How to Successfully Re-establish Yourself as a Photographer After Relocating

How to Successfully Re-establish Yourself as a Photographer After Relocating

Relocating is never easy but it can be an incredible step in a photographers' career and craft. A new city, state, or even country is a blank canvas with endless possibilities. These possibilities and work to be done in order to transition can be overwhelming, where do you even begin?

Relocating can be scary and intimidating but I highly recommend it to any artist feeling stuck, discouraged, and bored. Whether you're a professional with clients or a hobbyist, relocating can be an incredible experience. In my own career, moving alone has a lot to do with my successes. In the last five years, I have lived in four different cities across the country. Everywhere I've lived has taken my work, my character, and my business to completely different stages that I can't say I would have come to if I would have stayed stagnant.

The scariest part of relocation for me is not knowing anyone where I'm going. It is extremely overwhelming to think of all the connections you've made living in one place for years or even your whole life, and then all of a sudden going to knowing very few people if any at all in a new place. After moving so many times, I finally have a process for making new connections and rebuilding a new clientele base that won't take years.

Image by Gabrielle Colton, Oregon Coast

Image by Gabrielle Colton, Oregon Coast

Study the Area and Demographics of Your New Home 

Whether you plan on getting paid clients or just shooting for fun, studying up on the people in a new city makes it much easier to have some sort of plan for how to handle your social media and in person interactions once you arrive. Before you move it is so important to study the area online and on social media to prepare to mesh well with the community quickly. Everything from age range, average income, and the industries in the city will affect how you conduct new business. It is also important to read up on the cultures of the area, different cultures and subcultures have unique areas of life that they care about and desire to be photographed. After becoming familiar with the basic factual demographics, social media is an amazing way to get to know a city on a more personal level before even stepping foot in it. find out where everyone's checking in on their networks and get a feel for the types of images locals are sharing with friends and family. 

When I moved back to Oregon in January I knew that the majority of people in the small town I moved to are in their forties and up, so I knew I was going to rely more heavily on in-person connections rather than my social media. Since there isn't a huge fashion or modeling type scene in my small coastal town, I will be shooting more portraits, weddings, and other events to pay the bills. Since I live in a beach town, water sports, hiking, and everything else to do with nature are the norm here so I'll adjust my styles a bit for their liking. I definitely wish I had done this type of preparing sooner in my journey, I first moved from Oregon to Georgia and then from Georgia to Kentucky without knowing hardly anything about the cities. Going in blind is definitely a bad idea, learning as much as you can about your new home and the people in it will relieve a lot of stress. 

Image by Gabrielle Colton, couples shoot

Image by Gabrielle Colton, couples shoot

Get a Head Start, Create a Local Presence on Social Media Before You Move

Social media is always important to us but it becomes even more crucial if you're moving or even traveling to a new city. When you live in one place for a while, your whole life even, you have years worth of people to build a network off of. luckily with some hard work, social media allows us to make all these connections back pretty quickly when relocating to a new city. Before you move, do everything you can to make your presence known in the locations social media groups and connect with other hard working and social local people. On Facebook, I try to post in every local group introducing myself and my work as well as send friend requests to small business owners and other promising connections. Instagram is important as well if you find that the community is using it heavily. In addition to following local people who check in, posting an announcement of your move with a check-in and some local hashtags will help grab some attention from the area. 

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but the network I have found the most clients on is Tinder. Users on this app are unique because they are ready to be social and meet new people in person. Surprisingly I haven't had any bad experiences with it, people are fairly normal and just trying to connect with others, many are new to the areas as well. I have had dozens of people hire me for photo shoots or refer me to someone who did after coming across my profile. Even when I don't have much luck with the app, I at least gain some followers that may come back in the future. Obviously, if you want to use the app for photography, you have to make it look as such so people don't get the wrong idea. In my bio, I specify that I use my account for networking and provide links to my social media so that they can view my work and message me outside the app. 

Photo by Gabrielle Colton

Photo by Gabrielle Colton

Be Open to Shooting New Things

Every city is so different from the next, that means the market and taste for photography will be too. Be ready to shoot in new styles and have a completely different client base. Once you understand the demographics of a new place and have submerged yourself in the local social media action, you can get a pretty good idea of where the money or interest is for photographers. To get acquainted It's important to gravitate to what's popular in the area. Thankfully there are a couple consistencies anywhere there are humans, people are always having kids, getting married, and hosting various events. If you move and feel lost or unsure who to market to yet, find these people.

When I lived in Atlanta Georgia, nearly all my clients were either in the blossoming local film industry or entrepreneurs. I was taking a lot of headshots, product photos, and social media content for businesses. After a few years in Atlanta, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky and found myself a little lost, it was smaller and none of what I was comfortable doing was needed there. It took cycling through a handful of part-time jobs and some time to realize I needed to switch it up if I wanted to make any money. To survive I started shooting weddings, families, and supplementing with online web and graphic design. I didn't have much experience in these genres, but I jumped in and am now thankful to have the experience to use anywhere. 

Image by Gabrielle Colton

Image by Gabrielle Colton

Don't Be Shy; Show Up For All the Local Social Events

Social media is huge, but it only gets you so far after a while, you have to be social in the real-world too. I know, talking to random humans is hard. If you have social anxiety like me, remember you are starting fresh, you're able to be whatever you want in a way, so be more confident and social than you ever have. People want to meet you in person, especially when you're the new girl (or guy) on the block. Meeting the people of a new community in person establishes a more instant trust and connection that is very hard to establish on social media. They are way more likely to hire and tell their friends about the nice photographer they met in person than the one they scrolled by quickly on social media. Find local events online and then actually show up at them ready to mingle. They don't necessarily have to be art related events either, You should try and meet people from all corners of a new community. Go to everything you can handle because any connections are good ones when you don't know anyone yet. Meeting the right people when you're new to a city is just as important as your talent.

Image by Gabrielle Colton

Image by Gabrielle Colton

 

Packing up my entire life and moving four times was incredibly risky and terrifying but it has changed my life as a photographer. Not only do I have several rounds of practice in building my business from the ground up, new cities have forced me to be more outgoing and involved with other people and to feel confident in my ability to maintain a successful business in photography. I would love to hear your personal experiences with relocating as a photographer. 

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8 Comments

Tim Behuniak's picture

This is filled with invaluable information. I never would have thought to research intensively the area I'm going before I go, and it's definitely something I'm going to add to my to-do list. I'm moving out West from New York in August, and after reading this article I feel like I'll be more prepared once I do. Part of the reason why I'm moving is for photography, so I couldn't agree more that moving to network is a great idea. I lived in Colorado this past summer in order to enhance my portfolio and make new connections, and it was the best thing in terms of photography I could've done. Great article!

Joe Martinez's picture

Wow, the timing on this article couldn't be better. I recently just moved from NYC to St. Louis and this is really helpful. Social media has definitely been the best way to connect with a community I wasn't too familiar with. When any local photographer or artist follows me, I make sure to reach out with a message introducing myself and asking if they'd like to meet up for a coffee to talk shop and learn more about their work and any tips they can provide. These small interactions have led to introductions with large parts of the creative community I never would have found otherwise. I also reached out to professional photographers in the area who's work I really admired. I look at publications like St. Louis Magazine, see some images I like, and reach out to those photographers via email asking to meet up. Like you said, it's really scary moving to a new place, but there are so many opportunities to connect if you look in the right places! Great article!

Hans Rosemond's picture

Nice. Great article. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get away with the Tinder advice, though. My wife would murder me, no matter how “business related!”

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Thank you so much!! Haha dangit, they need a new app that has the same results but not for dating 😂

Gabriel SAP's picture

So true!
When I moved from Brazil to Portugal, I started following and emailing a ton of local photographers months before. It allowed me to start working a few weeks after my arrival.
Another great tip is to start doing targeted marketing on instagram, facebook and SEO.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Thabks for reading! Glad to hear that it made your move smoother! It's definitely discouraging when relocating haven't done all this because a few weeks can be a few months without shooting. Absolutely, great tips!

Check out meetup.com. I was able to connect not only with local businesses but also local photographers as well. It's a great resource for finding like kind people from foodies to photo groups.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

I forgot about Meetup! I haven't used it in years but had some success with it before! Thank you for the tip, I will check it out again for sure!