Three Free Ways to Market Your Portrait Photography Business Face-To-Face

people dancing at night

The month of January is generally a slower time of the year for portrait photographers. While you spend most of the year working hard in your business, the down times give you an opportunity to plan ahead and get organized for the next busy season. Whether you photograph people or pets, an effective way to market to new clients is to engage in activities that involve you meeting them in person. Here are three suggestions for free activities to try in the New Year for meeting prospective clients face-to-face.

Plan a “Limited Edition” Session Event

Nowadays the word “mini-session” is starting to become synonymous with low-quality and inexpensive. Sometimes when I hear the word “mini-session” I think of those shoot-and-burn photographers advertising deals like “$50 for a 30-min session with all digital files and printing rights.” To distinguish your offering, change your wording to “limited edition.” This phrase evokes a sense of scarcity and urgency – encouraging potential clients to take advantage of your one-time proposition before it’s gone forever. For efficient use of your time, limited edition sessions should be scheduled over a day or two, with clients booking and paying in advance. Keep the sessions short – my sessions are ten minutes long. This is a great way for those clients who have been thinking about booking with you to sample your services, and meet you in person. By putting yourself in contact with a large number of clients, you’ll have a chance to create an amazing experience for them, and you’ll gain contact information for following up with them in the future.

Organizing a mini-session day can introduce you to a lot of new clients in a very condensed period of time.

Deliver a Presentation

Another free way to meet potential clients in person is to share your expertise by giving a presentation. Speaking in front of people will help you to gain their trust, and will reinforce your status as an expert in your field. Plus, by freely giving them valuable information, you’ll invoke the Law of Reciprocity. By doing something nice for them, you’ll invoke a psychological urge in them to give something back; they’ll feel like they “owe you one.” The key is to avoid trying to sell them anything– you are simply offering them useful information and advice. Wedding photographers could offer a seminar or even a one-day course on how to get the most out of their wedding photography investment. Portrait photographers could offer tips for choosing how to arrange and display artwork in their homes.

Volunteer to Photograph an Event

Even if you are not an event photographer, volunteering to photograph an event such as a charity run or banquet is another way to get your face in front of people. Consider an event that is taking place in the slow part of your season. Be sure to discuss your conditions with the event organizers prior to agreeing to photograph the event, and be clear that you are looking to gain new clients. These conditions might include having them promote you on social media before and after the event, allowing you to have a display set up at the location, and understanding the photos you provide will be watermarked and that credit will be clearly visible wherever the photos are used. This type of marketing activity is especially effective if you are just starting your business, or if you have recently moved to a new area and are looking to get the word out.

Volunteering to photograph an high-ticket charity banquet can help you make new connections in your area.

Much like a New Year’s resolution for your business, carefully planning your marketing activities during the holidays will help to keep you focused and organized when your business picks up again. Though these activities are not technically “free” as they will cost you your time, they will allow you to make an strong first impression on a large number of people, and generate new leads for the future.


Jordan Pinder's picture

Jordan Pinder is a photographer and print artist specializing in outdoor portraits of families, children, and dogs. He is based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Would you offer your limited edition short sessions free to the client or at a much lower cost?

Hi Chris, I would never offer them for free, but would have the fee for the session be set at a lower cost. If your business model involves them buying printed products and wall art from you, I would keep these at the same price but perhaps offer something that you don't normally offer, such as a special collection available only for the limited edition session.

Got it thanks! :)

I photographed a charity event, and only the organizer and main speaker thanked me for being there. The attendees didn't even care that there was a photographer there, even after going up to them and asking to get group photos. So this could be hit or miss.

Hi Gabe, yes it's definitely hit or miss and depends on the demographic of the attendees. My last event had nothing to do with weddings, but I ended up booking two weddings from connections I made at the event. Once you find an event that you did find helped to generate new leads or new clients, you could limit yourself to doing just that event each year.

I agree that it could lead to more bookings, its finding the right event. My event was a cancer charity that a alcohol company sponsored. Lots of money flying around, just nobody cared about photos.

I photographed a charity ball and ended up with two new clients (so far) and the organiser loved my images - and she's an events organiser for her day job. Well worth doing!

That's great Paul! Charity events are great because your services are seen more as a "donation" rather than you just doing something for free for no reason. Sounds like you made a great connection with your organizer, I'd be sure to nurture that!