How to advertise wedding photography business
All photographers, whether they do weddings, commercials, products, or other kinds of photography, will one day work on their marketing to attract some new clients in front of their cameras.
I will share 20 years of experience as a wedding photographer in this article using various advertising techniques. Some have been successful, some not. Of course, you need to consider your own business, your services, your prices, your skills, and the type of clients you have.
Before starting, we will assume that your business is already created, which means you have a website with several weddings covered on it; in other words, you are a good, established photographer and not a newbie photographer in the Midwest trying to create a portfolio.
Now, let’s explore the different options, from paid options to free ones, from the easy to the uphill.
But before that, let’s see who should advertise and what goal to have.
Table of Contents
Should you advertise your photography business?
If the main reason for advertising is to increase your booking range, the strategy might not be the same for small companies that have just started and big photography studios.
If you are a micro company that just started.
Advertising is expensive. If you are just starting out and have only a few clients a year, you might want to consider free ways to advertise.
If you decide to pay for that, you must estimate the price of your investment regarding the expected income.
Be warned, that’s a tricky balance for starting companies. It would be best if you reached clients, but you should not put all your money either.
If you are a big photo studio
If you are a big photo studio, then advertising makes sense. Indeed, one of the wrong sides of the wedding industry is that most people want to get married on the exact dates: Saturdays in summer and fall. If you have several photographers working for you, you can cover all those dates and don’t have to redirect potential clients because you are already booked.
Another advantage of the big studio is that you can easily cover a larger area. So, if you are based in a state, you can expand your activities in the adjacent state.
If you have your own established small business
Finally, if you are a solo photographer with your wedding business, you should have a budget to spend to increase your activity even more.
You will decide if you want to focus on your area, on a specific niche (a specific type of client: tattoo people, bikers), or if you want to travel.
With that in mind, you should pick the most appropriate way to advertise your goals from the list above.
Paid solution to promote your wedding photography business
In the perfect world, you would pay a fair price to have your work shown to future brides, who will sign you when they see how excellent your job is.
But in real life, there are all kinds of clients with different tastes, budgets, and expectations.
All paid services don’t work the same with all photographers.
Advertise on Google
Google Ads is a straightforward solution for ensuring that your business website appears on the first page of Google.
The more considerable downside is the cost,t, which quickly becomes significant!
For instance, in my area (the Twin Cities), the price per click on the query “wedding photographer” can reach $14 to be on the top page. In other words, if you have a lot of visitors, you need to be sure you have an excellent conversion rate!
But as mentioned earlier, you won’t match all potential visitors’ tastes (assuming many of them are clients ready to be hired, not just in the informational phase, or other photographers).
Another downside could be the complexity of the solutions, which offer the post on their affiliated partner platforms in different formats with many options. I prefer to remain simple and pick only the research results page.
Something to make sure is to use filters to narrow your target. For instance, I focus on the MN and Wisconsin areas with engaged people.
So Google Ads remains a pretty expensive solution! Make sure you don’t burn all your budget!
Advertise on Facebook
Facebook ads were affordable during the first years to dethrone the leader (Adwords). I ran a $500 campaign in 2017 that worked, bringing me two weddings and a bunch of unqualified leads.
Advertise on Specializing websites: the Knot, Weddingwire, MyWed, and Zola.
Those websites aim to become a hub for the future bride and groom, selling wedding vendors as products that they compare in a standardized presentation.
The focus is not much on the quality of the images, more on the price than on each photographer’s prices, which are therefore put into competition. It might be convenient for the clients, but I am unsure how well it serves vendors.
The prominent leaders in the market are The Knot and Weddingwire. Fun Fact: the two companies merged into one entity (The Knot Worldwide) in December 2018. Of course, the price to promote business has not decreased. I would say it’s even the opposite.
The product you buy is sometimes a defined position (ex, you are in the top 6 of the first page), or it can be a relative position (you will have a rotating position on pages 1 and 2). Those websites have a very aggressive sale, so be ready for numerous phone calls.
When I used the knot and wedding wire, I used to pay between $4000 and $6500 a year, and I booked fewer than 10 weddings. So, from a financial point of view, it is still worth it, but that’s a very expensive solution.
Another downside of this type of website is that it pushes clients to ask photographers for their prices through a simple click-button form. As a result, the clients might contact 20 photographers to compare prices, meaning you have to answer tons of emails from nly interested people. And that’s time-consuming!
Platform to Buy Some Qualified Leads: Thumbtack, Bark
Those platforms are the same kinds as Fiverr. They also put photographers in competition.
The significant change is that vendors can buy leads if they are interested and available.
Of course, the quality of the leads is inconsistent, and the definition is pretty vague, so you never know if you will have a cheap wedding in their backyard in a lovely venue.
A lead costs around $15-$20, which remains cheaper than Google Ads.
This solution worked great for me in the beginning. I like that it’s simple, and you can pick the lead that works for you.
Advertise on the Bride Magazine Our State Magazine
Specialized revues such as Bries or Minnesota Bride, sales advertise space for vendors. They can sell the whole, half, or quarter of a page at different prices. Count around $2000 to $4000 for a decent amount of space.
If that shows you advertise many brides, the big question with those kinds of magazines is to estimate the ROI you get.
One consideration is the type of clients that the magazine is targeting. Those are usually fans or top-of-the-list clients looking for top photographers, so you have to ensure you are the correct type of vendor.
When I was an assistant to a fashion photographer, we used to work for Marie-Claire Mariage, a famous newspaper specializing in weddings. Speaking with the newspaper’s director, I understood that most vendors might have a deal with the newspaper (shooting an editorial in exchange for some space to advertise) or a massive company in the wedding industry that would cover several aspects of the wedding. In other words, I am I am not a small business owner.
Advertise on the Very Local Magazine or Local Press
Let’s forget the nationwide or state-wide magazines and speak about the very local magazines. Those are the ones offered for free at local wedding shows. Tadvertising prices remain pretty expensive, and I am not sure that future brides will read those.
If advertising on YouTube remains affordable (compared to Google ads), video is not the best format to promote still images.
That said, I remember a video from a photographer making the buzz. He created a second-degree video that was hilarious.
If you are creative, I believe that can be an excellent way to market a business locally.
I have several Bridal Shows and have a love-hate relationship with them.
Fi, rest, I am not a selling guy, and spending an entire day trying to sell yourself to all the engaged women coming to your booth can be pretty exhausting (not to mention unpleasant).
The good side is that it only takes one day, and after it’s (almost) over. Then you just have to follow through with tons of emails.
The great thing is that brides can see your work (albums), which can really help you stand out.
The cost of attending such an event is around $15; you have to add electricity ($200) and your booth (the price will depend on you). You might as well offer some prices.
As you can imagine, there are some ways to make your business known without breaking the bank. That said, you are not the first one willing to achieve that so be ready to compete with a lot of people. Those techniques might not always be successful, but they would be time-consuming.
So let’s see how you can get the best of them.
Simplicity: Reach venues and vendors.
In the real world, 30 years ago, before the internet was a thing, people used to call, mail, or just visit other people to meet and show their work.
In today’s world when we receive 50 emails a day, receiving a phone call, a visit or a handwritten letter can makes a difference.
Partner with venues
Being referred as a preferred vendor by a venue is probably one of the ultimate goals for a wedding photographer. Indeed, clients who just signup ed with a venue would trust it ald be willing to find vendors.
Reaching a venue where you have never worked is a lost cause. Indeed, venues are constantly solicited by photographers, who refer only to people they have seen working and, therefore, cly guarantee their work.
Reaching the venue with whom you have work is the way to go.Too stand out against all the wedding coverage venues that have experience, you need to create not only amazing work but also some images that the venue would like to acquire for their own marketing.
Reaching the venue manager before the wedding day and asking if they need any images can be great. You spent a bit of Time working for them for free, and, if you do a good job, they might refer you to future clients.
One situation to target is the new venues. These need fresh images to market themselves, and you might still be able to partner with them on their preferred vendor list.
Partner with a Videographer: Videography for memories
I work with videographer I recommend, and I even offer some packages including photo and video. Videography is essential to the bride and groom’s special day in MN. I capture only photographs and try to do it well. Doing both at a top end quality is simply not possible, it’s two different jobs. Therefore, such a partnership is a win-win deal for all parties.
Reaching Other Vendors and Developing Your Network
In the same way, other vendors can refer to you as a photographer when clients need one. That said, in the wedding process planner, it might be less relevant. Indeed, clients usually book the venue first and then the photographer.
One type of vendor that might be relevant, though, is wedding planners, given that they often offer the bride and groom some turnkey solutions.
Of course, you need to be more than a nice photographer and create images that those vendors would need to use.
In the magic world of the internet dominated by big social media companies, it’s a part that you can invest. Let’s focus on the big ones: Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Often described as a platform designed for photographers, Instagram is the place to share your images. Each Time you shoot somewhere, you should publish a photo with a hashtag targeting the venue, the area, and the other vendors.
From my experience, collecting the information is a real-time costume to possess despite the use of an app that can help you to automate this task. Let’s think of Hootsuite, Buf,fer, or Later, just to name a few.
I have tried a bit in the past without seeing significant results. So far, I haven’t found the necessity to continue. I might be wrong or not using some proper technique. I’m sure you can find tons of tutorials to get the best of sharing your work on Instagram.
Older than Instagram, Pinterest remains a robust platform. Its design makes it perfect for wedding planning while the bride is gleaning some ideas and inspirations.
The idea is to tag some images from your own website, which can also help potential clients discover your work.
That said, from wn experience, that hasn’t been a relevant vector either. I think most users would focus on the image itself, and won’t look to know further for the creator. A fun fact happened a couple of times: Some clients referred me to MN images published on Pinterest, asking me to get inspiration. They didn’t even see that those were my work!
For my generation (born in the 80s), Facebook is where people can look for vendors. So, having your business page on it is a great idea, especially since it does not take too long to build. If you are a social person with many friends, that’s definitely a place where you should share some updates on your work.
One strategy I’m using is to ask my past clients to tag me when sharing images so all their family and friends know who shot the photos and sometimes call me back.
Get featured in Wedding blogs.
If blogs had their glory ages ten years ago, some remain pretty popular and active, especially the specialized ones that give chic trends and luxury ideas. Consider Junebug, Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, and Ruffled.
Of course, those blogs require that you shoot some local or destination weddings, rich and extravagant ones, in the best venues and have a sense of interest in fashion and decorations. If that’s your goal to be featured with such blogs, you have to partner with the bride. Another great idea is to have a second shooter whose primary goal would be to shoot amazing details of the dress, jewels, decorations, flowers, stationery, silverware, etc.
Partner With Vendors for Styled Editorial Projects
Preparing a photo shoot to be featured in wedding blogs is a good way to partner with some vendors (check these photos taken at Kellogg Mall) and network with other vendors. For instance, if you offer a venue to shoot at their location and if they like the publication, they might want to refer you in the future.
Partner With Influencers
Influencers can help you reach a lot of people. A couple of times, influencers approached me asking me to shoot their wedding for free or to give a huge discount. Given that I am a pretty pragmatic man who doesn’t pay much attention to social media and followers, I didn’t consider those offers relevant. Indeed, “likes” don’t pay my bill.
I might be wrong, and it might also depend on the influencers and the network they have built.
So if you recognize some influencers and are ready to give away for free, that might be a solution to experiment.
Win awards in wedding photography contests.
The world of wedding photography has a few associations that aim to promote the work of the best creative wedding photographers. Let’s think to Fearless Photography, the Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA), the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP), the Artistic Guild of the Wedding Photojournalist Association (AG|WPJA), Inspirationphotographers, Wedding Photography Select (WPS).
Awards can be a good way to inspire confidence, gain authority, and win the trust of wedding planners. In addition, it’s always cool to have your line of awards logo on your website.
The downside of such contests is that there is often a membership subscription requirement ($100 to $400). And of course, you are never assured of winning anything, plus some photographers would say that contests are sometimes rigged.
I have tried Fearlessphotographer, and it has brought me a couple of clients in France. However, it doesn’t work as well for me in Minnesota.
Make the Buzz
That’s always an easy idea to throw out! Think out of the box! Find your own original way. Create an image that has never been seen before, that is really amazing, beautiful, or funny, and that people will remember.
In my opinion, making the buzz on purpose really required some genius communication skills. But as we say: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Make a Local Event
Here are some photos shown at a local exhibition of venues and restaurants. I allowed them to use the image, which gave me some visibility.
Work on your website.
There are a few things you can do yourself to help your site appear on the first page of Google. These are called SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and UX (User Experience).
SEO & UX
SEO is making your website appealing to Google and unforgettable for the user. There are some technical parts, such as Alt bales, keywords optimization, names of the images, and website speed. In addition to being a geek, you need some writing skills needed as well, to make text great and readable.
If you want to make this part yourself, be ready to spend hours and hours writing text to help future clients. In my opinion, it’s one of the most time-consuming techniques, but if you do it right, it works and saves you a ton of money.
The only downside is that it requires a lot of Time, and if you do it partially, you won’t see any effect on your booking.
Those techniques worked very well for me when I started my own business in Paris in 2011, bringing me to the first page of wedding photography. I hope to reach this level again in Minnesota.
Email Bait and Pop-up
If you look at UX marketing techniques to implement on your website, you might want to create some email bait. The idea is to offer something (such as a.pdf), in exchange for the prospect email address. Then you run an email campaign using dedicated services such as HubSpot.
Another UX optimization is to throw a pop-up window offering an update and asking for the visitor’s email address when they have spent Time on your website and/or might be leaving for good.
I am not a big fan of those techniques that I don’t find elegant, but they seem to be efficient.
If you have enough talent and material, you might want to become an authority in your area. You can develop your blog and create partnerships with other vendors. If you are really talented, you might have the venue come to you to be featured, and that would be the ultimate consecration. But I don’t know how many photographers could do that in the real world.
Best Time in the year to advertise your business
The best Time to advertise wedding photography services is typically:
- Engagement Season: Late November through February, when many couples get engaged and begin planning their weddings.
- Before Wedding Season Peaks: Advertising in late winter to early spring can capture couples finalizing their wedding plans for summer or fall weddings.
For photographers looking to book off-season weddings during winter/spring, advertising 2-3 months before the off-peak period can help secure bookings when business is typically slower.
You should monitor your results.
As mentioned earlier, you should set clear goals before starting an advertising campaign. Do you want to increase inquiries, increase bookings, or target a specific type of client or area?
To monitor, you can use Analytics Tools such as Google Analytics and social media insights to track the performance of your ads in real time. These tools allow you to monitor metrics such as click-through rates, engagement rates, and conversion rates.
Monitoring will allow you to adjust your electronic campaign based on performance. If you are good at it, you can try things, see what works, and determine where you should invest to take another direction.
Another way to monitor your effort is to ask new clients how they found you. This will allow you to gauge which advertising platforms are most effective.
Manage your expectations and your budget: don’t dream too big.
Finding the right advertising strategy may require experimentation, which means some campaigns may not perform as expected.
Be aware of budget constraints. Effective advertising requires investment, and finding the right balance between spending and ROI can be challenging, especially for small businesses.
Be aware of the market saturation: In a competitive market, such as big cities, standing out can be challenging, requiring creative and innovative approaches to capture potential clients’ attention.
Don’t count only on social media. Indeed, social media and search engines frequently update their algorithms, which can affect the visibility and effectiveness of your ads, necessitating constant adaptation.
Byd successful marketing efforts.
My conclusion is that there are a few magic solutions to market your business efficiently and not cost but you need to be a heck of a communicant:
Develop extremely strong social skills and know how to attract other vendors and venues. In other words, you have to become an influencer yourself.
Be a genius and make the buzz.
But in real work, most wedding photographers are not interested in becoming influencers, and the style they like is pretty mainstream: classic, chicks, elegant. In other words, nothing new.
Therefore, the paid-to-advertise solution remains an option, but with a significant cost. You should consider its worth based on your income, type of clients, and the number of weddings you can expect.
What I like about the paid solution is that they would save a lot of Time.
Final advice from my experience in Minnesota: Stay focused
In addition to my wedding business, I also offer real estate but I don’t advertise it given it’s not the same audience. It’s not about portrait and personality.
The same goes for locations: I shot weddings in Mankato, MN. However, I would prefer to target local venues in my area (Rochester).
SEO is a long-term solution if you have the Time and the gut to produce the equivalent 2 books on your website.
Reaching venues and vendors remains a pretty simple and efficient solution, but be ready to have a lot of doors closed on your way.
The key is to find a balance that aligns with your business goals and resources.