Marketing Your Photography on a Shoestring Budget
Setting aside a budget for marketing is a wise investment that will not return void; however, many photographers with budding careers don’t have the capital on hand to pour into that area of their business. Fashion photography, in particular, is a bit tricky, since it’s not a service widely needed by the general population the way lifestyle photography is. Connecting with our audience and finding potential clients takes a little more strategy and effort, but can be done effectively with little-to-no budget.
STRATEGIC NETWORKING & COLLABORATIONS
In a day and age where everything is online, face-to-face marketing may seem obsolete, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, if you think about it, we are so used to scrolling through post after post of well-taken photos, well-thought-out ads, and other targeted content, that we’ve nearly become numb to it. We look and keep scrolling. Not to say that online marketing is useless, but there are more options out there than just paying for sponsored ads or boosted posts. It’s never been more important to get yourself—and your work—tangibly in front of your audience, which in turn will ultimately lead to increased online recognition. Here are some simple, yet effective, ways to do that.
- Find your local fashion-related events. In Arkansas, we have North West Arkansas Fashion Week. Photographers from across the state volunteer to photograph various aspects of the event; behind the scenes, catwalks, and styled shoots with designers. Once you get your feet wet locally, step it up the next year and apply to photograph at fashion weeks in larger cities. Think of all the real life, face-to-face connections you are making with designers, models, stylists, venues, event planners, boutiques, and agencies. These aren’t just new follows on social media, these people who are seeing you work your photography magic right before their eyes. They are seeing their work represented in your photos and will share it on all their platforms. Not only do you get the connections and experience, it’s a great form of cross-promotion, as every person involved (designer, model, hair, makeup, stylist, florist, etc.) will be sharing the final product. In addition, you’ll likely come to mind when that model you met needs updated digitals or that designer you’re now friends with needs a new lookbook.
Other events that may provide strong connections are charity fashion shows, boutique grand openings, bridal expos, hair/makeup shows, and other fashion-related conventions. Volunteer your services at these events, but make sure to bring plenty of business cards. I know that working for free doesn’t seem beneficial, but if you’re in the right place you just might meet a boutique owner who has been looking for someone to photograph their new inventory, or hair stylist needing to hire someone to create content for their site. Not to mention, you get plenty of new fashion-related content for your own social media platforms and portfolio.
***BONUS TIP: Don’t pinch pennies on your business cards! They are still extremely relevant, and the quality you choose will reflect upon your business. Moo.com gives you the option to choose multiple different images for the back of your cards, so you have a variety of options to help you impress the specific client you are targeting.
- Get your work published. Websites like Kavyar.com have made it extremely easy to find magazines who are looking for photography submissions, even giving you details as to what they’re looking for and specific submission guidelines. Through this site, I have been published in two print fashion magazines, and have now had a magazine reach out asking me to shoot an editorial specifically for them.
- Beneficial collaborations are key. Most fashion photographers have done TFP shoots until they are blue in the face. This is a great way to build a professional-looking portfolio, but if you want to get your work SEEN, you have to be smart about who you collaborate with. Focus on models, brands, boutiques, websites, bloggers, influencers, and other creatives who have a large reach with an audience significant to you. For example, I frequently work with an alternative model known as The Black Metal Barbie whose social media reach is nearly 100k. Multiple brands send her clothing and accessories to model, which I photograph her wearing. Not only does The Black Metal Barbie share the images, the brands share them as well. Am I getting paid? No. However, this collaboration results not only in followers, but my work is being recognized by brands and featured on their social media and websites. It looks good on your resume and gets your name circulating.
- Get your work OUT THERE, in the real world. It’s very important in today’s world to have an online presence, but that’s no reason to believe that displaying your work somewhere in-person is an obsolete option. Here are some ideas on how to do that:
- Coffee Shop Galleries. I can think of several coffee shops in my state that display paintings, photography, and other forms of artwork. Some of these shops will have an online forum where you can request to display your work and provide a link to your portfolio. If they don’t, bring a physical copy of your portfolio to the shop and speak with the manager about setting up a display for a certain time frame.Sometimes selling prints is an option, but that will vary shop-to-shop.
- Art Galleries. Do your research and find which galleries accept fashion photography and if they prefer in-person submissions or online. Like the coffee shops, the option to sell prints may be available.
- Salons, boutiques, and other fashion-related businesses. Meet with owners of high-end fashion-related businesses about setting up a trade. You will shoot an editorial shoot featuring their hair/makeup skills, clothing brand, etc, and in exchange, they will agree to hang large prints of the images (with your name displayed) in their place of business. It’s a great way to get your name out there as a commercial fashion photographer and provide an example to show other businesses when you are pitching your services. Though I have greatly stressed the importance of showing your work in-person, there are simple things you can do to keep your online presence in the forefront of your audience’s minds.
- Keep your Instagram feed consistent, and post regularly.
- Use Instagram stories to show a mix of behind the scenes, sneak peeks, and your everyday life. Keep it interesting! Engage your followers with questions and polls.
- Create a Facebook GROUP for your photography. Members of your group will be more likely to see posts than those who follow your page.
- Create short videos that you can share on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, featuring informative content; styling tips, lighting tricks, editing tutorials, etc.
- Don’t forget Pinterest! Where do most creatives go for inspiration? Pinterest! And guess what—many magazines also use Pinterest to create mood boards for upcoming issues, so having your work Pinned there with specific keywords is a great way to get it seen.
- Constantly direct all social media to your website. Make sure your site is frequently updated and has content for both fans of your work, as well as potential clients.
Regardless of whether it’s online or in-person, marketing is about making a CONNECTION. Be on the constant lookout for opportunities to make new connections and to show those in the fashion industry what you can do!
Sydney Rose Halcumb
Banner Image Credit Photographer: Alex Evans