The Secret to Selling Your Photography is Finding Your Audience

It’s easy to think that everyone and everything is a potential client for your photography business. However, the reality is that your target customers are much smaller. A successful marketing campaign will be able to find customers that are willing to purchase your photos without spending a lot of money.

Marketing approaches that are “one size fits all” do not work as consumers are divided by income, age, geographic location, and other factors that influence buying decisions. Cars are a way to get people from one location to the next. Ford truck owners (“Built Tough”) react differently to BMW drivers (“The Ultimate Driving Machine”) and the vehicles come with different features and prices to suit the needs of each customer.

The same goes for selling photography. Because of a lack in affinity, a person who has not traveled on safari will be unlikely to buy a wildlife print. Due to space limitations, a person who has a small apartment will not be able to purchase a large print on any subject matter. Due to demographics, a young consumer will not see your ads on Facebook. You won’t be able to sell your products and photos to everyone. To achieve success in photo sales, you need to first identify and then reach your target audience.

Your Audience isn’t for Everyone

Who are your potential buyers? Your potential audience is not likely to be “anyone who loves photography”. Make sure to be more specific.

Imagine a buyer looking for interior decoration and the criteria they are seeking. Take this example:

  • Size
  • Price
  • Location in home

These subject matter considerations could include:

  • Abstract or literal
  • Black-and-white, or color
  • An ordinary place, person, or thing, versus something aspirational

Many photojournalists discover that wall art doesn’t sell as well as their award-winning photos because they often portray gritty scenes. The photographer can find it frustrating to be unable to align their subject matter with the intended audience. It’s important to remember that you’re not your intended audience and that the emotional connection you make with your photos won’t always resonate with others.

Create a profile

Create a profile for your ideal customer. Are they in an apartment or a house? Is their home in a large city? Are they drawn to particular places or subjects? How much can they afford to photograph?

It might be a revelatory experience to go through the process of creating a profile. Your ideal target might be a retiree in Florida who lives in a gated community close to the ocean. Marketing on Instagram is not an effective way to reach them. Your marketing efforts might be more effective if you win and dine with interior decorators.

Online Marketing

Even though there are billions of people online, they do not act in a single way. While younger generations tend to shop online more often, older people still prefer to visit physical stores.

Paid media is the purchase of online advertising, which usually uses sophisticated targeting. You’re likely to have seen the fine-tuned targeting that Facebook offers if you’ve ever bought an ad there.

A screenshot of Facebook's Ad Manager interface

Marketing online does not require a large investment of money. Instagram Stories allows you to tell compelling stories and build affinity with potential buyers. You can stay in touch with potential buyers by posting regular updates to social media. Building an email list for periodic newsletters is a great marketing strategy.

Although your online marketing efforts may not go viral often, they are essential for ongoing maintenance. It is important to create an email list and social media following. Don’t confuse quality with quantity. If no one is buying from you, 10,000 followers or 1000 repins are worthless.

A screenshot of an Instagram story
A screenshot of an Instagram story

Marketing for Real-Life

It’s easy for people to forget that real-life marketing can bring benefits. So much attention has been paid to the internet over the past decade. Photo contests and gallery shows provide potential reach to an untapped audience, but with uncertain return-on-investment.

Photographers may display their images in hotels and restaurants. Others might participate in art fairs or pop up shows.

It could lead to large sales if you build relationships with those who have an influence on purchasing decisions, such as interior decorators, architects, and in-house purchasing staff. To get a better understanding of the use of photography in interior settings, you might consider networking at conferences and trade shows.

Your Marketing Plan

A marketing plan will help you be more disciplined in your efforts. You will be able to test your assumptions and refine your future plans with a six- to twelve month plan.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Create a profile of your customer. You should be able to give some details about your potential customer. You might develop a few profiles (e.g. You might create a few profiles (e.g., urban dwellers of 30 years, Gen-X surfers or stay-at-home parents with a disposable income in the midwest). Your profile should include information about the type of images, sizes and price points that each customer would buy.
  • Take a look at how you use social media. Although it’s tempting to get enamored with the number of likes you receive, this rarely leads to purchasing. Your intention is to sell prints. Remind your audience periodically that your images can be purchased. Seasonal sales can create scarcity.
  • Evaluate your social media platforms. Instagram’s audience is different than LinkedIn’s. Try to understand the buying behavior of your online audiences to determine which provides the best return-on-investment.
  • Create an email list. Mailchimp and Moosend are expensive, but can provide useful metrics (e.g. Open rates, click-thru and opt-out requirements under the 2003 CANSPAM act are all available.
  • Create a marketing calendar. A regular schedule of communications will help you keep your business’s photo business in the forefront of your customers’ minds.
  • Automate your print sales. PhotoShelter allows you to automate printing and shipping online orders through print partners. It is important to keep good customer relationships by ensuring quick delivery.

Marketing your photography is not easy. You can improve your results by creating a plan and paying attention to how your audience reacts to your marketing messages.