The Photographer's Guide to Social Media

The Photographer’s Guide to Social Media

on December 01, 2015

Social Media – While it’s a fun way ‘pass-time’ for personal use, when it comes to promoting yourself, and your photography, through online social networks, the prospect can be downright scary. What social media platforms should I use? How do I write a good post? Am I doing this right? The prospect of using sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to market a photography business brings with it a barrage of questions.

Getting started with social media marketing isn’t an easy overnight process—it involves a bit more skill than setting up a personal account. But, social media is a great tool for sharing your work, creating more leads, and reaching out to potential clients. In many cases, photographers can’t afford not to answer all those questions. So, squelch that fear and open a new browser, here are six big questions, answered, on social media marketing for photographers. 

What platforms should I use? 

Before you even get started on social media marketing, you’ll need to pick a platform. While new ones pop-up and old ones die out all the time, the biggest options for photographers are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Don’t be tempted to open an account on all three platforms right away, though. It’s better to excel on one social media platform than to fall flat on your face with multiple platforms. Successful social media marketing requires a time commitment. Don’t open three accounts then fail to gain followers because you don’t have the time, or worse, spend all your time on social media marketing with none left to actually take pictures.

To start with, pick one platform—you can add another later on when your initial account requires less time. Here are a few things to consider with each option:

  • Facebook is a popular option because there are so many users. It’s also easy to upload many different types of posts, including images. It’s also easy to share images, so you’ll get more exposure. Facebook can be difficult to build followers, however, and not all of your followers see every post. Actually, if few people like the post, very few other users will actually see it.
  • Twitter is based on 140 character posts and isn’t as image-oriented as other outlets. However, you can still post images and quick updates. Unlike Facebook, posts aren’t displayed based on how many likes they get, but just chronologically. That means if you post often, your followers will see your posts frequently.
  • Google+ hasn’t caught on as much as Facebook, but it still offers some value. The biggest perk is that, since it’s owned by Google, your posts can sometimes show up in search results. There are also a lot of photography communities and contests you could participate in here.
  • Pinterest is built on images—essentially, it’s a platform for sharing and saving inspirational images. That makes it great for photographers. However, reaching out to the right audience—like local clients looking for a portrait photographer, for example—is tough. Pinterest is likely a better option for promoting photography websites and blogs than a local business.
  • Instagram is a platform designed just for sharing images. It’s a fun way for photographers to share their images and build up a following. The problem is that it is designed more for mobile photography. You can’t actually upload an image from your computer, you have to use an app. That’s a big obstacle for photographers that like to edit their image in Photoshop first or that don’t have a wi-fi equipped camera to send images right to their smartphone. 

Which one is best? That depends on the type of work you do. Facebook is great for portrait and event photographers. Pinterest is good for getting more visits to a photography blog. Google+ is great for image contests, sharing with other photographers and improving SEO. Weigh the options, and choose a platform that allows you to reach out to your target client. 

How Do I Build A Following On Social Media? 

The biggest challenge to social media marketing is to build a following. Every social media profile starts out with zero followers—you’ll need to build that number up in order to reach the most people. Building a social media following is an ongoing process, but there are a few things you can do to get things started.

  • Post good, relevant content: We’ll talk more about this in the next section, but basically, you have to post things that people want to see. No one sits and watches just the commercials on TV—so don’t post just things that market your work or your social media profile will look like one endless commercial with no good TV in between. 
  • Use hashtags: Hashtags aren’t just for Twitter—they work across all the social media platforms. Hashtags make it easy to search for posts regarding a specific topic. Try using a tool like RiteTag ( to search for relevant hashtags and see which ones are being searched for the most. 
  • Interact with other profiles: To create a following, you need to be a follower. Look for other profiles in the same area, particularly those that have a similar audience to yours. Like and comment on their posts, and you’ll often get a few follows back. You’re on social media, so go be social! 
  • Ask for follows: One of the simplest ways to get new followers. Ask for them. If you post on Facebook, for example, include a line that says “Follow [your page name] to see more photos.” Then, when a current follower shares one of your photos, you may get more likes from their friends. 
  • Run a contest: People love free stuff. Hold a contest—give away a free session or a free landscape print to hang on the wall. In order to enter, require them to like your social media profiles and you’ll get quite a few new followers. The larger the prize is, the more follower you’ll get from a contest, in general. To make it simpler, use a tool like Raflecopter. 
  • Link to your social media profiles: Don’t forget to put a link to your social media profile(s) on your website. Then, you’ll get new followers that discover you through your website, and keep following you through social media. 

Building a following is a long process—so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away. Typically, your number of followers grows exponentially, the more followers you have, the easier it will be to get even more. 

What Makes A Great Post? How Do I Engage My Followers? 

Followers don’t mean much if you don’t engage with them. But what makes a great post? What kinds of posts are more likely to be liked, commented on and shared by your followers?

First, don’t think of social media as marketing – Yes, social media is a great marketing tool, but don’t think of it that way. Think of it as a way to build a relationship with potential clients. Make 90 percent of your posts about building this relationship, and only 10 percent about marketing your business. If your posts are all directly about marketing, you won’t get many engagements and you won’t increase your number of followers. 

Post content that people want to see – No one watches TV just to see the commercials. Post something that people find interesting, and they’ll follow you for those posts, and also catch a “commercial” or two when you do write a marketing post. What kind of content do people want to see? There’s all kinds of different options, like:

  • Helpful information, like a recipe with that food photo or tips for what to wear to a photo session
  • Humor, or anything that gets a laugh (just keep it appropriate)
  • Touching stories or photos, like cute babies or the love story behind how your wedding clients met
  • Photos of people they know
  • Great photos of places they’ve been or would like to go to

Write in a conversational tone – When you write your post, consider your audience. Use words that they are likely to use in a conversation. If your audience is realtors for your real estate photography business, for example, you’ll want to avoid slang and write in a professional tone that’s still conversational, not textbook. If you take portraits of teenagers, on the other hand, it’s okay to use things like “LOL” in your posts, but still use complete sentences.

Ask for engagements – A simple way to increase the number of engagements a posts gets is to simply ask for them. Share multiple images and ask them to comment or like their favorite one (on platforms that allow for multiple images). Ask for followers to share if they agree on a post, or remind them to share so they can find a helpful tip later on. 

Respond to comments and messages – Once you get engagements, be sure to respond to any questions, or say thanks to positive comments. Remember social media is social, not a one-way street. 

How Do I Get Photography Leads Using Social Media?

So, you’ve built a following and engaged your audience—what about the actual marketing? How do you get new leads using social media? You’ve already got a good start by building a relationship through social media; people are more likely to buy from a business they trust. But there are a few other things you can do to help you get more leads.

List your website URL on every post – Listing your website at the end of your post is a good way to market without making the post feel like a commercial. If you’re a senior portrait photographer and your subject shares your photo of them, one of their friends may see it and click on that link to see how much you would charge to do their senior portrait. 

Encourage shares – Likes and comments are great, but shared posts will reach beyond just your followers. Shares have a wider reach, and they’re more likely to lead to new prospects. Ask for shares, and create content worth sharing. Humor and helpful tips are often posts that get more shares. 

Share great work – Treat your social media profile like a portfolio. Don’t share images that you wouldn’t put in a portfolio. By always sharing great work, you’ll build up a reputation you can use to get more leads. 

Encourage referrals – Whenever you work with a new client, encourage them to follow your social media profile if they haven’t already. Then, encourage them to refer their social media followers by offering an incentive, like a free 8×10 or a discount off their next session. Referrals are great ways to generate new leads.

Should I Use A Paid Social Media Ad?

Social media is a marketing tool that simply requires your time—but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a paid marketing plan on social media. Many social media ads work well because they reach the right audience, but for some photographers, they don’t work well. Here are a few dos and don’ts to consider before taking out a paid ad:

  • Do spend time crafting a great post to promote. Don’t promote a quickly written post.
  • Don’t forget to use the insights to see how your ad does. When you purchase a social media ad, you should be able to see how many people clicked on the post—this will help you decide if it’s a worthwhile investment to continue advertising or not.
  • Do promote special posts, like a discount or giveaway. These types of posts tend to get more clicks.
  • Don’t buy followers. Many social media platforms allow you to buy followers. This isn’t always a great idea though. These followers are less likely to really be interested in what you have to offer, and less likely to engage with your posts.
  • Do promote posts to people who aren’t currently followers in order to expand your reach beyond your current followers.

How Do I Protect My Images On Social Media? 

Social media is a great marketing tool for photographers, but is it really safe to share images online? Images posted on social media are subject to the same dangers as any image posted online. It’s easy to click and download a photo, which makes it easy to steal an image off a social media network. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t share.

  • Use a watermark so that even if someone downloads your photo, it’s still obvious it is yours. You can even put your website address on the photo, so if it somehow gets disconnected from your page, people can still find the photographer behind that photo.
  • Don’t share all your images from one collection – Leave a few photos that haven’t made it online, so you know that they don’t appear anywhere else.
  • Copyright your photos if you stand to lose money from image theft. Copyrighting an image is simpler and cheaper than you may think and it’s the only way to really recover lost income through the legal system. It’s still illegal to steal and image that isn’t copyrighted, but few lawyers would touch a case about a stolen photo that didn’t file for copyright.
  • If you really don’t want an image stolen, don’t share it – If having an image spread around the web would ruin an upcoming photo book, for example, don’t share it. Watermarks help, but even those can be removed. 

How do I use social media to reflect my brand?

Finally, all your social media efforts should work to help shape your brand as a whole. It’s easy to get caught up in social media and share posts that don’t reflect what your brand represents.

  • Have a clear idea of your brand. Of course, you need to know what your brand is in order to use social media to promote your brand. Start by looking at the style of images you shoot—photojournalistic or formal? Landscapes or portraits? Is your brand more professional, or more fun? Jot these things down and keep them in mind as you write social media posts.
  • Avoid sharing controversial posts. It’s a great idea to share posts generated by other social media profiles, but avoid sharing the ones that are controversial. Would you really want to lose a customer because your political opinions don’t quite mesh? Stay away from controversial topics.
  • Share the images that reflect your brand the most. Think before you share and make sure each post represents your brand as a whole. If you’re a portrait photographer and you shot a few product photos for your friend but don’t plan on adding that to your business, don’t share the photos. They aren’t going to help you get more business, and they don’t contribute to building your brand as a whole.
  • Share behind-the-scenes photos too. The images you worked so hard to create are great to share on social media. But, looks behind the scene help to build up your brand’s reputation too. Share a photo of yourself taking a picture, or a look at what your studio set-up looks like. Share a photo of your computer and cup of coffee as you edit photos. A behind-the-scenes look can be helpful for building your brand too. 

Conclusion: Social Media For Photographers Is A Great Tool, When It’s Done Right 

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be great ways to market a photography business and find new leads. However, social media marketing is a bit more involved than what you choose to share on your personal social media profiles. Choose a platform to focus on, work to build followers and create posts worth reading. Use social media to generate more leads and reflect your brand. Paid social media ads are worth considering for some photographers, and every photographer should take a few steps to protect the images they share online.

– SmartPHOTOeditors

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