I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most family photographers in the market are not part of a large organization or multi-photographer studio that has a cookie-cutter approach to photography and a marketing budget to drive enough clients to support that. A good portion of the industry is made up of solo-shooters who love family and all that it means. For us, where do we even start with marketing? How do we get people to know who we are and what we do?
As a family photographer, you’re not likely to have an agent or represent yourself at trade shows all over your state or country. More than likely, you’re on your own and trying to make a name for yourself. For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume you’re not looking to do your first family session with tips from this article. We’ll start from the position that you have at least a few good sessions under your belt and enough to at least start showing a portfolio.
One more assumption we’re going to make here is that the experience of working with you is a good one. The process should be transparent and simple to follow. You need to be personable and kids need to like you. These are the basics of being a family photographer. You’ll need these. So, let’s take a look at what you can do to drum up some more business.
The first thing you want to do is create a place for people to come and see what you do. For most of us, this is a website or blog. A combination of these is even better. That way, search engines have both static and ever-changing content to rank you for.
Once you’ve got this site up and running, you’ll want to populate it with your work. Make sure everything is key-worded with your location and the type of photographer you are. There are some great CreativeLive classes on the ins and outs of this stuff, so be sure to check them out.
Your website is just a place to go once people know who you are. It is a platform for you to show your work and for your existing clients to send their friends. It’s good to be search engine friendly for generating new leads, but over time these will not be the bulk of your business.
Be sure to build yourself a Facebook page for your business and populate it with your images and stories too. Post what you’ve been up to, share your blogs, share an image or two to get people talking. This is really important. We’ll get back to another way to use this later on.
Let’s break this one down to a simple example. Do you trust the ad in the newspaper for where to buy a new car or your friend who just went to five dealerships before finding a place that had great service and fantastic prices? Your trust is in your friend even before they did the legwork. Anyone with a few dollars can take out an ad in the local paper, but not everyone can make their customers sing their praises. This is your job as a photographer.
The absolute best thing that you can have as a family photographer is a recommendation. If Sally and Mary are having coffee one afternoon and Sally tells Mary that you were great with kids, that’s powerful. Then, Sally shows her a few of the pictures that you took and they chat about how beautiful they are and how the kids look like they had a great time. Sally’s kids run in to see what’s happening and see the pictures you took. They tell Mary about their fun new friend. Who do you think Mary will call to do her own family photographs? There will be no competition. No form of direct marketing can in any way compete with a simple word of praise from a trusted friend.
Social media is just another form of word of mouth marketing. Shouting at the world from your page simply does not work. You need to keep it social. You need to involve your clients in your page. That’s the best way to get your work out there.
Once you’re done editing Sally’s session, post an image on your Facebook page and ask her to tag herself in it or leave a comment. That will then show up in all of Sally’s friend’s feeds as something of interest and they’ll love the pictures of their friend and her family. That will start showing up in all of her friend’s feeds as well. You couldn’t even make that happen with a well targeted ad.
No doubt, a few of these friends are hunting for a photographer of their own and they’ll like your page and take a look at your site. They’ll have seen that Sally loved her pictures and will already be 50% sold before they even reach out. When they do, ask where they heard about you. Once you know, send Sally a quick thank you and a discount on her next session. Now you’ve booked two more sessions and have yet another happy customer who will proudly show your pictures to their friends.
As you can see, I’m a strong advocate of your work speaking for itself and your personality driving your business. Be who you are, be good and what you do, and strive to make each and every client walk away having had a great experience with you. Sprinkle in some direct marketing and email blasts to make sure you stay on people’s radars when needed, but these should only serve as a reminder that you’re there over time. You should be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of family photographs.