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Selling Yourself As A Professional Photographer, Part 1


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Selling Yourself as a Professional Photographer, Part 1

Being a family/wedding/portrait photographer is about much, much more than buying a fancy schmancy camera and learning the exposure triangle. Let’s face it – in this economy, people are talking and walking with their wallets – what are you doing to make yourself stand out from the crowd? What kind of photography experience are you creating for your clients – current and potential – and how are you guiding your clients through that experience? From the time your client stumbles on your website to the time they receive their portraits, their entire photographic experience is in your hands. For the most part, you’re their first introduction to custom photography.

This bears repeating.

You are their first introduction into custom photography. They don’t know what your process is like or what to expect. For many, their only foray into professional photography has been either at their wedding or sitting in front of a Sears backdrop. Your responsibility becomes to manage their experience. Here’s how to do it.

casey-yu-photography-weddings Selling Yourself As A Professional Photographer, Part 1 Business Tips Guest Bloggers Photography Tips


  • Get a website. This doesn’t have to be the flashiest piece of work, but think of the message you send when you have a site that ends in versus your own personalized domain. You don’t need flashy music-playin’ website, but if that’s what you want, make sure that your user’s web experience is coordinated from the first click. Make sure all of your links work and are readable, your colors are easy on the eyes and match from logo to background to font color. If spelling and grammar are challenges for you, have someone else who is good at it take a look at your site before you advertise your typos to the world.
  • BLOG! Be appropriately personal – if you’re a parent, of course you’re going to want to share about your kid(s) – but maybe skip the excruciatingly disgusting potty training stories. Talk about your love of photography, your mission, and what a photo session with you is like. Blog well and blog often!
  • Expectations. Think about what your ideal photo shoot would be – from time of first contact on – and write it down. What do you want your clients to understand about you? Go over it with your clients as a part of your contract and verbally review it with them. It’s really important. Things to consider:
    • What will you or won’t you do? Are you a black & white only photographer? Only shoot pets, newborns, horses, stock footage? Make this clear.
    • Your fees and prices. Finalize your prices (Jodie Otte wrote a wonderful article: pricing your photography, and if you’re really stuck, consider the Easy As Pie guide to help you put together collections and pricing that make good sense). Be ready to defend your prices in a professional way.
    • Copyright – be painstakingly specific but professional. Make it abundantly clear – verbally and in writing – why it’s not cool to print your images you’ve published without permission and without a limited print release. Don’t ever “give away” copyright – but understand that your clients will want to share those images online. Address this now, before you have to hunt down clients later. Looking for something to base yours off of? Feel free to use mine.
  • List, list, list. The day before the shoot, make a list and check it twice. Make sure your lenses are cleaned, your batteries are charged, your backup camera (don’t have one? get one!) and its batteries are charged, and your CF cards are ready to go (formatted and blank so you can pop ‘em out and run). If you bring portable studio stuff with you, pack your car with a (you guessed it) list or even the night before.
  • This probably goes without saying – but be on time. “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late.” Anticipate traffic. Make sure you have contact numbers stored in your cell or written down so you can call and check in if needed. Make sure you have the directions memorized or written down.

casey-yu-photography Selling Yourself As A Professional Photographer, Part 1 Business Tips Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

Once you’re at the shoot, take charge. Your clients will look to you for direction and guidance – even if they are super excited and have tons of ideas. Some tips to make the actual shoot go well from start to finish:

  • Take five minutes at the start of the session to build rapport with your clients, if you can’t meet them ahead of time. If you’re shooting younger kids, use some time at the beginning before you even pull your camera out to introduce yourself just to the kids.
  • If you’re worried about posing ideas, bring some along with you! Write them down on an index card and keep it in your pocket – pull them out if you’re stuck.
  • Take charge! Find the light and don’t be afraid to move your clients around to make sure you’ve got the right light at the right angle.
  • Give them a job. Tell excited parents what you want them to do while you shoot. Remind the parents ahead of time that the best thing to do is let you get cozy with their kids so you can work your magic, and tell them that when you need their help, you’ll signal them to come over. I always tell parents of toddlers if I need them to stand RIGHT behind my left ear so I have a way to get good eye contact with the kiddo.
  • Exude confidence. Easier said than done, right? Just remember, the client hired YOU to take their family portraits. If something’s not working quite right (lighting is off, composition is weird), finish the shot and then move on positively. “Great! Let’s try this now.”
  • Know when to pack it in. Don’t be afraid to take breaks for babies to nurse, hands or noses to be wiped – and don’t be afraid to say, “I think we’re done now!”
  • At the end of the session, tell the parents what the next steps are – verbally – and then follow up with email.

We’ll talk more about what happens after the session – and beyond the session in general – tomorrow. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Casey Yu is a wedding and lifestyle portrait photographer in Tallahassee, Florida, where she is also a PhD student in Information Studies (i.e., Professional Geek) at Florida State University. She lives with her husband, Josh (another PhD student), and two kids, Matthew and Lindsey – the former only makes silly faces when she pulls her camera out; the latter automatically says cheese. Not entirely sure how that happened. Visit her photography site, her personal site, her Facebook page, or her twitter feed.


No Comments

  1. Kim Kravitz on October 13, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Great post!!! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Staceyh on October 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Thanks for sharing! Great information.

  3. Scott Walter on October 13, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Even for seasoned pro’s this article has some great tips. Thanks for taking the time for writing it.Scott Walter, Scott Walter

  4. Wayfaring Wanderer on October 13, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Very much looking forward to Part 2!Thanks for sharing 😀

  5. Erica on October 13, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Great article!

  6. Shannon Wilkinson on October 13, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Awesome information!!!!! Thanks so much for the detailed list you made!!!!

  7. Stella7d on October 13, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Wonderful post! Looking forward to the second installment! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  8. Melissa on October 13, 2010 at 11:05 am

    What a great post!

  9. Crystal on October 13, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Great article!

  10. Kelly Q on October 13, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Great job Casey! Love how organized it all is!

  11. Rosie on October 13, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Really useful article, thank you! All great tips 🙂

  12. Danika on October 13, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Great information, thanks for sharing!

  13. Sarah Wilkerson on October 13, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Great article, Casey! Can’t wait to see the second installment!

  14. Crissie on October 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Wonderful article! It’s like an entire checklist for how to manage a shoot. Invaluable advice. xoxo

  15. Sasha Holloway on October 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Amazing information

  16. Gina Raeli on October 13, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Amazing article!!!! So many great tips and lots of useful advice!

  17. Amy on October 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Extremely well-written and informative, Casey! Thank you!

  18. Heather Basinger on October 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Awesome post Casey, very informative, captivating and helpful–thank you:)

  19. Lindsay Koehler on October 13, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Great article Casey! Such great advice….i usually forget a few of these and this reminded me!

  20. Sarah W on October 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    THANK YOU!!! A very well written and informative article. I am bookmarking this!

  21. stephanie greenwell on October 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Casey!!!!! This was an awesome post! I can tell you put a lot of thought into it and I can’t wait for your second one. Mwah!!!

  22. Cynthia Lawrence on October 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Fabulous information. Definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

  23. shing on October 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    fantastic, Casey!!!

  24. Robin on October 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Awesome post for new photographers!

  25. Julie Kraai on October 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Love this — it’s incredibly helpful. thank you, Casey!

  26. Tracey on October 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Great tips. Lots of wonderful information here!

  27. Kara on October 13, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Love this! All good things to remember. And I’ve been meaning to write up copyright/sharing info for my site — your example was excellent!

  28. Maria Nelson on October 13, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to part 2.

  29. Cyndi W on October 13, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Awesome article

  30. Gretchen on October 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Great advice here! Thanks Casey.

  31. Mike on October 14, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Excellent post! Your site keeps going from strength to strength.

  32. Andrew Miller on October 14, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Great post! One of my pet hates is a flash enabled site that automatically plays cheesey music!! Arrrhhhh!!

  33. Steve Reffey on June 21, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Hello from the Black Hills of South Dakota, this is a wonderful article and copyright example, thank you.Steve Reffey

  34. Allie Miller on December 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    I love reading all the blogs… this was really good read!

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