How to Market your Photography Without Really Trying

Photography: Corazon girl

Jonathan Fields, a writer at, a site for freelance anythings, has a great story about a marketing opportunity he came across in a pumpkin patch recently. Visiting with his children, he wanted to take pictures of them frolicking in the field. Not being a photographer though, he had nothing on hand but a friend’s camera phone. Fortunately, a woman with a Nikon D2000 offered to shoot him together with his daughter, and email him the image.The woman, it turned out, was a professional portrait photographer. The photo was waiting in his inbox when he got home, together with a link to her website.So simple. So effective. So how can you do the same thing?Go Where The People Are… And Don’t Pitch
The photographer’s approach worked for two reasons: she went to where lots of people who wanted pictures were likely to be; and she didn’t make a hard sell. Instead she simply created a sample that cost her nothing but time, and left the potential client with a good feeling and a debt they might want to repay.

Both of those things are easy to copy, and you don’t have to hang out in a pumpkin patch and wait until Halloween to do them.

Playgrounds Are Full Of Children Too
Playgrounds, for example, are always filled with children running around and having fun. They’re also filled with bored parents who want photos of them.

It’s best to turn up on weekends and late afternoons — peak times for play — so pack your camera, take a kid if you can get hold of one, and run off a few shots.

And while you’re there, ask other parents if they’d like some photos of their children on the swings too. You’ll be getting the little ones when they’re naturally happy so it should be a relatively easy children’s shoot.

Win At The Sports Ground
Sports grounds can offer exactly the same opportunity as playgrounds. Many parks turn over part of their green space each weekend to organized children’s sports so take your camera and watch the game.

Unless you’ve got a kid on the field though, don’t shoot until you’ve started chatting to a parent on the sidelines and offered them an image. It won’t be long before they’re pointing out which one is theirs… and you’re writing down their contact details.

You Can Shoot Adults Too
Of course, you don’t have to limit this sort of marketing to children’s photography. Adults are fair game too, you just have to prepare well and pick your locations a little more carefully.

Take your camera to a bar where business people hang out, for example, and your gear will give you a good talking point. Take pictures of the people you meet and send them the image with a link to your site. Just make sure that you have Web pages that explain the importance of good business portraits or that show off your corporate photography first.

The Bride And Groom Aren’t The Only Couple At The Wedding
For event photographers, it’s even easier. Most weddings will contain couples who aren’t married now but might be in a year or two’s time. As you’re shooting the tables keep an eye out for pairs, snap them together and run off special prints with your contact details on the back. Ask your client to pass them on and they’ll be getting a free couple portrait while you do some no-cost marketing to people who could need your services soon.

Snap Your Meal
Food photographers could even use this approach in a restaurant. Order a meal and when the dish is delivered take a picture. When you tell the waiter what a great meal you’ve had, offer him a copy for the restaurant’s publicity material.

Again if your website has samples of your food photography, you’ll be leaving an impression on a part of your market.

Photography: ciao-chow

As long as you follow the principle of identifying someone who could use your images and finding a way to leave them a sample in a way that feels like a favor, you’ll be in with a great shot at increasing your sales.Read Jonathan Fields’ article here and tell us if you’ve ever tried this form of marketing.

UPDATE:This post generated a fair amount of feedback both here and elsewhere on the Web, so we thought we should explain a couple of points.First, the idea of the post is that you can pick up clients by shooting sample images for people in the places and times they need them most. It’s not a replacement for the shoot; it’s simply a chance to show people what you can do. We stand by that. It sounds like a pretty good strategy.The other point regards taking images of children. We had hoped that warning not to shoot images of children at sports grounds unless your own is playing would have been clear enough. Lots of people have warned about this, so it appears it isn’t. If you’re using this strategy to promote children’s photography, it’s best to take your own child with you. If you don’t have a child with you, then talk to parents and make what you’re doing clear. We didn’t really need to spell that out, did we?
[tags] photo marketing, photography marketing [/tags]

17 comments for this post.

  1. Bill Webb Said:

    The ex-cop in me feels compelled to warn folks who desire to use this tip that they should always be prepared to prove to anyone (especially people with brightly-lit cars and guns) that they are professional, legitimate photographers. Having a kid with you is a plus, too.

    Given the attention paid to odd people doing odd things around kids these days, you can't be too careful -- and this sort of thing is a red flag for the vice squad.

    I'm just sayin'...

  2. brad Said:

    the photography you show is far from professional. have you by chance read the terms/conditions of posting photography on this flickr website? if so, did you really understand it? no REAL professional photographer would agree to such crap.

  3. Rod Said:

    You will not be able to sell a photo you took of you meal at the restaurant.

    Professional food photography takes a lot more work than just whipping out a camera at the restaurant and snapping a picture.

    I'd like to some day be good enough to do food as my fiancee is a great cook and baker and we'd like to self publish a cookbook, but it takes a lot of work to get it right.

  4. Bakari Said:

    Yeah, I would have to agree with these comments. I don't think photographers really make money with this type of approach. I agree that networking and being a part of activities in which you're in contact with people is good way to let people know what you do, but I don't see these other examples as helping to bring you the type of business that professional photographers are looking for.

  5. Serge Kozak Said:

    I am not so sure about selling and looking for clients this way, the time s return would be terrible. Also how many clients can you really convert in a year that will pay for one to operate as a business? (Or just feed oneself I suppose I don’t know, what do you think?

  6. Lea Said:

    I, for one, appreciate you writing this post to offer advice. I'm starting out in the photography business, and realize that giveaways are a great way to get my name out there... and get practice! Thanks for the good ideas!

  7. Brian Higbee Said:

    I believe this idea works well within certain industries (maybe not with the examples given in the post). I'm an automotive photographer and have occasionally shot car shows. If I get a good shot of someones car that's in the show, I'll show them and give them my business card. I've had many people contact me to have a dedicated shoot for their car.

  8. Chris Said:

    I think it's important not to dismiss opportunities. take the picture, give a moocard(people absolutely love these) or other and send these guy a rather low res or small size version of the photo. They might want a bigger one (they'd have to pay then.. but not an extortionate fee, that would make them rrun away..), but then even if they don't, they might go and check you photos on the web, and tell the story to their friends etc.. and who knows from there. It's risk free, and it could potentially yield opportunities. I don't see anything wrong with that.
    For those sceptics, watch the film 'pay it forward' as an exercise and take yoga classes and start thinking positive... that should relax you a little. (well, practice especially after the frustration of being told of for taking children's photos).
    Ok, Joke apart,if anything it will contribute to a better image of photographers and less paranoia.
    If you don't try you won't get anything. At least interact with people!

  9. Carmen Tellez Said:

    Reading these comments entertainment. The best marketing advice I ever received has been from Michael Port "Book Yourself Solid". I have both the audio and the book. He talks about gaining trust from the potential client before offering services. Then be sincere and professional. Oh, you'll just have to read or hear for yourself. Excellent info.

    I've attended Chamber of Commerce meetings where I've seen a photographer who is NOT hired for the event, but will take photos and give you a slip that has her website and contact info. it also mentions the date of the event and topic of the event to reference to when looking for the photos on her site. She must do well, cause she's always there.

    I was actually looking for a way to somehow cross network my children's entertainment services with a photography company based in a mall. Just looking for ideas. I'll keep searching, but glad I found this page anyway.

    Carmen Tellez
    [email protected]
    Party Services with Artist Entertainment
    Los Angeles, CA

  10. Chris F. Said:

    I think the greatest point of this is that as a photographer and a parent, I am always shooting photos of my kids at playgrounds etc.. Just being aware of the potential marketing around you while you are doing what you do anyway, could open the door to jobs you don't get now! Kudos!!

  11. Carie S Said:

    I agree with you. My daughter goes Horse Riding every weekend. A couple of parents saw me taking photos of her, and have now asked me if I can take some photos of their daughters too!! Obviously it shouldn't be the only way to market, but it certainly is one of many ways.

  12. Ray W Said:

    I love your idea, I went to our frends son football game. they wanted me to take a few shoots and email it to them. Me being just now to photography (6 months) I i want to try some sports action shots. After the game I went home and email the shots also i design an fake football magazine cover and put his photo on it. he like it so much there going to talk to the prez of the league and have me take the team photos next year. A few years back I also worked for Home Depot part time it was at the kids christmas party, they ask me to take the photo's, I just didn't want to take plane old photos so I photoshop them onto a christmas bulb photo. that was a big hit. I will be posting some of my bulbs photo's up on the website soon. have a look and tell me what you think.

  13. Rohn Engh Said:

    --there's another area of photography for people just starting out:

    stock photography

    publishers have large budgets ($20,000 to $50,000 per month) to buy photos they need monthly for their publications or book projects.

    My eCourse would be helpful:



  14. Vincent Rush Said:

    When I first broke back into photography 3 years ago, I used to do exactly what you recommended and the truth is, it works. Now that my brand is firmly established, I will either make $3-500 on a Saturday shooting a tournament, or I will make $300 from a private client wanting me to cover their kid for an entire game. It's not big money, but it's not bad either. The collateral from that is the portrait and other work as well.

  15. Joseph Said:

    Of course you don't walk into a playground alone and start ringing of shots of peoples kids. That should be a given but, unfortunately, some people need to be told these things. Some people need to hear "One plus one equals two" rather than "One and one is two". If you are going to write an article then you have to cater to all levels.

    The idea is sound and I do it all the time... at the playground... with my baby girl. She's my assistant model and parents are almost always willing to have their kids photographed after you hand them your card and take their email address. Set the aperture wide, obey the rule of thirds, take 10 shots and send them one or two of the best. How many times do I get a call-back? Often.

    As for the food thing... trust me, pulling out your camera in a restaurant and shooting the plate is not a way to earn friends. If the owner wanted his food shot, he would ask you to do it after he dressed the plate. Otherwise, go ahead and try it without permission... and make sure the next dish coming to you doesn't have a wad of chef's spit buried in the mashed potatoes.

  16. Nakeeshia Rosser Said:

    wow, people are very harsh... ONE: if you are completely profession, secure in your number of clients, have been around for a while, then why are you even here? This makes sense for someone who is trying to BUILD their client list.

    I actually did this by accident. I had just finished up a photo shoot and was on my way to my car when I saw this couple trying to take a photo of them with the skyline. I asked them if they'd like me to take it, and they agreed. As I was taking the photo their camera died. SO i took it with my camera and then emailed it to them. My email has a link to my website, and the guy ended up contacting me for an actual photo shoot, which then turned into his business using me for a directory, and his friends coming to me for family sessions...


    Now they're not telling you to go creep around a playground and take photos every day... that really is just creepy. But think about it... You go take photo of your kids, and others around, and chat it up with their parents, when they see your shots, they're going to want you to take more of their children...

    furthermore. One of my favorite photos with my simple point and shoot is at a new restaurant my husband and i went to. During vacations or when we're at a new restaurant we take photos of our food, for my scrapbooking addiction. This one was just awesome, I even made it the front cover of our photobook of out trip... so stop taking it so literal. Use your own judgement. If you don't feel comfortable being in a park, go to a skate park, email the photos... these are teens and young adults most times, and they REALLY appreciate a few shots of them doing something they LOVE!

  17. Devine Images By Lizz Said:

    I have been doing this approach , naturally for over 4 years..
    It just takes way to long..
    How ever I must tell you, I have gotten three weddings, Because my clients have seen me out and about.
    It works to be known, but a very slow go.

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