Contributors Ben & Rebekah of Kallima Photography share their experience with advertising for their photography business. Join us as we continue our "What I Wish I Knew" series, chronicling the mistakes and revelations creatives made during their first years in business. We hope you find these stories helpful and inspiring!
The thing about owning a photography business is that, well- you own a business. There are things that come up all the time that have nothing to do with photography, but are an essential part of owning a business. One of those things that often comes up is what to do about advertising.
A few years ago when we were still just starting out, we got the “opportunity” to advertise in a national wedding magazine. We were stoked.The sales rep gave us a discount and we took the leap and invested quite a bit of money in a full page advertisement, hoping that it would lead to bookings in the future. We sent in what we thought was our best photo, and then they came back suggesting a photo that we liked, but didn’t represent us well. We were excited to have the ad though, so we said yes, and we waited. We waited some more, and nothing happened.
I’d like to say that this was the only time that we invested a good amount of money in advertising to have it come back void, but it’s not. Every few years I seem to get convinced that if I only do this next thing, that we’ll have endless inquiry emails from our brilliant marketing techniques. But that’s just not the way that it works.
What we have learned after 10 years in business is that there are few things other than hard work and hustle that will grow a business. Building a solid base of referrals from clients and other vendors will do much more for your business than that vendor list or magazine ad that you are thinking about. Hiring a wedding photographer isn’t the same as buying a watch or a new pair of shoes, people want to know you- not just your photos. So if that’s the goal, how do you get there?
I believe that success in this business depends on referrals. I don’t believe that they’re always going to be direct referrals though. We are always going to be more likely to do business with someone that we are connected to in some way. One of the ways that we capitalize on that is through facebook. After every shoot we post a preview, usually 5-10 photos. We do this on our business page and tag the client in them. Those photos then appear on the feeds of their friends. Yes, facebook has reduced the reach of non boosted posts, and that’s a bummer- but what if you boosted each of these posts for $5? Choose to boost them only to females between 18-30 who are in a relationship and you’ve just hit the wedding market sweet spot and it only cost you a latte. The same is true if you’re shooting families or babies- just adjust your target market.
If you really want to be on a vendor list make sure that the list that you are applying to fits your brand. Ask yourself these questions- does the blog/magazine already publish my work? Do I get solid hits to my website when I am published? Does the blog/magazine have a following that will hire me? If these are solid “yes” answers, then go with the lowest rung of membership and track your website stats to see if it’s paying off.
For us, we’ve learned that it makes more sense for us to invest smaller amounts in Facebook advertising more often, and developing the relationships with vendors that we have already worked with. The big ticket advertising just hasn’t done much for our business in general.
Finally, a couple of tips.
1. Save your money by not spending on expensive advertising opportunities. Invest in your clients and other industry professionals instead.
2. Be active on social media. Many clients are now looking to Instagram, Facebook, even Snapchat for photographers- it doesn’t take that much work to connect with them there.
Thanks, Ben & Rebekah!
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Ben and Rebekah Hood, the owners of Kallima Photography, specialize in weddings and editorial photography. They’ve been married for 11 years, have two awesome kids, a crossfit addiction, and a love of coffee.
To view more of Ben and Rebekah's work, visit them here.
From a very early age I loved taking pictures and looking at them in magazines and books, but the art of photography captured my heart when I was a teenager, on my first overseas trip to Wales. From that point, I began shooting with a little film SLR and having my friend model for me. In college I took some digital photography and visual communication courses as part of my communication studies major, and decided to pursue a career in photography. I became a legal business and took my first paid client at age 20, and it's been quite a journey and adventure over the past nine years.
I secretly bought a mail-order 35mm camera when I was 15, and took lots of ordinary photos of animals and nature for several years. Although I majored in art and studied photography in college, my career started in marketing and advertising, from the client service end. Then I had the most beautiful baby, found my old camera and realized how much I love photographing people.