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How to Get Photography Clients

Before you can get photography clients you must have done your homework. A strong portfolio & media kit are only the pre-requisites. Most important is how well your pictures are performing on social media marketing for the brands. Find out how well your pictures are doing!

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

How To Get Your Photography Clients – The Beginning

On the one hand, getting commercial photography clients is easy because brands have a constant need for fresh content. There are plenty of brands to collaborate with. They will sponsor the “products” and you, the photographer, produces the pictures and provides them to the brand for free. 

The issue is, it’s a barter trade or time-for-pictures (TFP) photoshoots. The advantage is you can potentially build a strong portfolio. The downside is you cannot sustain a living this way and hence you are not a professional photographer. Yet, you have to start somewhere and bartering is not a bad way to go.

© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

Because you have to start somewhere and put in the time, money and effort to get better as a photographer it will realistically take you 3-5 years of shooting consistently (at least 20 time-for-pictures {TFP} photoshoots / year) before you will have a realistic chance of landing paid bookings consistently so you can call yourself a professional photographer.

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

It’s not just about shooting sharp pictures but can you e.g. lead people, your photoshoot team? As a leader you need to direct the model, hair stylist, makeup artist and wardrobe stylist on what to do to reach the desired results – pictures that make the client money.

Many photographers know how to take beautiful pictures, few know how to produce pictures that make the client more money than they spent on the photoshoot. 

If you want to lead one day, you need to learn how to follow first. You need to know that you can produce pictures that make your clients money. Otherwise, what’s the point?

How To Get Photography Clients Who Pay

© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

On the other hand, getting commercial photography clients who pay for your pictures is extremely difficult because you must produce pictures that make them money. Otherwise the brand made a loss on their investment and they won’t rehire you because they go out of business in the long run.

In other words, who wants to go through days of work to loose money?

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

For example, let’s say a fashion brand pays you $5,000 to produce pictures of their latest collection for social media marketing purposes. 

Meaning, the brand gave you a budget of $5,000 to produce the pictures. You, the photographer, need to come up with the shoot concept, find & secure shoot locations, hire models, hair stylist, makeup artist, wardrobe stylist and make sure there are food & drinks throughout the photoshoot.

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To keep it simple, let’s say the brand only sells shirts and the profit margin for each shirt is $10. This means your pictures need to be so good that the brand sells at least 500 shirts to break even (500 x $10 = $5,000). 

In other words, if your pictures didn’t lead to sales of over 500 shirts you failed because the bottom line is the brand lost money.

This also means you need to shoot for a medium sized brand if you want to be successful because a small brand or fashion boutique store will not sell 500 shirts.

1. Determine Your Niche

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

First things first, determine your field of work as a photographer, your niche because it is important with regards to equipment needs. For example, are you a real estate, product or sports photographer?

All 3 categories have different needs. For architecture photography you use special lenses. If you are a sports photographer you need a camera that can shoot 15 pictures / second. As a product photographer you need a studio with appropriate lights, diffusers and other equipment.

2. Build A Strong Portfolio

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Before you can approach or pitch to brands for paid photoshoots you need to build a strong portfolio. Since you already determined your niche as a photographer it is time now to focus and make it happen. 

Take charge, develop shoot concepts and schedule your TFP shoots and produce pictures with a purpose. For example, schedule 3 photoshoots of each category:

  1. Fashion
  2. Jewelry
  3. Shoes
  4. Sunglasses

Make sure you have variety with regards to:

  • locations 
  • age, gender and ethnicity of your models

A strong portfolio is a pre-requisite for the next step, your media kit.

3. Prepare an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) or Media Kit

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The EPK or Media Kit is basically your photography resume and consists of the following sections:

    1. About You
    2. How Much Work Is Involved
    3. Why It Costs So Much
    4. Sample Budget
    5. Portfolio
    6. Past & Present Clients
    7. Social Media Marketing Insights – how well your pictures are performing

The most important section is 7. Social Media Marketing Insights! It shows the client how well your pictures are performing in the real world, during a social media marketing campaign.

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

This sections shows them what they are getting for their money and you can find out how well your pictures are performing…do you know your conversion rate (CR)? 

If you don’t all you need is $150 / month. Just boost 1 post per day for $5 on Facebook and take a look at your results. If you get good results you want to let your (potential) clients know. I’ll go into more detail shortly why this section is so important.

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

The About You section introduces yourself to the client. You basically provide answers to who you are and your background, what you are doing and for how long. Write concise, to the point, nobody wants to read paragraphs of blah blah blah.

It may be a good idea to explain to the client how much work is required to produce your pictures because the amount of work required justifies the cost for the pictures the client needs to pay you.

Inform the Client of Your Creative Process

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You are basically explaining to the client why your pictures cost more than taking passport pictures, which require 5 minutes of work.

Then you provide a sample budget because the client needs to know where the money is going they are paying you. 

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

Now it’s time to shine. Show what you can do, your portfolio. A picture says more than a thousand words and by now you have a minimum of 20 objectively amazing pictures in your portfolio. You either have what the client wants or you don’t. 

Since you have been shooting for at least 3-5 years with a purpose by now you simply list your past & present clients / brands. You can also use their logos if you want to enhance your media kit visually but don’t overemphasize design issues.

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What’s the point of having a visually stunning media kit design when the quality of your portfolio is average? Do you want to get hired as a graphic designer or photographer?

Social Media Marketing Insights

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

What’s the point of producing pictures for the purpose of making money when you don’t know how well your work is doing? When you don’t know how much money your client is making with your pictures?

With this thought in mind, why do you think it is important to share your social media insights of your social media accounts when you don’t sell what your clients / brands are selling?

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Instead, doesn’t it make more sense to show your client / brand how well your pictures are performing compared to industry standards, an objective benchmark? 

You need to know the answers with regards to the pictures you produce to 2 important metrics:

  1. Conversion Rate – (CR)
  2. Cost per Engagement (CPE)

Conversion Rate (CR)

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

Conversion rate is a Facebook Ads metric that measures the ratio of clicks (how often someone clicked on your ad) to impressions (how many times your ad was viewed on the platform) for individual ads. 

To calculate CR on Facebook, divide the number of POST ENGAGEMENT on your Facebook ad by the number of PEOPLE REACHED (x 100 to get a percentage) ==> (POST ENGAGEMENT / PEOPLE REACHED) x 100

According to data analysis by WordStream as of February 25, 2020, the average conversion rate for the “BEAUTY” industry as a whole is 7.1% (see chart below):

(c) WordStream

See How Well You Are Doing

As previously mentioned, you should know how well your pictures are doing online. Since you boosted 1 post per day for $5 on Facebook you have hard data now.

So let’s define this number (7.1%) as the passing grade D for conversion rates:  ==> 7.1% = D = 60%       

If a conversion rate of 7.1% = D then a conversion rate of 11.8% = A (7.1 / 60 = 0.118   |   0.118 x 100 = 11.8%). Here is the grading system:

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Average Cost Per Engagement

CPE stands for “cost per engagement” and is a Facebook Ads metric that measures the ratio of engagement (how often someone clicked, liked, shared, commented on your ad) to people reached (how many times your ad was viewed on the platform) for individual ads. 

To calculate CPE on Facebook, divide the number of TOTAL AMOUNT SPENT on your Facebook ad by the number of POST ENGAGEMENT ==> (TOTAL AMOUNT SPENT / POST ENGAGEMENT) 

According to data analysis by WordStream as of February 25, 2020, the average CPE for the “BEAUTY” industry as a whole is 1.81$ (see chart below):

(c) WordStream

4. Identify Your Target Clients / Brands

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

Refer back to your “Niche” and the “Sample Budget” section to know what brands to contact and how much money the brand must have to book a photoshoot with you.

The main question is who has the money to pay you? It all depends on the profit margins of the product. It may be more challenging to land a medium sized or large companies vs. e.g. a local fashion or jewelry designer.

How to Get Photography Clients
© Phil Halfmann | all rights reserved

For example, let’s say you have a local fashion designer and you really like his/her collection of evening dresses, the average sale price is $1,500 / dress and cost of production is $500 / dress. Therefore, you have a profit margin of $1,000 / dress. 

Compared to our previous example (500 shirts with $10 profit margin) with a photoshoot budget of $5,000 the fashion designer “only” needs to sell 5 dresses to break even.

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So you are basically at the point of simple market research. You are searching for potential clients / brands and save their contact information.

5. Reach Out & Get Photography Clients

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Finally it’s time to reach out to brands, preferably their PR or Marketing departments. Keep the initial message short, to the point and professional. It’s ok to contact the brand via social media to ask for an email address. 

If you don’t get a reply within 3 days follow up and call the brand.

Once you have a suitable email address send them your initial email. Again, keep it short and to the point. Explain why you contact them and attach your media kit.

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Wait for a reply. Chances are you won’t get any response. Don’t be shy. Follow up and ask for feedback.

Stay persisting and make it hard to be ignored. If you don’t get any responses don’t complain, get better until you do.

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When the appropriate brand representative has reviewed your media kit and you get a favorable response it’s time to schedule a (video) call to discuss options. 

Successful brands know what they want and need. There is no need for flattery or trying to sound extra smart. Talk less, let the numbers do the talking. 

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