The scariest part of starting your photography business is finding clients. Sometimes it can feel like you need to magically have client photos first in order to book clients. It’s not entirely true, but it’s not entirely false.
If you want to get booked, you must establish credibility as a new photographer quickly. There are tons of ways to do it, like entering contests and getting awards, but when you’re just starting out you need to go even more basic than that.
You need photos.
So, if you’re brand new to photography, grab a pen and paper! You’re going to want to jot ideas down as you read through these five tips to establish credibility and gain clients as a new photographer.
Build a photography portfolio with your ideal client in mind
The best way to gain credibility as a new photographer is to build your portfolio. Clients need to see your style and quality of work to ensure you’re a good fit. That means you can’t just photograph your family and friends, your portfolio needs to reflect the type of photography, ideal client, and locations you want to be working with.
But how can you build a portfolio without already having a portfolio of clients? The two easiest ways to do this are to either become a second shooter or do a styled photoshoot.
As a second shooter, you’ll be able to help a more senior photographer while getting paid to get experience working with clients (and collecting one or two photos to put on your site). Of course, it’s important to be transparent ahead of time and ask permission from the photographer and their client to use the photos in your portfolio.
A styled photoshoot will allow you to set the scene, choose the models, decide on the location to curate the kind of photos that will draw in your ideal client. The pros of this method is that it speeds up your portfolio building plan. The con is that it can be a bit pricey to put together. I recommend asking to split the cost and time with other photographers.
Collect testimonials and reviews
Remember those styled shoots and second shooting? Here’s another area they come in handy. As you do more photoshoots, you can collect testimonials and reviews. We all trust products and companies recommended by real people. The more 5-star reviews the better in most cases. Photography is no different! The more clients praise your work, the more confident your potential clients will be to inquire.
Before you send an email asking for a review, consider your goal. If you serve a specific area (for example, San Francisco, CA) then having reviews on Google may help you get found by more local clients. If you’re not bound to a specific location, or if you like to mix it up, collecting reviews on Facebook or LinkedIn (depending on your target audience) may be more appropriate.
Showcase your photography
After you’ve built up a nice chunk of photos, it’s important to cull photos to use on your website and on social media. Sounds easy enough. Wrong! You would be surprised how many photographers don’t showcase the right photos to encourage potential clients to reach out.
Image selection is very important. The images you put on social media or your site should tell a story about your client. A story so good, potential clients relate and want that same experience for themselves.
Whether I’m working with coaching clients or designing a website for clients – image selection is one of the most important topics I like to touch on. (That’s why it’s included in my web design package for photographers. It really is that influential to make sales!) Don’t throw photos out for the sake of it. Put yourself in your ideal client’s shoes and ask yourself which photos will pull emotion out of you.
Cultivate your referral network
It’s hard to have a successful photography business if you treat yourself like an island. Don’t think of other photographers or creatives as competition. They’re not. We all have our own unique traits, price points, and editing styles that make us right for someone.
Instead, treat others as a network. Build authentic working relationships and friendships with people. Then start referring clients to each other.
Similar to reviews and testimonials, having another photographer who’s booked on a specific date refer clients to you says a lot about you. Having a wedding planner recommend you to their clients makes you more credible than Joe Shmoe they found on Instagram.
And it works vice versa too! Being willing to recommend another photographer because you’re booked up says a lot about your character. It’s something people remember and builds (what’s our word for the day?) credibility!
Educate your ideal clients
I’m just going to say it. Clients have no idea what photography entails. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I had to educate clients on what I did, what they could expect a photoshoot to be like, or even what deliverables they would get. It’s not their fault, most people don’t get professional photos taken after high school. You simply don’t know what you don’t know.
That means it’s your job to educate them.
The more you put out education about your niche of photography, showing and telling the value, explaining the process of working with you, pricing, and deliverables…the more likely you are to be seen as a credible photographer. You become more than someone with a camera – you become THE authority on your niche. People buy from people whose product they understand. The more you’re doing the explanation, the easier it will be to get more photography clients.
Kind of like how I’m bringing education to you right now! See how this works?
One last thought on credibility…
When you’re just starting out, it can seem like a huge leap to being a credible, highly sought after photographer. In reality, it’s all about whether you’re taking the steps to be known for logos to put on your website or to getting clients who are going to pay you. Both are important.
Both can lead to getting booked. But one takes less time to get you up and create a client list quickly.