There are so many different factors to take in when you are growing your photography business. Whether you are just starting out or even moving locations it can be overwhelming. I moved from Florida to New Mexico two years ago and I am going to share with you some tips that I learned along the way!
A little background about our move. Before we moved, we already had planned to elope in Sedona; read more about our elopement here. One day we just were like “hey, why don’t we move to the desert too?!”. So my husband (fiancé at the time) and I decided to pack up and move to the beautiful southwest! We did not know anyone so I had zero clients in Albuquerque, or anywhere nearby for that matter. I know, crazy!
I had been a photographer for 6+ years for a company prior to moving and did my own thing once and a while on the side. The dream was to be able to go full time working for myself and I did exactly that. It was scary, but luckily it has worked out! My tips will help you no matter what stage or circumstance you are in with growing your photography business.
No matter what you are charging, if you are being paid to take photos you need to make it legal. Register your business with the state and check to see if you need to pay sales tax for services in your state. New Mexico is one of those states, but most are not. It is not as hard or scary to register your business, file taxes and pay sales tax (if you have to). If you make a dime, you need to get legit!!
I found an accountant when I first moved here to help me make sure I was doing everything right. Laws vary state by state so it was nice to have someone help me figure everything out. I don’t have her do my bookkeeping, but if that is confusing to you and you can swing it then do it! My accountant trained me in QuickBooks until I was ready, she looks over my books every quarter to make sure nothing is weird and she is there for any questions I ever have. I also have a CPA that does our taxes every year and my accountant sends her whatever she needs from my QuickBooks. It is pretty easy, and filing taxes is something I do not want to deal with alone.
This is the one area in my business, for now, that I somewhat outsource and it is so worth it for me. Outsourcing is a totally different topic though!
Getting legit is not the only way to be professional. Make sure that when you are emailing your clients you are using punctuations and check spelling. I know typos happen, and that is okay. But if you are emailing back in a way that you messaged your friends on myspace, that is not professional. If the client can’t understand what they are reading, or they feel like they are talking to a child, you will probably never hear back from them.
Don’t take forever to reply to emails! This applies if they are still a lead or if they have already booked with you. And DO NOT start having bad communication after they book with you. You don’t need to sell them your services anymore, but you need to keep the communication as professional as you were when you were first talking with them.
Always have a contract and stick to it. Never take a photo of someone without a contract. This is just unprofessional and they could potentially walk all over you after the fact. Their are so many resources for photographers to get started with a contract such as The Legal Paige.
Websites and SEO
Your website is your number one most important thing for bringing in clients. I switched to using Showit for my website about a year ago and I am so glad I did! I was using a much cheaper and basic host before and it was not helping me. Being able to 100% customize my site makes it so I can stand out and keep my brand unique.
Some creatives tend to not have a website and just have social media. You need a website! Most of my clients do find me on instagram, and we will get into that next, but you need a website for many reasons.
- What is Facebook decided to stop and got rid of FB and IG? You would loose all of your followers and potential clients. All of them.
- It looks professional. Having only social media is weird from a clients perspective, and my perspective. If I click on a businesses website and it takes me straight to facebook, I will find someone else.
- I am no SEO expert but you are not going to be found in as many places if you don’t have a site. All of your socials can link to your site. Any publications or blogs that you get featured in will link back to your site.
- Ranking on google is so important! This ties in with SEO too. If you optimize your website the right way, you are going to rank high on google for your keywords. For example, I am currently #2 on google for “New Mexico elopement photographer” because of my website. People searching for your state and your niche on google will find you if you have a good website.
You can read more about using showit and other business resources I could not run my business without here.
Social media is very important for growing your photography business too. It should not be your only entity, but it is important. Most of my inquiries come from someone finding me on Instagram. I have a custom link in bio page that always has a link to my contact form near the top so people can easily reach me. Check out my Instagram here.
On the rare occasion that I get a DM from a potential client asking for pricing, I always direct them to my contact form. I never send my pricing guide or anything important through anything but email. Setting up a shoot in DM’s is just not wise. Instagram and Facebook messages can be erased. If you keep everything in email while booking, it is professional and you have record of all communication. If something were to ever go wrong because the client forgot something you said, you can always go back and show them email proof of whatever the circumstance. A DM, not so much.
The algorithm is always changing for social media so it is good to try to keep up with that. There are many Facebook groups for photographers that have discussions about such changes. Pleasing the algorithm can help your reach so much and get you in front of more potential clients. Being consistent is one thing the algorithm always likes! So whether you want to post once a day or one a week (or less), try to keep it consistent.
Styled shoots are a great way to meet vendors and grow your portfolio. When you shoot with real clients you do not have as much, or any, creative freedom. Setting up a styled shoot can give you just that and bring in the clients you are looking for. When you show what you want to shoot on your website and social media, clients who want that will reach out. If you want business at a certain location or with a certain vibe, do styled shoots for content.
Setting up a styled shoot does not have to be an excessive event. It can be as simple as finding a couple to model for you and throwing wedding attire on them!
Including vendors in your shoot can be helpful too. That way, not only you are sharing photos but they are too. Getting flowers for a styled shoot is always a good idea if you want something simple. I always ask vendors what it will cost to do a bouquet, HMUA or whatever I am wanting to include. Sometimes vendors will do it for free and sometimes they will just charge you cost. Don’t ask a vendor to give you free products or services. Offering to pay is kind and will go a long way.
When it comes to finding a couple to model for you, you could ask in a photographer group, find someone on social media (which is what I do) or use a friend if you have access to a couple. I always offer to do some quick couples photos before getting into the wedding attire too. The couple is more likely to share photos of them being themselves, plus you get what could be “engagement photos” of them too.
A tip for if you are moving to a new location. If you can, try to set up styled shoots to where you are moving so you can start ranking there before you move! I did not do this, but wish I had the opportunity to.
You are always learning as a photographer and business owner. There is never an end to your growth. There are many resources out there to help you in any way you need whether you are starting to grow your photography business, or have been doing it for many years.
Adventure Instead Academy is one great resource for education! Maddie is so helpful and knowledgeable in so many areas. Another educational resource is India Earl Education. She has so many guides and online workshops to learn from. A bonus is that she has education from other creatives and photographers on her education site too. There are a lot more educators to look into, but I only like to mention ones that I have personal experience with.
Another form of education is workshops! Always do your research before attending a workshop especially if it is several days and if you are traveling. There are many workshops throughout the year with so many great photographers to teach you. Many workshops also have one or a few styled shoots in between lessons too!
Submit to Blogs and Publications
There are so many places that you can get free advertising and backlinks by simply submitting your sessions. Two Bright Lights (which is free now) is a great resource for this, or you can submit directly to blogs yourself.
When submitting, most blogs want to be the first to post, so you cannot submit one session to a bunch of places at the same time. I know it sounds tedious, but if one says no then send it to the next. I keep a spreadsheet of all the places I submit to and mark when a submitted a session, if it was denied, and when it will be posted if it is accepted. Some blogs will let you know if it denied, and some won’t. So if you keep track of the day you submitted, and haven’t heard back in their timeframe you know to try another.
When you do get a submission accepted a lot can happen. It will most likely be a blog post, but in some cases could go to print! They will also typically give you a badge to display on your site and link to the feature. Features will also link back to your site so that is good for SEO. Many publications will also share new blog posts on social media and tag you which you can share too. There is a lot of exposure when being featured.
I specialize in elopements and couples in the southwest, so I have a few go-to publications based on my niche. Every publication is different, so not all of them will be your style or your expertise. I am going to include some of those and others wedding specific blogs to consider submitting to below.
- Wandering Weddings (members only submissions)
- Rocky Mountain Bride
- Green Wedding Shoes
- Equally Wed
- Junebug Weddings
- Wedding Chicks
- Dirty Boots and Messy Hair
- Something Blue Weddings
- Rock n Roll Bride
- Offbeat Bride
- The Knot
Paid advertising is not as slimy as you may think. There are many options to go about this. First, as you would probably guess, is social media advertising. I have done this in the past with some luck, but I also had no idea what I was doing at the time. Facebook ads never worked for me, but Instagram ones have. I have learned a lot since then, but have not done a paid advertisement on social for over a year. Now that I am more educated, I may try something though!
Another option for paid advertising is paying for a vendor profile on wedding planning sites. I do not recommend The Knot for this. Some websites can be much more expensive than others and some hold you in contract for a year so make sure to do research. I have a couple of vendor profiles out there and I am for the most part satisfied. Some of these also give photographers more opportunity to get published in magazines or on blogs from just being a member.
Magazine spreads! This is another option to consider. As I said, sometimes if a mag loves your submission or your are a member they will offer to print your work (this is rare). Usually you would need to pay for a page, part of a page or even several pages to get printed. If you do your research on certain magazines and find one that you think would be great for you, try it out! It is always so fun to see your work in a magazine.
The prices for paid advertising can range so much. Don’t get discouraged if you want to be in a certain magazine or on a certain website and it is out of your budget. That does not mean they are all like that, I promise. And just because some are less expensive doesn’t mean they are not as good at all.
I hope you found these tips for growing your photography business helpful! I would love to hear what stage you are at in your business and growth, and what you did to get there! Drop a comment below to inspire and help others even more.