We have the inspiration you need to increase your photography bookings

You’ve launched your business and want to take on clients.  But instead of hearing the phone ringing off the hook, you hear…crickets.  Or you were swamped earlier and now the calendar is woefully empty.  You’re frustrated, confused and maybe a little scared.  Why aren’t you succeeding?  Should you just give up?  Lower your prices?  Pay for a service to give you more viable leads increase your photography bookings?  Get a new lens?  A new camera?

Don’t throw in the towel just yet.  Don’t automatically start lowering your price.  And don’t buy more gear.  Try our ideas to help get more clients in the door and your bank account headed in the right direction.

get more photography clients

First, a cautionary tale AKA Wishing things were different won’t increase your photography bookings

Shortly before Christmas, I went into town to buy a client gift and got into a discussion with the store owner.  She was telling me about a neighboring business that opened and closed shop within two months.  They failed so hard so fast they didn’t even make it to the holiday season.

“I never even knew they existed!” I told her.  “I would have checked them out.  I’d love another place to buy women’s clothes.”

My friend explained that the store’s only form of marketing had been to create a Facebook page and put a few ads on the free Buy and Sell groups.  My friend, who has been in business for decades, gave them some ideas to try to turn things around before they completely threw in the towel.  Their response?

“But we have great clothes! And our prices are reasonable!”

Given five or six new ideas to try to build a customer base, this business chose instead to whine about what wasn’t working and blame the town because no one shops local.

I’m no marketing expert, but I know one thing.  Pricing doesn’t matter if no one is coming through the door or recommending you to family and friends.   So let’s take pricing off the table for now.  Instead, let’s focus on getting noticed, building trust and connecting with your clients.

I’m going to warn you.  It takes hard work and some hustle.  If one idea isn’t working, try something else.  No one is an overnight success and it takes grit to build a successful business.  So try our ideas, in no particular order…

Idea #1.  Respond to inquiries promptly

Okay, so now we’re getting into some nitty-gritty details.  How you handle an inquiry, from the time it hits your inbox to the time the client makes a decision, is important.  And your response needs to start by being prompt.

Promptly can mean different things to different people.  But acknowledge the inquiry as soon as possible, usually within a few hours.

This can be hard!  If photography is your side hustle, sometimes you can’t drop your day job to hold a clients hand.  Sometimes you’re out on a shoot and can’t stop to field calls or texts.  Or maybe you’ve designated Mondays as no work days.  That’s all understandable.  But respond to it as quickly as you can.

You might consider using an auto-responder system for those instances.  Think about something like “Thanks for the inquiry!  I’ll follow up as soon with a personalized quote.  In the meantime, though, here’s a link to my five favorite wedding tips!”

If that feels too impersonal, write up some e-mail or text templates you can tweak quickly to speed up your response time.  While you’re hemming and hawing of exactly what to say, that client may have moved on to and connected with another photographer.  Respond promptly to have the best chance at a new client to increase your photography bookings.

ideas for more photography bookings

Idea #2.  Respond to inquiries like a human

Start to build a relationship with a potential client right away by being both personable and personal.  Call them by name and establish a connection.  Ask a question or two about the before you jump right into asking for money.  I will literally take five minutes and Facebook stalk a potential client so I can start to build a rapport with them before I ever start a response.

Instead of…

Client: “Hi Cindy!  I’ve been following you for a while now and I love your work.  I’m interested in a family session sometime this summer.  Can you tell me some more about your pricing and availability?”

Photog: “My family sessions start at $350 and include 5 digital images.  My first opening is June 15.  I require a $50 deposit to hold the date.  If you want that date, let me know and I’ll send an invoice you can pay online.

Try…

Client: “Hi Cindy!  I’ve been following you for a while now and I love your work.  I’m interested in a family session sometime this summer.  Can you tell me some more about your pricing and availability?”

Photog: “Hi Carla!  Thanks for getting in touch with me!  And thank you for the kind compliment about my work.  I like to give clients the most accurate quote I can, so if you can answer a few questions, I can customize something for you.

Let’s start with how many family members will participate?  I see some seriously adorable kiddos and dogs in your profile picture…do I get the chance to work with all that cuteness?”

Why it works

We all want to be treated as people, not just a paycheck.  We want to feel special.  Catered to.  If you ask some questions and open up a dialog you begin to build a connection. Then you aren’t just a price in a list or a business owner looking to increase your photogrpahy bookings.  You’re a potential new friend.

Idea #3.  Try video messaging!

Drop your potential clients a quick video!  It helps them put a face to your name if you’ve never met and makes the experience so much more personal!  You quickly become a real person, not just some drone behind a keyboard!

Idea #4.  Treat every client like your biggest client.

In Las Vegas, they use the term “whale” to describe the very highest of high rollers.  These are the folks with huge bankrolls with seven or eight digits in them (millions, not $10,245.42).  The casinos roll out the red carpet for these VIPS, offering them the best rooms, the best liquor, special rules and dedicated personal service.  They make their whale’s experience so fantastic they don’t ever want, or need, to go to another casino.

What if you treated every client like a whale?  Obviously, you can’t fly them somewhere in your personal jet.  But you can provide an experience so amazing that they don’t want to go somewhere else AND they will rave about their experience to their friends and family.

Take a few minutes to evaluate the client experience from start to finish.  Brainstorm ways you can make that experience better for each and every client, then implement those changes immediately!  Simple tweaks may be all it takes to take sessions from great to wow and increase your photography bookings.

Idea #5.  Have a website.  Make it easy to follow.

Social media accounts are great.  But you need a website.  A stand-alone website gives you credibility and adds to an image of professionalism.  And it makes it so much easier for a potential client to get to know you, see your work and find your pricing.

Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule.  But who comes across as more professional and worthy of a $3,500 wedding package investment…photographer A with a Facebook page or photographer B with a Facebook page AND a clean, beautiful website with a portfolio and sample galleries?

Need some help on the whole website thing?  We’ve got you covered!

Make sure your website is easy to follow.

A well-designed website doesn’t have to cost big bucks.  But your site should be clean, up-to-date, and easy to navigate.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Have your location easy to find.  You don’t need a physical address, just your town and state general service area.
  • Is it obvious how to contact you?  Can you find contact info from every page?
  • Do you have too many choices?  Group like services together for clarity and brevity.
  • Do potential clients understand what your services are?  Not everyone understands “Fresh 48” or “Magical sessions.”  Make sure your language is clear to non-photographers!

See more of our photography website checklist!

Increasing your photography bookings

Idea #6.  Provide a clear call to action!

Don’t just assume viewers or clients know the next step.  Spell it out for them.  And whenever possible, make it about them, not your business.  There’s some psychology behind this but it works.  Try using phrases like

  • Contact me
  • Share this post
  • Click here to follow me
  • Join today for free
  • Save your spot
  • Only X days left…book now
  • Hurry!  Offer ends today
  • Yes!  I want awesome photos
  • Snag/Grab/Score your session!
  • Get your free X (whatever free product you might be offering!)

If you’re using these on your website or in an e-mail newsletter, make these calls-to-action distinct using a different font or making them a clickable button graphic.

Idea #7.  Connect by being authentic online.

Listen, I hate to break it to you.  There are dozens of photogs in your area.  Some probably have better work than you or lower prices than you.  Maybe both.  And you can’t increase your photography bookings just on good images alone.  You need to connect with potential clients on a personal level so they want to book you because they like you, not just your work.  Connect with them in such a way that they can’t imagine anyone else possibly doing their session because they feel like they’d be betraying a friend.

Review the following:

  • Your “About Me” page
  • Your last six social media posts
  • The last six blog posts on your website

Are these engaging?  Authentic?  Do they give a glimpse into your personality and attitude?  Would you be drawn to this person?

When we get started as photographers, I think sometimes we try too hard at being professional.  We’re a little unsure of ourselves so we go over the top to convince potential clients of our skills and our love of photography.  Sometimes, though, that actually puts up barriers.  Instead of being an over-the-top professional photographer, be yourself.  Start infusing you into everything and anything you put online.  You’ll find you connect better and stand out more to your ideal client.

Increase your photography bookings by being visible

Idea #8.  Get out in your community!

Here’s my #1 goal as a professional photographer…when someone needs pictures, I want them to immediately think of me and my business.  For me, it’s not about coming up first in a Google search or getting the most recommendations on a Buy and Sell group.  I want my community to know me first, contact me later.

The best way to get your name out there?  Get out of your office and GET OUT THERE!  Volunteer, serve on a board or be seen at local events.  Get involved in service organizations like Kiwanis or Rotary.  Donate time or money to local charities.  Shop locally and build relationships with other business owners.  Share local news or achievements on your social media accounts.  Be visible!

Idea #9.  Add value to the client experience, even before they book.

Brainstorm ways you can add value to your client’s experience, even if they don’t ultimately book with you.  For example, you could compile a family photography style guide to help frazzled moms with wardrobe choices.  Or develop a PDF with 10 wedding planning tips.  Blog about selecting a quality online photo printer.  Refer them to a trusted vendor.  Refer them to another photographer in your area if you are booked.  Anything that adds value to the client experience and makes them value you, your opinion and your expertise.  It will eventually pay off for you.

For example…I don’t shoot boudoir.  So I refer inquiries to another area photog that I know and trust.  I also refer them to my stylist for hair because they are the best.  Last week, my stylistst’s daughter called to book her family photo session with me.  “Mom is so appreciative of the referrals you give her, she insisted I had to start with you!”

It all comes back to you in the end.

Idea #10.  Start a referral program

Make it easy for your existing clients to sing your praises and provide incentives for new clients to give you a try!  Try giving something to both the person who gives and receives the recommendation as an easy way for increasing your photography bookings.

Incentives/thank yous:

  • Discounts toward future sessions
  • Print credits
  • Prints or other photography related gifts like magnets, accordion folders, etc.
  • A gift card with $5 for a local coffee shop
  • Some other small gift like a custom cookie, picture frame or ornament

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and that makes them appreciate you even more.

What doesn’t work…new gear and the comparison game

You don’t need new gear to get more clients. 

A new lens or camera body isn’t going to magically get people in the door.  But for whatever reason, that’s one of the first things beginning photographer’s feel we need to invest in.

“Oh if only I had that beautiful Sigma ART 1.4 lens, I could create those dreamy images and my calendar would be full.”

Believe me, I did it too.  I looked to my camera or my lens or my business cards as a reason why I wasn’t getting many bookings.  I wasted HOURS tweaking my logo or beautiful stationery.

But it doesn’t work like that.  Yes, sometimes we need to upgrade cameras or lenses.  If we’ve been honing your craft long enough, our talent will outpace kit lenses and beginner cameras.  But 99.9% of the time, that’s NOT the reason we don’t have clients.  Generally it’s because we haven’t been investing the time and energy it takes to build a client base.  So stop hating on your equipment and spend your time being productive.

Stop comparing and focus on growing

It is so easy to look at the other photographers in your area and start comparing your business to theirs.  And it’s easy to feel frustrated seeing webinars like “Build a 100K Photography Business” when you can’t even crack that $10,000.  We read these success stories and wonder “What am I doing wrong?  Why does she get all the bookings?  Her work isn’t half as good as mine.”

Stop.  Stop comparing and focus on growing.  Facebook stalking the photog down the street and dissecting all the comments she gets on her FB page does nothing to help you.  Put the time and effort you waste being envious or insecure to work for YOU!  Take a webinar.  Start a personal photography project.  Read a book on marketing.  Write a blog post.  Do something that will be productive for your business.  Those actions might not get a client in the door, but neither does hand-wringing or whining about the competition.

That’s not to say you can draw inspiration from other photographers you like and admire.  That’s perfectly acceptable.  But there’s a fine line between observing and obsessing.  Don’t cross it.  It’s not helpful to you in any way.

Hope marketing never works

Just wishing more clients would come through your door never works.  You have to get out there, hustle and put in the effort.  If you’re not getting the bookings you want, try implementing one, two or all eleven of these ideas.  Or try a new idea all you own. The important thing is to work at it, daily.  That’s how successful businesses are built.

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