Archive for October 6th, 2010

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No Cost / Low Cost Marketing For Your Photo Business

Please welcome our guest author, Fred Claus.  You can read more about him at the bottom of his article.  A special thanks to Fred for being a guest author this week.

In an effort to get your photography business off the ground, you go to the book store or your local library and try to find as many books on marketing your home based business. Many of them have great ideas, but they all take a ton of money. One in particular catches your eye; it shows you how to market on a shoestring budget. What do you do if you don’t even have the “Shoestring” to market with? There are plenty of ways to market a home based photography company that will cost you little or no money to do.

DONATE: Everywhere you look there are people holding fundraisers. This time of year, your children’s schools, your church, local civic groups are just a few of the groups looking for donations to help raise funds for their cause. Try donating a gift certificate for your services. I like to donate a certificate worth a free session, and one 11×14 print from this shoot. This does cost you something in the beginning, but not much. You can make the certificate up on the computer for a few cents. Sure it costs you time, especially if you charge a session fee, and it also costs you the price of an 11×14 image. If you think about it though, how many people do you know that would use this gift certificate and only take the free image? Many clients will purchase multiple prints from this session so long as the work is good. The extra print orders will help to recoup the cost of the free print you are giving away. It’s also been suggested in the past that 11×14 is the perfect size to offer because it won’t fit on a standard home scanner so it’s less likely to be scanned than other prints would be.

NETWORKING: Before you stop reading let me tell you this is not an MLM type option. Everyone in business networks. Search out local networking groups to join. These groups are small and meet for breakfast once a week or so. They are a group of business people with only representative from each profession allowed to join. These groups are formed for the sole purpose of trying to build your business. That being said, whenever another member of your group hears someone who needs services you can provide they will be more apt to hand out your card or mention your company. Some groups cost hundreds of dollars a year, but if you search, you can also find ones that are as little as $10.00 a month.

BUSINESS CARDS: Business cards are a great form of advertising for budding photographers. Make sure you have them on hand at all times and willing to hand them out. Even if you are not in a situation where they are in need of a photographer, hand them your card. Meet someone from your kids school who needs your phone number? Hand them a card, you never know if the need should arise in the future.

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Contact your local chamber office. This is another form of a networking group, but with a bit of a twist. The chamber does not limit their enrollment to just one representative of a particular profession so you will be more likely to see other photographers. They do however only refer their members if someone calls the chamber for a referral. Also unlike networking groups, the main purpose of the chamber is not to network and get leads. It’s more of a business person’s social group. The mixers and other business parties however do find a way to do some soft selling and promoting your business. As a photographer, you may also be able to work a bartering deal with your local chamber. I did such a thing this past year and was able to join for free. My local chamber has an awards dinner each year and they normally hire a local photographer to capture the memories and deliver the images on a CD to the chamber office. I approached the chamber president and offered to photograph the event for free in exchange for my membership into the chamber. Even though the amount of free services they were getting cost less than the cost of my membership the saw the long term benefits of my membership and agreed to the deal.

PARTNERSHIP WITH NON-COMPETING BUSINESS: What type of photography do you specialize in? Try to find a company to partner with. Let’s say you do children’s photography, look for children related companies. Daycare centers, pediatricians, children’s book stores, are just a few of the opportunities. You can approach the owners of such businesses and work a deal to display your work. Doctor’s offices, and daycares as well as children’s clothing stores will be very happy allow you to display your work in their waiting rooms or around the store. This helps to promote your business, while also providing the company with free décor. It’s a win win for both of you. While this works for children’s photographers, there are ways to do this with any form of photography. You just need to look at your specialty and find complimentary companies.

VENDOR FAIRS: This can be taken two ways. Some photographers would like to set up a booth at a local vendor fair and speak with people as they come to the booth. This is great, but only if people come to you. A free and often better way to do this is to attend the local vendor fairs and scout for other photographers. If there are none, then start marketing. Look for complimentary companies and ask to leave some information on their tables. Also, walk around the fair and talk with other fair goers. Comment on how cute their kids look, how adorable their dog looks, whatever it is your business services. Then hand them your business card and offer to do their pictures. While this isn’t as successful as the other forms of marketing, it is free and it does get your name out there. It also helps if you wear t-shirts, or hats with your company information on it. That way people you don’t talk to will still know about your services.

GIVE IT AWAY: Now, before I get a lot of hate mail, let me explain. Let’s say you are walking around a theme park, or your child’s Harvest party at school. You see a child doing something cute, and you happen to be standing there with your digital camera. BAM! You take the once in a lifetime shot. Now the parents would have never called you to take this shot, nor would they have thought to take it themselves. If they did, they would have and you wouldn’t be needed. Take the time to show the image to the parents right then and there. Tell them if they give you their email address you would be happy to email a copy of the image to them. Keep careful notes so that you don’t email the wrong child’s picture to the wrong email. When you get home take time to edit the pictures as if it were a paying gig and make sure they are as good as you can make them. Email the images to the family along with a note that it was nice talking to them, and your contact information. This contact information should also mention that you are a photographer. I bet the family will be posting that picture on their facebook page, maybe as their wallpaper on their computer or cell phone and also possibly many prints ordered as Wal-Mart or the local drug store. Now this may be a slow going process, but next time they need a family portrait done they may look at that picture and remember you.

PRESS RELEASE: Any chance you have to get your name in front of the press will be good for you so long as it’s good press. If you are a member of Shuttermom University you know about “Portrait Parties.” Use that format to help raise money for a worthy cause in your community such as a new playground for the local elementary school, or to help raise money for a needy family. This event would be a press worthy event, so make sure you let the newspapers know. This makes your company look good and it also gives you some free advertising for your upcoming event.

When it comes to photography, the best marketing is “word of mouth” marketing. No matter if its words coming from your mouth, or other people talking about your company, it’s still word of mouth. If you take the time to implement the ideas mentioned in this article you will be creating opportunities for people to talk about your company. The more people are talking about you, the more potential clients you have.

Fred J Claus is a professional photographer and writer living with his wife and 3 children on Grand Island, NY. Fred has been a photographer since the age of 5, and took over his father’s studio in 1996. You can see Fred’s work or contact him through his website at

Making A Career Switch To Photography

Here’s the story of how Glenn Mire made a successful career switch from the technology field into photography - right in the middle of the economic downturn.

While he admits that it wasn’t easy, he says that networking and providing quality photography has allowed his business to grow.

For the full article, click here.  For more photography business tips and coaching, be sure to join us over at Shuttermom University.  See you there!

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