12 Marketing Tips for Small Town Photographers

12 Marketing Tips for Small Town Photographers

If you’re like me and live in a town of 1,300, marketing is the most difficult aspect of business you’ll encounter. Marketing with conventional methods is often extremely difficult or even impossible. In this article I will outline some conventional and non-conventional ways of marketing yourself in a small town.


Promo Video

Shooting a promo video is a great way to showcase your style and the way you work. Of course you want clients who you get along with and putting your personality on display is a great way to connect with the right clients. Potential clients are more likely to book you if they feel like they know you personally.

Ask for Referrals

Word of mouth is a massive driving force for booking clients in a small town. People trust the judgment of their friends and family and will likely take action on a recommendation. Word of mouth is the primary way I get business, followed distantly by social media.

Start a Referral Program

To take referrals a step farther, incentive is key. I offer a $50 credit to my wedding clients who send me other booking wedding clients. There is no limit to the amount of referrals they can send me. This also works as incentive for the original client to book the wedding. If they send enough clients, they could be looking at a substantial discount on their bill.

Search Engine Optimization

This one is tricky and often frustrating. The best approach, in my opinion, is not to aim too high. For instance, I would be hard pressed to obtain a high SEO ranking for the search term “Philadelphia wedding photographer.” It would be much easier to be ranked number one for the term “Shoemakersville wedding photographer.” Of course, there are far fewer people searching this term, but if you rank high for one area you may rank high for an area close by as well. Philly simply has so much competition that it would be extremely difficult to surpass everyone else.

Start a Blog

Blogs are great ways to be viewed as an authority on something. They also help tremendously for SEO. For instance, if you shot a wedding and wrote a blog post about it mentioning the venue name a few times, you may end up as a top search result for that venue’s name in relation to photography. If you write informational posts that help your clients, it will drive the traffic you want to your website as well.

Wedding Events

As far as reaching wedding clients, this is perhaps the most direct way to do it. It can be expensive to get started (buying sample products and paying entry fees) but you will quickly make your money back with the amount of clients you book from the event. These events are also useful for networking with other people in the industry. You can make arrangements with other vendors to send each other clients.

Do Charity Work

A good reputation in a small community goes a very long way. I give free family shoots to families with a member going through cancer treatment. It gets word out, and it gives you good will with potential clients. It obviously also helps the families the work is for.

Personal Projects

Doing personal projects that center around your community is a great way to increase your visibility and also add to your portfolio. Doing large personal projects will also help you to gain reach within the photography community. If you undertake a long personal project, people will start following your work just to see it. They are also likely to engage in your posts instead of scrolling past it.

Hand Out More Cards

Admittedly this is an old school way of getting business. Giving cards out more often than not will lead to your card ending up in the trash. There will be some who hang onto them though. If your job comes up in conversation with people you just met, don’t hesitate to give them cards. Carry them with you at all times!

Ask for Testimonials

Most people are more than willing to write a testimonial or review for you. Showcasing these gives you credibility with potential clients. If they see that you consistently get good reviews, it’s less of a gamble they are taking by booking you. A great way to add testimonials to your website is to overlay them on your portfolio images. It can be done unobtrusively and look classy as well. Hoffer Photography does this very well.

Logo Projection

I have to preface this one by saying that you should check with your township or borough before doing this. If you have a projector, one of the most useful things you can do with it is to project your logo and URL onto the side of your house. It’s like having a 20-foot wide billboard for free. I’ve done this before and had good results. It’s totally out of the ordinary and it catches people’s eye from a long way off.

Branch Out

Last but not least is to simply branch out. Confining yourself to a small area is an effective way of sabotaging yourself. Social media and Facebook specifically are the best ways to cover large areas without ever leaving your chair. You should use all of these tips for the areas surrounding you.

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Chris Adval's picture

Great stuff Brandon! Some stuff I hope you don't mind I comment on....

Not sure blogs would work well for the senior portrait market, unless you're shooting for the mom/dad and not so much for the senor then yea you focus most of the marketing to the parents which makes sense for a blog than video content as the driving force. Great for SEO though, but writing strictly only for SEO, and if I want to drive the seniors to me primarily, won't work out too well. These days they are video primarily for the majority of them. Targeting videos to them on IG though would be best to get their attention.

As for business cards I think sticky albums would be much better as well force you to create a real imprint to that person you're interacting with than just handing out cards to as many people as humanly possible as quick as possible with very little to no imprint.

I don't necessarily live in a small town like 1,300, more like 30k, but I do market to the region which is 500k. Thing is social media is not king here... yet. Maybe in another 5-10 years the area will catch up but by then I hope to move to a bigger or near bigger markets for better and more opportunities honestly.

Guillermo Fierro's picture

Good points. As I can see, social media and internet marketing is not always the best solution, you need mix it with business cards and offline marketing.

Alexandra Giamanco's picture

The logo thing...
IF you live in an HOA policed community, you'll get a nicely worded template letter giving you 24 hours to remove it.

IF you live in an area where there's little foot or car traffic it is useless once again. That only works in very few circumstances because for one you have to be allowed by your city to do business in your own home, and two there are cities who do not allow for that. and then there are other cities that was tax money from you to allow you to do such stuff.

If its a small town....pause....where most everyone knows everyone else, then handing out cards is rather pointless....Maybe you want to define what we mean by small town? 300,000 or 3000? Big diff.

#1 most important thing as an independent contractor = a.k.a. photographer is to find your demographic and target them. "Everyone" is not your client, and also find a product or a service you can offer that others don't.

Personally, I am turned off by video ads. Lately, I cannot read an article anywhere without being disturbed by them. Plus, I don't have time to sit there and watch that kind of stuff....who has that kind of time really?

Focus needs to be on the "target demographics" meaning who can/will be interested in what you do, and what do you actually offer. What do they go home with.

Small town usually quals NEPOTISM too....I dealt with that non stop which is why I now only shoot for myself. No one can compete with a family member, and in "small towns" that is very prevalent.

So, define your photographer here. Are you talking about commercial work? products, food, architectural? or retail? = weddings, portraits, baby? These are all different genres and when it comes to advertising they all need very different things to succeed. Plus, don't forget licensing.

David Beck's picture

I've had more success with referrals and handing out business cards than anything else. Having an online presence is great for awareness and brand building, but people make big purchases in person, so it's important to have a strong real-life network, too.

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