Building a sustainable photography business requires clients. Here’s how to get photography clients using both, free and paid methods.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2019. It’s been freshened up with new pictures and commentary on November 26, 2020.
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If you’ve been doing photography as a hobby and want to start getting paid for it then you need to learn how to get clients. Although it’s one of the most difficult aspects of starting a photography business, it’s essential.
To build a long-term business, you need a steady flow of clients who are happy to pay your rates. When you have satisfied and paying clients, you’ll be profitable.
The method in which you get clients can change with technology, trends, and services. If you want to be successful, you need to stay relevant and adapt as marketing methods change. Here’s how you can start attracting more business.
Before learning how to get photography clients, you need to figure out who your ideal clients are. Similar to a target market for many businesses, in photography, you have target clients.
By understanding this, you’ll be more effective in your marketing and book more clients who are happy to pay your rates. Aside from money, there are several benefits to booking your ideal client:
- Enjoyable photoshoot.
- Easier to book.
- Less hassle.
- High-quality referrals.
- Saves you time.
Ask yourself the following questions to figure out who your ideal client is:
- Who are they? (A couple, single, or family)
- What do they do? (Employed, self-employed, unemployed, or retired)
- What are their hobbies?
- Where do they live?
- How much do they make?
- What do they love?
- What do they hate?
- Where do they hang out?
Use these questions to create an avatar of your ideal client because the more clearly you understand who they are, the easier it’ll be to attract and book them. When you know your ideal client inside and out, you’ll know how to market to them.
How to get photography clients
Now that you know who your ideal client is, how do you book them?
1. Social media accounts
According to Statista, there are about 247 million people in the U.S. on social media in 2019 which is 79% of the U.S. population. Make sure you have social media accounts specifically for your photography because you’ll gain exposure to more people.
When you’re creating social media profiles, enable the business account feature if possible because you’ll be able to see your analytics and understand your audience.
The following social media platforms are the best for photographers:
Your social media accounts should be carefully curated and make sure you post consistently. Focus on posting the types of photos that your ideal client would want, this is how you’ll book them.
2. Create a website
Your website will be one of the first places that someone goes to if they want to see your work. It needs to clearly explain who you are and who you shoot.
Your website needs to include the following:
- A gallery to showcase your best images.
- A blog to share what’s new and get search traffic.
- A powerful about page.
- Contact page.
- How to book a session.
As you can see, the website has more than just pictures and a place to get in touch with you. It’s usually the first point of contact between you and a potential client.
A good website is worth the time and money, so don’t be afraid to invest in it. If you set up well, your website will sell and clients will be excited to shoot with you.
3. Search engine optimization
Search Engine Optimization, also called SEO, is the act of attempting to improve your website’s search rankings and appearing for what people are searchings for.
Your SEO strategy should revolve around your target market and ideal client. A great way to start is to mention the area you serve and the type of photography you do.
Example: Portland Wedding Photographer
By including this in your about page and tagline, you can increase your chances of being seen when people search for a photographer in the area you serve.
To learn more about SEO, read the following:
- What is SEO? by Moz
- 10 SEO Tips by Neil Patel
- Actionable SEO Tips by Backlinko
- Local SEO Tips by Inc
- Small Business SEO by Search Engine Land
- Ultimate Guide to Small Business SEO by Yoast
- SEO Basics by Ahrefs
4. Social media ads
Advertising on social media is a great way to increase your reach, target specific people, and grow your audience.
When you’re selecting a platform for your ads, think about where your ideal client spends there time. The best platforms to advertise on as a photographer are Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Social Media Advertising Tips:
- Set up a budget that you can afford.
- Know your objective. Is it exposure or bookings?
- Design ads to be mobile-friendly.
- Measure your results and make changes as needed.
- Target specific people.
5. Search ads
Search ads such as Google ads, are another great advertising resource because it allows you to target a specific search and keyword. These are considered PPC ads, which means pay-per-click.
For example, if a couple searched in Google for a “Los Angeles Wedding Photographer” and you paid for that specific phrase, you would be in the top results.
The following are examples of pay-per-click ads:
This type of ad is important because you can immediately begin showing up for a specific search which leads to more exposure in less time.
Aside from location-based keywords, you can target people who search for your competitors. What makes this beneficial is that you know that prospects are interested in photography services around the location you serve.
Once you’ve booked a few clients, referrals are a great way to book even more. When you provide someone with amazing service and photos, there’s a chance they’ll share your name with others.
However, to solidify that chance, give them an incentive and reason to encourage their friends and family to book you.
This type of marketing is cheaper and word of mouth advertising is effective. Referral programs shouldn’t result in a loss on your end.
In fact, it can as simple as giving your client a free print when someone they refer books a photoshoot with you.
For repeat clients, you can set up a rewards system. You can give them their 4th shoot for free after completing 3 sessions with you. Another way to do this is to give a discount for booking a certain number of sessions.
Regardless of the method, you’ll profit and provide significant value to your clients.
Frequently asked questions
Free photoshoots are great when you’re building your portfolio, so 3 to 4 free sessions should be sufficient to develop a curated portfolio. When you’re doing free shoots, be selective. Consider the type of photography you want to do and make sure you can use it to market to your ideal client.
Thumbtack matches customers with vendors and while you can book clients through Thumbtack, it’s not reliable as a long-term strategy. The downside of Thumbtack is that it attracts customers who are looking for low-cost or free services. Although you can find clients, you’re better off using other services or buying social media or PPC ads.
Yes, reviews are vital for your photography business because they give social proof. When you have good reviews, potential clients will trust you and know that you’ll do a good job.
The best way to get repeat clients is to keep a client database. Regardless of the type of session you did, you can build long-term clients. You can even reach out to them when business is slow to see if they’d like to book another session. Even if they don’t rebook, nurture that relationship and check in with them. This will keep you in the front of their minds.
When you’re struggling to book clients, it’s frustrating. By using these methods, you’ll build a brand for your photography business and attract your ideal clients.
Featured photo courtesy of Unsplash.