The Terrible Marketing Choices Photographers Tend to Make

There’s nothing more upsetting than seeing an awesome photographer make poor marketing choices.

Successful photographers are not always the best creatively. Sure, they’re good. But what sets them apart is how well they sell themselves to the world. On the flip side, I’ve seen gifted photographers not get work because they have no clue about marketing. They also make terrible choices when it comes to branding. Let’s take a look.

Marketing is Important for a Photographer

I’m currently in my 10th year working in photography. In my early days, I would shoot events in my local area. Nobody knew who I was when I started, so I worked hard to get my name out there. I took marketing courses, listened to other photographers, and learned the tools and tricks needed to get work.

Since turning to journalism, I see things from the other side. I receive regular pitches from photographers and PR agencies. Those pitches are all part of a photographers attempt to get their name out there. The number of branding errors I see is worrying, especially when a PR agency is representing them.

A lot of these errors an easy to rectify. Let’s break them down.

Not Having a Dedicated Website is Poor Marketing

A question I see a lot is, “Do I need a website or will social media do?” If you want to earn a significant income from photography, then you absolutely need a website. A professional website is a space to make your own. It’s a good landing spot for people to learn about who you are and what you can offer. Using social media can lead to gigs. But for the most part, the platforms lack your whole identity, and your feed can get lost amongst the millions of others.

On your website, you can also run a blog. This helps people connect to your photographic identity. It’s also a good way to grow traffic and turn them into leads and paid gigs.

Having Too Many Social Media Platforms

I believe that it’s better to master one social media platform rather than try to grow them all at the same time. Photographers often feel they need Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. They set up their accounts and start spreading their work across the platforms. Building a social media following takes time, and each platform has its own algorithm you need to master. There are not enough hours in the day to build four different social media followings. So by spreading it across several sites, you’re potentially limiting your reach.

It’s better to focus on growing one platform. For example, if you focus solely on Instagram each day, you could get 10 thousand followers over three to six months. That’s going to be better than spending the same amount of time building four different platforms, in which you may only gain five thousand followers all together!

Too Many Galleries on Their Website

A photographer’s website is essentially their advertisement campaign. It’s their way of saying, “look at me. I’m worth your time and money.” And remember, the first selling point is your photographs. When people land on your site, they need to get a clear view of what you can create.

I often see photographers have 15-20 galleries. Some galleries have 30 images in them, and some only have three or four. It looks like a total mess. They also add sub-galleries and make things even more complicated.

What does this communicate to potential customers? That the photographer doesn’t know what their true photographic identity is. Instead, it seems like they’ve thrown as many images and galleries on their site as possible, hoping for the best.

Honestly, a photographer shouldn’t need more than five galleries, all with a specific theme and no more than 10 images in each. A clean gallery section communicates both confidence and identity.

Not Making Contact Simple

If you’re using Instagram to promote your business, then you must make a business account. And once you do that, you need to add your email address so people can contact you with a click of a button. Don’t rely on people sending you a DM because those messages often go in your “other” inbox and never get seen. If you use Facebook, make sure an email address is in your “About Me” section. And if you have a website, add an easy-to-find contact page.

If people have to jump through hoops and pages to contact you, then they’re going to get frustrated. It’s not a good look and can result in them giving up. This translates to you not getting a gig and losing money.

Poor Pitches to Publishers

As a large photo publication, we offer a great platform for photographers. Getting press coverage is part of marketing. It’s a great way to reach people. So when you send a pitch to a publication, you need to do it well.

I’ve received emails from photographers that only include four images and “thank you for your consideration” as the text. This comes as no surprise, but I do not consider the pitch in the slightest. Alternatively, I’ve received pitches where photographers seem to send every image they’ve ever created.

Keep pitches to the point, explain the reason for the pitch and why you think it has value. You’ll have more chance of getting a feature and the world seeing your work. And we’ve got an entire detailed guideline of how to pitch to us here if you want to be featured on our website.

Being Rude And Difficult to Work With

This may not seem like a marketing mistake, but it is. People in this industry like to talk. And if you’re rude, arrogant, or difficult to work with, people are going to know about it. Being like this can lead to clients not wanting to work with you. So always conduct yourself in a respectful manner during gigs and networking events.

And never get above yourself. You’re a photographer, a normal human, not some mythical god.

Old School Marketing

The digital world created a new way of marketing yourself as a photographer. But that doesn’t mean old-school approaches have to disappear. I still think it’s a good idea to have a business card to hand when at networking events, for example. Also, if you’re looking to get local bookings, ask your local shops if you can put up an ad in their window. If you’re well known in the area, people will be happy to help.

Remember, every marketing opportunity is an opportunity for growth and income. Don’t turn your nose up at some of the old-school methods.

You Deserve to Be Seen

If you’re a talented photographer, then you deserve to be seen by the world. Don’t make the same marketing errors that many others do. Instead, do the fundamentals well, and also invest in educating yourself on marketing strategies. It would be a small price to pay for could lead to a career of a lifetime.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host professional photographers within the industry.