10 Top Professional Photographers Give Their Best Networking Tips
Are your photography networking skills up to par? We see a lot of posts and questions out there about networking for photographers, who often see themselves as artists, not business people; introverts, who like to be behind a camera and not in front of it; and/or (not always admittedly) having a general lack of business acumen. So, we took some time to ask a few of our colleagues about networking. Check out these photography networking tips from 10 top professional photographers.
“I always prefer listening over talking. I find that small talk gets old quickly and also doesn’t lead to deeper connections. If all I’m chatting about is the weather and complimenting a jewelry piece, I won’t appear interested or engaging. Rather, I enjoy asking questions about personal passion projects like, ‘What’s the most exciting project you’re working on now?’ Or I’ll try to gain an understanding of thought processes, ‘What made you decide to . . .’ From there, I tend to let my curiosity drive the questions, and, if relevant, I add some color and personal anecdotes to the conversation. Open-ended questions and a genuine interest in people help me get out of my comfort zone during networking events.”
“‘B.R.T. – Build a Relationship of Trust.’ Other vendors, clients, and really everyone around you are an opportunity to network. But before anyone is going to be willing to refer you to others, they must trust that you will treat their referral with care. This trust takes time to develop. From my experience, it is most strongly developed through real, vulnerable, and sincere conversations, as well as with affirmations of love and care.”
“We present ourselves as offering a wonderful experience and high-quality images to clients, so we carry that same philosophy when it comes to the vendors at weddings as well. We make an effort to introduce ourselves to all vendors at the wedding, chit chat, and hype up the wedding, making sure we have their correct contact info. If nothing else, we ask them to follow us on Instagram & Facebook to see the sneak peeks after the wedding. Once the wedding is finished, we tag them in the sneak peeks and email them the gallery so they can use the images for their own marketing. . . . We have built our business around referrals and networking. In fact, the majority of our clients have found us through other vendors hyping us up.”
“Network with vendors and venues that you love by giving them your images. And I don’t just mean drop them a digital gallery and hope they do the work. Rather, connect with them in person. Most of us have boxes of USBs around that we don’t use as much these days . . . Each year, near the holidays, I load up USBs with all the images I’ve shot with specific vendors, grab a few bottles of wine and drive around town to rub elbows and get face time with vendors. I stop in and say, ‘Hey, here are the photos from all the work we did together this year. I just wanted to make sure you’ve got them for your social media or your archives.’ . . . This puts you at the top of their mind when they are referring new clients out . . .”
“We’re big fans of ‘in person networking,’ as well as investing in our local community. In promoting our photography studio, we have found that being face to face with potential clients is way more effective than social media marketing. We often attend local festivals as a vendor; go to as many Chamber of Commerce events as possible; and love to work with local charities and businesses (participating in charity auctions, forming alliances, etc.). Because our photography tends to be a very personal experience for our clients, meeting them in person is always our preference. And here’s a very practical tip: when attending local networking events, follow the ‘rule of two,’ i.e. leave each event with two quality contacts and follow up with them that week.”
“I always talk about how you are what you give and what surrounds you. The more you interact, collaborate, and share, the more your results will be positive. Each person learns and grows by understanding different points of view. It’s as simple as this: learn to hear, accept, and get involved. Now, simply apply that to all the aspects of your work, life, family, etc. It’s not always easy to do, but it works. Of course, this is what I try to project and communicate to my clients, partners, colleagues, friends, and my family.”
“I’m a classic introvert so the thought of networking in a large crowd of people made me literally sick to my stomach. I thought I had to try to sell myself at these events, and I hated it. It wasn’t until I learned a few things about networking that I actually became a master at building relationships. Now, a huge percentage of my business comes from my network. Be curious about people. Entering a networking opportunity with the goal of making at least one new genuine connection and learning something new about a person, instead of trying to ‘sell’ myself, changed everything. . . . Be patient. I’ve often gotten business months or years after I met someone and stayed connected with them though social media or continuing to be involved in the community. Nurturing those relationships over time pays off.”
“We preach the ‘Givers Gain’ mentality to photographers we coach in marketing and business. This comes from BNI (Business Networking International), and it has transformed the way we do business. Giving to others before asking for favors is just a great way to live life. It feels right to give and establish trust with clients and vendors, before asking them to book or refer you to others. . . .
Vendors are a HUGE referral basis for our business, but in order for them to reward us with their referrals they need to want to work with us and see us as part of their team. We do this by providing them with images, looking for ways we can help make their company stand apart on the day of, and really trying to unite the vendors as a team. Highlighting and promoting them on our blog and social media before we are even on their list, allows them to see that we are willing to go out of our way to find them work before we ask the same in return.”
(Photo Credit: Ken Pak of Ken Pak Photography)
“One of the best pieces of advice I received was to be an active listener. Ask questions about others’ goals, aspirations, and if they are experiencing any pain points in their business. Offer advice if you find them receptive to it. If you exchange cards, write a few notes on their card about what you learned. This will help you connect later on in a follow up email or phone call, which you should do within a week. Continue to check in. See how they are doing, and build a solid and respectful relationship before asking for a referral.”
“We have three types of photographers in my opinion: 1. Business people who can do photography; 2. Photographers who suck at business; and 3. Photographers who know business and how to shoot like a pro! I was a sales expert before I turned my brain to photography, and my best learning curve was to meet people who knew the stuff that I did not know yet . . .
Also, what’s very important is that we realize that we are influenced all the time. And, most of the time, people do not know what they’re talking about. So, DO YOUR OWN THING and learn how to connect with people who know the stuff you need to know. Have a drink with others, get on a video chat, or get together at a retreat. And if you have any doubts? Look at yourself in the mirror and take that first step to ask around! There’s a bunch of people who’d like to help you!”
Want to learn more? Did you know that SLR Lounge has a thriving Facebook group for those interested in the business of photography? Check it out here: “Master the Business of Photography with SLR Lounge.” And let us know in the comments some of your favorite networking tips!