Marketing Your Business and Staying in Business

Before you take the leap and start your own photography business, you need to consider three very important questions and know how you’ll use different marketing techniques to help maintain a sustainable business.

From naming your company to designing your website, Karl looks at the various marketing materials you could use to draw attention to your business. Using examples of his own work, he covers identifying your market and reaching potential clients, defining your brand, building a portfolio, tackling social media and website design and much, much more.

He also offers various different tips and also points out common marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

Class objectives:

  • What to think about before starting a business
  • Understand how to market your business
  • How to build your brand
  • Different materials to market your business
  • How to use social media to market your business
  • Working with agents
Marketing your business

Marketing your business is key to success.

If you have any questions about this class, please post in the comment section below.

NOTE: This class is available with English subtitles.


  1. Hi, Karl,

    I love this segment! I am wondering how relevant you think that actual brochures still are. I have one I designed and was planning to potentially order and send out to lots of places (restaurants, ad agencies, food brands, catering companies, etc…), but, also, not sure if you think a paper brochure is outdated at this point?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Allison, I actually think in a world awash with digital noise, emails, facebook ads, online marketing that it’s very refreshing to receive something tangible in the mail. I know personally I get lots of photographers or assistants applying for work every year most of them by email with links or photos but when you receive a well presented letter with a book/portfolio it gets your attention and you usually keep it kicking around in your office for a while whereas digital is lost in the inbox within 48 hours. The only problem is that it is a more expensive marketing method.

      1. Hi, Karl,

        That was pretty much exactly my thought process on it, and so glad you validated it. Refreshing, and also a chance to do something a bit different and not get lost in the ethers of the digital world.

        Thank you!

  2. Hey Karl,
    I’m at a point where I need to decide on a plan for marketing. But the budget is slim. I’m thinking local market product photography, with possible corporate work, portraits, environmental profession depending of the business. My list includes business cards, website, postcards and a physical portfolio. I get the feeling I must visit many potential clients to provide a face and a personal touch and leave behind postcards as opposed to just a business card. All marketing media funnelled back to the website of course. Concerning the spec work, which in my case is a viable opportunity and I have been working with this model in mind. I have only sent images to one client without success, but I believe I’ve learned from my mistakes, and that potential client was just a growing phase possibility. But I want to revisit this form of marketing.

    Size of file. Are you sending the full size image? I was sending a reasonable large file (2000px min), but not full size. I’ve sent high quality jpg mostly because I am never sure how savvy they are at viewing a tiff or even a png. Full size files cans be substantial attachments and anything large as an attachment can be a concern to some people. Last thing I want to happen in the file is binned without even a single view. I also think it is important to target the marketing department. To find the right person with the right pair of eyes. Any additional words of advice in these areas?

    1. Hi Gary, all of the top paragraph of what you say is correct in your approach but in the second paragraph I’ve never sent a speculative image in digital form I’ve always sent them a physical print along with a card and a letter.

  3. Hi Karl,

    thank you for this video.
    Would you prior call a client or send an e-mail before sending a brochure?
    I am targeting the beauty sector and just launched a new website, printed new business cards etc, but I am not sure how to begin now. Until today the clients I got are mostly local fashion clients (and I am a Master Photography student) but I tried to build up my beauty portfolio during the last months because I want to get bigger and different clients.

    Thank you in advance and regards

    1. Hi Cristin, for me it’s best to send the brochure/portfolio of your images to them first because it then gives a purpose to the call and if they like your work they are going to be happier to speak to you and hopefully recognise your name and take the call. If you just call them out of the blue with no reference then I think it’s going to be too difficult to generate a conversation where they actually believe in you.

  4. Hi Karl,
    I’d like to use my name for branding but my last name is what the young folks would refer to as a “dumpster fire.” What would be your advice in this situation?

    Thanks for all the time and effort you put in on your coursework.

    1. Hi Josh, that’s an interesting one and I’m sure there are many people with names or surnames that don’t have the right ring to them to be used as a business title. But you can still be creative with your first name alone….., joshvisuals, joshimages, etc and develop your brand just on that in some ways it could be quite novel and simple and be easy for people to remember.

  5. Hi Karl,

    I’m just about to set up my website and so this video was very useful, thank you. I’m interested in what medium you use to transfer images to clients. There are many website providers that include a facility for photographs to be downloaded on payment, but I’m just interested in whether this is the best option. Thank you.

    1. Hi Karl,

      Thank you for a very useful course . My work is based mostly in tourism agencies ,magazines, brochures , etc. ( travel & landscape )

      Due to the pandemic , I had to open my ratio of work , doing portrait and some small entrepreneurs shops photos, but , all my social media and my website is focused on landscape and travel .

      Should I create a new Instagram account for this type of work ? or Just a little section called ” portraits” in my website would be enough?

      Everybody knows me for my “travel and landscape ” so, I dont know how to face a new line of work just because , travelling is suspended.

      Thank you so much ! A Hug From Patagonia.

      1. Hi, I personally don’t think it’s necessary unless you are concerned that you need to market yourself solely as a travel photographer?

  6. Hello from good ol boy world.

    How do you combat the quality dosent matter but its who you know? I live in an area where i am the only one shooting sports. I donate photos to the news paper when they cannot attend a game. With that i still dont get the team photos. The same person gets all those and yet the parents hate the pics every year. I dont even get asked if i will do it, What I charge anything. I am lucky to shoot 3 kids all year for senior pics. Im traveling as far as 100 miles for that. The coment I get is I didnt know you shot portraits. Yet the portrait photos are all over my facebook and instagram. No real way to not see my work if you seen my sports photos.

    1. Hi Norm, thanks for your question. I have a live show next Thursday ‘Business Advice for Photographers’ so I’m going to bring your question up then and answer it on the show.

  7. Greetings Karl. This course is so very informative as I explore getting started in the photography business. Regarding speculating, if I send a photo to a company of one of their products and they wish to use that photo in a campaign, should I then expect them to pay for the photo or should I consider that photo as a ‘gift’ to the company and hope that they send work my way in future?

    1. Hi Darrien, that’s a good question and it depends on the amount of usage and the size of the company etc. Letting them use it can be a good building block to a future relationship but on the other hand if they are Gucci and want to use it on a campaign all over the world then you should consider negotiating a fee! 😊 – They don’t have the right to use it, it is still your image but you will have to weigh up the future value of either option.

  8. i lean many things from every video you you post , i have a question is it ok to photograph brands and post it in your website and social media ( i mean even if you didn’t actually worked with them)

    1. Hi Fadi, yes many photographers do this. Brands generally won’t have a problem as long as you don’t overlay their logo on top and the picture is good and doesn’t represent them in a bad way.

  9. Do I need a very strong portfolio to get hired by the agencies? Or do I to hire a marketing person who can get some leads for the business? This makes me frustrated sometimes, even if I can do better product photography then many other competitors, I don’t get many clients. Can you please guide me with this?

    Thanks in anticipation.

    1. Hi.

      1. Yes, without doubt a photographers agency is never going to hire anyone without the strongest of portfolios – I talked about that in this video
      2. Only you can answer whether you get a marketing person
      3. It sounds like you have uncertainty; either in the standard of your own work or the ability to market yourself. Watch the video I’ve given you the link to.

  10. Hello Karl,
    when you send those postcards, do you wait for an occasion? what do you write on them? do they recieve it well? wish we can see a sample of that

    1. Hi, know there is no occassion they were just nicely designed cards that had an introduction message and a striking image on one side. Then follow that with a phone call a week later.

  11. Hi Karl, thank you and your team for the awesome course, finally something helpful about the business in photography! My girlfriend and I are started a business in product photography, and still wondering about what name should we use. you said in the video that the first and last name is the best choice, but as we are 2 peoplem it would be way too long… so we were thinking about a more generic name related to photography, or just our initials (MD Photography). For me it’s a bit too basic, but do you think this would be the best choice anyway ? Thanks a lot again for all the infos and the document to downloads! Can’t wait to watch your next videos !

    1. Hi, I once nearly went into business with another photographer and we were going to use both our last names as the business name. I guess if that doesn’t work for you then you will have to consider your alternatives.

      1. Thank you Karl for your reply. Well, it’s gonna be quite complicated to remember if we both use our polish names and really long for a logo. (Tabol – Tuczapski) haha.
        Would you rather use the initials instead of a generic name like “Lightbox” (just an example) ? Or the opposite ?
        Have a great day!

  12. Hello Karl Sir, Your tutorials are absolutely wonderful but i have a question that why would a client give a commerical job to a photographer who doesn’t has his/her own studio vs where there would be other photographers who got their own studios & the studio rental part would be saved by the client. What are your views on it?

    1. Hi I think most clients base their decision on the quality of the work that the see from a potential photographer, their level of experience and responsibility and how well they think that photographer will match what they want to achieve. With commercial clients they are only interested in one thing; will this photographers work help make me more money.

  13. I can’t remember the name of the company that makes the binders you have used for your portfolio. Do you remember the name?

    1. Hi William, I’m afraid I’ve got no idea as the one I’ve got was made in London more than 15 years ago. I’d search for acrylic and leather personalised photographers printed portfolios and see what comes up.

  14. Hello Karl,

    Very helpful and informative videos as always.

    Quick question. Do you have a plan for when you retire?

    A business with a generic name could be sold, but maybe a bit tricker as a photographer. I understand you can build wealth throughout your career and you could sell your assets, but I guess not the business its self?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Matt, Thankyou. I don’t think I want to stop shooting as it’s my passion so i’ll probably reduce my workload and maybe run a few workshops and continue with some consultancy work. It’s very hard for photographers to sell a business that is ‘them’ or under their name but sometimes they can train another photographer to take over the business and introduce them to the clients etc etc and sell it as a business with equipment and good will. The business in most cases is the years of building relationships and keeping clients and if you can introduce those clients to another photographer over time that they can come to trust then you have something to sell to that photographer.

  15. Hi Karl,

    I’ve been getting on the phone working down my long list of Ad agencies. Generally speaking I’m finding that the receptionists will tend to ask me to send an email with my information and I wont get put through to anyone. Is this just par for the course or is there a way round this? Also, if I know the name of the CD for that company is it worth asking to speak directly with them?

    Many thanks.

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Will, yes that is just par for the course, if you have the name of the CD or an art director then that will help and try and get through to them especially if that is the one you sent the direct mail to.

  16. Hello Karl

    Have finally signed up with your course and can’t wait to get started.

    I have a Photoshelter template website and looking at either having a stand alone site or look at squarespace ? Whilst i’m happy with the way the site looks, its getting little traffic,and in turn few leads. With the squarespace site you use how do you optimise/ promote to get more traffic ?



    1. Hi David, thanks for signing up but the honest answer is I’ve never relied on SEO as I’ve done all my business through my own marketing. I believe Squarespace has some tutorials on it on their own website.

  17. Thanks Karl, that’s good to know, I’ll be sure to get on the phone to them this week then. Best wishes Will

  18. Hi Karl,

    I’ve just done my first direct mailout to the ad agencies with an A5 flyer/cover letter etc., and I was wondering what the best follow up plan would be, I was thinking maybe contacting them again by email in a month or so?

    Also, do you think paid google ads are a good idea for a product photographer, or is it better just putting money into B2B direct mailing?

    Many thanks.

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Will, you have to be a bit bolder, one month is way to long. If a person receives the mailer on their desk, they would have forgotten about it within 2 weeks. I’d also pick up the phone and ask to speak to them in person while they likely still have it on their desk. This is often difficult to do, I remember worrying about it back 20 years ago but I just did it and it open many more opportunities just getting to speak to someone personally.

  19. I only watch this today but I think we have done very similar marketing activities over the years. It’s really good to know that on the other side of the world someone is doing the same, but you are better than me in many ways. Thanks Karl!


    1. Hi Ronnel, thank you for your comments. The main things I think I can take away from understanding marketing is knowing your potential market, their needs, the supply and demand elements and then presenting a clear professional message.

  20. Hi Karl, thank you for the info, I appreciate you getting back to me. How did you set up your landing page as that makes an impressive statement with the single large image?

    1. Hi Steve, those are called ‘cover pages’ I think and they are a feature of Squarespace websites that you can create via the Squarespace platform.

      1. Thanks again Karl, I have found that the “Wells” template shows images off very well and really helps the web site make an impact. I love the large image cover page that really allows for image impact. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Hi Karl, I use Squarespace for my web site, I like the template you use, is it a standard or have you customised your own?

    Thank you for all the info, very very useful.

    1. Hi Steven, it is a ‘Wells’ template, the only custom code I’ve had added is in the video section to make the videos layout in the order as they do.

    1. Hi Sammy, not on that one but there is a similar one in our of our previous live shows, head to the Live Shows section.

  22. Hi Karl,

    Is December an Ok time to send out marketing materials to the ad agencies? Or is it better to wait until January?

    Many thanks.

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Will, It can be a busy time in December, too much information coming in from all angles. So unless you can send out in January as well then maybe leave it until January.

  23. Hi Karl, just have another marketing question. So just to clarify, for prodcut photography the majority of your clients would be advertising agents? And if so, is there not much point in targeting product base businesses directly as they would probably just use ad agencies anyway? Also, will the artistic director always be the person to directly contact? Many thanks. Best wishes Will

    1. Hi Will, I would say 50% of my clients are advertising agencies and 50% are direct with large corporations that have their own in-house marketing or creative teams. The art directors or creative directors and often the marketing team are my points of contacts in both. I also shoot for government organisations for tourism, airlines, large hotels/hospitality too and occasionally architectural. On the odd occasion I also shoot industrial images too and this is often directly with the company in sectors such as engineering or electronics.

  24. Hi Karl,
    Regarding the databases, are there websites you can buy these from? If so, could you recommend any that would be good for photography? Many thanks. Best Will

    1. Hi Will, there are business databases that you can purchase for various industry sectors but I’m afraid I’m unable to recommend any.

    1. Hi Akansh, Ikea already use a lot of CGI but they use trained photographers to ‘light’ and ‘compose’ the shot in the virtual world. It will definitely have more impact on product photography in the future but as always it’s a question of economics, who can do it better, faster and most competitively. On good product imagery I still win on product photography.

  25. Is with emergence of mobile phones there is any effect of photography business or in past 10 years is this business globally increased or decreased

    1. Hi Akansh, no not from mobile phones but from higher quality DSLR and many more good photographers has had a huge impact on traditional portrait and wedding photographers operating in the mid price range. Those at the top of their game still were able to ‘see’ a shot much more effectively and knew how to manage a shoot that kept their work separated from many of the new amateurs, in fact if you watch the replay of the live show with David Stanbury he even talks about how he put his prices up to separate him from them. In commercial photography such as product and advertising or fashion the skill set is very much more about lighting and a deeper understanding of technical aspects of photography or colour theory so phones or keen amateurs haven’t really made much more of a dent than they would have anyway. In some areas of product photography though including cars some of the market has been lost to 3d/CGI but many of the top photographers have started incorporating that into their workflow to expand their services.

    1. Hi Akansh, I’d say it’s got a little tougher and we are seeing more work being completed in post production or 3D/CGI than previously.

  26. Greetings Karl,

    Excellent info. A few brief questions please. I’m an interiors photographer now for 3 years and looking to grow my clientele.

    1. What cost effective program of mailing brochures would you recommend? (e.g. 3X per year with three different pieces, one with price list…).

    2. What’s your opinion on cold calling?

    Best regards and thanks,

    1. Hi Victor, personally I wouldn’t include a price list unless that is your unique selling point, but ideally it shouldn’t be, it should be the quality of your work and your service. There is no minimum on mailshots but you shouldn’t also send out unnecessary junk mail, to new prospect I’d send two different ones in one month and then call them and ask them if they received it and would they like to discuss it further. If you don’t get anywhere, send another different one the next month and then call again. Cold calling is fine if you have the confidence to do it, I used to do it all the time but usually only after sending something by mail so I had something to talk about or ask them.

      1. I’m embarking on the project. Massive challenge. Elements include: New identity pack (business cards, logo, photo of myself), template selection / layout, determining print quality obtainable by various printers, postage rates … You could offer a whole chapter on how to do what sounds so simple: The Maildrop. I suppose this is what separates the pros from the rookies, if for no other reason than the expense involved.

        I agree that cold calling prior to sending any info is much more challenging. I wish the phone would just ring, given a large enough mailing (program). Karl, your persona is so pro, so classy, so first rate, that I feel the persona I’ve created so far is lacking. Need a roadmap to reinvention of myself.

        My specific question, if I may, is what do you think of this from a persona standpoint: Pull no punches please. Many thanks, Victor.

  27. Hi Karl, thanks so much for this. Just a quick question, if I was to send out some advertisement postcards to local businesses in London offering my services for product photography, would you advise printing your price list on these, or is it best to let them find that via a website? Many thanks. Best wishes Will

    1. Hi Will, no I wouldn’t advise printing your price list unless your USP was ‘very competetive prices’ I guess it depends on the type of businesses you are targeting and what you think they’d respond to, but once you’ve printed your price then you’ve got nowhere else to go other than those prices. I’ve got a rate card I give to clients once I’ve established a relationship with them but on that rate card it details how rates will be different for local/national/international work and other associated fees such as sets, post etc. Even my long term clients just request a quote on a job by job basis to factor all these things in.

  28. Shooting since 1997 and this piece of info was more enlightening that had in all of that time. SMH.

  29. Hello,
    What category and characteristics would you consider “educational” photography and video? For example, something like you have created here or something like photography of the various parts of a tent and how to put it together (yes that’s a real example), or something that depicts the steps of something with or without people. My background is learning and development and I am trying to see how I can merge the two areas.

    1. Hi Thelma, I’m not entirely clear on your question but if the subject being depicted is nothing to do with photography then I would say this is instructional relating to that subject. If the subject being depicted is photography, such as what we do, then clearly it is educational or training. But anything showing someone how to do something is obviously a learning tool?

      1. Thank you. I am sorry I wasn’t totally clear. I would like to take my photography/videography and create a business that focuses on education. And yes it would be of various subjects based on the client. So in essence it would be similar to the videos that you have created for your educational portfolio, but for any subject. As you describe various genres of photography you mentioned tips and characteristics of that type of photography such as architectural, industrial, portrait, and fashion. So my question was just what are the characteristics and educational photography and did you have any tips, best practices, or advice, similar to what you gave for the other genres?

        1. Hi Thelma, if you are creating video education then the most important thing is that your message is clear and understandable, breaking complex things down into understandable chunks and delivering the right information at the right time, not too much in one go. Then of course the more entertaining it is then the more engaging it is with the viewer.

  30. Hi Karl, some great marketing tips indeed. Please just elaborate on the speculating aspect for us. When you send your speculative image for free, I assume you send it in maximum resolution so that they can also see the level of detail in your work. Is my assumption correct?


  31. Karl

    Excellent module, sets out the various areas to consider, whilst acting as a prompt for me. If I can implement half of your suggestions I will be well on my way to making my business a success

    Thank you

  32. Karl,
    I like your business related videos.

    Som questions about a website stuff. How do you protect yourself from people stealing your images? I noticed anyone can download your images 1500px with no problem and there are no watermarks anywhere. If you are well known for your style then people will know if the images have been stolen but what if you are starting up.

    1. Hi Kriz, I would suggest a minimal faint water mark that is well placed. It is a balance between people stealing them or you ruining the appearance of your images to potential customers by using intrusive watermarks.

  33. Hi Karl,

    Loving the training and consuming the videos at quite a pace. In one of the preceding videos you outlined routes into Photography and I fall into the “have some balls and go for it” category but after 20 years working running divisions in various multinational companies so I’m comfortable with the people skills and that comes naturally to me.

    I’m elevating some specific skills through these course like lighting and product photography and have been pitching well and managed to land a few framework agreements. I’m comfortable presenting and take every opportunity to get the message out there. I’m running google ads, networking, undertaking some direct contact (which I need to increase) and I am now lookimg at some speculative work also. My portfolio is small but growing. Given my age (and just me being me) I need to pursue an aggressive growth strategy at least over the next 3-5 years to set me up for maybe 10 further years of trading.

    My desired areas to work are broad at the moment and cover general commercial/pr, product, fashion, architectural, industrial and retouching. I am also undertaking some small video projects which I’d like to grow and expand. I also have commercial permission for aerial work that would link into some of these areas.

    Can you recommend any specific routes to market you think I should be working within the categories you have outlined? E.g. Specific trade shows, networking groups (I’m in the chamber and a few local groups)?

    Apologies it’s a bit of an open ended question!

  34. Here’s a funny thing about business names. Had I called my business Marc Charette Photography, I’d be probably getting people confused when people spell my name wrong and get Marc with a ‘k’ and they’d end up with a photographer in the states (I’m in Australia, but originally from Ontario Canada).

    So sometimes your name can actually get in the way of branding. What’s in a name? Sometimes, not much but sometimes more than we bargained for if you don’t do the research.

  35. Karl,
    Do you think it would be worth having a separate website to keep the genres more closely categorized, such as weddings/portraits/fashion vs. landscape/wildlife/street ? I’m specifically thinking about doing weddings, portraits, but also product. But do I want my product clients coming to my site and looking at wedding images as well as product?


    1. Hi Steve, it’s actually not a bad idea. The guy I interviewed on a previous live show ‘Alex Wallace’ did exactly the same thing when he first moved to NZ, he didn’t want his prospective commercial clients seeing the wedding work so he had two sites. He only does the commercial now but this was when he was trying to earn some extra revenue after first arriving. See the live show replays to learn more about his work.

  36. Hi Karl, I would also love to hear your opinion about Dirks question.
    Thank you so much for this great and so very affordable opportunity to share your knowledge with us. So happy I signed up!

  37. Hi Karl, would you still suggest nowadays going for the whole printing strategy, i.e. broshures, flyers, printed portfolios etc.? Or is printing things and actually sending them by mail getting obsolete, considering all the digital and online based marketing tools?

    1. Hi Dirk, apologies I thought i’d replied to this question. I think that a printing strategy is actually more valid now than it was 20 years ago, simply because art directors and agents are inundated with emails and digital links and often a printed portfolio or brochures stand out amongst the crowd, they also show a certain commitment and investment in yourself and belief in yourself as they cost money and only the confident would consider them worthwhile.

      1. I was about to ask the same question as Dirk. This information is great. You are so right! Thanks Karl.

  38. One question, Karl. How do you stay on top of your marketing regarding time, especially in your early ages? Were you able to afford someone who would help you out, or did you do the business/marketing side on your own?

    1. Hi Alex, In the early days I worked 6 days per week starting early and finishing late. I often did my marketing and databases and admin working from a desk at home in the evenings. As I became more established I employed someone but for the the first 4 years I was on my own doing all of it. When I had to pack thousands of brochures in envelopes or label up postcards I’d just spend all weekend doing it. On the odd occassion if the timings were right I’d get a friends kid on school holidays to help with stuff like this and pay them an hourly rate they were happy with and that I could afford. These days there are many ‘secretarial’ outsourcing companies you can use but of course it will always be cheaper to do it yourself. It’s just a question of whether you could be doing something more profitable instead, when you are starting out though you find you have plenty of time to get your marketing right.

  39. Thanks Karl for sharing your views and it really a great help to the industry specially for our country, India. Hope the members from our country will be definitely benefited with it , in photography as well as will develop the skills of business
    Thanks you and your team, it is great.

  40. Karl you make this so clear and simple. Just like the way you explain all aspects of photography. Excellent stuff.

    1. Hi Darren, we select a few from our members each month for our live talk shows. Generally that will be requested, we send an email asking our members for a particular type of shot to suit the them of the talk show. So you will receive an email about this. Next week though we are launching our Forum on this site and you can upload pictures for critique there for other members to comment on and sometimes me and other members of the KTE Team.

  41. This has got to be the best $14 Investment I ever made.
    If I went else where it would cost me Thousands and still wouldn’t be any where as good as this . Thanks Karl and all your staff.

    1. Thank you Alan very kind of you to give us that feedback. We hope our future courses and live shows will also give our subscribers better value and good reason to stay with us 🙂

  42. This has to be the single most important piece of information yet! Has helped me tremendously plan out my ventures very well. Thanks Karl and everyone.

Leave a Comment