Photography Business: Marketing

In my post titled Build a Photography Business in 24 Hours, I mentioned that I would expand on each piece of the puzzle for creating your own business. I’m using my recent experience with setting up Auer PhotoWorks as the basis for this guide. Here are all the pieces of the business-puzzle I talked about (with the * items being optional):

  1. Photographs
  2. Gallery Software
  3. Hosting Company
  4. Domain Name
  5. Trade Name
  6. Bank
  7. $500
  8. * Merchant Account
  9. * Accounting
  10. * Marketing

This post will focus on steps 3 of the optional items: Marketing. I left this one for last because once you get started on marketing, it may snowball into an obsession — very addicting. It's also the broadest of all the topics I've listed, so what I provide you will only be a small piece of the big picture.

So we've got our photo gallery up on the web, fully operational and ready to do business. Within days the orders will be rolling in, cash flying into your account, and people all over the world admiring your work — then you wake up. The truth of online business is that it typically isn't a speedy process when you start from scratch. It can take years before you get enough traffic to generate profits… if you survive that long. I'm not trying to dissuade anybody from starting up their own thing on the Internet, but don't expect to put up a website and just wait for customers to walk in and make you rich. There are millions sites out there, and everybody's competing for traffic.

Marketing is important for an online business, and without it you'll go virtually unnoticed. Lucky for us, online marketing is not completely difficult (at least on the surface), and there are a number of resources at our disposal. I'm not a professional marketer, nor do I pretend to be, but I'll break it down for you the best I can. I'm going to break down marketing into four distinct groups that I use or have used: Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Social Media Marketing (SMM), Paid Advertising, and Blog Marketing (I think I either just made this term up, or misused it… oh well). If you're a marketing pro, just go with me on this and hold your tongue until you finish reading the ENTIRE post.

SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING, in my mind, is just like it sounds. Marketing through search engines. Everybody uses search engines to find what they're looking for. The trick is to make the search engine display your site when people search for something you offer (photos). Ideally, you'd like the search engine to direct people to your site when they search for a certain type of photo or artwork. There's a whole industry around Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization, so I can't even begin to tell you how to do it. My advice is to find some good resources on the subject and start doing your homework (starter resources at end of post). This side of marketing is generally sluggish to provide results in the short run, but can really prove worthy in the long haul.

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING has to do with the social interactions online. You may have heard of sites like Digg,, Stumble!, Twitter, etc. The list goes on and on. These are great ways to get other people to do your marketing for you — if you have good stuff. Another side to social media are things like forums and discussion groups. Become active with a group of people who have the same interests as you (and your photography business) and make friends with them. Usually you can't blatantly promote your business, but a little link in your signature is generally accepted. Social media marketing is usually a bit snappier than SEM, but it requires much more work on your part to be active in some type of community.

PAID ADVERTISING can produce immediate results, but it costs money. Traditional online ads, offline ads, and pay-per-click ads can all drive tons of traffic to your site — it just depends on how deep your pockets are. Things like Google's AdWords (pay-per-click) can give you a good idea of how to target your customers and you can expect results immediately. These are good tools to start things off with, but you don't want to rely on them forever.

BLOG MARKETING is sort of like social media marketing, except you become the center of the community. Search engines love blogs because of the fresh content and site structure. People love to read blogs, again, because of the fresh content and good site structure. Blogs take a few months to gain any steam, but once you get traffic, you basically have the ability to direct Internet traffic wherever you point to. If your photography is very theme oriented, start a blog about that theme and showcase some of your work. This method of marketing takes extra time and effort on your part, but the long-term gains can be rewarding.

As you start to do more research on marketing, you'll find that there are many more ways to promote yourself and your business. My suggestion: start with the blogs I've listed below and subscribe to their feeds in your favorite feed reader. It's like watching the news, but it's highly targeted subject matter coming from many different sources. If you don't like some of them, unsubscribe. If you find other resources you like, subscribe. It's that easy. So here are a few starters, in no particular order:

So that concludes my mini-series on how to start a photography business in 24 hours. I hope you found at least some part of it useful, and if you're working on starting up your own gallery — good luck to you!

Photo of the Day…

Under the Weather

Photo by Brian Auer
06/26/06 New York, NY
Boat against foggy Manhattan background
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
300mm equiv * f/8 * 1/200s * ISO100