Every photographer — whether you’re a pro of 20 years or a part-timer trying to take the next steps in your career — has an ideal client they want to work with. It could be one of the large companies in your area, or it could be your favorite restaurant.
Regardless, those companies aren’t usually going to come knocking on your door. It’s important to make yourself known as not only a photographer, but one that could fit their needs in the best way possible.
What Makes You Different?
We’re always taught in business to have an elevator sales pitch ready. And this holds true for photographers as well. If you’re asked about your photography, you should have a 30-second pitch about what you photograph that makes you different from the other photographers in your area.
Likewise, when pitching to new clients, you should support this uniqueness with past work that shows this. Saying you’re “one of a kind” and showing it are two totally different things. Show examples of what sets you apart.
Have Meaningful Reviews
I mentioned early on that getting Google and Facebook reviews are important. But it’s not just about the number of five-star reviews you have; it’s also about the content within these reviews.
If your goal is to shoot for a local restaurant, you should have at least one or two reviews that are catered towards your work in food photography. It’s better to have specific reviews, versus generic ones, as they give potential clients a glance into what work was done. If another restaurant is looking to hire me for a food shoot, and they see reviews from well-known, local restaurants, that’s a huge positive.
Provide Examples of Similar Work
Keeping with the food example, if I’m approached by a restaurant, I try to find past photographs that I’ve taken that could represent the potential client I’m talking to. If you’re pitching to a local bar, it’s probably not best to show them photos of food on white tablecloths. Instead, show them some shots of food that is in a similar atmosphere.
If you are lacking specific examples of past work, take some! In order to be recognized and hired for a craft, we have to show off our skill set. Showing photographs that you’ve taken for fun might be some of the best photographs that can trigger excitement in a potential client.
It’s important that, if you want to shoot for a specific company, you reach out to them. Clients don’t always come knocking, especially the higher end ones. For me, I keep an eye out on any new restaurants opening, and reach out to them in advance. There are several ways to accomplish this.
If I’m looking to photograph for a restaurant that’s already open, I take some photos of their food and space on my own time. Then I tag them in social media posts. Most of the time, they’ll recognize these with comments or likes, which allows me to follow up with a direct message to them.
Network and Work Your Connections
Over the years, you’ll meet more and more people who have connections to other businesses. Most of the time, they might not think to introduce you or go out of their way to refer you. Don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction to a contact at the company you want to work with.
Cold calling has developed into much more than picking up the phone. Depending on whether you have any shared connections, a simple email could suffice. Otherwise, I prefer speaking in-person, which allows me to show my work, even if for a brief moment.
Business Card Tricks
I’ve had surprisingly good luck leaving my business card with my food bill at the end of an evening. Especially if a restaurant is new, photography usually isn’t at the forefront of what they think they might need. Do your research. If they have a website with little-to-no photographs on it, that’s usually a good sign that they haven’t thought of hiring a photographer yet. Prompting them by casually handing off a business card is a good way to get them thinking about not only getting a photographer, but specifically hiring you for the project.
Keep At It
A lot of larger companies might have photographers in-house, or their needs already taken care of by someone else in the area. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. Keep the relationship open and check in with the client on occasion. You never know when they’ll ask you to fill in, or want to try someone new.
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