Wedding photographers live and die by whether or not they can book clients. And not just any clients, their ideal clients – which help to make taking wedding photos a fun experience that can pay the bills. When setting up your own photography business, it is important to be critical of what kind of client you want to work for, and direct all of your marketing attention to attracting these types of people.
While we have explored this topic of attracting your ideal photography clients at depth, the basic things you want to keep in mind are what defining attributes will your clients have? A simple example for us is that we enjoy working with people who are laid back, casual but cool, artistic themselves, open to a little adventure, enjoy nerdy things like Star Wars and Game of Thrones, and enjoy music similar to ourselves like Bright Eyes. Obviously, not every person we work with meet all of these criteria, and that isn’t strictly the goal – but having at least some of these things in common will make our photography sessions and wedding photography a lot easier, because we can jive with our clients on a personal level. After all, the best photographs come from being able to form a connection with the people you work with, and as long as you have the technical picture-taking skills to go along with it – photography is a fairly easy thing!
We feel that we have a valuable voice in the world of marketing photography services because we have seen great success in our first year of booking clients, and have learned much in the process as well.
11 Ways to Market Your Wedding Photography Business
1. Attract your ideal clients, and make them happy!
If you currently have some couples already booked, the most important thing you can do to help your photography business thrive is to make them happy. For us, a mandatory part of this process is finding ways to make getting their photos taken enjoyable and authentic to their life experience. It makes following up and helping to assure them that their wedding day will run smoothly – even if we get off time. While every client should be treated this way, it is especially important to focus some of this energy on those clients who epitomize your ideal client.
Why is this so important? Highly satisfied clients will talk to their family + friends, and recommend you – driving more business. What often happens as well is an “ideal client” will have a family + friend’s circle often with similar characteristics. This is true for just about everyone, as we tend to stick closest to people who are similar to us. So, when shooting a wedding for your ideal clients, keep in mind that the bridesmaids and groomsmen (in particular) are probably pretty similar in personality to the bride + groom, and might be getting married sometime in the future themselves!
2. Make connections with other vendors in your area.
Other wedding vendors can help enable your photography business. Every time we shoot a wedding, we make an effort to talk with the DJ/band, food vendors, venue management, etc. We are happy to recommend these people when they do well, and in many cases they offer the same to us. Do not limit yourself just to other non-photography vendors, as building relationships with other photographers is also valuable. We learn much from other photographers, collaborate on occasion on styled shoots, and even exchange client referrals when we have dates booked. We have booked several weddings like this, no small feat.
3. Business cards and album samples.
There is something unique about offering something tangible to someone you meet to help solidify your brand in their mind. If you are noticing a trend of in person, face-to-face interactions in these first couple of wedding photography business marketing strategies, you are noticing something critically important to success in this industry. Learning how to socialize and promote yourself to prospective clients, current clients, and the people you will work with (both directly and indirectly) is key. Leaving business cards with all of these people is critical in providing a physical representation of your business with them. Some even go as far as to leave album samples with venue management to show to people who book their venue, and who are looking for photographer recommendations.
Okay, social media has it’s place when it comes to marketing your wedding photography business. There is a lot of inherent value, and Facebook is prime real estate for representing your brand in the online world – and capturing the attention of potentially new clients. There are several ways to utilize Facebook as a marketing tool, so let’s look at a few:
Facebook ads. One of the obvious options is running a paid advertisement on Facebook. Through this system, you can directly target even the most niche people. We once ran an ad specifically targeting women, aged 21 – 35, in our local area, who were recently engaged, and who had liked Game of Thrones. It is insane how targeted the audience can be on Facebook, but we can admit your mileage will vary – and in some ways it feels like playing the lottery to try and find the best mix of variables to target. On the aforementioned ad, we ran it for a month at $50 dollars. We had a few inquiries, but nothing substantial, and nothing really panned out. A let down for sure, but there are other photographers who would swear by this. No doubt, a couple hundred dollars in advertising will be recouped by simply booking one or two weddings, so the cost to benefit ratio is pretty significant if done right.
Post photos and tag your clients. One of the best ways to use Facebook (and free ways!) is to simply post photos from your recent sessions and weddings. We are still working on actually making time to do this regularly, as every time we post we seem to get an inquiry or two. Tagging your clients in the images will allow them to see sneak peeks of your work, and will reveal your photograph to their friends + family FB as well!
Make a “Best of” folder, and tag all of your clients. Keeping your Facebook account organized will make it easier for prospective clients to look through your work. One simple way to help expedite this is to make a “Best of” folder. This could be broken down by year if you have been in the business for a while. Only include the absolute best, and remember to tag all of the clients again.
Share posts on your personal account. One easy way to expand the net of who is seeing your posts is to share your business page posts on your personal account. Jes does this all the time, and occasionally it helps stir up interest within our circle of friends + family.
Of all the social media platforms, Instagram is really – by design – made for sharing photography.
A large portion of our bookings come from simply posting and experimenting with hashtags. Some of our favorite clients found us in this way. Instagram is another way to expose your brand – share only the best pictures you have, and look to create a uniform image feed so when someone new stumbles upon your work – they can get an immediate sense of your photography style.
In addition to the “regular” uploading of photos (which, again, should be the best and highest quality ones you have), you should take advantage of Instagram Stories to update regularly – in between your main updates. It is common for us to upload lower resolution images (like from our iPhone cameras) just to showcase what we are currently doing. It provides an ability to provide a more immediate social media update without the pressure to keeping your image feed standardized with your best work.
You can follow us on Instagram too, if you feel like it 🙂
6. Automate posting to social media websites.
There are many platforms that have been designed to allow you to control all of your social media accounts from one central hub + schedule posts. This has a lot of potential to be useful, though we have only tried this on a couple of occasions and found it does not really work for us (right now, anyways). There is a substantial time investment to learn how to properly use these tools, and produce all of the posts to be scheduled weeks or months in advance.
One thing to keep in mind if you do decide to automate some (or all) of your posting is to still retain some personality. Our fear with automation is that it can lead to producing content that is a bit robotic or inauthentic, which is not a good trade off for “more content.” A good site you can try for free is IFTTT.
7. Use Thumbtack
While we have seen many mixed reviews about Thumbtack, we have had quite a good experience on the whole with the platform. It has undergone many changes since we last used it – for the better from what it sounds like, as they moved away from their own unique currency system to just using real money to send quotes to potential clients (making the costs more easy to understand). In it’s simplest form, Thumbtack works like this: 1). a person can post that they are looking for photography services and include info like their budget, venue location, number of guests expected, etc. 2). professionals can send a quote (this costs money) – usually this is capped at just a few per service request, 3). the person can select which quote they want to go with, get in touch, and book. We booked a few of our early weddings using this method, and it worked like a charm.
With this said, a service like this will be hit-or-miss depending on your expectation of it. You are not guaranteed to book anyone. And while not always the case, some people use this service with the intention of price shopping pretty heavily. We have not used Thumbtack since raising our prices and becoming more established, but it was an excellent resource to help build our portfolio, and the couples we connected with as a result have turned out to be great!!
8. Create your own website
The best way to control the look, feel, and message of your brand online is through your own website. If you do not have one yet, it is absolutely time to set one up. There are many great web hosts out there depending on how much time and money you have to dedicate to creating a web presence (or outsourcing to a developer to build one for you). Many people utilize WordPress and a separate web host like Blue Host or Host Gator (all of which are generally well regarded).
For Hand and Arrow, we have opted for Squarespace simply because we were able to build our own website based on predefined templates, and do not need intense coding knowledge to do it.
9. Blog more
Going along with your photography business website, it is important to regularly update your website. We are consistently working to refine this process ourselves, and admittedly it can be challenging, especially when shooting a lot of sessions and weddings, and editing photos non-stop all week! Still, it is important, and a critical piece of marketing your business.
The way we envision website content and the act of blogging is that they are broken down into different categories:
Staple content – these are pieces of content meant to be unchanging on your site. These pieces are often quite long (2,000+ words), really drive home an important topic, and tend to take a lot of time to produce. You could consider our Wedding Day package investment page to be a staple piece of content, and also within our blog rolls other pieces, such as our discussion of the Exposure Triangle.
Sales content – The next type of content that usually requires a little less time are those articles specifically designed to sell something. While the word “sales” can sound a bit frightening (even we shiver at the use of it), it is really the major component of running a successful photography business, right? The sales content we will discuss can be broken down into two sub-categories:
Selling your services – producing blog content to sell your own services is invaluable. A simple type of this content is news when you are booking for a new year of weddings, or letting people know that you are setting up mini-sessions for the holiday season. This type of content can run the gamut between long and indispensable, to short and quick update blurbs.
Selling products through affiliate marketing – while not everyone’s cup of tea, affiliate marketing can be used to help offset costs + make money during the slower months of the year. For ourselves, it is important that we only utilize affiliate links to products and services we actually use and like. Most commonly, we will link to photography equipment and business services we use. One type of content is simply reviewing the photography gear you have, and linking out to them accordingly. Of course, more ingenious marketers will find unique ways to do this as well.
We have quite a few examples of this on our site, mostly in our For Photographers blog, where we have a chance to talk about some of the gear we are commonly using. A prime example of this is our article – What Photography Gear Should I Bring to Iceland? The reason we wanted to point this one out in particular is because it highlights how you should aim to produce content that is valuable and informative. In this case, we highlight most of the gear we brought along on our trip to Iceland, which may be useful to other photographers looking to travel to Iceland themselves – but unsure of what to bring. As you can see, this is fundamentally the article’s “audience,” and if something catches a person’s fancy – they might just want to buy something. It’s never a mandatory thing, and the lowest stress sales pitch you’ll ever come across – but the links are there for those who find the content useful and wish to purchase through them, and in doing so (at no additional cost to them) – support our own photography endeavors!! It’s basically a win-win situation!!
Personal/Brand Building content – This is content that might not rank really high in search engines, or immediately drive sales, but will help your website to stay current with new updates (this is very important!), and will allow you to add more of yourself into your brand. Have a section of your blog dedicated to just spilling out updates about your personal and professional life. Hopefully it’s obvious, but only share personal things that you would want shared with your target audience and the general public as a whole. So, if your brand is about having the dream, fairy princess inspired Disney-based fantasy wedding, it’s probably best to not post about that wicked bender you had last weekend.
The sky is the limit with blogging, and it really is what you make of it. Another important element is also how all of these content can be shared with your social media networks, thus introducing new content there, too!
10. Learn SEO and utilize it
Search engine optimization (or SEO) is very important to long-term success in marketing your brand online. Every search engine is built around algorithms that determine how content is displayed, and where different websites (and web pages) rank. These algorithms take into account the keywords used in an article – in the headers, the body of the text, the image file names, etc. – and can make or break whether your content is found by prospective clients when searching for photographers in your area.
In the world of photography, localized SEO is especially valuable. Take for example the engagement session we had at The Laurels Preserve. As niche as it may be, any person searching to have engagement photos there will probably search in Google…”The Laurels Preserve engagement photography” (or something similar). The good news for us is that, because we are one of the few photographers to have done photos there and tagged accordingly, our photos rank first in the search engines – and could potentially drive new clients our way for this very reason!
11. Run a promotion or contest.
One of the easiest ways to create some buzz for your business and attract potentially new clients is simply running a promotion (think: discounted services, free add ons like a photo album, etc.). Often, this will coincide with a holiday or, for weddings, around November, which is the beginning of “engagement season.” For some, this could also take the form of a contest. For example, you could post on Facebook to share and like a post to be entered to win a free couples session or wedding.
The hardest part about doing this is finding the balance where you are offering something a prospective client would want, and where you are not taking a total loss on offering the service. For those just starting out, this can be an excellent way to get in the door in order to build a portfolio.
Marketing for your wedding photography business comes in many shapes and forms.
The most powerful marketers will take advantage of all the avenues available to them. The in-person marketing that comes from making real connections with current clients, prospective clients, and other vendors and businesses in your area is vital in the photography industry, and is complimented by internet marketing that comes with running your own website and keeping up with social media.
Want to read more about wedding photography from wedding photographers? Check out our wedding photography section on Formed From Light – our new blog dedicated to helping out photographers!!