Small town power

June 2016 issue

Marketing tips for small-town photographers

Relocating is one of life’s biggest changes and hassles. Maybe you’re thinking of moving or have moved to a smaller town. Does your photography business have to suffer just because your potential client pool shrank? Not necessarily. Ever heard of being the big fish in the little pond?

This topic was addressed on theLoop, PPA’s online community, where photographers pose questions to peers, offer advice, and learn from the trials and successes of others. Here’s the question and some valuable answers from theLoop participants:

Q. Advertising your work can be tricky depending on where you live. One practice may work for one area or region but not generate as many leads in another. Is your studio or business nestled in a small town? If so, how are you advertising?

Al Wilson


  1. I joined my local Chamber of Commerce.
  2. I traveled my local area and photographed as many of the attractions, scenic areas, and landmarks as I could find. I chose the best of the best for prints. Some of these now hang on the walls of local businesses (medical facilities, restaurants, attorneys, etc.).
  3. While out capturing all those images, I wore my self-promo jacket. Keeping it simple and easy-to-read from a distance, it contained nothing more than the business name, logo, phone number, and specialties on the back (portraiture, fine art, nature, travel). I was receiving calls while out shooting and was asked to stop and talk face-to-face with a few callers. This has worked well in more ways than one, especially while doing a little street photography in the historic downtown district, which is very busy.
  4. Local and area arts and crafts shows are great for getting your work out there for people to see.
  5. If you decide to try any of these, tailor the ideas to your situation and location. Get out and in touch with people. In most cases, the people reached out to me and asked for my card.

Al Wilson, Al Wilson Photography, Rome, Georgia

Tara Patty

A. Join a local business networking group as that will be time and money well invested. … Connect with businesses in the area that market to your ideal customer. See what you can do photographically first for them. Do they need photos for their marketing, website, etc.? Then see what you can do together—maybe an event to benefit both your businesses—and then they will most likely turn and want to see how they can help you. I do co-branded gift cards (5x5-inch cards made at my lab). The cards have the other business’ info and logo on one side and my offer to their customers on the other side. The business owner then gifts the card to their best customers. It’s a win-win. They look great for gifting to their clients and I get business. I’d also look into getting involved with a local nonprofit that your ideal customer might be attracted to and do a charity auction with them.

There are countless ways to get rolling. Make sure your website is tightly edited, have good SEO on your site, and carry business cards and marketing materials everywhere with you. I’m not sure I’d advertise on your car as it might make it a target for thieves looking for camera gear.

Tara Patty, CPP, Tara C. Patty Photography, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Joanne Fabian

A. I will add to this that a sign on your car can null and void your regular car insurance. Check with your agent, and also know that your car insurance may not cover your equipment for theft/damage if you do not have it covered specifically for business use.

I personally have not found good advertising avenues that work. Client referrals and business networking seem to be my major sources. After that it is through my sports work and direct mail to past clients.

Joanne Fabian, J. Gray Fabian Photography, Souderton, Pennsylvania

A. The Chamber of Commerce is a must: Be active. I am an ambassador with our chamber of commerce and I have agreed to trade chamber event photos for dues.

Bob Messina, Bob Messina 1st Photography, Valencia, California

A. Meet people, shake their hands—the more the better. Don’t always be in promo mode. Be a real person. Potential clients will take to that faster than a slick promo line or other cliché gimmick.

Ask your happy clients to talk about you to their friends. The request is usually taken as a mild compliment by your happy client as an unexpected effect of social psychology: Clients like to feel valued by you, and your simple request demonstrates that.  

I have a private portfolio on my iPad Mini. Everyone loves to see the latest photos, especially at church dinners (great icebreaker for those awkward moments between folks who don’t know each other all that much).  

Charles Burgess 

Advertising without knowing the demographics of your market does not work well at all.

Dig into the demographic data that is freely available at the U.S. Census website. Knowing who my target market is and digging into the census data some more, I can figure out how and where to target my marketing directly to those whom I want as clients. Knowing your market and how to break it down into bite-sized units, you can actually see yourself achieving. 

Charles Burgess, Burgess Photography, Pensacola, Florida

Tags: marketingpromotions

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