Photography Marketing
Photography Marketing Mistakes by Brendan van Son

How to Market your Photography and Mistakes Photographers Make

Photographers often see themselves as technicians or photo makers rather than as businesses.  So, it’s no surprise that they make a lot of marketing mistakes in trying to find work, or promote themselves.  It’s not like photographers are trained in PR or marketing.  But sadly, it’s hard to make money and create a profitable business in this industry if you’re making photography marketing mistakes.

Photography Marketing
I don’t have any “Photography Marketing” images, so I’ll toss in a couple teaser images to the start of the Southern Africa content.

10 Photography Marketing Mistakes

In today’s blog, I’ve listed some of the biggest mistakes photographers are making in marketing their work.

They Don’t Value Social Media Marketing

Time = money.

As small businesses we likely don’t have a lot of money.  But we do have time.  So, if time is just as valuable as money we need to invest our time. In marketing, there’s no better place to invest your time than social media.  Social media is free to use – for the most part – so take advantage of that by putting your time into it.

And, when I talk about using social media as a photographer, I don’t mean to just use Instagram. Invest time into every social media you can think of, even the small new ones that are likely to die off as soon as they spring up.  Each social media is a marketing opportunity for your photography.

They Use Social Media as a Megaphone

The word “social” is in social media because it’s meant to be social. We’re meant to engage with one another. We’re meant to be having conversations.  Yet, so many photographers use social media as a megaphone to show off their work, or try to sell their work.  Instead, use it to engage in conversations.

Use it to network.

Social media is the world’s biggest networking medium.  It gives us opportunities to connect with people with similar interests and careers around the world.  It can connect us with colleagues, it can connect us with potential clients. And it can single highhandedly make your photography business float.

Photographers Use a Logo Rather Than Their Faces

Photography Marketing
You might not have a cute penguin face, but you still need to put it out there.

In 2018, the world doesn’t want to see logos from small businesses.  The world wants to connect with people.  That’s the reason why influencer marketing has grown so much.  People have a much more solid effect on engaging people with a product than a logo does.

Today, our biggest challenge in marketing is to make people feel invested in our brand.  So when our brand is our person, we need them to connect with us as people.  Having a logo replace your face puts up a barrier to people connecting with your brand.

They Don’t Have a Photography Blog

I attribute a lot of this with the growth of Instagram and social media. People don’t feel like they need a blog anymore. But, as in photography marketing there’s no tool more powerful than a blog.  Because a blog allows potential clients to find your work via search.

If you’re a wedding photographer, for example, in Toronto and your only way of finding clients is social media and word of mouth, you’re going to struggle.  Most people find their wedding photographers on Google.

I’ve just run the keyword “wedding photographer Toronto” through a keyword tool (screenshot below) and it tells me that 4,400 people search this keyword a month.  What’s more, the competition level for getting this keyword isn’t that strong.

If you had a blog, you could write blog posts each week injecting related keywords and within no time find yourself on the front page of Google for that keyword.  Most wedding photographers only need 20-25 weddings a year to make a good income. If you have a strong blog, with a good niche and some good SEO you wouldn’t need to market your photography any other way.

Photography Marketing

They Don’t Have a Newsletter

When I said that there’s no better marketing tool for photographers than a blog, I might have spoke too soon.  A newsletter is absolutely powerful.  Not having a newsletter might be the biggest photography marketing mistake.

A newsletter allows you to connect with people who really want to connect with you.  I mean, who else chooses to join a mailing list aside from people that are truly invested in you.

In all my years on various platforms, I’ve found no better way to get sales and leads than through my newsletter.  It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to sell a photography tour, sell prints, or simply have people check out my blog.  The newsletter converts more people than anything else.

They Don’t Network with Photographers or Potential Clients

Look, I get this one. I hated networking too.  In fact, I used to think networking was sleazy. It seems like if there’s a definition to networking it’s: pretending to befriend people to find work.

But, the reality is networking is huge in marketing. It’s necessary. And usually it’s the photographers that network the best, and who are most well connected that get the work – for better or worse.

And hey, you’ll probably find that even if you don’t find work for your business this way you’ll actually make some legit friends.

Photography Marketing
Another teaser from what’s to come in Cape Town.

They Aren’t Willing to Invest in Marketing

Photographers don’t re-invest enough of their profits into their business.  We’re quick to buy new camera equipment, but slow to invest in marketing.

Personally, I think you should be re-investing between 5-10% of your profits into marketing.  At my company, whatever profit I turn in a month, I re-invest 10% in marketing.  Whether that’s in the form of contests, or ads, or some other marketing technique, I re-invest.

Every good business needs to put some of their profit back into promoting their brand. Photography businesses are no different.

They Share Too Many of Their Photos

Photography Marketing

I’m guilty of this; but, it’s bad for your marketing image if you share too much.  I think social media has driven this issue.  We feel a constant need to share.

But, an old math class question should remind us why this is a bad idea.

I’m going to use my buddy and fellow photographer Elia Locardi as an example.  Elia is very good at sharing only the best of his work.  In fact, last year he only shared about 20 images on Instagram.  Every one of those photos was amazing. So, if you’re a potential client looking at his work you’re going to revert to the old “if this, then that” math question.

“Every photo Elia Locardi shares is amazing. Therefore, Elia Locardi is an amazing photographer.”

On the other hand, I share 365 photos a year.  I think my top 20 photos in a year stand up fairly equally to Elias.  But, since I share 365 images, it degrades the over quality of my body of work.  It makes me look like a lesser photographer.  Let’s get back to that same math question.

“About 10% of Brendan’s photos are amazing,. Therefore, Brendan is a pretty good photographer.”

Who do you think they client is going to want to hire?

They Don’t Have a Niche

I know a lot of these photography marketing mistakes because I made them.  I’m a generalist photographer.  Sure, you could say that my niche is travel photography. But, it needs to be more niche than that. Photographers should specialize in one form of photography. You need a reason for clients to want to hire you.  You need to do something different, or better than anyone else. That way you give them a reason to choose you, rather than someone else.

I like to use the example of Paul Zizka for this example. Paul didn’t make his name a landscape photographer, or even a “dark sky photographer”, but rather as a dark sky photographer who includes people.  It was a niche upon a niche.  And, as such he was as good as anyone else in the world at that form of photography.  So while he might have gotten his start in Banff, Alberta. He eventually found work around the world.

Paul’s non-night sky photography is good – it’s professional. But, if Paul wouldn’t have marketed himself within his niche, I’d have a hard time he would have found the amount of work he has.

They Aim for the World Right Away

If you want to market your photography business, you should start locally.  But so many photographers, especially landscape travel photographers, tend to aim globally right out the door.  From a business standpoint, it makes so much more sense to start locally to build your business, build your portfolio, work on stock photography, find a niche, and make a reputation for yourself.

Look to work with the local tourism boards, find local businesses to work with, and establish yourself as the photographer to work with in your area.  Soon, your work will grow to a place where you’re in demand in other places too.

They Don’t Think About the Client

I think this photography marketing mistake comes down to the idea that most photographers are also artists.  Artists want to create for themselves.  They want to make their own images they they’re proud of.

But, if you’re in the photography business you also have to work with clients so that they get some value.  You can’t simply hope to shoot whatever you want and hope they buy them.  You need to think about the client’s needs and how you can help them out.  I guarantee you that if you work on your client’s needs they’ll keep hiring you.

What’s Next On The Photography Blog?

I’ve made it to Cape Town.  However, there’s still another post coming from Ireland.  So, keep an eye out for that. The content from here in South Africa will be on its way soon.  Lots of exciting stuff on the way!