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Most photographers would be happy hiding behind their cameras producing beautiful images for days on end. In reality though, that’s not a good way to run a successful business. Networking, strong interpersonal relationships and a good reputation are essential to build your brand.
Of course, your images need to be top-notch. That’s just the baseline requirement to get you in the door for most jobs. But how do you differentiate yourself from the hordes of other photographers who do good work, and how do you make sure your name is at the top of the list?
One of the most effective ways to get your work noticed is through online and social marketing. While you may hear these words thrown around often, it’s for a good reason! Consumers are spending more and more time doing research online before making a purchase, from a pair of shoes to a wedding photographer. I guarantee that before anyone picks up the phone to call you, they’re going to Google you first.
So what are they going to find?
Here’s a list of “must haves” in the world of online marketing.
Every professional photographer needs a good website. It should reflect your best work and showcase the exact kind of photography you’d like to be doing. Make sure your site is clear, logical and easy to navigate. It should show a highly edited and precise portfolio of your work and feature only your best images.
Listen to your clients and other photographers you trust. Which images do they rave about? What caught their eye and convinced them to pick up the phone or drop you an email? Sometimes, it helps to distance yourself from your work and have someone with fresh eyes give you some perspective.
Finally, don’t forget about the wording. Does it portray your business in the right way? Does it support your images or detract from them? Is it easy for potential clients to get in touch with you in a way that is convenient for them by listing studio location, telephone, email, social media channels, etc.?
I just completely rethought and revised my website, for maximum visual impact and a great user experience. It’s also technologically advanced. It is designed with HTML rather than flash, and it’s iPad compatible and optimized for search engines.
I know most photographers would rather put their favorite lens under the tire of an 18-wheeler rather than—gasp—write something. But if you’re looking for couples to hire you to photograph some of the most important and intimate moments of their lives, you had better be someone they’d like to have a chat with.
A blog gives you the opportunity to develop a distinct voice both through your images and through your writing. It can quickly turn into an exercise in narcissism if you’re not careful, so make sure to keep your projects and your clients front and center, but use your personality to set yourself apart. This is an important step in building a brand and is particularly important for emerging photographers.
A blog also lets you have an ongoing “conversation” with your clients and potential clients. It’s a reminder that you’re out there doing interesting projects and gives readers a sense of who you are and your passion for photography.
An excellent example of a photographer who is building a name for herself with creative blog posts is Dawn Deeks. Whether she’s on location for an international non-profit or shooting a wedding, there’s real emotion in both her images and words which helps put readers in the middle of the action.
Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are personality driven, like a blog. But unlike a blog, you only need to come up with a few words at a time. Jackpot. These tools give you a quick and easy way to build your network and expose new people to your work. Oh, and of course they’re the best bargain in town since they’re free. All you have to do is put in the time—and be consistent.
Social media is also a referral machine. Accept all friend requests—you never know who is going to be in the market to hire you. Remember, there’s a fine line between your personal accounts and your business accounts. It’s best just to keep everything PG, or at least PG-13…we are photographers after all.
Speed is of the essence with social media, so get those posts up as quickly as possible. When doing weddings or portraits, you should have something up within a day or two. If you are photographing an event, you need to get home and begin editing because those posts should be tagged and up before you hit the sack. Otherwise, the social butterflies will be off to their next event and you’ll have an angry publicist on your hands by the time your alarm clock goes off.
Armin DeFiesta is really doing amazing things with social media to advance his business, including using facebook and twitter to their full potential. He even went a step beyond the regular tools and created and produced a photography competition webisode series called Shutter Wars.
Review sites like WeddingWire and Yelp can provide a major boost to your business. Of course, the catch is that you have no control over the reviews written by your clients. If that isn’t an incentive to do a heck of a job, I don’t know what is. But because these are unfiltered reviews of your work, it’s an excellent way to stack up a pile of credibility.
Also, build relationships with other professionals in photo-adjacent fields like stylists, musicians, public relations execs and special events coordinators. If you are linked with them online, they have a better chance of remembering your work when one of their clients is looking for recommendations for photographers.
Check out Hadar Goren’s reviews to see the right way to cultivate your relationships with clients and showcase your terrific reviews. The same theory applies to developing links with other event professionals who would recommend your work.
So, here's the bottom line: does your online business presence say what you need it to say? Go ahead and Google yourself...you know you want to.