Photo Notes A place to talk about making images.

June 19, 2009

Marketing Commercial Photography

Filed under: Marketing — John Siskin @ 10:19 pm
Photo for a Contractor

Photo for a Contractor

I’ve been working on my new class at It’s starting July 1, and will be called Business to Business: Commercial Photography. Rather than blogging about technical issues, I though I would add some information about marketing to my blog. Next week, more technical stuff. Please check out the class!

Getting business might be the hardest part of doing business. I don’t have all the answers, so what I am going to share are some answers, the one I think might work now. I really want this to be a give and take part of the course, so I have stated a thread called marketing on the Q&A section of the class. I will post information about how to send html mail there, so that is a good incentive to visit the thread (this is the blog, not the course. So no thread, sorry). I am going to break the problem down into parts; I hope that will help.

The first problem is: who are you going to do business for? While you might be skilled in a number of different types of photography, no one is skilled at everything. If you do an honest inventory of your skills it will help you to find clients that are a good fit. At the same time you should look at how businesses use images: advertising, websites, annual reports, documentation and so on. Remember that you are a resource to a business; it is better if you can be an expert resource.

I suggest that you start by looking for businesses. You should use the net, looking at chamber of commerce site and business searches. You should also check out the phone book. Collect information as you do this, particularly addresses, e-mail addresses, web sites and contact names. Your clients are not going to find you spontaneously; you have to do the work to find them.

Passive advertising
The yellow pages used to be a very important part of my marketing. I don’t do any advertising in them any more. In my market, Los Angeles, the yellow pages are useless for commercial photography. They may still work in your market. See who is advertising in the pages, and how big the ads are. Yellow page ads are expensive, and they bill you even if you don’t get clients.

Your web site is very important. If your site makes you look like a fine art photographer it will work against you, as a commercial photographer. It’s possible a fine art site can help you book weddings. If you plan on doing family portraits and working for business you will probably need two websites. Display work that seems to fit your prospective clients’ needs. I prefer a relatively simple site. You can visit my site:

Portfolio sites, there are a bunch of these. Like and I don’t know if any of these sites are worth the time spent uploading to them. I am on a few, without results. If you know of any that work please send me the names.

Bidding sites, these are sites that companies list jobs on. You enter a bid. For most jobs the work will be done inexpensively overseas, but occasionally a local job comes up. Check out and If you know of any others please share. I have gotten work off of one of these, and you don’t have to bid on things you don’t want.

Craig’s List, it doesn’t take a lot of time to do an ad for the list. I have one at my ftp space that I post to the list. I have gotten a number of jobs from Craig’s list, and it’s free.

Active advertising:
Html e-mail, this is my favorite method. Use all those e-mail addresses you found and send basically web pages. You can send a page where the pictures are where you intend them to be and the page has live links to your webpage. Just a great way to promote yourself. I will send out a sample during the class (sorry but this is the blog, not the class)

Social networking, this probably helps with weddings. I don’t know about commercial work. I am on facebook, I hope it is helping me reach more students. I think a key is to update frequently. I am still new at this. Suggestions are welcome.

Post cards, these do work. Probably the best thing you can use as direct mail is a post card. This is expensive, but if you have the capital worth considering. Check out Modern Postcard.

Cold calling, frankly I hate doing this. Also it is noxious to receive cold calls, BUT, at ad agencies and other places where they buy photography, it is some bodies’ job to talk to you. If you are able to do this, remember that your call may not be important to someone. Get off the phone before you annoy someone unnecessarily

Visiting clients, this can work if the circumstances are right. For instance if there is a convention of target clients, you can visit and hand out cards. In Los Angeles there are several buildings where the people in certain businesses are located. So there is a fashion building and a place where home designers are located. If you can walk through and hand out cards it would be good. Of course basic politeness should be observed.

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