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 from 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 more.

In this class:

  • 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

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.

Marketing your business

Marketing your business is key to success.


  1. Hi Karl!
    Thanks a lot for the business videos. They are very helpful.
    I am having a bit of a silly question really.
    One of the questions to ask ourselves is “Is there demand?”. But how can I figure it out without a super expensive marketing research?
    I would like to photograph for cafes and restaurants. Food, meals and drinks.
    Obviously, here are plenty of pubs, posh restaurants, small artesian cafes and tiny take-aways: so all range of clientele in this sector (I live in outskirts of Oxford) . But how can I figure out if the food photography market is saturated?
    For example, I googled “Food photographer Oxford” and went through all the websites on the first 2 pages. It showed the only one photographer with a high quality good food imagery (subjectively, just my opinion). This equally can mean a high demand in food photographers, or opposite: dead market.
    How do I know which is which?
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Kseniia, thank you. Well the first thing I would explore is all of the businesses that you mentioned that have photography is where are they getting it from? You could simply ask them in passing as it is not too personal a question. If you can discover that then you can move on to how much they might be paying for it by looking up there suppliers and doing some digging. If as you say there is only one good food photographer in Oxford then it doesn’t sound like there is a great deal of competition but it may be that the businesses you are wanting to target on are not getting there photography from Oxford or using stock images? Start making a list or a spreadsheet and getting facts down on paper. When it comes to business getting facts is very important as too many ‘creatives’ try to run a business on a hunch or gut feeling and are then surprised to discover there isn’t enough work or that the work is all done by a few other excellent companies etc etc. So you will have to persist with your research. The other thing is it’s not often commercial photographers just survive doing one things such as food photography, only when you’re at the top of your game do you make a living specialising in just one things so you need to look at other commercial photographers in the area and see if they are also doing some food, architecture, people etc. Most companies such as a restaurant don’t just need food photos, they also need the building, the location, the interiors, the staff etc etc and for this they often go to more general commercial photographers to do the whole project. When I was a much younger commercial photographer that’s the sort of thing I was doing, a bit of everything commercial, but to a high standard and then as my career developed I became more known for a certain thing and began to specialise in that. I hope this information helps and good luck!

  2. mgilvey

    Hello Karl,

    Before COVID, I was doing well for five years, shooting for an international plumbing product manufacturer. Then COVID, then crickets. They have renewed my contract each year, but since COVID, I haven’t received a thing to photograph. I’ve tried searching in my local library for manufacturers in my area, going about 100miles but didn’t find anything; I think they exist; I’m just not targeting the right keywords, I guess. I’m trying to find companies that manufacture some kind of product to photograph—where should I look? I’m in the Washington, DC, area. The company I was shooting for actually found me, not the other way around. They found me because, at the time, I was doing SEO work when most photographers were just putting photos on their home pages, so I ranked higher than them.

    1. Hi, it’s a tough one. Your SEO strategy worked so hopefully you can regroup and keep that running effectively. If it was me (and this was before the internet as I actually did this) I would be setting aside 3 days of driving and visiting industrial business parks, industrial zones etc that you’ve identified from Google maps satellite view or listings. For example most companies that make stuff need pretty big premises so can usually be found together on large industrial parks. A drive around these or using google maps can help you name plate and identify lots of them. Make a note on the map of who is who and what they do and then target them with the appropriate marketing material and follow up meetings.

  3. Hi Karl,

    As an entrepreneur I am a newbie, although over the years some of my photos have been published via a stock photography agency, among others in textbooks and a well-known British daily newspaper (thus meeting their standards).

    In two months time I will be traveling to Thailand for a few weeks, and of course taking a lot of photos in that exotic location. Speculatively, I would like to offer my best travel shots for sale, for example for the travel industry or any suitable publications. I will surely apply what I have learned from KTE.

    Suppose I come back with a number of good photos. What advice can you give me business-wise, in making the most of such an opportunity, to get some sales, market my services, and network with useful people – starting from not being known in the field?

    Best regards,

    1. Hi Hannu, I’m afraid the competition in this area is very fierce and it will mostly come from the established stock libraries. I would first review all the stock images you can to assess the standard and then see if you can bring something new to the market, new point of view, updated images, more interest etc etc and then those images will give editors browsing stock libraries more choice.

  4. Hi Karl. I want to start building my product portfolio on my website. Are there any copyright issues with photographing branded products and displaying them on my website?

    1. Hi Will, generally this isn’t a problem as long as you don’t put the brand name as a separate layer on top of the photo to make it look like it was an official advert. The only thing of course is that if the brand is made to look bad then it could be asked to be removed but if the standard of photography is good then it is just free exposure for the brand.

  5. Hi, Karl!

    I’m rewatching this and trying to focus on doing a business plan of some sort. These are amazing tips.

    I feel like I do and have done a lot of these things that you mention, which is probably why I stay somewhat steady with work.

    I also feel, however, that it seems to be getting harder and harder to get or maintain work. There are a few reasons that I see first hand, one is that the market seems to be flooding with food and product photographers. I’ve noticed some of them actually market that they are ‘iPhone Photographers’, which I don’t know how to feel about… but, it seems that the market has been a bit watered down and devalued.

    It also seems that certain clients have become very reluctant to spend money on photography since the pandemic. That could just be where I am in Texas, but, I’m definitely noticing it.

    Are you seeing these trends as well?

    Do you have any tips or ideas that you might add to what you’ve already mentioned here, if so?

    Thank you as always for your guidance!

  6. Levision

    Hi Karl!

    After I watched this video I decided to go to the nearest pastry shop. I asked for the newest cake which has never been photographed. Also I asked for the owner mobil and email address.

    I’ve never shoot food so I watched your video about “Dessert Photography: Raspberry Dessert Photoshoot” then I took few photos of the cake I bought. I sent it to the owner with a little message, how importan is to have good photo and etc… . I allowed her to put the photo on their social platforms and it went really well, She liked it and asked me to take photos of all the cakes they have :))

    It wouldn’t happen if I don’t see your videos. 🙂

    Thanks a lot!
    Levi from Hungary

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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