6 Ways To Get Started as a Commercial Photographer
It’s exciting to think about becoming a commercial photographer in London, because the revenue can be so much higher than most other kinds of photography. But there is very little info shared online on how to go about getting into the commercial sector, until today!
If you are a wedding, portrait, pet or general photographer and have been wanting to make a change with your business, you may have considered offering your photography services to companies, agencies and small businesses i.e be a commercial photographer.
You may have already been contacted by a potential commercial photography client, either from an ad agency or from the marketing department at the company itself. Or even one of your friends or family members who own a business. You may feel a little lost as to how to move forward into commercial photography as much of the information in books is outdated and the internet is a minefield of misinformation.
The good news is that in this post I will go over 6 simple steps that will help you get started as a commercial photographer in London and how to obtain clients on a scale that’s approachable, manageable and scalable.
How To Get Started as a Commercial Photographer
Decide Exactly What Type of Commercial Photographer Do You Want to Be
This is a critical step that many photographers skip, but it’s a vital one and should be the very first decision you make in your commercial photography career.
Who do I want to be shooting for?
What do I want to photograph?
What kinds of people do I want to be working with?
If you think you should be doing things a certain way, consider this: there should never be a ‘should’ in commercial photography. (“I should be shooting for company x/y/z, even if I don’t really want to”, or “I should be shooting this subject, because that’s what I’ve been doing all along”.)
What you should do, is deciding what you want that to be doing.
Commercial photography is challenging enough when you are shooting something you really love. You don’t need the added complication of shooting something you don’t really love or even like simply because you think you should.
Do some research and think hard about what type of commercial photography most appeals to you. My advice would be to either grab lots of local magazines or trawl the internet in a localised way and list the companies/brands that you like. Their ads, their branding - something that speaks to you.
Make a list of:
1. Style/vibe/feel of the brands/companies you’d want to shoot for. 2. The types of people you’d love to work with as far as the company’s customers go. (Millennials, retired wealthy people, dog owners etc.) 3. All the businesses in your area that fit within the previous two.
The reason why this first point is so important is because you will invariably stumble upon (or get referred to) other businesses in the same brand vibe, and you’ll want to remain open to them. It’s a lot easier to find clients if your criteria is ‘companies that have a beautiful design aesthetic with light, airy pastels’, than ‘a flower shop that sells lots of roses, and uses mint and green in their branding’. A vibe of a company or ‘feel’ is often a lot easier to define than a specific business type, and doing this will really help you hone your photography style too.
Create a Marketing Plan
If you already run a photography business, treat your commercial photography service as a whole separate business. Because of this, you’ll want a unique marketing plan to go along with it.
In your new marketing plan, list all the strategies you plan to put into action in order to acquire your first business clients, include the costs of each marketing strategy, any timelines and deadlines you have and new things you need to produce.
Include the list of businesses you came up with above, and include, in detail, how you plan to get in front of each business.
Create an Online Portfolio for Your Commercial Photography
Ideally you should have two portfolios - one on the web, and one in print.
Your website is what you drive prospective clients to when you meet them in person, and your printed portfolio is what you show them when you meet them in person. If you already have a photography business you should create a separate portfolio online and offline for your work. The reason for this is a website is designed to target and appeal to a specific audience or market. If you are doing wedding photography your market is going to be completely different than when you are targeting cafés in your area for example and/or doing headshots.
Build a totally separate website as a commercial photographer and keep the branding simple and no frills. Put only your very best work on there and don’t overload your galleries with photos. Quality over quantity, always.
Don’t be afraid to feature your best commercial photos as a full-screen photo, or one that can be expanded to full screen. Your goal here is to knock the socks off potential clients. You want to be conveying quality, because it’s that quality that will land you your commercial photography clients.
As far as a printed portfolio goes, you don’t need to worry about making something fancy at all, at least to begin with. It can be a portfolio of prints you slide in and out, or a hardback book that you have designed online.
Utilise Your Network of Friends and Family
You have local friends and family who work locally. Maybe some of those places are companies you’d like to do photography for. Think of who you already know that would be willing to help you pitch your commercial photographer services to and the companies they work for.
You could mention to a friend that you recently started doing product photography, and would love to talk to someone at their company since they are a product-based company. Ask if you can meet with someone at the company to show them your portfolio. Or if you are just starting out as a commercial photographer, offer to take head-shots of your friends for their LinkedIn profiles. Its good experience for you and they'll have something to back up their reason for hopefully recommending you to their company.
When you are going through your list of contacts, think about who else they know in terms of businesses. Do they have a best friend that owns a children’s boutique? Or a restaurant? A direct connection is worth its weight in gold, as this can be just the key for getting your foot in the door. You'd be amazed at all the connections you already have, and they are just a WhatsApp message away!
Pitch Your Commercial Photography Services to Businesses You Already Use or Visit
Think of the businesses that you already go to. What are your favourite restaurants, bars, cafés, shops, etc in your area? Are you already pally with any of the waiters, employees, managers?
If you answered yes, then pitch your services to them!
Front-of-house or back-of-house employees can be some of your biggest advocates for you as a person, so don’t hesitate to sell yourself to them, even if they aren’t the decision-maker. Keep it casual though and just throw the question out there.
Since you are already a regular at the business, you can point out things in their existing marketing strategies that you noticed, and tie them into ideas you have for things you can create for them. If you come up with a really brilliant marketing idea, they’ll value you for even more than your photography. In these uncertain times businesses will be open to any new ideas!
If you aren’t a natural salesperson, selling your photography services in person at a local business can feel intimidating, but if those people already know you (and we assume they like you...), you’re already well on your way to winning them over.
Also remember that the service you provide is something they really need if they want to be successful. It's a win-win for both of you and you're not conning them out of their hard-earned cash.
Create a Network of Commercial Professionals
The most successful commercial photographers are those that have a team. To already have a reliable group of producers/project manager, tech guys and assistants before you even approach a potential client is a very valuable asset.
Because you are certain to need all or most of these people before any decent-sized shoot (and you’ll need an assistant for many small shoots), definitely plan to nail down your crew before your first big job. It’s as simple as doing a Google search for these people in your area, sending a quick email to introduce yourself and let them know you’d like to work together once you've seen their work. Or if you prefer to work with someone you know or have met in person, maybe see if there are any industry networking events going on that you could attend, and meet some people there. Shaking hands with your peers, sharing a beer and a story is a great way to start networking in commercial photography - any industry really! .
Add Your Client List to Your Website
One of the most valuable tools you have to market yourself in commercial photography is showing who you have worked for. Being able to demonstrate that other clients have hired you and trusted you enough to have you make photos for them.
At the end of each job, always remember to add the name of each company you did photography for to your client list on your website. When you are trying to build trust with businesses that don’t know you from Adam, your client list can go a long way in helping them trust you, and most importantly - hire you!
I hope you found this post helpful for getting started as a commercial photographer and if you would like to get in touch please feel free to email by clicking here.