10 Free Photography Marketing Ideas That Work Like Crazy

by Jamie M Swanson

10 Free Photography Marketing Ideas

You’ve started your business, now how do you find clients to hire you?

Traditional advertising, such as an ad in a magazine or newspaper, is mostly worthless. Don’t waste your money. I’ve tried it. They don’t work.

Instead, imagine having people love your business so much that they send all their friends your way. Think about what it would be like to show up #1 in Google for your desired keyword, and to have enough people finding you to meet your profit goals without stress and without spending thousands of dollars on advertising.

It can happen.

It may take some time, but here are 10 free photography marketing ideas that work like crazy.

1. Google Local

When you search on Google and include a location in your keyword, such as “Madison Wedding Photographer,” Google is now putting their Google Local listings BEFORE the organic listings in their rankings. These listings are free, so go and get one now!

Read this article on how to get started with Google Local. Make sure to upload some photos as well, as they sometimes show up there in the search results. It’s a great way to improve your chances of being found on Google when people are searching for a photographer.

2. Use Facebook to promote your images

Uploading images to Facebook and tagging your clients in them is a really fantastic way to get the word out about your business as all their “friends” may see the photos tagged of them. I highly suggest creating a “Page” instead of using your profile, as that’s how Facebook prefers you promote your business, and change your settings (in Edit Page -> Apps -> Photos -> Go to App) to allow fans to tag themselves in your photos. I find this is a great way to get exposure from wedding guests and their friends as well.

I also post links to my blog on my page and send out behind-the-scenes announcements to the people who have liked my page from time to time.

There’s lots of different ways to promote your business using Facebook – share a comment below on your favorite way to promote your business on Facebook. I’d love to hear some more ways you are using it.

3. Blog as often as you can

Having fresh content on your site is one of the best ways to let Google know that your is site active (which gives you better rankings) and shows your customers that you are busy. When I visit a site that hasn’t been updated in a few months, I often wonder if they are still in business. If you don’t have many shoots, spread out your posts (do a few images one at a time instead of all in one big post) or show some personal work.

It’s also extremely valuable to blog about things that your clients want to know. For example, wedding photographers may want to put out a series on their blog with tips for brides for having better wedding photography (such as hiring a professional lighting company or not getting ready in a church kitchen) whereas portrait photographers may post about what to wear to a session. Providing information to your clients helps them to value you and see you as an authority about the subject.

You’ll also want to make sure that your blog is optimized for search engines so that you can attract search engine traffic.

4. Start building an email list right away

The more I learn about email marketing, the more I realize that I should have started an email list right away from the very beginning. I’m not talking about buying some random list that people are trying to sell you. I’m talking about people who are interested in your work and opt-in to receive emails from you.

The beauty of the email list is that these clients already like your work enough to give you their email address. They want to hear about your business and about the products you are offering. They may even love your work enough that they want to receive an email every time you update your blog with new photos. These people are priceless.

Want to do a day of mini-sessions? Tell your email list and give them the opportunity to sign up a day before you open it to the public. Have a new product you are offering? Tell your list about it and entice them to buy it.

The opportunities that are out there with an email list are so vast that I’m planning on talking about this more in-depth in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

5. Offer referral bonuses

Word of mouth advertising is one of the most powerful things you can have for propelling your business forward. One way to help encourage that is to reward people for telling their friends about your business and how awesome you are. I like to offer either a free print or a certain amount of print credit to my clients for each friend they refer to us that books a session or wedding. This isn’t free to deliver, but I am putting it in my “free” list because you can pay for it out of the profits from their friend who may not have booked with you otherwise. It’s free to get started and promote.

6. Network with other professionals

Get involved with other professionals in your local area. It’s amazing how loyal business owners can be towards each other when you really hit if off. Make sure you’re promoting their businesses to your clients, and they’ll be sure to reciprocate.

If you shoot weddings, it’s especially powerful to network with other wedding professionals since you share clients but don’t have to compete for them.

7. Run a contest or a promotion

I debated putting this one on here at all because some photographers give away their work for free for too long, but a contest or giveaway here and there can really help boost visibility to your business.

My friend Andy and I have been giving away free wedding photography to one couple each year for the last 3 years as a way to give back to people, and while it has been an incredibly rewarding thing to do on a personal level, it isn’t something that brings in a lot of extra business. Yes, you get some, but generally it’s more about spreading the word about giving back. This is because we’re not offering it to our target market. Our target market can afford higher-end photography, whereas people who enter a contest for something free often do so because they can’t afford the luxury item. It was shocking to me how many people still met with us and booked us while the contest was still open, but our target market would rather book us than wait for the results of a contest but possibly lose their date.

To do this to get more clients, you have to make sure that you’re reaching your target market.

8. Have clients recruit their friends

Offering a free gift or a small discount to people who find two or three friends to all schedule photo sessions on the same day can be a huge motivator for people to find others to hire you as well. Again, we’re harnessing the power of word of mouth advertising, but it’s so powerful that it can’t be ignored.

9. Get featured on photo blogs

There’s a ton of wedding blogs out there that feature photography, and there are some portrait blogs that feature portrait photographers as well. Get featured if you can, then promote it where your clients can see it. There’s nothing wrong with reminding them how awesome you are. It’s simply good business.

10. Give back to the community

This not only gets your name out there, but it helps you build relationships with other professionals who may want your services or refer you to people they know. There are very few organizations who would turn down free photography coverage for their event. Consider donating a session to a cause that is important to you. The possibilities here are endless.

Want to learn more about Marketing and really dig in?

Join Marketog, a 6-Week Online Photography Marketing Course for photographers. It’ll help you get more clients, better clients, and learn how to turn inquiries into booked clients. Click here to learn more or enroll now.

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Jamie M Swanson is a Madison Wedding Photographer with her husband Brandon. She enjoys photography, loves the business side of things, but truly comes alive by helping others grow their own businesses. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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Photographer Glenwood Springs CO May 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I’ve been doing all of these things for quite some time now and I wish I could say it is working, but for the most part, nothing has worked for me. I think I live in THE toughest town. Everyone is a photographer and nobody has any money. Part of the area I cover has had the highest unemployment in the nation per capita. Anyway, thanks for posting and I’ll keep trying different things. Karen

Jamie M Swanson May 10, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Hi Karen,

Getting real traction can be frustrating for sure, especially in a saturated market. I think in your case, I’d ask myself what I was doing differently from everyone else and make sure my customer service was as amazing as possible. I might even survey my past clients and ask for three concrete things that could have been done differently to make their experience better. I’d figure out what you need to do to get your clients talking about your business and raving about it. I know it’s easy for me to write and harder to actually do, but with persistence these things will pay off. Hang in there!

Heather Furlow May 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm

this is great! I have been dragging my feet on adding a fan page on FB, I really needed this motivation to help me kick it in high gear..thanks!

Jamie M Swanson May 19, 2011 at 7:41 am

Well good! Glad to help get you moving on this.

Michael from Lensbaby March 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Thanks for sharing the great advice Jamie! I’m glad you mentioned regular blogging and Facebook tagging – I’ve seen both of these tactics work well, but like all marketing efforts they take time (so don’t get discouraged Karen!).
Another thing to keep in mind is your personal photographic style – often the most successful photographers are those that focus on doing a particular type of photography over and over in an identifiable style.
Dane Sanders had some great advice on maintaing a photo style as a “personal brand” – check out his thoughts on the Lensbaby blog for more info!

Jamie M Swanson March 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Thanks for the comment, Michael. Totally true that these things can take time.

Whitney April 10, 2012 at 9:10 am

Thank you so much for the tips. I’m feeling a little less stressed and more ambitious about marketing my photography!

Jamie M Swanson April 10, 2012 at 9:18 am

You’re welcome! Glad to help. Here’s another article that was just published that you may find useful as well: http://www.photomint.com/photography-business/photography-marketing-11-free-ways-to-pump-up-your-marketing/

Matteo July 4, 2012 at 1:26 am

Thanks for sharing!
May you suggest us some wedding blog like “Inspire Me Baby” where we can share our weddings ?

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