do while in the United States, but when I handed them out in Tokyo last year, I got a pretty crazy response since my business cards are black. I don’t recommend that in Japan, so I made some more & they are white for when I visit Japan.
7. Hand out 3 business cards a day. This is a challenge & when I did this, I got in business from everywhere. I would hand out 3 business cards to strangers every day. I’ll warn you- its not easy & its very easy not to do it. But your business isn’t going to promote itself, so just do it. “But Darren, I’m in the office all day.” Hand them out when you go to Starbucks, when you go to lunch, when you see a couple who looks in love & you want to comment on how nice they look & “if you guys ties the knot & need a photographer, here’s my card. I’d love to show you my portfolio” (A female photographer friend of mine does this often & it works incredibly well). Be genuine. People appreciate genuine comments. & what’s the worst that’s going to happen? You don’t get business. You weren’t getting any business while being silent waiting for your soy latte, so what’s the harm in trying?
8. Approach people. When promoting my head shot business, I would often approach people who I thought would look great on camera. Now, this has a potential for you to look like a total creep, but if done with tact, you can drum up some business. Leave the flattery very neutral, hand a card out & walk away. Believe me, it does work. & if it doesn’t work, so what- at least you are trying. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. – Wayne Gretzky
I ended up with a lot of realtor business this way because realtors always need good head shots (think of a profession that relies on mail, flyers, email, etc with their picture on it) if headshots are what you are after.
9. You control your business. Nobody is going to give you business if you don’t give forth the effort. You control your business. I can’t stress this enough. Its up to you. “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.” – Ronald Reagan