Photography branding and marketing
The line between professional and amateur photographers has been blurring for years. According to Forbes, in many U.S. states both employment opportunities and annual salaries for photography pros have been declining, thanks in part to the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices. More cameras in more hands can mean more of a challenge to distinguish your art, vision, and style as a pro.
Marketing and networking guide for photographers
That’s the not-so-good news. The good news is that ever-evolving tools like Photoshop and Lightroom mean it is easier than ever for photographers to establish a brand identity that is all their own — and stick to it. Meanwhile, the rise of digital platforms means today’s photographers are no longer dependent on galleries and gatekeepers to get their work in front of fans or find clients. Additionally, resources and communities are constantly cropping up to help photographers of all backgrounds advance in their careers.
In short, knowing how to take and edit beautiful photos is important. But knowing how to develop and market your personal brand is critical in today’s crowded marketplace. Here’s how.
Branding for professional photographers
For photographers to stand out from the crowd, they need their own vision and brand — whether it’s surreal landscapes or intimate family portraits. Being authentic and true to your style is vital to building trust with your audience, especially if your audience is paying for your work. A couple who hires you to shoot their beachside elopement, for example, will expect their wedding photos to feel a lot like other shoots of yours they have seen. The same is true for magazines, ad agencies, local businesses, and countless others looking for eye-catching images to fill their pages, sites, walls, and billboards.
In the past, recreating the same look and feel across images and shoots meant a deep knowledge of darkrooms and chemical processes. Not anymore. Features like Lightroom’s batch editing have opened up new frontiers of consistency by allowing photographers to apply edits across any number of images with the click of a button. Preset filters enable them to standardize lighting, shadows, and saturation levels shoot after shoot. And for those looking to incorporate the same features — be they stars, symbols, or patterns — in image after image, Photoshop makes it as easy as copying and pasting.
Innovation and experimentation are critical to every artist’s growth. But when it comes to curating a professional portfolio, it’s best to think of yourself as a brand. This means balancing the need to stay fresh, on-trend and true to a consistent and authentic aesthetic. Fortunately, you are not on your own. By embracing the latest photo-editing technology you are saving yourself hours of guesswork and time-consuming and tedious labor. Better yet, you are setting yourself up for a successful, sustainable career.
Developing your online presence
So you’ve got a personal style you are proud of. Now comes the hard part — promoting it. Consumers, artists, and other businesses today expect to be able to discover and engage with each other online. Bringing your artistic and professional identity online — along with your portfolio — can be the key to securing new clients and business opportunities, and to showcasing your reputation. Word of mouth can still make or break a small business, but those words increasingly circulate further and faster in digital spaces than within the non-digital realm.
The opportunities available to you as you build out your online presence are virtually limitless — from email marketing campaigns to social engagement and showcasing your portfolio in the most accessible medium possible, going digital as a professional photographer is in many ways the real signal that you are not just another somebody who likes snapping pictures of their food and friends.
Optimizing your website
Website optimization is the art of ensuring a frictionless, user-friendly experience to visitors. It’s the “process of using tools, advanced strategies, and experiments to improve the performance of your website, further drive more traffic, increase conversions, and grow revenue.”
As a photography business owner, one of your goals should be to position your website at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). To do so, your website must apply basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. This includes creating a user-friendly website. To be user friendly, your website must:
- Help build trust between you and potential clients.
- Educate your audience on what you do, the style you prefer to shoot, how much a session costs, and photo turnaround time.
- Embody an aesthetic and “voice” consistent with your work, be it formal and elevated or down-to-earth — or something in between.
As far as specific site sections go, the following are a must:
- Contact information
- Gallery pages
- Client testimonials
- Links to your business’s social media pages
- Clear calls to action, be it to book you or contact you for a free consultation
- Service pages detailing the types of shoots you do and price ranges for each
Content creation, blogging, and search
Don’t stop there. By incorporating original content into your site, you will be boosting not just your site’s overall SEO but your own credentials as a photographer. The easiest way to start is with a blog, where you can tell client stories, highlight your own journey to photography, or provide helpful how-to’s demonstrating your expertise in a specific area. Other ideas for your blog as a photographer include why you use the gear you do, basic photography terms and tips, and what sets you apart from others in your niche.
The more content you have that is relevant and relatable, the more linkable your site becomes. Earning links to your site and making sure it is listed in vendor directories can help increase traffic and improve your outreach.
The content you create should not always be full of text — you are a visual artist, after all. You should bring diversity to your content to capture and hold your audience’s attention. Other ideas for content that can help boost your site’s SEO are:
- Audio recordings
- Photos with descriptive alt text
If you find yourself unable to come up with content, you may want to try researching your competition. Take a moment to analyze what they are posting about and what you are not, but should be — but make sure that you are authentic and original with your work.
Marketing and networking through social media
Because social media is how most people today digitally connect with each other and gather information, photographers must create their own online presence. This includes having social media accounts dedicated to your photography.
Continually posting pictures and engaging with people through a dedicated “content” plan is beneficial for your social media marketing strategy. Doing so not only gets your work out into the world, but allows potential clients to connect directly with you. Your strategy should include:
- Automating and scheduling social media posts in order to maintain a consistent cadence
- Using image sizes optimized for each platform
- Leveraging relevant and timely hashtags
- Providing captions and alt texts
- Engaging with others’ posts to boost your own account’s activity
Social media is one place where having a consistent aesthetic really pays off, especially in your feeds. That said, there may come a time when you will want to edit photos on the spot — that’s where programs like Photoshop Express come in handy. It allows you to edit photos on the go, and give them your signature flair before posting.
Instagram is arguably the most influential social media app for especially popular for sharing images. The design of the platform makes it intuitive and effective for image-based content. Similar to Facebook, a business page on Instagram gives you access to advertisement opportunities and the ability to analyze behind-the-scenes information. You can use an Instagram business account to generate revenue and increase your audience reach using the following:
- Instagram ads: There are five types of ads on Instagram: story, photo, video, carousel, and collection ads. You are able to post any of these ad types either directly on your Instagram feed or to your stories.
- Instagram insights and analytics: Like Facebook, Instagram’s insights/analytics helps you analyze your posts. You can see what content is doing well, what needs to be improved, and how your audience is interacting with your posts. The insights go into depth on how many accounts were reached during a period of time, whether you gained/lost followers, and the performance of content you published in the past.
Pinterest is a social media platform that helps users discover recipes, decoration inspiration, fashion ideas, and more — including photoshoot inspiration. Photographers who want to take their business to the next level can use Pinterest to promote their brand and inspire others, whether they are photographers or models.
Because Pinterest is a great platform for discovery, sharing your business will help others see that you can be the missing link for their query. For example, if a user types in “senior picture poses” into Pinterest, they are sure to see numerous results showing different poses high school seniors can strike in their photos.
If you have your photos on Pinterest (and any of them answer the “senior picture poses” query, for example), users will be able to find your page — which may ultimately lead them to your business and generate new sales leads.
This, again, is also why it is important to remain consistent with your branding to help reinforce what styles you specialize in as a photographer. And as long as you create your page specifically for business, you can include a Pinterest “shop” link with your posts, which can help generate sales.
Although Facebook feeds are best known for sharing multimedia, including videos, news stories, and other entertaining content, the size and popularity of the platform also makes it a popular space for sharing images. Likewise, Facebook is one of the default platforms (along with Twitter) where people expect to be able to engage with businesses, brands, and professionals. You can use Facebook to promote your business with the help of multiple marketing tools embedded in the social media app. For example:
- Facebook insights: There are two main types of Facebook insights — Facebook Page Insights and Facebook Audience Insights. Facebook Page Insights gives business-page operators access to analytics for their Facebook page. Here, they can track how their audience is interacting with their content and what needs to be done to improve the number of interactions. Facebook Audience Insights helps you gain a better understanding of your audience and create relevant ads.
- Facebook business pages: Creating a Facebook photography business page helps you market your business on a social level. Business pages differ from personal pages because as a business, you will have access to insights on your page (demographics, which posts are most effective) — a personal page doesn’t give access to this information.
- Facebook ads: Many photographers use Facebook ads to promote their business on the platform. You can create an ad campaign by following these step-by-step instructions. Creating an ad campaign for your photography business is a great way to increase awareness and build your clientele. You can choose to use a carousel, single image, slideshow, or video ad.
Connecting with potential clients isn ot enough. To really stay on top of the photographer field, you will also need to stay connected with your peers. Nowhere is that easier than on Behance, a global community of millions of artists from around the world. Showcase your own work while gaining inspiration from others, or tune in to another photographer’s livestream to learn the skills that will take your work to the next level.
Behance is more than a source of inspiration and learning. It can also be a source of employment. Just browse the “Jobs” section, using filters to select for freelance or full-time work, as well as internships.
Networking online is a must, but shouldn’t necessarily replace networking in person. Here are a few great places to start.
Professional photography organizations
Professional organizations lead to opportunities for collaboration, insider insight into professional opportunities, and the discovery of resources you might not otherwise hear about.
Some professional photography organizations include:
- Professional Photographers of America (PPA): The PPA is a nonprofit photography association organized by photographers, for photographers. Their mission is to “create a vibrant community of successful professional photographers by providing education, resources and industry standards of excellence.” To join the PPA, prospective applicants must sign up for a no-contract monthly membership.
- The Photographic Society of America (PSA): The PSA is a worldwide organization that provides photographers with multiple resources including online learning, webinars, study groups, competitions, mentors, and more. To apply for the PSA, photographers will need to pay a membership fee ranging from $45 to $100 and fill out the application form that best fits their needs.
- The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA): The NPPA is an organization dedicated to “the advancement of visual journalism.” There are multiple membership tiers — prospective applicants are encouraged to review each before applying to ensure they sign up for the best fit.
- The North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA): NANPA makes it their mission to “promote the art and science of nature photography as a medium of communication, nature appreciation, and environmental protection.” Applicants can either complete the membership form online or download it and mail it in. Membership prices vary, so applicants will want to research each category before applying.
- The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP): The ASMP is another resource that offers professional photographers education in better business practices and helps with connecting clients to professional photographers. Membership costs vary with each type of membership — ranging from $95 a year to $335 a year.
Workshops, conferences, and other professional development opportunities
- Aperture Academy: The Aperture Academy offers various workshops throughout the year. Photographers can choose to attend a one-day workshop in San Francisco or a 10-day workshop in Iceland — the workshop’s location will determine how much it costs.
- Click Con: This three-day-long event is hosted in Chicago, Illinois. There, photographers can meet with some of the best speakers in the industry from all over the world, photograph different models, attend themed workshops, and much more. Ticket prices range from $99 to $499.
- WPPI Expo: Held in Las Vegas, Nevada, portrait and wedding photographers can visit the five-day-long WPPI Expo and the numerous exhibits that come along with it. It costs $249 for a conference pass. This pass gives attendees access to 200-plus hours of education, 120-plus classes, and 75-plus speakers.
Put yourself (and your work) out there
Regardless of your photography style, it is vital you market your business using social media and face-to-face networking events like workshops. Not only will this better your skills as a photographer, but it will better your business in general — clientele and all.