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Archive | October, 2011

10 Marketing Techniques for Photographers

27 October

Note: This article was originally published on William Bay Photography in 2009 for my own wedding photography business. Since Flaunt Your Site is about getting your photography businesses noticed, I felt it was appropriate to move it here. And I believe the information still holds true today.

I’ve been doing a lot of meditating, brainstorming and reading about effective marketing and promotion for my wedding photography business. What I’ve concluded is that it all boils down to relationships. This is a bit of a revelation for me, as I have spent the majority of my 20′s burning bridges, and stubbornly thinking I could do everything on my own, while hiding behind my computer.

I agree with Seth Godin‘s marketing mantra of “You can’t buy attention.” And since all print advertising is doing is shouting “Look at me, look at me,” you have as much a chance of becoming a big name photographer as a five year old. So first, here is what I personally will not participate in*:

  • Print ads in local, or national wedding magazines. (You will fall through the cracks, while making the magazine richer, as you are drained of your hard earned resources).
  • Paid ads in online places such as The Knot, again, unless you are in an untapped region, you will be a drop in the bucket with a plethora of other photographers all competing for the same brides as you, save your money.
  • Mailings? Even worse. If you are lucky, you get 1/2% response rate from everyone you mail to. Assuming a run of 500, theoretically you would end up with 2.5 inquires. I have done this before and have not received one.

*Perhaps when I feel I’m ready to launch nationally, I may begin advertising, (but probably not).

OK, Let’s look at the things you could do that would be more efficient:

  1. Make lots of new friends and be generous:
    Like I said before, I spent most of my 20′s burning bridges. Now, I find that I am repairing the old, and building brand new ones. The people that I meet now, I make it a point to find out what interests them, what their passions are, what resources do I have that could benefit them.
    I rarely turn down a conversation anymore, you never know who is a person of influence, or where your relationship will go.
  2. Begin relationships with Wedding Coordinators and Venues:
    While Coordinators and Venues will more than likely already have some photographers they have worked with before, if you want to make a splash in your town and want to have your name/studio name permeate and be well known, you are going to have to hit the pavement and do the “dog and pony” show with your work. Show them you are interested in their work or facility. They are more than happy to meet with other industry people.
    It’s important to note while you are meeting these people, that you aren’t selling your photography, you are selling you and your personality. So turn on the charm.
  3. Bridal shows:
    I am slowly changing my mind on this one. I have bought into the stories of low-budget brides just shopping for prices. But the more I think about it and discuss the notion with my confidant, the more it makes sense to do the more larger shows.
    I’ve been reassured that there are brides that range all kinds of budgets. And the key factor is that there are brides there, my target market! As someone that is swearing off advertising, it’s imperitive to be actively engaging with them, and obtaining information from those potential brides for consultations rather than just being a human brochure and spouting off prices and packages.
    –I’ll keep you with results from my first one, (which may be in June).
  4. Join PPA or other photographic networking group:
    “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member” – Groucho Marx
    Here is the ultimate sign that hell has frozen over – I’m joining a club… Yeah, It hurts a little bit.
    Trying to maintain an outcast image has hurt me in the business world. Now, I see that I can attempt to stand out in a targeted niche group.
    I was brought to a PPA meeting by a good friend of mine as a guest and met David Willis of Leather Craftsmen, and Ross Benton, a very well known wedding photographer from San Antonio. These relationships are just the beginning of what could be a significant boost to launch my career. I’m sure there will be more special speakers, but, I think the real juice lies in the potential referrals that could come by knowing your fellow members in the PPA (or whatever networking groups you decide to join).
  5. Teach:
    The more you are in the public eye the better. And teaching other photographers makes you generous, an expert, and your students can end up as your most loyal evangelists. Plus, if you have a deep knowledge base of one particular subject, imagine how powerfully you can affect the photographic community you belong to, which makes you an influential figure.
    I am working on putting together a Customer Service workshop. It may not be the most sexiest of workshops, but I believe it’s the most vital to growing a business.
  6. Cause a controversy:
    I was kicked out of the Tribeza Bridal Show. It may not be a big deal in the local news or anything, (I did rather wish some police or security was involved for greater exposure), but it did raise a few eyebrows with photographers and vendors. As long as the name William Bay is on the lips of people in the wedding industry, I’m happy. And if the buzz is edgy and controversial, that’s even better. I want crazy rumors floating around about me. “Did you hear that a Bridesmaid at a wedding slipped William Bay a rufi?”
    It’s alleged that Ozzy Osbourne bit off the head of a bat! Crazy, huh? It never happened, but look at the buzz that he has around him.
    What can you personally stir up in your photographic community. Is it as extreme as me?
    No? OK how about challenging the most well known photographer in your area. If he says one thing, say the complete opposite (as long as you believe it). Say you could outshoot them blindfolded, then back it up. Make sure there are lots of witnesses.
  7. Blockparty:
    Remember the postcard mailers I discussed earlier, in the what not to do section. The postcards would have run you about $80 for 500 at Overnight Prints. The postage would have been about $150. That totals $230 to have people quickly glance at your well designed card before they toss it in their recycle bin.
    Instead, take that $230 (this may run you some more actually), and go to Costco, pick up enough food to feed 50 people and hold yourself a blockparty. Run flyers 3 weeks out and make sure people RSVP. People love free food and good music.
    Spend your time meeting your neighbors, getting to know them, letting them know that you are a photographer, and take pictures of everybody. Post them on your website for everyone to download. (Yes, I said download).
  8. Find an office:
    Since I have moved in to my tiny little office in the back of my friends floral shop, I have met a ton of people. So the networking possibilities are endless. At $300/month, the expense is not bad, and having a legitimate place to meet clients, an area that I can work semi-uninterrupted, access to potential clientele, and the loyalty of the shop owner by providing free photos of her floral arrangments is truly priceless.
  9. Get published:
    I’m working on this one right now. I swung for the fence, by trying to get into Grace Ormonde – Wedding Style. If I get in, I will be truly stoked, if not I will keep trying. I already have my next shoots lined up and the ideas are just bursting at the seams ready to jump out and into the camera.
    The important thing is to get into real publications, not the ones where you have to advertise to get some editorial work.
  10. Top Secret:
    Yeah, I know… I tricked you. Hey, I’ve got to keep some trade secrets.

I do hope you got some value out of this. And remember the general rule of thumb in marketing is that all your efforts will provide you with about 5% returns.
You must be prepared to put forth a great deal of energy and effort to obtain each and every customer. Keep it in perspective too, this should not be about getting clients quick, it should be about building your future.

Be relentless, be positive, and always be thinking about the future, not the next booking.

2011 Wedding Photography Industry Pricing

25 October

About a month and a half ago there was a Google Doc making the rounds in the Wedding Photography circles. It got shared a few times on Twitter and ended up amassing 112 anonymous entries from all over the world sharing their wedding package pricing and other information. I was looking at the data the other day, and thought how incredibly awesome it was that we live in a time where:

  • Photographers have become open about their pricing
  • The internet allows us to see the global trends almost instantly
  • That data is easy to access and free
While the data on the spreadsheet is easily accessible using the link above, it’s not until you start actually forming the data into digestible chunks that it takes on a real life. So staring at this data the other day, I thought it would be great if we could actually analyze that data for everyone and give photographers an idea of what others around the world are charging, and other interesting data points.

Wedding Photography Pricing Disclaimer

This is when Flaunt Your Site’s legal department (that’s me) tells the editorial staff (that’s me too) to put in a disclaimer that this is not meant as a guide to set your prices on, and that it’s purely informational.
So, before you continue reading, please pinky swear to me that you won’t base your pricing on this blog post.

If you need to learn how to set your prices, I would do two things:

  1. Watch the “How Much Should I Charge?” Adorama video to get a handle on a few terms.
  2. Go to The Modern Tog and check out the Photography Pricing Guide. It’s a step by step process that will guide you by the hand in coming up with pricing that makes a profit for you.
OK… Now let’s have a look at what I found in the data.

Average Package Cost

While it’s not in the range that PPA suggests is a profitable average wedding cost, the majority of photographers 34% are charging in the $3,000-$3,999 range. With the average pricing being $3,206.

Yearly Billings

While the pool of information indicated that the average yearly billings was around $80,000. Considering we have taxes, equipment, and other expenses, the margins look a bit tighter than one would hope for in running a business, and providing a solid income for ourselves and families.

Number of Weddings Per Year

Oddly, of the group in the survey, a full 34% of wedding photographers are shooting less than 10 weddings per year. However the average is 19.
And, while I’ve heard of people that shot 50 per year, I always thought those were myths. Yes that’s correct. I have it on good authority that Ryan Brenizer is an urban legend, he doesn’t really exist.

Number of Hours Per Wedding

The average hours put in at a wedding is 9 hours, with a predominate amount sticking around for more than 10 hours at each wedding. Make sure you get some Odor Eaters for those shoes. Those are some long days to be wearing black socks.

Do You Include a Disc?

This figure was rather expected. The business model that the majority of wedding photographers use is to include a disc of images with their wedding packages. But it is surprising to see that there are almost a full 20% of photographers out there that are not providing a disc of images with a package.

It’s actually quite encouraging. I know that JB and DeEtte Sallee out of Dallas aren’t offering a disc of images automatically with their packages, and I think that as people become more and more serious about making a profit in their photography business, more and more photographers will not blindly offer the images.

To be fair, I do think that photographers just breaking into the industry feel some obligation to giving people the images, because it’s “easy to do.” I’d like to see photographers turn to sustainable business practices, and at the very least require a minimum print or album purchase.

Of course, I’m a little biased, as I believe that photography is about a tangible product.

Do You Include an Album?

This is also great news. The information from the survey was all over the place, but it seemed that the majority of people did offer albums, but 59% of them did not offer the album in the package price. And since that average package price was just over $3,000, that bodes well for the profitability of most of your businesses.


This one perplexed me, but I’m not putting a lot of stock in it. I am under the impression that this particular Google Doc just got shared within a fairly narrow spectrum of photographers. I think in the broad scheme of things the United States has far fewer than 65% of the entire Wedding Photographer population.

I think I personally know all 1% of the photographers representing Chile.

Age of Photographer

This one also surprised me a little. I quite expected to see wedding photography appealing to a much younger audience with the 20-25 year old segment taking a much larger percentage. But this particular survey resulted in an average Wedding Photographer age of 31 years old. And, collectively, the whole 26-35 year old range of photographers taking up half of the entire population.

Since I’ll be 36 next summer, I’m almost at retirement age. 🙁


I think this is a no-brainer. I think it’s also a no-brainer that if you are a woman, you have an incredible competitive advantage in this industry, and you should definitely use it. Brides can really connect with another woman in the wedding planning stage, and photography is no different.

Years of Photography Experience

This is definitely an industry of start-ups. A good 53% of Wedding Photographers find themselves in the 3-5 year experience range, and the next biggest segment is those photographers with just 1-2 years of experience.

The data could be skewed due to the tendency for more experienced photographers not spending as much time online filling out random Google Doc polls about their rates, age and experience. But who really knows?

The Take-Away

112 people is a rather small pool of data to get an accurate picture of the entire wedding industry. But I think this does provide an insight into other people’s businesses that we wouldn’t normally have. With the range of experiences, geographic differences, clientele, this is absolutely not something that we would base our own pricing on. But

Now let’s do the funnest thing with data; demographically stereotype people!
Wedding Photographers are typically 31 year old American chicks, making about $80,000 per year, and have been using a camera for about 5 years. Most importantly, if we can get one of them to be our girlfiends, they’ll be gone about 19 Saturday’s a year, of which we’ll have a full 9 or more hours to watch College Football.

…That is of course if we weren’t the other 41%.

The Discovery of Paths

04 October

If the waves aren’t good in the afternoon, instead of surfing, I’ll opt to take a 4.5 mile walk to get out from behind the computer for awhile. Yesterday, the waves were not only bad, but totally non-existent. Off on my walk I went.

Out of habit, I walk the same line every time. I walk through the same field, I cross the street on the big hill so I can see out over the bay and to the ocean, I don’t cut across the dirt path shortcut by the school, (I don’t exactly remember why – some superstitious reason I’m sure).
As you can tell, I’m very locked into my routine.

What was interesting about yesterday’s walk was I noticed a gentleman walking his dog about 20 yards ahead of me. He walked up a long access ramp that I’ve seen a hundred or so times, he proceeded along a path on the embankment adjacent e to the sidewalk I was on. Despite the hundred or so times I’ve seen the ramp, I had no idea that path existed. His higher path eventually descended back down to the sidewalk.

This made me think about how oblivious I was to the possibilities of getting to where you want or need to go, while experiencing a new, possibly exciting route. I was also struck by the idea that if it weren’t for another person in my community, I would have never discovered that new path.

Not every discovery is a groundbreaking invention. Sometimes it’s just a new dirt walking path. For us photographers, maybe it’s a new way to mask out layers that we learned in a seminar, or a something you learned about SEO to promote your website. But until someone guides you to that discovery, it’s hidden from your view. Usually right there under your nose.

Now that the path is discovered, I think I’m going to go experience what it’s like to walk up there.

…Well, if the surf isn’t any good that is of course.

What new paths are you going to be on the look out for?