Using Facebook to Grow Your Photography Business


On Christmas Day 2008, I joined the more than 150 million active users on Facebook. I did so because Google search results for my name displayed another Sean Cayton’s Facebook profile on the first page, about three listings from the top. Since I didn’t want people to mistake my doppelganger for me, I set up an account and embarked on my Facebook adventure. 

So far, I’ve been incredibly impressed by the power of this network. I’ve found that I can deliver content in a targeted way to exactly the right people — and in doing so, grow my photography business. 

Three Kinds of Friends, Three Kinds of Content

Here’s what makes it work. Virtually all of my friends have a personal connection to me and they fall into one of three categories:

1. I know them from high school or college. 
2. I know them professionally via my 14-year photography career. 
3. I know them as past clients (e.g., former wedding couples.)

Through my network of friends, I’m able to distribute daily content that is both relevant and entertaining. My friends can see images and subject matter that also happens to fall into one of three categories:

1. Me and my family
2. My weddings and portraiture work
3. My editorial portfolio

Each category may speak to one or another group of my friends. For instance, my college and high school friends might be most interested in pictures of my family and me. They may also find an interest in my other work, but the personal pictures carry the most appeal.

On the other hand, many of my former editorial colleagues may take more of an interest in my “Photo of the Day” album that is updated daily and features my best editorial work over the span of my career.

And finally, my wedding couples have a distinct interest in wedding pictures — especially ones that feature their wedding! By tagging and captioning these pictures, I’m delivering content to their own Facebook pages that is then distributed to their own network of friends.

300 Friends and Counting

In a little more than a month’s time, I’ve grown my network to over 300 friends and I’ve already received two inquiries for wedding photography. These inquiries were from people I know personally — but who didn’t initially think of me for their assignment.

I may be jumping the gun here, but based on the early results, I believe Facebook could be the easiest way to market my photography that I’ve come across. If you’re not already using Facebook to grow your photography business, I encourage you to try it out.


45 Responses to “Using Facebook to Grow Your Photography Business”

  1. Facebook is awesome as a photographer. It's great for networking and showcasing your work!

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=634451536

  2. Sean,
    Are you concerned about Facebook's rights grab language when you post your professional pictures on the site?
    Thanks,
    Jacquelyn

  3. Hi Jacquelyn,

    I am aware of the language and I don't have a big issue with it.

    I distribute much of same content via my blog and it's open to the same kind of issues if not more so.

    Sean

  4. Beware - Facebook's terms of service are an overly broad grab at licensing rights. I recently blogged about the Facebook terms of service and then a recent update.

  5. Aaron, as with anything there are tradeoffs. But I don't think Facebook is a trap as you're suggesting.

    If we want to go in that direction, I might argue that your Flickr acount threatens your livelihood in a much more direct way and there are plenty of documented examples on that front.

    For me, what makes Facebook a more powerful and less threatening form of social networking on the web is that the photos I distribute go directly to people I'm connected too and they carry with them (everywhere on Facebook) my name. In other words, my brand.

    This sounds like a excellent pro-con column and I would invite you to submit it to Black Star.

  6. As a fairly new photographer on the market I will have to say in my own personal opinion that while Facebook,including it's nemesis Myspace is wonderful for social networking but I just can't grab the idea that it is very professional for someone who is trying to make a living off of photography. I personally have a had time taking photographers or any business seriously in their wanting clients to use Facebook or Myspace. This could be that I have not tried it.Maybe I should and see what happens. Nothing to lose but time. Oh and I used Flickr, been a member for 2 yrs. I have used it as a online type of public portfolio and I have gotten plenty of clients that way, I just do not use Flickr to post my client portraits. I personally feel any pro photographer could use Flickr as long as they know how to make the photos ARR(All Rights Reserved) in the first place. I now am moving my photos to a diff site, which I feel is more professional in its looks and usability for clients being able to buy images right off the site.Facebook actually would attract more people to my other site, so I can see the advantages. As for licensing rights or grabs, this is why you post only low resolution photos.So even if they want the right to use it, with a low res and a heavy watermark they can copy it all they want but is really rendered useless.Uploading small size will give a potential client a idea of what you do but not enough to make it worth it for a site to get "free" use out of it.As they say,"there is more than one way to skin a cat" I would not post my "best" photos on Facebook but just redirect traffic to another site. Eventually I will be not be posting photos on Flickr anymore but it was fun while it lasted. I also wanted to thank Sean, your articles are educational and quite helpful I send alot of people to this site. Thanks

  7. 300 friends for two assignments, from known entities. OK, I know that Facebook is free but that seems like an awful lot of effort for marginal return. Assuming a need to shoot, say, 20 weddings/year to make a living, does that mean you need at least 3000 more "friends" to secure those leads? And as many of those "friends" will be complete strangers, the conversion rate will be much less. 300:2 might reasonably become 1000:1. So, 20,000 new Facebook friends per year. I think I will stick to postcards and email blasts...

  8. I disagree with Mike Fox. A successful Wedding Photographer should have a keen eye on networking opportunities. I am still in my infancy in this business but I have discoverd referrals and recommendations are key business routes. Gone are the days, IMHO, where Print advertising is the best advertising model to use anymore. I've stopped using magazines as a marketing platform. Word of mouth is key, and there is no better device that Facebook.

  9. i agree...facebook is terrific for keeping your friends up to date on your latest subjects in photography

  10. oh...forgot to put my profile
    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=724541672 feel free to follow my work if you like...

  11. Everyone,

    I highly encourage you to read Jim Goldstein's recent post about Facebook, before you decide to join. You can read it at http://www.jmg-galleries.com/blog/2009/02/17/facebooks-terms-of-use-from-bad-to-beyond-worse/.

    Ironically, I just signed up 2 weeks ago and now I have deactivated my account, after reading Jim's post.

    Hope this helps,

    Sherri Meyer

  12. I just wanted to respond to Mike Fox's comment and follow up on the license agreement issue.

    I'm not trying to grow my Facebook account to 1,000 people that I don't have any real connection too. That would be pointless.

    What I am trying to do is to stay in touch on a regular basis with a network of friends I may not correspond with on a regular basis.

    For that it's a GREAT vehicle for connecting and staying connected to those specific people who will be most interested in me and my work.

    Second, I'm not looking to get hundreds of inquiries through Facebook. I'm looking to Facebook as a place to create opportunities for myself and my business.

    My network will pay me back as long as I continue to correspond and remind people on a regular basis that I'm there as a resource.

    I can also use Facebook to funnel traffic to my blog. I can use Facebook to create (in realtime) a platform for my most recent work.

    It's an incredibly powerful tool and I'm only just beginning to understand how it works.

    Final point about the license agreement: You don't have to distribute work through Facebook to use it as a vehicle for networking and connection. If the license agreement bothers you, then don't post any photographs!

    Catherine Hall, a well-known wedding photographer, is an avid Facebook user. She recently endorsed it in a seminar I attended.

    You can see her work here: http://www.catherinehall.net/

    And guess what? She doesn't distribute any work through Facebook. But she does use it to connect to editors and other photographers. She is growing a following and using it to create opportunities for her business.

    My advice is not to close your account but to think creatively about how to use Facebook to find opportunities and go for it!

  13. A follow up post. Right after writing my comment, I opened the New York Times and saw that Facebook has reverted to the old user agreement under much pressure from consumer advocates. Read about it here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/19/technology/internet/19facebook.html?ref=technology

  14. Facebook and all forms of social media are an effective and FREE resource for getting the word out about you and your business. Not only can you have your regular Facebook profile which shows the personal and the business side of you, but you can create a professional profile as well as a business page within Facebook to highlight your profession and help market your business. As with all social media, you should look at this as a relationship builder. When you go to a party, you don't only discuss business because you would turn people away if you did. You have conversations with many about many things going on in your life. This is what draws people to you and starts the word of mouth advertising that is so important. And even if they don't particularly need your skills, they may know someone that does. Social media is the same with the exception that you are not just reaching 20 or 30 people, you are reaching thousands and hundreds of thousands. To me, that's a no-brainer.

  15. In regards to the issue of Face Book grabbing the rights to photo's posted on their site there is a way to make them uunusable. Our studio lowers the resolution of the photo to 640X480 and imprints a copyright on the photo prominently, for all photo's used on line or e-mail to clients. This renders the photo's unusable if copied or downloaded. The copyright is usually placed on a photo where it would do the most damage if someone were to download the photo and try to use imaging software to remove it. Even though I currently don't use Facebook for networking I think it is something to consider with the fact that print advertising is becoming less effective to bring in jobs.

  16. It's indeed a wise person who doesn't put all their marketing eggs into one basket. The more vehicles you use, especially in this economy, the better. I think booking two weddings from Facebook is wonderful - effective and cheap marketing. Add that to several weddings from a bridal show, some from referrals from past customers, some more from referrals from other vendors, several from advertising or displays, and by golly, you've got a nice year put together.

    Facebooks is a wonderful way to put a very personal "face" on your business. This is a relationship business, and the more you have your face in front of your customers faces, the better off you are.

  17. Sorry to join this discussion late; Sean I just began subscribing to your blog after seeing several of your articles make my weekly LinkedIn Photographers group email, and I like your topics.

    This one is of certain interest to me because I too have several business angles to market through friends/family/and acquaintances, and truly believe that the more social networking one does the better. I have two clients that I have begun training on this, one a photographer herself.

    My business coach (www.travisgreenlee.com) has 4999 friends on Facebook because that's the largest amount they'll let him have at the moment, and yet he does a TON of his networking and income-grabbing through his social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. He has only just joined LinkedIn but I'm sure his numbers will grow exponentially there too.

    Travis is the perfect example of making online marketing work, and he's made a business of training on it. So anyone who says it can't or won't bring you business needs to check out his Facebook and reconsider.

    You can also start "fan" clubs on Facebook and that way your friends can tell their friends to "fan" you so that eventually your fan page grows into a second website of its own- look at pages of any band you like and see, it's additional marketing.

    I hope this helps.

  18. my website posted wrong in last reply
    thanks

  19. Hey Sean,
    Black Star Rising? Yngwie Malmsteen?

  20. Sean, i happen to love facebook. I have booked over a dozen weddings there in one year plus family/baby shoots on top of that. My clients tend to be in their mid twenties and love the fact that their wedding photos will be on facebook to share with their friends. This in turn spurns comments and bookings with the friends. What's not to love? I agree with the previous post further up saying use every opportunity you can. I see so many people worrying about legal aspects all the time and not having any fun with their photography anymore!! Relax, enjoy your work and facebook all you want. Keep up the wonderful posts Sean.

  21. Like many others around the world, I love Facebook and I personally have seen how powerful this networking site can be, especially for photographers. I'm a photographer myself and after I set up an account last year and started posting up some of pictures, the amount of people that were adding me solely because of my work, was amazing. I can now say that 98% of all my photography jobs come through Facebook. Where I live, a huge majority of fulltime photographers use Facebook to promote their business with one photographer friend of mine, getting coverage in the 4 local newspapers, articles on the internet and even an entrepreneur award of the year. He too uses Facebook to gain more business and is easily the number one photographer in the area which I live... I don't agree with Tammoura's comment that it's not very professional for a photographer to use Facebook and that she has a hard time believing in photographers who use it to promote their business. My question would be, why not use it? It's free and does no harm. I was of the same thinking when I first started out but quickly changed my mind when the jobs started rolling in. What better way to network and promote what you love to do...with the world as your audience...

    Thanks Sean for a great article.

    Cheers,

    Todd

  22. Hi Sean~

    As a part time photographer and full time advertising/marketing sales director, I can assure you - you are using a very powerful tool. In fact, stats now show social networking is outpacing email. Establishing a professional page (separate from your personal page) on Facebook will serve you well. I would also set up an account on Twitter using your name... It might take a little research - but you can develop a following and link to your own website and Facebook for maximum exposure.

    I could go on and on, give you stats and links...but I have work to do!

    Good luck! There are many very successful photographers sharing their work in the same way!

  23. Great idee...just to find the time to do this as well....

  24. I agree Facebook is an asset to a busy industry and a great tool for building your name.

  25. I agree with Sean. It doesn't take much effort to post status updates, and the returns are immense! Since integrating my Twitter with Facebook, i get roughly half of my website traffic through facebook and twitter.

    #1 people think of you more often, you enter their realm of awareness, which will translate into $$ down the line

    #2 people get to know your personality

    #3 it's an instant platform for getting feedback on photos, and generating ideas.

  26. Do you have a "business page" that you created off your profile? Is there documentation around about creating those? I found it confusing. If I remember you had to say what type of business you had and I don't remember photography being an option. What did you pick? I wasn't sure how usful that page was. I could never find it in a search. I might have set it up wrong though.

  27. I just googled "facebook for photography" and found this article. Thank you, Sean, and all the replies. Your ideas of working with your contacts is great. I saw one of your replies that someone thought facebook wasn't "professional". I'd like to say that I have a website with a connecting blog, and also use facebook. And my traffic on all three has been a close race! I started a facebook photography page recently because many clients wanted their images to be posted there after the session. My business is very new, but amazingly growing fast. And I do believe that the exposure on facebook with my "friends", and my husbands friends, my 3 kids still-at-home friends, and 2 kids married/out of the house and all their friends... adds to the exposure for sure! And I feel a little "safer" with facebook than I do flickr. To me, it's less personal than facebook. And since my business is geared more toward family lifestyle, newborns, senior portraits, etc., it just seems to fit in well with facebook. Thanks again for posting the excellent article!

  28. I am a landscape photographer who recently started showing my portfolio on Facebook.

    I have been mentoring a friend who is an aspiring photographer. He has been posting to Facebook for a while and has developed over 700 supporters in a very short time leading to work opportunities.

    I believe Facebook is the ultimate network for photographers to develop their own customer base.

    Besides, if Facebook decided to show my work to millions of users I would not be the least bit upset.

    The following article helps to clarify Facebook copyright issues.

    http://www.ppmag.com/web-exclusives/2009/03/ppa-sheds-light-on-facebook-li.html

  29. Facebook and Twitter are both great tools to extend your marketing message.

    For instance, if I post information to our After Dark Education website blog, I can feed the headline and a summation to our Facebook fan page http://tinyurl.com/ybbttpm where there are about 500 fans.

    I can add our twitter hash tag #afterdarkedu and send a quick note based on blog content to our followers http://tinyurl.com/y8vshjo and track retweets and whether the post was buzz worthy.

    While both can prompt photographers to sign up for our photography education events, both facebook and twitter seem move valuable for branding and awareness.

    Anybody using TweetDeck?

  30. Agree with you. Anything incremental is good!
    Here is My FB Page - 200 members in the first month. :)

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pradeep-Sanyal-Photography/169930726981

  31. Great Post and it is so true its a great platform to use. I have been using it and Am hoping to break the 300 fans barrier sometime soon too.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/P-H-O-T-O-N-O-M-Y-Timothy-West/239122635042

    Cheers For this

  32. I fired up a page just for my photos in August and tell everyone to look for Photos by Neal Savage on Facebook. I'm at 233 fans and growing. I post scenic shots of Tucson every 3-4 days at the least and, although I haven't figured out a way to monetize it, this fits nicely with my real-=estate and vacation-rental businesses. I'll improve my shooting when I upgrade my camera. In the meantime, when many people my age have retired, I'm busier than ever doing what I love.

  33. I happened on this blog by searching for something else, and I've found a lot of great articles here so far.

    I just started a Facebook Page for my photography business (http://www.facebook.com/BrociousPhotography) and I have been starting to work on it. Any new followers would be appreciated BTW!

    Just FYI, if you have more than 25 followers on your page, you can set a username at facebook.com/username. So for example, instead of facebook.com/smithphotography-0192826738 that Facebook initially assigns your page, you can pick facebook.com/smithphoto, etc. and have an easy URL to link to.

    And you can setup Posterous to post items to your facebook fan page, twitter, flickr, etc. all at once so you don't need to do multiple postings.

  34. Thanks for the tips, Sean. By the way, how much time do you spend on Facebook daily?

  35. I just started a Fan Page as well Shannon Hunt Photography Temple, TX and I love it. I just gotta figure out how to expand my fan base to potential clients more efficiently.

  36. I wanted to comment on the paranoia regarding Facebook. FB wants the right to do anything they want with your content because they don't want to have to individually seek out your permission if they do anything that could digitally be perceived as copying it, creating a derivitive work of it, publically displaying it, etc. Yes, it's pretty extensive what they are asking for, but trust me, I'm sure it's for their convenience and NOT because FB wants your stuff!

    Think about all the valuable stuff FB already has--your names, your interests, your email, your connections. If they started grabbing and using your photos for free without asking for permission it would hurt their business...and what is Facebook going to do with your pix...sell stock photos and clip art??

    Technically, yes, they get more rights to your stuff than you want to give or that they deserve, but think about it. Do you really think FB wants your wedding pix? Or your client pix of the Smith family's cute kids and their dog? C'mon.

    Unless you're creating viral stuff or taking illicit or celebrity/political/valuable pix of some sort, in my opinion you're HURTING your small business if you don't take advantage of this powerful tool because of some useless stand against "da man" and your fear of FB stealing your stuff.

    In my opinion, this outrage over FB's rights grab is just an academic argument---in real life it won't affect you.

    A much more realistic concern is your clients' privacy and their idea of the ownership of their own image, and the fact they may not understand what FB's terms are. I would BE SURE to get a "release" signed by your clients in case you wish to post their pix on FB. I bet if you google: photo release form Facebook, you'll find one someone's already written. This release should say something like they agree to allow you to post their pix on FB "under the then-current terms of Facebook, whatever they may be".

    You're far more likely to experience more legal trouble from your own clients than from FB.

  37. Hi, ummm im a really new photographer, planning on going into it in college, and i really need to expand my "career" and try to start making money within my community or somthing. And i feel facebook is great for that, but im afraid my photos are going to get stolen... :/ is this a ligitamate fear? should i delete all my albums and put a watermark on them? or what :/

  38. The photographer I worked with recently did two things: loaded them into Facebook in a "small" size--in other words, a size that looks good on the web but would look like crap larger/printed. Also she did put a watermark (which I'd highly recommend!!), that way your pictures are always "signed" with your trademark/name.

  39. Omg, are you serious? How many people have to say "small file resolution" and "watermark"? DUH! If you aren't doing these things on your website and blog then Facebook is the least of your worries. Caption it with a copyright line if you must. I also make my clients sign a copyright agreement, letting them know there's a $150,000 fine for using my images without my permission. It's a gentle reminder that this is my livelihood and a time to make it clear that while they do have a say in whether or not the image can be posted online, they don't have permission to use my work. That being said, I love when my clients make their "teasers" profile pictures. My watermarks are always close to faces so they can't be cropped out, and it's additional advertising. ALL FOR FREE! In addition I can send targeted updates and advertisements, and I get a real idea of what content is generating interest because of the "insights" statistics provided by Facebook.

  40. Since I posted a comment in November 2009 I have tripled my fan base and now am posting my shots on smugmug.com where I can protect them from copying, and THEN link them on FB. Simpler that way. I've also been blogging on typepad.com, which shows the viewer a nice, big picture but it has to be watermarked. Typepad blog photos also can be linked to FB, just like smugmug.

    Now at least some of the self-publish book companies provide a link to advertise your new book on FB.

  41. Any social network is good for self promotion and networking...Facebook is as good now as Myspace was...Twitter is still not that great for us

  42. We just started with Facebook. Can I buy a book about Facebook for Photographers?

  43. I am looking for successful photography business, but I could not find any popular photography business for my customers with watermark. Will you please find the successful business website for me? I am looking for good, watermark, protection from hackers, and popular website with full pages. Let me know which one is the best business website builder. How about free for first year of the business. Thanks.

  44. Great Article! I think social media is a major key but setting up a professional photography website that separates yourself from the competition and geting the site on the first page of Google is Key! :) thats what I did

  45. I'm doing research on social media marketing and this post came up. It's a little outdated by some of the points still make sense.

    Customizing content for your target audience makes them more effective. Now, you can create a Facebook "Fan Page" to showcase your work. You can also use Facebook to create awareness for your business. You can connect to people you don't even know.

    Of course you must have really good content (or in your case, images) that's worthy of sharing to a general audience before you can effectively use the power of Facebook to expand your business.

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