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  • Writer's pictureNick Cody

How To Get Your First Photography Clients

Young male photographer working at desk on computer

Starting a photography business is exciting and like any business venture, it has the potential to be extremely rewarding. It also comes with a whole list of challenges. First and foremost, a business needs clients to sell services to, and a photography business is no exception. I realize there are other businesses within the photography industry that don’t necessarily fall under the category of taking photographs of clients in a local market, but that is primarily what I am going to focus on today.

In the early days of your photography business, it is crucial to have some established clients and leads coming in to create some momentum within your business. Below, I‘ve outlined a few key strategies to attract clients, even as a beginner. Let’s dive in and explore the key steps to getting your first photography clients or growing your client list.

Have a High Quality Portfolio

As a photographer starting a business, a compelling portfolio serves as a visual representation of your skills, style, and what clients can expect of you. It showcases your ability to capture special moments and deliver on your abilities. Potential clients often rely on portfolio to assess your expertise and determine if your work aligns with their vision and needs. Therefore, investing time and effort in building a quality portfolio is essential to make a positive first impression and attract clients.

When you're just starting and lack a solid portfolio, one effective approach is offer free photo shoots. Artists and creative types love to argue about this, so I’ll provide some further reasoning. You need to accurately assess the quality of your work and the portfolio you have. Get honest feedback. Not just from your closest friends, but real feedback. If your portfolio is lacking in quality or variety, offer to photograph friends or a client you know for free to get better work you can showcase. I’ll get into pricing another day, but in order to charge clients what you’re worth, you need to have a high-quality portfolio. Otherwise, acquiring new clients is almost always going to be difficult. You have to be able to show your value through your work. If clients don’t have any reference to the quality of your work, there isn’t a strong reason for them to pay X for your services.

“Get honest feedback.”
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Building a strong foundation for your portfolio, will showcase your capabilities and versatility. If you’re just starting a portfolio, reach out to people you know. Take photographs of friends and family, but focus on the niche you want to work in. If you‘re wanting to focus on high school senior photos, then stage the photos you take in that same way. Models early in their career will often be willing to work together in exchange for rights to use your photos for their own portfolio. Have a model release form ready for them to sign. My last suggestion is to stay as close within one niche as possible for your portfolio and the types of clients your want to attract. If you're spread too thin across different niches, you can't be surprised when clients choose a different photographer who specializes in what they're looking for.

Crafting a quality portfolio takes time and ongoing refinement. As you gain more experience and capture new images, regularly update and refresh your portfolio to reflect your growth. Your portfolio is a powerful tool that can captivate potential clients and make a lasting impression, so invest the necessary effort in it. Don’t underestimate the value of your portfolio.

Utilize Friends and Family

When starting your photography business, the network you have through friends and family can be a valuable asset. Recognizing the value of these existing relationships can provide a solid foundation for growing your photography business.

Working with friends and family can be great, but it can also be difficult. It's important to reach out to family and friends to begin networking and establishing yourself as a photographer if you haven't already. Personal recommendations hold significant weight and can lead to new clients. Encourage your friends and family to share your photography work on their social media platforms, providing exposure to their network of friends and network. This can significantly expand your reach and attract potential clients who may not be within your immediate social circle.

That being said, relationships with friends and family can be difficult to navigate at times. My suggestion is to be open to feedback, but remember to stay focused on the core elements of your business and what you want to achieve. Approach these connections with genuine care. By leveraging your existing relationships, you tap into a supportive network that can help spread the word about your photography business, generate referrals, and build credibility within your community.

Make Referrals Easy

Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful resource. When satisfied clients share their positive experiences with others, it generates trust and credibility, making potential clients more inclined to choose your services.

Testimonials and online reviews play a crucial role in building trust. Testimonials provide social proof and instill confidence in potential clients who may be considering your services. Display these prominently on your website and social media platforms to reinforce your reputation and expertise. Authentic testimonials and reviews will also help you rank higher on search engines. I highly recommend you display these reviews on your website, your Google Business Profile, Bing Places account, Apple Business Connect, and across social media channels.

Happy couple smiling looking at computer

Make it easy for clients to share reviews and testimonials. When delivering your photos, send a link for them to leave a review and ask how you can improve. Consider using something like: “Is there any reason you couldn’t give a 5-star review? How can make the experience better?” Make it a part of your photo delivery process. Most clients are going to be willing to leave you a review. It's up to you to ask them for feedback.

Local Marketing Strategies

Targeting your local market area is a smart and effective way to grow your photography business. By establishing a strong presence within your community, you can attract clients who prefer to work with local professionals and take advantage of local opportunities for promotion and collaboration. In this section, we will explore various local marketing strategies to enhance your visibility, build connections, and attract clients right in your own backyard.

Website Optimization

Creating a website that is optimized for local search is a key component of local marketing. Incorporate local keywords, such as your city or region, in your website's content, meta tags, and page titles. This helps search engines recognize your locality and boosts your chances of appearing in local search results when potential clients are looking for photographers in your area.

Online Listings and Directories

In addition to a website, set up profiles on local business directories and link back to your website. Keep a consistent business name, address, and phone number across the web. If you don't operate your business at a specific address, ensure you target consistent local areas of service. If able to do so, include high-quality images, descriptions of your specialties, and contact information to make it easy for interested clients to reach out.

Attend Local Events

Actively engage with your local community by participating in events and collaborations. Attend trade shows, fairs, or expos related to photography, weddings, or other events where potential clients may be present. Set up a booth or display your work to attract attention and engage with visitors. Networking with other professionals in related industries, such as event planners or wedding venues, can also lead to referrals and partnerships.

Contact Local Publications and Businesses

Take advantage of local publications and media outlets to gain exposure for your photography business. Submit your work to local magazines, newspapers, or online blogs that feature local businesses, events, or lifestyle content. Showcase your expertise by providing captivating images and insightful stories related to your photography niche. Additionally, reach out to local journalists or bloggers who cover topics aligned with your photography style or genre. Offer to provide them with high-quality images and unique perspectives for their articles, increasing the likelihood of being featured.

Local marketing allows you to tap into your immediate surroundings and connect with potential clients in your community. By establishing an online presence optimized for local search, participating in local events and collaborations, and leveraging local publications and media, you can increase your visibility, build valuable relationships, and attract more clients.

Overdeliver on Your Service

Acquiring the first few clients and growing your photography business can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. I've given you several strategies to implement so you can overcome these initial obstacles, but if nothing else, note this: Delivering exceptional customer experiences should be your highest priority to foster positive word-of-mouth and encourage repeat business. Focus on providing excellent service, exceeding client expectations, and ensuring a smooth and enjoyable photography experience. The satisfaction of your clients will ultimately be the driving force behind your success within your photography business.

As you progress in your photography business, remember to continually refine these strategies. While getting your first few clients is a big step, it is the first of many steps.

Thank you for reading. You can submit any questions you might have at the link below.

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