Finding photography clients is among the biggest challenges for those starting a photography business. If you’re struggling to get clients knocking on your door, it could be due to not properly targeting your ideal clients. The very first step to getting more clients is to determine what type of photography you are pursuing. If commercial photography is your game, check out this article for strategies on getting commercial clients. But if you’re pursuing consumer photography, this article is for you.
What is consumer photography?
In contrast to commercial photography, clients seeking consumer photography have personal reasons for hiring you. They do not intend to use images for commerce or making a profit. Wedding and family photos are typically the main types of consumer photography out there, but any subject can technically be non-commercial. It all comes down to the intended usage of the photos that determines whether they are commercial or consumer in nature.
Unlike commercial photography, finding consumer photography clients can be difficult. You can pretty easily find an advertising agency and pitch your services directly, but how do you know when a couple will get engaged, or family will suddenly desire portraits? Thus, you need a totally different approach for finding consumer photography clients. This blog post will go over some strategies to help you get started finding clients for your consumer photography business.
7 Questions to Help You Find Consumer Photography Clients
1) What is your consumer photography niche?
Every successful photographer establishes a reputation for specializing in a single niche. Think Ansel Adams for landscape photography, Annie Leibovitz for celebrity portraits and so forth. Likewise, you need to focus your photography efforts on just one subject if you want to get really good at it. Don’t worry about being too narrow in scope; that’s actually the whole point. Pick one niche to start with, and then add on later after you gain a reputation for doing one thing really well.
Consumer Photography Niches:
- Engagement photography
- Wedding photography
- Birthday parties
- Portrait (ie. high school senior) photography
- Youth sports or recreation photography
- Pregnancy and birth photography
- Newborn baby photography
- Family portraits and family reunions
Example: Let’s choose wedding photography as our sample niche.
2) Put yourself in the client’s shoes. How would you go about finding and hiring yourself?
After you choose a niche, put yourself in your client’s shoes. The nice thing about consumer photography is that it is very relatable. Almost everyone has worked with a consumer photographer at some point in their lives. Mentally walk through the process of how you would go about hiring a consumer photographer. Make note of how you would find that person, the services you would want them to provide, and how you would ultimately end up selecting a photographer. Also, consider surveying your friends and family members to get their thoughts and opinions.
If it has been a while since you’ve been in front of the camera, consider hiring a local photographer to take your portrait. You will need fresh photos of yourself for your photography business anyway, and you can do research for how you would find your own clients.
- How would you go about finding a photographer for your needs?
- What services would you expect the photographer to provide?
- What qualities would make you choose one photographer over another?
- For wedding photography, I would start by polling my Facebook network for ideas, and perhaps my wedding planner. I’d also check out the photos of any friends who got married recently to see who did their photos.
- Many wedding photographers offer packages that include an engagement photo session for the sake of getting to know each other before the big day. This would be an absolute must. I’d also like my wedding photographer to provide both an online gallery and printed albums of photos that I select so that my less technically savvy family members can enjoy the images.
- When evaluating photographers, I research both their portfolio website and social media platforms. The portfolio is important to get a sense of their overall style and how they present themselves, but social media is just as important. I want to know if they are active on social, how they interact with their fans, and what kind of recent work they have been up to. Portfolio websites are not always the most current, but social media profiles generally are.
3) What are the photography products your client might need?
Consumer photography also offers ample opportunities for photographers to create physical photo products for clients. Consider all of the ways your client might want to receive their resulting photos. Online photo galleries are an industry standard, but many consumer clients also like to receive their photos in physical form such as through prints or albums. Also, consider the way you package and deliver digital files. Consider getting customized DVD cases or USB sticks with your branding or logo on it. Offer these items either a la carte or as part of your overall photography package.
When it comes to photography products for clients, you can either fulfill these orders yourself or get connected with a reputable service who can do them for you.
Examples of photography products for clients:
- Custom USB stick
- Photo albums
- Printed photo posters
- Framed photos
- Photos on goods (ie. t-shirts, mugs)
4) Who are the key players in your niche?
One of the best ways to target prospective consumer clients is to get connected with a business that already caters to them. All of these services are potential clients for you, because they likely need photography for their own business websites, and they are also great lead generators because they work with the same prospective client base that you are targeting. For example, consider the list of photography products for clients mentioned above. If you find a local business that provides photo printing or framing, they likely work with lots of clients who could need your services. The framing business themselves may also need photography services.
Get connected with these other service providers and offer to barter services in exchange for prominent placement of your business card or a targeted ad. You know that if a potential client is working with these related services, there is a good chance he or she will also be on the market for photography.
There are many steps to wedding planning and thus there are many key players that make the big day possible. Think of all the other services that a newly engaged couple will be needing to make their wedding day happen.
The many roles of planning a wedding (to name a few):
- wedding coordinators and planners
- reception food caterers
- save-the-date and wedding invitation card printers
- vendors (flowers, decor, dress, outfits, etc)
- wedding and reception venues
- bridesmaids and groomsmen
- friends and family in attendance
5) Are there other related photography services that you could offer your client?
Consumer clients are wonderful in that their personal lives are always evolving. At each stage, there is an opportunity for photography services. Say you get connected with a newly engaged couple and you do their engagement photos. That couple then hires you to shoot their wedding a few months later. A year later, they have a child and need newborn baby photography. As that child grows up, each milestone calls for new family portraits, and so on. The point is that your consumer photography clients can turn into lifetime clients if you connect with them.
Example: Wedding-related photography opportunities (and prospective new clients)
Going back to our example of wedding photography, consider all of the wedding-related events you can offer to cover. If you branch out into any of these photography sub-niches, don’t forget that there are layers of other service providers who could be potential clients for you as well.
- Engagement photography (the jeweler)
- Bridal showers (the venue)
- Bachelor and bachelorette parties (the venues)
- Wedding anniversaries and vow renewals (the venues and planners)
6) What are the associations, organizations, and meetups within your niche?
Nearly every creative craft has a dedicated organization to support professionals. Within photography alone, there are tons of associations that offer member directory listing that can connect you to other pros, workshops, discounts, and even in-person networking events. Many associations require a membership fee to join, but the benefits are usually worth it. There’s no need to become a member of every single organization, but pick one or two that best align with your interests. Be sure to check for international, national, and local organizations.
Another organization worth looking into is your local Chamber of Commerce. Often times, you can apply for your business to be listed within the Chamber’s membership directory as a way of advertising your services. At the very least, use the Chamber of Commerce to research potential clients. Check out their membership listings for any businesses related to your niche of choice (ie. wedding planners, event venues, photo framing services, etc).
Photography Associations (short list)
- Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI)
- Professional Photographers of America (PPA)
- American Photography Association (APA)
- American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP)
- North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA)
- See more here
7) What are the industry websites and publications within your niche?
To help consumer clients find photographers, there are many websites and expos out there dedicated to specific niches. This is best demonstrated in wedding photography. Websites such as Wedding Wire and The Knot offer planning tools for brides including a comprehensive directory for finding photographers. Prospective clients can search based on location, photography style, and price range; they can also read or write their own reviews of the photography service. As a wedding photographer, you should definitely get listed in a website directory like this.
Expos and events are also great for networking with industry key players including fellow photographers. While it is ideal for you to exhibit your own photography services, it is also beneficial to attend these events for the sake of research. Check out how other photographers are selling their services and network with service providers within your industry.
Fair warning: do not list yourself on a photography directory or exhibit at an expo until your business is solid in its presentation. Clients can write public reviews of your service and any negative review will do lasting damage to your reputation.
Wedding Photographer Directory Websites
Wedding Expos and Shows
Many expos take place locally in your own town or nearby metropolis. Check the website of your local convention center or do a Google search for wedding expos in your area. You may also consider attending a larger regional expo for the experience and for broader networking opportunities.
Finding photography clients is among your biggest challenge. If you’ve walked through these 7 steps above, you should have new insight into how to find consumer photography clients. The thought process is quite different from finding commercial photography clients, although in some ways easier. With consumer photography, your greatest advantage is being able to easily put yourself in your client’s shoes. Walk through the process of finding a photographer for your own needs and adjust your approach accordingly.