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Happy Monday friends! I’ll be honest, I had originally planned on sharing our Europe trip on the blog this morning but guess what, after two weddings and an anniversary session today, I’m not prepared for that! Those images will be shared shortly but today, I wanted to do an Ask Anything post to answer a question that we receive quite often. If you’ve never heard of us or our business, there are a few things you should know before reading this. 1. I started this business when I was 20 years old and a junior in college. 2. I never had money to invest in advertising and 3. We have run a 6-figure photography business for the last 5 years.

The reason I share this is because I want other photographers out there who are just getting started to have patience. I barely made $20,000 my first and second year in business because I was investing in GROWING my business and my equipment. I was grateful for my income but I also knew that the money I was making couldn’t be spent on advertising. I didn’t have enough margin to spend thousands in advertising when I was just getting started and it actually turned out to be one of the BEST decisions I ever made in my business!

We often receive questions from photographers asking…..

“How much should I spend on Advertising?”

Before I answer their question, there are a few questions that I always have running through my head that I want to ask:

  1.  How are you utilizing social media on a daily basis?
  2. How are you promoting your current clients and current work? Are you blogging?
  3. What steps have you taken to form relationships with vendors in your local industry?

These questions are important because depending on the business owner’s answers, I can immediately tell whether or not they should spend money doing traditional advertising. If they aren’t utilizing social media, blogging their current work or pursuing relationships in the industry then I know that there are other options that they should try before throwing money into advertising that more than likely will not bring them their ideal clients. Also, all of those ideas that I mentioned above are FREE!!

At our workshops I spend a lot of time sharing our marketing strategies and I could honestly spend hours on this one topic but the bottom line is, paid advertising shouldn’t be the FIRST thing that business owners invest into in order to bring in more clients. In our experience, we have connected with our BEST couples through the FREE marketing that was available to us! When our KJ Couples find us on social media or get attached to our blog or hear about us through a recommendation from a planner who loves us, we are normally ALWAYS a great fit!

We paid for ONE bridal show in our whole career. I spent $1500 building the setup of our booth (well, my dad built it!) and then we created new sample albums. My booth was one of the most elaborate ones there and yet I only booked ONE wedding…. and it was the bride who won the free raffle for a discounted album. Go figure. I couldn’t convince that couple to do a first look or to give me extra portrait time or to get ready in a room with WINDOWS… why? Because they didn’t have an attachment to me personally, I was JUST the hired photographer whose job was to snap the traditional go-to pictures. There was no celebration of creativity or desire to go out into the golden hour. As I left that bridal show with one booking and the $1200 photographer across the aisle from me left with over a dozen, I realized that these brides weren’t my people. They wanted a deal and they didn’t want a relationship. I’m not saying that all brides should want a relationship with their photographer… but I did decide THAT DAY that my couples should want that. So, I ONLY invest my time and energy into marketing that will draw in those ideal brides!

Paid advertising isn’t BAD and it does work for a lot of photographers!! However, if you’re a newer photographer, I wouldn’t dive into the deep end of the pool and pay for ads before first trying to market personally through social media, blogging, publications and relationships!!

So that’s just my two cents. I know there are so many different opinions out there and that is what makes the world go round so just take pieces of this advice and apply it to your business where it fits. I hope you all have a wonderful season of great bookings for 2017!! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!!!

Ps. If you have your ideal clients already but you can’t seem to figure out the right way to educate them and prepare them for the best photographic experience possible, we have a solution!!! Over 1,000 wedding photographers are teaching their couples how to plan a photography-friendly wedding day through our BRIDAL GUIDE! Click HERE for more info!

Click Here to see other Educational Ask Anything Posts!

xoxo, Katelyn
8 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Wendy reply

    This is just such smart and sensible advice, Katelyn! I wholeheartedly believe that the connections you make through direct contact and social media and the engagement you create through blogging, networking, and reaching out on social media are so much more important and effective than impersonal ads.

  2. Didi reply

    Great blog today Katelyn. And I so agree with everything you said because you make sense. When I first started out, several publications talked me into advertising with them and over 9 months, I spent close to $3,000 and did not get 1 booking!! It was an expensive lesson, but one I learned well and never repeated! I also agree with ads being very impersonal. As a photographer, I want to know my clients on a more personal level because when I really get to know them, I feel I can do the best for them and they are happy!

  3. Amy Steed reply

    Oh my goodness, yes! I cringe when I look back at how much money I spent on SEO and bridal directories that brought me nothing. What I could have done with that amount of money had I put it into something like Facebook advertising, or better yet, saved it! haha. Live and learn.

    • Genevieve reply

      Yes! I ask blog owners for their click through rates along with some other stats before I even consider advertising with them. I compare their stats with my FB ad stats and if they come close, I’ll proceed. I have not had one come remotely close and it has saved me so much money. The worst is when they throw a bunch of irrelevant numbers at you but then claim they don’t know how to get the info you asked for. Run away from these.

  4. Latoya reply

    This was right on time! Thanks for sharing, Katelyn!

  5. Jennifer Courville reply

    Agreed! My boyfriend (now husband!) moved to NC 3 years ago now. We’ve been shooting weddings together for a year, and we’re hoping for it to grow more. I loved your point about relationship versus deal-seekers. So true.

  6. ashley reply

    Once the wedding is paid off, I will be buying your bridal guide! I’ve paid for advertising twice through blogs. Worst idea ever. I never get anything back from it. I did a bridal show once, but thankfully I didn’t have to pay anything. The majority of the couples already had a photographer and were just checking my booth out for ideas. I thankfully booked one amazing couple, but that’s because they cared about me and photos. They weren’t the typical bridal show bargain shoppers.

    I just love reading your blog posts! It’s been a daily routine for so many years! :)

  7. Joseph reply

    Lots of very low cost digital advertising out there for wedding photographers for sure. At point you could even get the basic listing on http://www.wedding.guide for no charge.

    Also use your social media accounts (don’t spent too much $ on advertising on social media, but use one or two social media acounts).

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