Success in Portrait Photography: Marketing and Management Techniques for Studio Owners

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When people are looking for a photographer, they defer to their friends and trusted acquaintances for recommendations. A real fan of your work who you build a strong relationship with will be your greatest cheerleader and advertiser. Of course for each target market there will be different relationships to build. Maybe as a wedding photographer it would be beneficial to become close friends even do favors for a local high-end wedding planner. For a fashion photographer, it may be worth networking with editors at magazines or makeup artists with connections to target clients.

For me, I started my portrait business photographing high school seniors while still in high school myself. I used the relationships I already had to target my peers, and then maintained relationships with those families to encourage future family shoots, their younger siblings, and even my peers when they were older for their weddings. They are special experiences intended to celebrate milestones in life or the people you love.

This allows my sessions not to just be photos, but a way to mark a special occasion like marriage, high school graduation, or an anniversary. To enhance this experience, all of my female clients have their hair and makeup done. I would discuss concept with all of my clients and provide consultation for clothing and more. Each one got a unique experience, and therefore I was able to charge a premium. In fact, I had even created a specialty package to include pampering at a salon, the photo session, and dinner after. Packages like these emphasized and differentiated my portrait sessions as a special occasion and experience.

For an engagement session or couples shoot, I aim to make it a memorable experience for both of them. This may mean infusing something about the couple into the shoot as I did in this example since both subjects are dancers. Because I was in a small market, when I started I felt the need to photograph everyone and avoid a niche.

Babies, engagements, families, anniversaries, you name it, I shot it. You need to determine what that is. This will affect your branding and how you market your business. As a word of caution, never differentiate yourself on price. Photographers need to focus on the intangible values they bring to the table and how they can best serve their audience. Once you have worked out who you will market to, you need to come up with some strategies. What activities will you undertake to get your name out there? As a commercial food photographer, I regularly send a PDF of my recent work to advertising agencies and publishers who publish cookbooks.

Many successful commercial photographers are no longer represented by agents who charge hefty commission rates. Instead, they pay to be included in high-profile directories. These companies help ad agencies, brands and publications to produce photo shoots and provide photographers with marketing support.

Success in Portrait Photography

If you do architectural photography , network with real estate agents. Many portrait and product photographers have home-based studios. Depending on what kind of photography you do, you might not need to rent a studio on a monthly basis. As a food photographer, I often shoot on location at restaurants. When I do commercial and packaging work, I rent a local studio for the day. I am not shooting jobs as often as a portrait photographer might, as my work includes a lot of project management and post-production.

There is no point in my spending thousands of dollars on a studio space every month.

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That would absorb a lot of my profit. I actually spend most of my time at home, behind a computer. Think about your niche and where you will be shooting most of the time. Completing this part of your photography business plan is where you will focus a lot of your energy. You should spend considerable time determining what equipment you will need and how much money you will need to spend to purchase it.

If you have been a hobbyist or are semi-professional, presumably you have a lot of the basic gear you need to get started.


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Most likely, you will need to spend quite a bit more in this area in your first year of business. For one thing, when you are shooting professionally , you need to have two of everything in case of technical difficulties and equipment malfunctions. Not only do you need at least two batteries, two memory cards, tethering cords, lights, etc, you need two cameras. Luckily he had a couple of backups. He would have been in big trouble with the client and a whole team of people waiting on him and no functioning camera! When doing your financials, try to project what your expenses and income will be for your first three years of business.

You will have to invest in gear over time and also maintain that gear. In addition, you will also have to pay for editing and accounting software, office supplies, computer hardware, marketing materials and support, and a variety of other expenses. Perhaps you will need an assistant on your shoots.

How much will you pay them? All of this needs to be considered. How much money will you need to get started and survive until a positive cash flow is reached?

5 way to market your photography business

Where will the money come from? Finally, set up your pricing structure, depending on the type of photography you do. If you shoot portraits, you may want to offer packages.

This component of your photography business plan will take some analysis on your part. SWOT stands for strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats.

Wedding & Portrait Photography : Conference Schedule

When you compared yourself to the competition, you thought of what made you unique and different. Most likely, you came up with several strengths. When I first started my business I got a lot of work through a relative who owned a branding agency. The work was not related to my niche, but it gave me the experience of leading professional shoots. Check out my YouTube channel to see how I teach.

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Sandra Coan Education. Cart 0. As professional photographers, we wear many hats. How do we keep up with it all? Well, the old model went something like this. You need more than that.

You need a community of like-minded business owners. You need structure and accountability. That's where I come in! I created Inside the Portrait Studio for people just like you. What does membership include?