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how start a photography business

Start a Photography Business – The 3 Fundamentals of Marketing


If there is one thing that separates successful photography businesses from another, it always comes down to Marketing, and when you considering how start a photography business, it should be up there as one of your most important business topics.

You can be the finest photography artist in the World, but if you cannot market your images, and get them in front of the right audience, then you are never going to sell them, no matter how good your work is.

But marketing is easy, isn’t it? We have the wonders of Social Media and The Facebook / Instagram Advertising platform that makes it so simple to create an advert and have it in front of potentially thousands of potential clients.

You upload your images, and your videos, create your advert text (or “copy” as it is known in the trade), and then you wait for the enquiries to come flooding in.

Except they don’t. Tumbleweed. Nothing.

how start a photography business - marketing fundamentals

You check the advert statistics and sure enough, Facebook is placing your ad in front of prospects and some of them are clicking but you are still getting no enquiries. What’s happening?

I’ve known so many photographers who have experienced this, even the most seasoned of professionals and it usually comes down to one thing. They have forgotten basic fundamentals of marketing.

These fundamentals are so important (especially when learning how start a photography business), yet so easy to overlook and whenever I work with other photographers to help them with their business I always take them back to the very basics.

How Start a Photography Business : Step 1 – Who is your perfect customer?

This is the basic fundamental question we have to answer before considering any marketing.

At first glance it seems a simple question with a simple answer, doesn’t it? Let’s take a wedding photographer. His customer is couples that are about to get married. But what other factors might we need to think about?

What about their location? If I’m based in Wales, I don’t want to travel to the North of Scotland every week to photograph a wedding, so I need to consider where my customer is based.

If I am a high-end wedding photographer, I need to consider if they might be able to afford my fees.

If I’m a budget photographer, I don’t want to waste time or money advertising to couples that have a much higher budget.

In fact, for our marketing to be truly effective we need to sketch out a clear profile of our perfect client.

When I started my photography business, I had just left a career in IT with a very good salary. I knew that if I was to replace that level of income, I had to be commanding higher fees for my wedding photography services and targeting higher-end weddings.

From my own experience of just being a wedding guest, I knew that the type of people that typically booked higher-end weddings would be slightly older than average and most-likely in a professional career.

I also knew that the unique selling point of my wedding images was that they were very stylized and fashion orientated, so I also needed to target clients with an interest in fashion and in their own appearance.

Another issue I had was that there were only a few higher-end wedding venues near where I was based, so I had to be willing to travel a little further afield, to ensure I was covering the best venues available.

So, for my business, the profile I created for my perfect customer was as follows:-

My perfect customer is a 35-45-year-old female who is engaged to be married. She either lives in Scotland or is planning a wedding in Scotland. She regularly visits the gym or spa, is educated to a degree level, and works in a professional role. She has an interest in fashion and reads magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

By creating this profile I could use filtering within Facebook and Instagram’s advertising system to ensure I was only showing my adverts to individuals with similar demographics to my perfect customer.

This is vital to ensure you are not wasting your advertising budget showing adverts to people who are just not going to book you.

Think about the number of times you have seen adverts on Facebook from other photographers marketing their wedding services. I see them on a daily basis. This is a perfect example of where the photographer has failed to properly define their ideal customer / audience and has not been specific enough in their audience definition to exclude someone like me who has been married a long time, and certainly is not looking for a wedding photographer!

So that is rule number 1 of marketing – Know your perfect customer!

Now that we have defined our Perfect Customer, we need to think about our marketing objective.

How Start a Photography Business : Step 2 – Define your marketing objective

If I am a portrait photographer my objective might be to get an instant booking for a portrait session on my website booking platform. A landscape photographer’s marketing objective may be to attract their client to a gallery of images for a specific geographical area and entice them to purchase an image to remind them of that visit.

As wedding photographers, it is unlikely that we would get an instant booking on our website due to the higher value of the transaction, so we have to lead our potential clients on a journey towards booking us as their photographer. We need to lead them on a path that gradually persuades them that we will be the right photographer for them.

So, in my case, my initial marketing objective would be to just ask them for their email address. Once I have that, I can then send them a series of follow-up emails to help them with their wedding photography decision-making process and gradually entice them to become my client.

Imagine if I had structured an expensive advertising campaign that led this potential wedding client to a “Book Now” page expecting them to instantly book me as a photographer. That’s not how wedding photography is booked, so my ad campaign would fail.

So that is rule number 2 – Define your marketing objective.

Now that we know our client, and we know our objective, how do we get them on the hook?

This is where the design of our advertising comes in and where we introduce the concept of AIDA.

How Start a Photography Business : Step 3 Always Use AIDA

AIDA is a mnemonical “aide-memoire” to describe one of the most fundamental concepts in marketing.

It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action and these four elements should be present in every marketing campaign you create.

To create a successful advertising campaign, you must first think about capturing the ATTENTION of your perfect customer.

This can be done either through a snappy headline, or an amazing image. Personally, I like to grab their attention using a headline. For example, “Calling all Brides-to-be! DON’T BOOK your Wedding Photographer until you have seen this FREE report!”

Once you have their attention, you must then generate INTEREST in your product or service. This can be done by providing information about what makes your offering unique or explaining how it can benefit the customer. In my case, my sub-heading on the advert might be “The Insider’s Guide to Wedding Photography”.

From there, you must create a DESIRE for the product or service. This is where I would rely on the power of my images creating a desire in my client to aspire to have wedding images like these.

Finally, you must encourage the customer to take ACTION. Every advert must have a clear and concise “Call to Action” telling your perfect client exactly what to do next. In my case that would be “DOWNLOAD”

By following the AIDA model, you can ensure that your advertising campaign is structured in a way that is most likely to generate results.

The next time you are looking to do some marketing for your business or you are considering how start a photography business, don’t forget these three core fundamental rules:-

1. Know your perfect customer
2. Define your marketing objective
3. Use the AIDA model to structure your advertising campaign

If you can keep these 3 key concepts in mind, then you will be well on your way to creating a successful marketing strategy for your photography business.

Oh and if you have got to here and wondered why I had a missing word in “how start a photography business” whereas I should of course typed it as “how to start a photography business” – well it’s just a little bit of search optimisation trickery 😉

This article was previously published in Professional Photo magazine as part of Alan’s monthly “Marketing Matters” column.

About the Author

About the Author

Alan Hutchison runs a very successful Photography studio alongside his wife Morag in Scotland. As a former IT Director, Alan is also an accomplished SEO specialist and Marketeer. For Alan's latest training and speaking engagements, please visit www.alanhutchison.co.uk

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