The World Of “Event” Photography; Marketing, Selling, And What It Takes

While commercial advertising photographers (and other specialties) might be touched negatively by the economy and changing technology, event photographers continue to expand their work and markets. Yes, the economy has changed with every parent bringing a high-end digital camera to their kid’s school events. Yes, event photographers today must invest in equipment to print and sell photos online. But there is work here, for both the consumer and corporate event photographer.

Marketing tactics that work best in this field range from traditional word-of-mouth referrals to advanced database direct mail marketing to a targeted audience. Probably the most important recommendation for photographers looking to make a career move into this field is to truly love the work. It is people-oriented and tech-heavy, but also very rewarding when the right photographer and client work together.

To get a handle on this realm we interviewed three photographers for their thoughts and recommendations on being successful in today’s event photography market: Dutch Walters (www.dutchwaltersphotography.com/id1.html), Bob DiCaprio (www.dicaprioeventphotography.com), and Jeff Bowman (http://commonwealthphoto.com/).

Shutterbug: Event photography seems very specialized; please describe the range or type of event photography clients you currently work with at this time.

Photos © Dutch Walters Photography

Jeff Bowman: Most of the photography we do at Commonwealth Photography is consumer-based portraits. The events that we do are things like Little League team and individual portraits, dance schools, and high school sports composites. In our studio, event photography has the smallest profit margin of any other portraits so we really pick and choose the teams and dance schools that we work with.

Dutch Walters: We are currently working with a few international corporations; our event coverage must be flexible enough to meet their needs. In one week, we have gone from doing a three-day North American marketing and strategic seminar with various celebrities to shooting the Special Olympics.

We use the photojournalistic approach in our image capture and work in the shadows of the event in order not to be a distraction. We try to document every issue for subsequent review by our client. One point worth addressing: when we work an event it is usually with multiple photographers and multiple cameras, so time synchronization on the cameras is a must.

© Jeff Bowman

Bob DiCaprio: I work primarily with commercial clients at this point in time. I think that commercial clients, although demanding, have the projects and budgets that allow them to hire professional event photographers. As an event photographer, we help our clients get their marketing message across to their customers and help with the branding of their product or service. Or, we can help them say thank you to their employees at company-sponsored events (we do a lot of this type of work). My commercial clients have varied throughout the years. I have worked with financial institutions, local insurance companies, health care organizations, regional furniture chains, national software companies, mall developers, a regional gas/convenience chain, and the chamber of commerce.

SB: What marketing tactics work best for you to find clients for this type of work?

Dutch Walters: We are blessed with great word-of-mouth advertising. All of our business comes from referrals and while it may not be the most advanced method of marketing, it works. As the old saying goes, “You’re only as good as your last customer says you are.” We also believe that you should always sell where your shoes are, so don’t pass up an opportunity to talk with folks you meet every day. For example, while I was getting my tux altered I struck up a conversation with another customer and after showing him a small sample of our website on my smartphone, I walked out with a wedding contract.

Photos © Jeff Bowman
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