This post is one in a series about how I went full time with my wedding photography business. Check out this first post before reading, and keep following along for continuing advice over the next few weeks!
Some people are gifted naturals at marketing, others may have taken a course in college, and some (maybe most) are completely in the dark when it comes to marketing. I was in that last category at the beginning of photography career, assuming that marketing = advertising = spending money I didn’t have. Thankfully, I learned a TON about what does and doesn’t work marketing-wise for wedding photographers at my job at WeddingWire. This may not have been the most important part of getting my business off the ground, but it absolutely was the main reason I saw such dramatic success in my first full-time year of business. There are a couple things, in particular, that contributed to this success, and I’m really excited to share them with you today!
Shoot Your Friends
You need to build a beautiful portfolio, and you also need to keep practicing, but clients aren’t really throwing money at you to do this at this point. Asking your friends to model for you is the easiest and most fun way to start building a portfolio that you love You have total control over the situation – the location, the outfits, the light. This allows you to start defining your style and focusing-in on your ideal client (learn more about defining your style here). Also, chances are that your friends are more than happy to have free photos taken of themselves! As long as they are willing to have the photos posted on your website and online (and give you a shout-out if they use them on social media or elsewhere), you’re in business.
After you’ve successfully shot a couple free sessions for friends, you’re ready to market those babies. If you read my post about networking, you’ll remember that capitalizing on your networks is super important to launching a successful wedding photography business. These friend sessions are SUCH a great way to get the word out to your networks, without these individuals realizing you are trying to advertise! Post the images on your business page on Facebook (if you don’t already have one, create one RIGHT NOW) and tag your friends in them. Ask a few close friends to like the photos to boost it, and BAM! That image is all over your friend’s friends’ walls with your name attached to it. You can even post a little caption to the image that reminds all the viewers that you are actively booking weddings . . .but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk more about how this works out in social media!
Harnessing the power of social media – for free
Social media. Do you love it? Hate it? It’s about to become your best friend for booking weddings. Facebook and Instagram have made the job of accessing your networks incredibly easy – you have an open platform to slowly, casually and methodically market yourself to everyone you are connected with on Instagram and Facebook. The best part is that it is completely free! There are a few specific tactics that I used to book weddings through these sites that I highly recommend. But first thing’s first – if you haven’t already, set up a business page on Facebook and a separate Instagram account to showcase your work!
For me, “marketing” on social media does NOT mean running an ad. It’s simply a way to remind the world that your business exists, and it’s super awesome. To start, Facebook is such an incredible tool for sending those reminders to the world, but you have to know how to use it well. Here are my top tips:
- Tag everyone! Most people have their personal pages set up so that when they are tagged in a photo, it appears on their wall (or it appears after they approve it). This is awesome, because you’re actually reaching a whole new group of people – your friend’s friends. It also gives more people more opportunity to like the photo, which will boost the likelihood that image will show up in other “likers” newsfeeds.
- Ask for likes and comments! It might sounds silly (or even desperate), but I’d encourage you to ask a small group of good friends (or family members) to like the images you post as soon as you post them. This will immediately bolster your post and give it a much, much greater chance of being seen by more people. Even 2 or 3 likes is better than nothing. You can also share the entire post to your personal Facebook page, but make sure to encourage friends to like or comment directly through your business page.
- Only post your best work! Maybe this sounds obvious, but don’t just post to Facebook to be consistent or because you feel like you need to. Post quality work that you are proud of and that you want potential clients to see. This will, in turn, help you attract and book the types of clients you want!
Instagram is the other main social media tool that I used (and continue to use) to book weddings, again focusing on pre-existing networks. The big difference with Instagram is that I am able to expand to “friends of friends,” or “friends of network” on this platform. Here are some of the most effective strategies I use on IG:
- Pay attention to potential clients. It may sound a little creepy, but Instagram is a safe place to follow people you don’t know well (or haven’t met), as well as comment and like their posts. Keep an ear out for when someone you know (or someone they know) gets engaged, and feel free to like and comment on that photo of their engagement ring. It’s amazing how a few kind words can both flatter a potential client and also get them interested in your work! If their account is private, give them a follow. If they don’t already know you, they’ll more than likely be curious as to who you and check out your IG feed, which leads me to my next tip.
- Curate your feed. Instagram was kind of made for photographers. It’s literally a gallery of your work that you have complete control over. For that reason, treat your feed as just that – a gallery of your art. Make it look beautiful and reflect your style. It’s the best and fastest way to communicate your artistic ability. Seriously, it’s incredible how willing couples are to immediately book a wedding photographer with a gorgeously curated IG feed!
- Post consistently with hashtags. This can be really tough to do in combination with the above post, ESPECIALLY when you’re new to the game. Admittedly, I still struggle with this one. However, the more you post, the more opportunities clients have to come across your work. Posting once a day is the general rule. Make sure you’re also posting relevant hashtags in the comments (IG lets you use up to 30). This helps with your rankings! If you’re struggling to get engagement, consider joining a Instagram Pod (there are tons of these available in most local Tuesdays Together groups!)
Finally, the most obvious of the “free marketing” outlets – referrals! Encouraging referrals among friends and family is the easiest and best way to draw in perspective clients. As I’ve mentioned before, so much of the advice I’ve been giving in these posts ties together, so taking advantage of friends’ referrals definitely takes a fuller understanding of networking in general (if you haven’t already, be sure to check it out my networking post before you read further!).
It’s simple, but you’ve got to ask. Ask your friends and family to tell their networks about your wedding photography business. Ask them to tell their engaged friends about you. Get some pretty business cards, and start giving them to your close friends and family to hand out. Again, it’s simple and may seem too easy, but it really can work. In my first year, I legitimately booked a wedding from a business card that my mom dropped off in a wedding dress shop 20 miles from my hometown! I booked another because my dad told a woman with an engaged daughter at his church that I recently started shooting weddings. I booked both of these when I had very little to show for myself. It’s absolutely worth asking friends and family to do this for you!
Photographers, get excited about marketing! When you put even a little effort into it, it’s so amazing what the results can be!
If you are serious about launching a full time wedding photography business and want custom-tailored guidance and expertise, please consider getting in touch with me to discuss one-on-one mentorship opportunities. I offer a select number of mentorship sessions each year and would love to learn more about the specific areas in which you need help!