In this guide, we’ll be covering photography advertising and ways to promote your photography business successfully.
While this guide is tailored to photographers (since I am a photographer), the concepts and steps apply to other artists and creators.
We’ll be covering the following topics:
What is Advertising?
Advertising can be defined as impersonal communication that is usually in the form of paid media through channels such as online, print, broadcast, or outdoor.
It’s important to understand that advertising is a form of promotion.
Advertising is a Form of Promotion
In order to understand advertising better and how it ties into the overall Marketing Framework of your photography business, it’s important to know where advertising lies amongst the other promotion categories.
So let’s define what promotion is.
What is Promotion?
Promotion is the process of communicating the benefits of your product/service to your target audience with the goal of producing a buying action.
Later in this guide, we’ll be diving into the 12 components and strategies of promotion so you can know what they are and understand which form of promotion will be best for your business.
With each promotion category, it’s also important to know that they follow a 4-step stage that can be categorized as the AIDA model.
AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Decision, and Action. Each form of promotion needs to address all four stages in order to have the biggest impact.
In the attention stage, you first have to get their attention.
So for example, if you decide to engage in the advertising promotion component through an Instagram ad campaign, the attention stage would be your target audience actually seeing your ad.
In the interest stage, it’s all about getting them interested.
Are you following your product/service Positioning Strategy and listing your benefits in the ad? Are you having your ads target the right audience? Do you even know your target audience defined in your Business Plan?
Anybody can pay money and engage in a promotion strategy such as Advertising, but if the ad doesn’t even pass the attention stage and hook the interest of the audience, then he/she is just wasting money.
In the decision stage, it’s about getting your target audience — whose attention was captured and interest you peaked — to take the next step.
For example, let’s say you are a headshot photographer who specializes in capturing actors’ headshots and you choose to run an Instagram ad campaign targeting all actors near you.
In order to address the decision stage, somewhere on your ad you need to have a next step call-out. This could be “Click Here to Learn More” which will then take them to your contact page on your website.
Most people forget this stage because they are so busy trying to capture the attention and interest of the audience.
Have the next step for your target audience and be explicit about it so the audience clearly knows the “next step” they need to take in order to take advantage of the promotion.
The action stage is the money stage. This is when you get your target audience to take a buying action.
Often, this action stage is accomplished outside of the promotion once the user has gotten past the decision stage by taking the “next step.”
Using the example above with the headshot photographer, if a user clicked on “Click Here to Learn More” and then landed on your contact page — it is on that contact page that the action stage takes place.
Once they land on the contact page on your website, there needs to be a form they can fill out to reach you.
There should also be elements to help increase the conversion chances such as example photos of your work, testimonials, reviews, and any other social proof to help seal the deal and make them take that buying action (which in this case would be booking a photo session).
When we dive into the 12 ways to promote your photography business after the next section, be thinking about how each promotion strategy ties into the AIDA model.
Before diving into the 12 promotion strategies, let’s briefly look at the components of promotion and what will make an effective promotion.
How to Select the Right Promotion Strategy?
We’ve already touched on the 4-promotion stages — now there are four components that you need to know before engaging in a specific promotion strategy.
The first promotion component is the content.
For example, if you are running a Facebook video ad, is the video produced professionally? Is it telling a story? Is it aligning with your brand?
The content component ensures that you are creating a high-quality promotion, not junk or spam that will just be ignored.
The media component relies on you placing the promotion in the right media channel to reach your target audience.
In this digital age, there are many channels to choose from that you can promote your business. When I was first promoting Imaginated.com, I was overwhelmed with all the channels.
Going back to the AIDA model — knowing which media channel is best to reach your target audience is important to the first breakthrough into the attention stage.
For example, let’s say you are a wedding photographer and you want to promote a summer sale you are having for couples who plan on getting married.
- Creating a blog will not be the best form of promotion because blogs should be for more information/thought leadership content.
- Sending an email newsletter out to existing clients may not be the best because your existing clients should already be married (since you are a wedding photographer).
- Creating a Facebook ad targeting engaged couples in your area with a certain demographic will probably be the best promotion.
Each media channel has its own pros and cons in terms of targeting and promotion. Pick the right one for your business objective and the current promotion you plan on creating. We’ll be touching on the 12 strategies in the next section.
The third component of effective promotion is timing.
The age-old adage “timing is everything,” applies to promotions as well.
It can be hard to “time” something perfectly but here are some examples of being aware of timing:
- Creating a family photography session promotion during the holiday season = good timing
- Promoting a club photography business during a pandemic = bad timing
- Creating a couples portrait photography session during Valentine’s day = good timing
The last promotion component is the cost. Cost can be in the form of money or time.
If cost was not a factor, people would be running promotions all the time trying to increase business.
But the truth is, the cost is a factor and if you keep having unsuccessful promotions back to back, then (1.) you may not see a return on investment (ROI) or (2.) may get discouraged from running future promotions.
- Cost is a component that should not be ignored so it’s best to allocate a budget each month if you are going to run a paid promotion such as ads to compensate for the “money” aspect of cost. The old saying “it takes money to make money” is true. But you don’t want to be spending money for the sake of spending it.
- If you are spending a lot of time on the promotions but nothing is happening, don’t get discouraged because maybe your promotion didn’t target the user in all 4-stages of the AIDA model or maybe it didn’t align with the promotion components mentioned above.
Now that we’ve covered the promotion stages and components, let’s dive into the actual strategies and forms of promotion.
When reading each one, see how these promotion strategies align with what we have been discussing.
12 Ways to Promote Your Photography Business
Let’s dive into the 12 ways you can promote your photography business. They are listed in no particular order.
It’s also important to know that some of these ways can be mixed together, for example — advertising and a sales promotion.
1. Personal Selling
The first way you can promote your photography business is through personal selling.
This is a face-to-face promotion with one individual or a few people.
An example of this is if you are at a party and you meet someone who says they have a party coming up and they need a photographer.
If you mention to them that you are a photographer and give them your business card, that is an example of personal selling.
The second way to promote your business is through advertising.
Advertising is an impersonal form of promotion and is typically paid.
Examples of this include print advertising with flyers, broadcast with TV commercials, outdoor billboards, or an online advertisement.
If you are a photographer, artist, writer, or any other form of creative, then you might not be purchasing TV commercials or billboards yet, I just wanted to list the wide range of options.
How do You Advertise Your Photography Business?
Most advertisements these days by creators and artists are done online either via Google Ads, Youtube Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Instagram Ads, etc.
I’m sure you have hopped on Facebook or Instagram and received one of these ads by another photographer offering a photography session discount or a Lightroom Preset Sale.
Well, that is a form of advertising through the Facebook Ads Platform. I will be creating a separate guide on Facebook/Instagram ads in the future
The third way to promote your business is through direct promotion which consists of communication without face-to-face contact.
Direct promotion is usually done through direct mail, telemarketing, and the Internet.
Most creators don’t engage much in direct mail or telemarketing so I will skip those two and focus on the Internet — which is arguably the most important form of direct promotion in today’s digital age.
An example of direct promotion is an email newsletter you send out to your existing clients.
4. Sales Promotion
A sales promotion consists of you providing incentives to your target audience to elicit a buying action.
Sales promotions are popular within the photography community.
Examples of sales promotions include a sales promotion you are having on mini-sessions or a sale for the month for your Lightroom Presets.
The 5th way to promote your business is through a one-on-many face-to-face event.
This means getting the opportunity to speak at large gatherings such as seminars, trade shows, or conferences.
6. Publicity/Public Relations
Publicity/public relations relates to creating press releases, written articles, having testimonials, going on podcasts, creating blog articles, etc. to promote your photography business.
These are all great ways to promote your business image while shaping the story of your brand.
7. Product Placement/Affiliate
The 7th way to promote your photography business is through a specific product or service placement and affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is when you reward an “affiliate” for bringing a visitor or customer to your business.
For example, let’s say you photographed an influencer with a pretty good social media following and they loved your photos.
You can partner up with them and tell them that if they promote your photography business and service, you would give them 10-20% of the money made from the client sessions that they helped bring in.
Not many photographers rely on affiliate programs because they hope for free word-of-mouth promotion (discussed in the next step).
If a photographer were to create a mini affiliate program, it would most likely be for other products that they are offering such as a Lightroom Preset bundle or Photo Overlays.
8. Social Networking (Word of Mouth)
On the other side of affiliate marketing, we have word-of-mouth promotion.
Word-of-mouth promotion is a bit like affiliate marketing except its free promotion because the person promoting your business is doing it for free.
It has been shown that word of mouth is often the most trusted source of promotion and 88% of consumers place the most trust in the word of-mouth promotion (invespcro.com).
Here’s an example of word-of-mouth promotion.
Have you ever had a friend of a client reach out to you and ask about your photography service because their friend (a client you worked with) said they loved working with you?
Well, that’s an example of word-of-mouth promotion.
The only thing with word-of-mouth promotion is that you can’t force it — it needs to be organic.
If you treat your clients with respect, provide a great experience, and deliver high-quality services/products, that is a golden ticket to an abundance of word-of-mouth promotion.
9. Visitor Impression
The 9th way to promote your photography business is through a visitor impression.
This is similar to having a solid brand image.
A visitor impression is when you make a positive impression on the visitors to your website, your store, or any other location in which your business exists. This can even mean your Instagram profile page.
Each area where your business exists either physically or digitally should represent your brand in a good light to add credibility to your business.
The 10th way to promote your photography business is through sampling.
I know what you’re thinking… “Sampling? I’m not running a grocery store,” but hear me out.
While yes, it’s true, with our photography businesses we can’t offer sampling like a physical food product, but it can be applied to your photography packages.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say you also offer professional photo retouching services (skin, blemish removal, acne removal, etc.) and you want to provide samples of your work to clients.
You can offer a 10-photo package and in the package state that you provide a 2-photo professional retouch sample, which means you will retouch 2 of their photos professionally for free as a “sample,” but if they want all their photos retouched, then it will cost extra.
The only caveat to sampling is that in order to execute a sampling strategy effectively, the product or service you are sampling needs to be top-notch — or else the customer will not care to purchase/pay more for the whole thing.
11. Company ID Product Vehicles
Company ID vehicles relate to anything that promotes your photography brand that is a physical item.
This is similar to the visitor impression as mentioned in #9, except the ID vehicles relate to physical items as mentioned.
Examples of company ID vehicles include your business cards, corporate cards, packaging (if you sell physical products like photo albums), picture frames, etc.
The importance behind having them all aligned is that oftentimes, people outside of your clients will see these ID vehicles.
For example, let’s say you offer photo albums or picture frames. Well, where do people put picture frames or photo albums? They put them in their house to be displayed to guests either on the walls or on tables in their living rooms!
Going back to the word-of-mouth promotion combined with the ID vehicles, if a guest went over to their house and complimented the picture frames you sold, your client could mention how you not only produced the photo in the frame but also sold the frame! Your client could even hand the guest the business card that you made.
Of course, this example is a perfect scenario but you get the point.
12. Specialty Advertising/Merch
The 12th way you can promote your photography business is through specialty advertising/merch.
This is similar to the above section with the company ID product vehicles, except these will be items that don’t necessarily align with your product/service line.
For example, in the above section, we discussed picture frames, photo albums, business cards, etc. — they all align with the product/service line of photography.
With specialty advertising/merch, these are products that can include t-shirts, pens, coffee mugs, etc.
Granted, this way of promoting your photography business may come last once you’ve successfully established your brand and you have a lot of returning clients.
You can think of specialty advertising/merch as a cherry on top to solidify your brand image and promote your photography business to people in your target audience.
The area I’ve seen this most successfully done is with newborn and baby photographers. You can offer little baby onesies with your brand logo on them as a gift.
The Objective of Promotion Strategies
Now that we’ve covered the 12 ways you can promote your photography business, let’s dive into the objectives of these promotion strategies.
Each promotion strategy should have 5 objectives – inform, position the brand, prompt buying action, build a brand relationship, and sell.
The first objective of every promotion strategy should be to inform your target audience of your company and products/services.
The second objective is to position your brand in the target market. As mentioned in our Positioning Strategy guide, successful positioning comes by creating an image of your product/service that provides a unique benefit that fills your target audience’s unfilled need.
3. Prompt Buying Action
The third objective is to prompt the target audience who sees your promotion to go through with a buying action.
4. Building Brand Relationship
The fourth objective is to build brand relationships between your business and your target audience.
You want them to become familiar and attached to your company and product/service.
Finally, the fifth objective is to sell your product/service so you can make a profit.
Promotion Media Categories
There are 4 promotion media categories to be aware of as well – paid, owned, earned, and hijacked.
All of the promotion strategies discussed above can fall into one of these categories.
The paid promotion media category is when you pay for a media space or ad to create and place your promotion.
Examples of this include purchasing Facebook/Instagram ads to promote a discounted photography package session.
The owned promotion media category comes from you using your own “owned” channels to communicate and promote your business.
Examples of this include using your website, email, Instagram page, Facebook page, etc. to promote your business.
The earned promotion media category is when people use word of mouth to promote your product/service via their own channels — whether that be through social media, them telling people in person, etc.
The hijacked promotion media category relates to unfavorable promotion.
An example of this could be a photo session gone wrong and they leave a negative review on your GMB profile, Yelp business page, Facebook page, etc.
Avoid this media category.
This was an in-depth guide discussing the ways to promote your photography business.
It’s important to take action and take any new concepts you learned and apply it to your own business.
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate used to run his own professional photography business called Nate Joaquin Photography but has since focused on the marketing and business aspect of photography although he still enjoys taking photos. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.com.