Just like the constant evolution of camera technology — unfathomable images from the James Webb telescope, more and more camera brands going mirrorless, etc. — photography business basics are also forever evolving. Strength as a photographer is no longer enough to guarantee success, so we’ve rounded up some of the overall trends we’ve observed over the past 15+ years. Whether you’re just getting started or looking for ways to revisit business priorities, we’ve got you covered.
This list is an updated excerpt from our free resource, The Photographer’s Guide to Branding and Marketing in a Distracted World. With real-world advice and anecdotes from some of our award-winning members, you’ll walk away with new insights and actionable steps to help you get ahead. Download the guide below and read on for an outline of our top branding and marketing tips.
Business acumen is everything.
Not only are you an artist with a unique point of view, but it’s important to remember you’re also a small business owner. Know your cost of doing business. Take business courses and always get insurance. Read up on contracts and tax laws in your area, get an accountant and be sure you learn to negotiate. Having those skills is paramount to succeeding.
Our friends at Photoville hosted several online courses this summer covering a variety of important business topics for freelance photographers. Check out our recap of their “Crafting Your Career” series, and learn from some of the best in the business about handling contracts and negotiating with clients.
Blogs and newsletters aren’t necessarily a requirement anymore.
Keeping everyone up-to-date is a must when building or maintaining your personal brand. Now that social media is ubiquitous, you can effectively use it the same way photographers used blogs five to ten years ago. The same holds true for newsletters. If you’re worried you’re not going to update a blog or remember to get a newsletter together, don’t worry. Social trends suggest most news and connections come from social media anyway, so make the most of it. Get with the times and keep your accounts updated with your latest project or photo adventure.
Good news for those who might want to combine these efforts, too! Social media platforms like Twitter now have tools in place to make your newsletter easily accessible right from your profile. With their Revue integration, “Twitter helps newsletter creators promote their content and find new audiences. Interested readers can easily subscribe to newsletters from creators’ Twitter profiles.” Here’s one great example shown at the top of the Black Women Photographers’ account…
Social media is key, but there’s no magic formula.
Whether you’re an every day poster or someone who prefers a bi-weekly approach, just make sure your content is helping build your brand and showing personality. Be authentic. Use Instagram Stories to take us behind the scenes. Create Instagram Reels to highlight the steps in your creative process (and to game the algorithm!). Host live conversations via Twitter Spaces to open up a dialogue, promote knowledge sharing and connect with your followers in a more meaningful way. Post editing tutorials or time-lapses of your setup and execution on TikTok or YouTube. Overall, if your posts don’t have a purpose, don’t force it. Use that time to focus your efforts on something else related to your photography skills or business instead.
Practice, practice, practice.
The best way to develop both skills and style? Photograph more. Be patient. Getting training and knowledge through specialized courses or workshops can certainly be life-changing and invaluable, but nothing compares to good old repetition. Also, experiment without fear of failure. You might surprise yourself.
Control your ego and manage your expectations.
It’s hard to remember at times, but you’re not necessarily (and often aren’t) the target audience. Weather, clients and producers are all factors that might affect jobs. The images you prefer might not be the ones the client chooses. Manage expectations and accept that you might not always have full control. Nothing is worth losing your temper over, and nothing good comes out of it. Always be patient and ensure you learn how to roll with the punches, remaining professional and friendly through any unforeseen changes. Being easy to work with goes a long way.
Melissa Lyttle, freelance photographer, PhotoShelter member and former president of NPPA, once told us during an Instagram Q&A…
“A big thing I tell a lot of young photographers is, the work might not be at the level you want it to be yet, but if you are a problem solver, if you are a hard worker, if you are enthusiastic, if you bring ideas… editors would much rather work with that person than with an asshole.”
Having a beautiful portfolio and website is one thing, but making connections is crucial. We can’t stress that enough. Stick your neck out and meet people at events, social media meet-ups and through mentors. The pros we speak with say the same thing again and again:
Networking and word of mouth is or has been the most powerful and effective tool for marketing. So be prepared. Know your schedule. Get out there and be memorable.
If you’re interested in reading more strategies, tips and words of wisdom from fellow photographers to help you get ahead in a competitive landscape, download our free guide, The Photographer’s Guide to Branding and Marketing in a Distracted World.
Have any branding or marketing tips of your own? Drop them in the comments below or tweet @photoshelter to share them.