Photographers and their clients once had to shoot images on film, develop the photos and wait to see if the shot turned out. The digital revolution changed all that, introducing DSLR cameras and the ability to review a shot as you take it. Photographers can see instantly if the lighting and other elements were the best they could be and retake the image if necessary.
Although most photographers get into the industry because they love creating something with a camera, it is still a business. If you want your business to be more profitable, it’s crucial to utilize modern technology to reach more people and get your work in front of potential customers.
Experts estimate revenue in the video and photo market will grow at 8.6% per year until it reaches $16.01 billion by 2027. The numbers include everything from apps related to photography to those photographing as a service.
Expanding your photography business requires understanding marketing strategies, planning ahead, diversifying offerings and leveraging technology. Cover photo by Jason Goodman.
Business Planning for Expansion
Before trying to expand your photography business, you must come up with a plan of action. The planning phase is when you’ll work out kinks and create a smoother path to success.
Some of the key components of a strong business plan include:
- Market analysis–Who are your competitors? Who is your target audience?
- Financial projections–What are the possibilities for revenue? You might not reach these numbers but they give you a goal.
- Growth strategies–Consider how competitors have grown. What are the different things you can try to reach your objectives?
Don’t forget things that some business owners overlook, such as the legalities involved in any shifts in your business structure. For example, should you choose to offer your work on a stock photography site, what protections do you have to ensure your work isn’t stolen?
As you grow, your one-person operation may turn into a business with dozens of employees. Who will handle order fulfillment if you sell prints? How can you serve more customers without stretching yourself too thin? Will you take on additional photographers to help?
Marketing Strategies for Photography Business Expansion
Getting the word out about your work is crucial if you want to grow your photography business. Some of the strategies you can use include:
- Social Media: Post your best images and ask your current clients to share so you’ll reach new clients through their friends lists. You should also share things you think your target audience might find interesting, such as local spots to take a photo.
- Partnerships: Team up with area photographers and have a show where you showcase prints of your work and sell them. Work with like-minded companies. Wedding photographers might team up with bakeries.
- Referral Program: Reward your top clients by giving them perks for referring other people to your business. Word-of-mouth is crucial in a service business such as photography. Ask your clients to tell others why they love you and reward them.
The last few years saw most businesses embrace an online presence. When the pandemic hit, adjusting promotional methods was vital to survival. However, people quickly learned advertising on social media and offering interesting content drove traffic and sales.
In a recent study on the state of the photography industry, researchers found 58% of photographers felt word-of-mouth marketing was their top performer, followed by Instagram and Facebook.
You can reach your audience by posting information on your own website, guest blogging and offering photography courses for others.
Once you understand your target audience, you’ll have a better idea of where to reach them and the platforms where you’ll get the most engagement.
Diversifying Photography Offerings for Growth
Finding your niche in photography takes time and once you land there, you may not want to venture away. However, diversifying can keep your business growing even during slow times or economic difficulties. Add to what you do from these common categories:
- Live Performance
- Fashion & Beauty
- Fine Art
- Architecture/Real Estate
If you already do baby photography, you could easily expand into family portraits. Adding new focuses helps you tap into new markets and increase your client base and income.
Post photos of unique techniques you study and learn, such as adding smoke to a photo of a firefighter.
Consider what equipment you need to venture into another discipline. The camera lenses for nature photography are different from what you might use for senior portraits. Consider the added costs and how lucrative adding a new area might be.
Consider fine art photographer Keith Dotson. He’s known for his series on abandoned places. He recently expanded his business by offering one-on-one feedback for budding photographers to help them with their portfolios.
Leveraging Technology for Expansion
As with every industry, technology is changing the way photographers work. Digital photos were just the beginning. Much work is stored in the cloud for easy access and sharing with clients. You may also need to add new tech that helps you expand your business, such as drones, virtual reality presentations and tapping into the power of AI for marketing and idea generation.
Stock photo repositories such as iStock and DemandPhoto opened global markets to photographers. You upload your unique photos for sale and people pay a price to license them for their own use.
Staying on top of new advances keeps you competitive with recent graduates. Employers often take on entry-level students to save money but there is something to be said for experience, so look for jobs with a mix of both if you enter the corporate world. Take a few college courses, attend a conference or find a mentor to learn the latest techniques.
Find Success in Small Increments
Making changes is challenging. Make small changes and see how they impact your business expansion before going all in. Make a plan so you know where you’re headed, focus on marketing strategies that reach your target audience, diversify your offerings and leverage new technology.
Be proactive about expanding your business. You’ll gain new clients and make more revenue if you implement even a few of the changes mentioned above.
Now is the perfect time to expand your photography business. New technology and growth means there will be more opportunities than ever before for creative, skilled photographers to rise to the top. When you’re open to trying new things, the sky really is the limit.