Are you new to photography and are wondering how you should get your first photoshoot clients? For Free!! I mean who wants to spend on Facebook ads / Instagram ads/ google SEM to get clients when you haven’t even earned a dime from your business. Correct?!!!
So here’s my story and here’s how I got my very first clients.
I literally stumbled upon photography by chance. Moved to the UK after marriage; was jobless for 5 years and then my daughter was born. It felt like the only thing that ever gave me joy was to take pictures of her. I would post those pictures on Facebook and friends would comment saying how wonderful my images were.
Literally, that appreciation is all that encouraged me to start my photography business. But when I started, I had not a clue how I could get my very first photography clients. So here’s what I did.
Friends and Family: Remember that your friends and family members will be your very first clients. So I stopped going to social engagements. If there was a party invite etc, I would just send my husband there and had him say that “Sujata is very occupied with her family, pregnancy and newborn photoshoots these days. So she sent her sorry for not attending.” Honestly, there no better marketing technique than creating a sense of FOMO. The fact that I had become so busy (while I actually was sitting at home making biryani) with photoshoots created this urgency amongst my friends circle to reach out to me and enquire about my photo session prices and that’s where I got my very first clients from. From within my community of friends.
Ask a question: Another marketing trick I used came from the human psyche that “everyone loves to impart free advice”. This is a human characteristic many top marketers use to create great and engaging content. It is by asking a question. Now, every Wednesday afternoon (when everyone was a bit bored and scrolling through their social media pages) and Friday evenings (when everyone is usually relaxing with a drink and their phone in their hand) I would go ahead and write the same post on many Facebook groups where I believed my target market was sitting and asked a question.
A very simple question I would ask would be, “hi all, I am looking for a lavender field to photograph my daughter and my dog there. Any suggestions? Sharing some images that I took of my kids for your attention only.” and with that I would share images that I created of my daughter and my dog:
Now since it is indirect promotion and not a direct promotional post so the admins of the Facebook group would usually not delete it.
Also, because I shared images along with the question, it made the post even more attractive and encouraged people to respond.
Because people saw that I am specifically mentioning that I took these images, that means I am a photographer and that encouraged some of those people to reach out to me to ask if I take on clients. To which my answer always was “YES!!”
- Personal Projects: Another very important trick that helped me get my first few clients was doing my own personal projects. I started creating work which I liked to photograph. Like the images that I have shared above of my daughter and my dog – Mustang. The biggest challenge in the beginning is that we don’t have enough work to show so we could get on more work. And for that we need to build a portfolio of the kind of work we want to do. Now if you want to just focus on newborn photography for instance then build your portfolio of work by offering free photoshoots to a couple of people with newborn babies (Just post on your social media handle that “Hello, I am looking for a newborn baby model for a photography training class. Parents will receive three to five beautifully edited images in exchange for their time.”) Make sure you not only create typical newborn posed images with them but also something that will set you apart from the rest of the newborn photographers in your area.When I started my business, I would do newborn baby model calls and pose them with other newborn animals, until a point that it became my signature style and now clients come home for just this kind of newborn baby photoshoots:
Doing this will not only help you build your portfolio. Keep your social media channels active and buzzing with regular posts but will also help you figure out your own personal style very early on in your career. Because the more you click, the more you become more comfortable in this marriage of you with your camera.
- Tell and Story: Stories are the most powerful medium of marketing your work. I told stories in every image, in every post from the very very first day. Even when I clicked the most embarrassing images, I wrote such relatable stories in my captions that people started to connect with my posts and that gained me a lot of free traction.
Just pick a story from your life. Or from the life of someone you know. Pick a story people can relate to. Write it in simple words with your images. For example if you have done a model call for a family photoshoot and have clicked some family shots that you want to share on your social media handles just write a simple story with it about that family. When my clients came over for their sessions, I would always ask them “so how did you meet each other?” That in it self would be such a great starting point for getting a peek into their life’s story and I personally believe that everyone has a uniquely relatable story to tell.
Or if you don’t manage to get an interesting story out of your model family then say something that you feel about your own family… something like “I am behind the camera so often, photographing all these beautiful families, I realised today that I had forgotten to be in front of that camera with my own little family at all. So I have promised myself and my little baby that we will be capturing our family portraits this weekend. I will miss having my mother in them. Because I never realised how important it was to capture our family portraits when she was alive. Don’t leave it till so late like me.” (PS: This is just an example of what I would write.)
Whatever you write in your captions, make sure to keep them very very interesting and engaging. But PLEASE DO NOT DO Direct Marketing EVER!!! like “100 images for $100. Contact me on email@example.com” I can guarantee you people will not pay heed to your post and that will only leave you frustrated. Its almost like cold calling. When you receive a cold sales call on your phone asking if you need accident insurance what do you do? You hang up the call and block the number where it came from. That’s what direct marketing posts work like. They put people off. Never do that.
- Share, Share, Share: There is no getting away from being your own business evangelist. You need to keep sharing your work on different social media platforms on a regular basis because you have no idea where your target client could be sitting. Do not ever skew your own client market or your reach. Keep sharing posts on your FB business page. On your personal FB page. On your Instagram business page and even in messages sometimes to your friends and contacts on WhatsApp. Just send a broadcast message about “Did this beautiful family photoshoot today. Wanted to share these images with you to bring a smile to your face. Have a great day.”
The only mantra I ever followed in marketing my work was “go ahead. Be shameless.” Your hunger to succeed should be your biggest weapon. It should give you the freedom to be able to promote your beautiful work without fear of losing some friends along the way. There will be many who would think that your images are cluttering their social media feed and they might block you but then there will be others who will love what you are doing and will go ahead and book you for a family session they may not even be planning to have in the first place.
Don’t wait for clients to come to you…. create your own market.
These are all free of cost tips and tricks of course and these are things that I followed to get my first work assignments. I am not saying these tricks will work like magic for you. You might have to reinvent the marketing wheel a bit to suit your comfort levels too and also your personality. As creative beings, most of us are very business shy people. We like to take photos but we want to leave the job of promoting that work to someone else. Unfortunately that doesn’t work when your passion is also your professions. So do what your heart allows you to.
Ofcourse, if you have kids and they goto schools or nurseries then it also helps to spread the word around in the parent community that you are taking on clients.
I even went and pasted small a4 size banners in cash and carry shops around where I lived, when I was starting off.
However, in the long run, the few investments you cannot avoid making are:
1. Having a decent website. Now there are dime a dozen cheap and cost effective ways of creating free websites on WordPress or zenfolio or even on behance/adobe. So go ahead and create a simple landing page for yourself.
2. Invest in learning. Make sure to learn photography by attending masterclasses of photographers whose work resonates with you. That will help you also meet other photographers in your community and that will not only help to learn from their experiences of running a business but also help you build a tribe of your own in this profession that can sometimes get really lonely and alienating.
If you need any more suggestions or help, then please feel free to drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find my photography workshops and other resources for photographers here
PS: Always read my blogs with the knowledge that these are my personal views only. I am a home maker-turned professional photographer and I pride in the fact that I created this thriving brand for myself in just little over 7 years. But, I don’t think like a person who has walked out of a Management Institute. So these might not be the conventional business marketing tricks. <3