Photography Marketing: 9 Tips to Boost Exposure

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Phil Grossman

15 Jul, 2019

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Whether running a full-time photography business is just a daydream or your current everyday reality, it’s never too early (or too late) to start planning your photography marketing strategy. As a photographer, you need to deal with two types of exposure: the kind that you change with your lens, and the kind that you adjust with your social media, website, and professional network. 

Let’s face it: the photography industry is competitive, so you’ll need a solid marketing plan to keep your prints selling and your clients smiling. However, with a bit of talent, some elbow grease, and a pinch of advertising know-how, you can start raking in new customers and sales faster than you can say, well, “cheese.”

In this article, we’re going to give you the lowdown on how to market a photography business — the ins, the outs, the ABC’s, and the A-to-Z’s. Hopefully, these photography marketing ideas can provide you with some inspiration so you can get out there and start turning your marketing dreams into marketing realities. 

Photography marketing ideas

Let’s kick it off with the most important thing you can do as a photographer:

1. Build a portfolio website

If you only do one thing from this list, make sure it’s this. Even though many people assume that having a solid Instagram or other social media profile is enough, there’s a certain sense of class and professionalism that comes from having all your work on a well-designed, easily-to-navigate website. Of course, you should also be dropping links to your social profiles on your website so that the two can work in tandem with each other.

Nowadays, making a website is incredibly easy, so there’s no reason not to boost your web presence with this marketing staple. Just find yourself a website builder like Squarespace or Wix and use one of their templates to get up and running ASAP. If you want to go all out, you can hire a web developer to make one for you, but in most cases, this would be overkill. 

Let’s take a look at an example of a great landing page:

Ben Lowy’s website does precisely what any good photography site should do: it takes a step back and lets the work speak for itself. The design is unobtrusive, providing only a minimal sidebar on the left so that users can navigate and find the information they need, including links to the photographer’s social accounts, contact info, and store.

2. Establish a social media presence

Whereas your website should serve as the central hub for your business, social media is essential for a different reason: outreach. If your website is your business card, social media platforms are your networking events. 

To use social media effectively and really establish a presence, you can’t just throw up a couple of photos on Instagram or Pinterest and call it a day’s work. Building out your social media requires interacting with both up-and-coming and established members of the community you’re trying to become a part of — that means commenting on other photographers’ work, liking their photos, and responding to comments. 

If you have to pick one social media platform to use as a photographer, Instagram is where it’s at. 

While Instagram marketing for photographers is something that you could easily spend a lifetime mastering (be sure to check out our article on social media for photographers if you haven’t already), let’s try to distill it down to just a few points so you can get started. 

  • Start by writing a great bio and taking some photos. 
  • Then, find some relevant photography hashtags with varying amounts of followers, write a good caption, and tag any relevant accounts. 
  • Finally, make sure to stick to a consistent posting schedule.

That should be enough to get you on your way. So, how are the pros doing it?

Taking yet another page from Ben Lowy’s book, you can see that Lowy has his Instagram strategy down pat. Lowy posted an intriguing photo, captioned it in an attention-grabbing way, added a few relevant hashtags, and engaged with Sony Alpha by tagging them. Although you can’t tell from the screenshot, Ben has a pretty consistent posting schedule, rarely going more than a week or two without posting. This increases the number of touchpoints that Lowy has with his following.

3. Create SEO-focused content  

Regardless of whether they’re looking for a local, national, or online photographer, most customers are going to head to Google for their first round of research. Google serves more than 50,000 searches per second and it’s crucial that your business comes up when potential customers are searching for photographers or prints.

Because of this, it’s essential that you write some SEO (search engine optimization) friendly content for your site. What does that mean? In short, you’ll need to create content that targets specific keywords that might appear in someone’s search. Good SEO is the way businesses get themselves to the top of Google and enjoy a steady stream of free traffic. 

Related: Getting Instagram SEO Right

Let’s look at an example of how this can help your business. Imagine that you’re looking for a photographer to take engagement photos in Roanoke, Virginia. The first thing you’re likely to do is to head on over to Google and search for something like “roanoke virginia engagement photos.”

Well, would you look at that:

The first result is from Thumbtack, a freelance marketplace app, so let’s disregard that one. The second, however, was created with SEO in mind — the photographer realized that people are searching for specific keywords, so they created some content that would show up when someone searched for those terms by including them in the post.

And it works. Anyone who runs a similar search is going to find this photographer right away. That’s the beauty of search engines — they help bring customers that are specifically looking for what you offer straight to your door. 

If you take a look at the content itself, you’ll find it’s simple but effective: a short blog post detailing a case study. That’s all you need to get started with SEO: find some related keywords and make some posts based on them. Of course, just like social media marketing, it’s a deep field, but this is an excellent way to get your feet wet. 

4. Maintain an email newsletter

While it’s true that only a small portion of marketing emails are opened, sending weekly or biweekly email updates to those who have opted in to your mailing list is still a great way to keep your brand in your subscribers’ minds. Whether they open your emails or not, your subscribers will see your name pop up in their inbox and sometimes that’s all you need to cement a connection. Next time they need a photographer, you’ll be the first person they think of. 

Your email newsletter doesn’t need to be lengthy or in-depth — although it can be if you want! Just send out a newsletter informing your subscribers that you’ve made a new blog post, are offering a new service, or are running a new promotion. Write a subject line that will catch their attention, and you’re all set. 

Let’s take a look at how Katelyn James from the last point makes email marketing work for her:

When you subscribe to Katelyn’s email list, you’re greeted with a welcome email and video: 

A little farther down the email, Katelyn lays out what you stand to gain from staying on her list: she’ll provide you with free educational materials to help you grow your own photography business. Interestingly enough, Katelyn has diversified her income into two streams: photography education and photography itself. Both of these play off each other — her free educational resources work as SEO content that helps drive sales to her paid courses, and her courses show prospective clients that she’s an expert photographer. 

5. Create video content

YouTube is the second largest social media site, so the value of having a presence on the video sharing platform should be evident — especially when you’re working in a field as visual as photography. While this strategy isn’t going to work for all photographers, if you also have a knack for video editing or a specialty like drone photography, you’ll want to give this a shot.

So, what type of video content should you create? It’s up to the limits of your creativity, but taking a page from Katelyn James’ book, educational content works exceptionally well. However, this doesn’t need to be limited to information about the nitty-gritty of lighting, cameras, and photo editing. Instead, you can take a more holistic approach: if you’re a wedding photographer, make a video about how to prepare for your engagement photos. If you’re a portrait photographer, shoot a quick video about how to dress for your portraits.

Of course, in-depth content that targets other photographers can work quite well too. These days, income diversification is huge, so your photography business need not be limited to just photography proper. As we’ve seen, creating great educational content can become a second or third income stream along with your services and prints, and it can drive traffic to your site and social media accounts as well. 

Let’s look at a case study:

Jay P. Morgan uses his YouTube account mainly as an income stream in itself — with over 300,000 subscribers, Jay is definitely making some decent earnings. However, people who watch his videos are likely to look up his photography and head over to his site as well. 

Fun fact: if you look at Jay P. Morgan’s website, you’ll notice it uses almost the same design as Ben Lowy’s!

The content Morgan posts is quite diverse, ranging from camera reviews to lighting how-tos and even food photography tutorials. The one thing every video has in common is quality: each video is expertly produced and provides a great value to the viewer. If you don’t think you can post high-quality video content, then skip on it until you feel you’re ready. Putting out low-quality content can end up backfiring on you and give potential customers the idea that your photography work will be subpar as well. 

6. Giveaways

Let’s go a little deeper into Jay P. Morgan’s business model and see what else he’s doing to get his name out there. If you take a look at his YouTube bio again, you’ll notice that he mentions he runs giveaways on his site. If you head on over there and look around for a minute, you’ll find this: 

In Morgan’s case, the giveaway targets photographers — The Slanted Lens is an educational resource. However, the concept still works for photographers looking to attract clients; you just have to run it differently. 

Here’s an example of how Yvette Seile, a family, newborn, and natural light photographer based out of Oregon ran a successful giveaway promotion. To win a free family photo session, entrants had to like her Facebook page, like and comment on the giveaway post, and then share it. As you can imagine, the exposure Yvette can get from this is enormous: if just ten people, each with 100 Facebook friends, like and share her post, that’s already up to 1,000 people reached for zero dollars spent. Not half bad. 

Of course, after taking the photos, the lucky winner is also going to post them all over social media, and the next time someone asks them if they know a good photographer, you can be sure who they’re going to recommend. 

7. Referral programs

Out of all the different ways to market a photography business, word of mouth is perhaps the most effective. A personal recommendation from a family member or friend can go a long way in getting someone to sign up for a photo shoot. For the most part, getting clients through word of mouth requires being in business for a while and building up a reputation. However, there is a way to fast-track your word of mouth marketing that doesn’t require much effort on your part: referral programs. 

Instituting a referral program can help passively drive more clients to your business. The concept is simple: tell your customers that if they recommend your services and get someone they know to book a session with you, you’ll give them a discount credit. 

Allison Marie’s referral program is a prime example of this:

Current customers who refer a friend to Allison’s business get a $25.00 discount credit for every person that completes and pays for a session. If you’re a big fan of Allison’s work and a repeat customer, that’s a big incentive to start spreading the word and drumming up some business for her. 

This photography promotion idea can be a little harder to implement and get results from than some of the others, but when it works, it can do wonders for your business. 

8. Yelp and other business directories

Everyone knows Yelp, and that’s precisely why you should be on it. Yelp is the premier local business directory, and one of the first places that most people go when looking for a review of a local business. 

However, there are several other business directories that you can look into as well. Thumbtack, for example, is a service that helps facilitate connections between skilled local professionals and potential customers. In many ways, it’s similar to a bulletin board: users who need a photographer will post the job description, and their post will show up in your feed if you have photography listed as one of your services. If you find a job you want to take, you send a quote and pay a small fee if the potential client responds to you. Recently, Thumbtack also implemented a new feature that will send leads directly to you. 

Here’s an example of a photographer who’s successfully using Yelp. Vitaliakotik Photography accepts quotes via the site, responds quickly, and has a lot of great reviews. 

9. Paid ads

Paid advertising (and performance marketing) is another rabbit hole, so we’ll stick to the basics. Whether you advertise on Facebook, Instagram, radio, TV, a billboard, or the placemat at your local diner, the goal is to earn back the money you spent and then some through new business. Doing this can be difficult, so it’s a more risky marketing strategy from a financial standpoint. However, there are a few techniques you can employ to boost your chances of success. 

Let’s take a look at someone who’s doing it right:

This ad from Studio Q Photography has a clear call to action: send a message or call today. The ad also creates a sense of urgency by stating that there are only four spots left — so you better book right away! Having an attention-grabbing graphic, instilling that need to act right away, and clearly telling the viewer how they can do so are the three main keys to a successful paid online ad campaign. For bonus points, Studio Q also threw in some relevant hashtags for extra exposure. 

Photography marketing is a skill, and the only way to get better at it is by putting yourself out there and seeing what works and what doesn’t. We hope that this article has been able to inspire you and provide you with some ideas to help you get started. If you think there’s anything we missed, be sure to reach out to us at or send us an Instagram DM @ampjarcom. Happy snapping!

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