Market Your Portrait Photography!; A Look At The Consumer And Commercial Realms

Portrait photography clients live in two distinct worlds: consumer clients and commercial clients. The time, energy, and attention required to market to each is so consuming that many photographers gravitate toward one or the other. Consumer portraits include family, children, and high school seniors. Commercial portraits range from editorial, celebrity, and advertising clients. Though they are different, both markets have experienced changes with new technology for finding and keeping clients. In this column we will look at two photographers in each field and their current and future marketing strategies.

Consumer Clients
For Colleen Gonsar (, the majority of her business comes from high school seniors, children, and families. Rod Evans ( works with children, families, and high school seniors.

© 2009, Colleen & Co., All Rights Reserved

Shutterbug: What marketing tactics have worked best to build your portrait business and how do you feel about new and future technologies?

Colleen Gonsar: We have found that direct mail is still working for our studio. We feel that our website is extremely important and have recently had it updated to a custom-built site. The best advertising we have is happy clients telling others through word of mouth and repeat business. I can’t believe how the industry has changed in the past 5-10 years. It boggles my mind to think how it will be affected in the next 10 years. Clients who have easy access to better technology have hurt the professional. Even though the professional’s images look even more amazing, the general public’s standards have lowered, making it acceptable for lesser quality that they can provide themselves.

© 2009, Colleen & Co., All Rights Reserved

Rod Evans: I think finding a niche and developing a style that is done exceptionally well is critical to our success. We then go out and market that style, to show our uniqueness. One of the most successful and cost-effective ways we promote our business is with Facebook. Facebook promotions are not limited to high school seniors; they work well for young couples and moms with small children. By having a Facebook profile and a business page, you are connecting where many of your clients already are spending time online.

If you are giving them a reason to connect with you, giving them tips and special promotions for being a Facebook fan, then you will grow a database of clients. We spend about 15 minutes a day updating our status, checking comments, and uploading a couple of images from each session. We also advertise on Facebook and run promotions for high school seniors and children targeted for specific ages, education, zip code, and gender. This form of advertising costs much less than traditional advertising; it takes more time but has great results.

© 2009, Rod Evans, All Rights Reserved

For new technology, I have software ( that we use to book our portrait appointments online. Clients do not see your entire schedule, they only see what is available based on the type of session they selected and what is available for the day they selected. It is customizable and you can log in and see your own appointment schedule from anywhere. Recently we booked four online appointments in one day and clients pay for the portrait session fees online using the software. How fun is it to make money and book appointments while you are sleeping?

I also have been selling my low-resolution images on CD to my high school senior clients. I have not lost my mind and I am not giving them images to go print at Wal-Mart. I have a system in which they pay a significant fee for the ability to have a low-resolution CD and order images from our pro lab at a much discounted price. This way we retain quality over our final product, the client orders at their convenience, and we make money for the time invested.

© 2009, Rod Evans, All Rights Reserved

Commercial Clients
Astor Morgan ( works with ad agencies, editorial, and clients directly, including corporate portraits, actors, and musicians. Chris Buck ( has clients in advertising, big corporations in computer and Internet technologies, and financial institutions, and has done editorial work for magazines such as Esquire, GQ, Newsweek, and New York Magazine.

SB: What marketing tactics have worked best to build your portrait business and how do you feel about new and future technologies?

© 2009, Astor Morgan, All Rights Reserved