In this day and age, social media has transformed the way newly engaged couples are finding their wedding vendors. With Instagram basically becoming a mutated version of Yelp and Pinterest, Facebook algorithms changing left and right, and website views reaching a new low, clients must search through a winding maze to find their perfect wedding photographer.

We asked 20 of our award-winning photographers where their #1 source of client leads stems from and received a variety of sources, some more surprising than others. Now, strategies for client lead-generation vary depending on location, years of experience, and so many other factors. These 5 ways to get more wedding photography clients are designed to help you tweak and perfect your marketing strategies to get the clients you want.

Word of Mouth Referrals

Although forms of communication have evolved over time, there is nothing people trust more than a recommendation from a good friend. If you are wondering how to get more wedding clients, credibility is key no matter what choice of lead generation you look at.

Dave Shay – Website | Instagram

“My biggest lead source is past clients. I found I could launch an affiliate program and create a tiered reward program for clients and a lot of them were super motivated to give referrals a lot easier. I keep track of the referrals in my studio management software (Tave) and any time someone jumps up a tier, it’s easy for me to send them a gift or an email to keep them excited about it. Appreciating my clients has been the best marketing money I’ve spent.”

Jared Gant – Website | Instagram

“My number one source for wedding leads is word of mouth. At every single wedding, there are couples who are likely to be currently engaged or soon to be engaged. Interact with the wedding guests in such a way that they want to work with you. Be the person they think of when they are considering a photographer. They will likely ask your clients about their experience, and as long as your clients’ experience was great, they’re very likely to book with you. These types of leads also have the highest conversion rate, and, more often than not, are the easiest to work with since they already have a good idea of what to expect and have already gotten to know you.”

Sean & Melanie Flanigan – Website | Sean’s Instagram | Melanie’s Instagram

“We get more than 80% of our bookings from referrals from past clients. And here is the best part about this, most of the time when someone comes to us based on a past client referral, they are ready to just book. So our advice, surprise your clients with photos they never expected, make them so happy that they want to share their experience with their friends.”

Matt Gruber – Website | Instagram

“I have shot over 300 weddings over the past 10 years, and 90% of them have been directly from word-of-mouth referrals. Capturing beautiful photos is wonderful, but if you’re not pleasant to deal with, you won’t likely have your clients recommending you to their friends and family. I have found tremendous success and fulfillment by focusing on what my clients really want. Whether it is specific locations, images, or just how they want to be photographed, I try my best to capture their wedding better than they envisioned by focusing on their needs. By doing this they are far more likely to go out of their way to recommend my business to anyone they know that gets engaged.”

Shannon Cain – Website | Instagram

“Word of mouth is without a doubt the biggest source for my client leads! I am a strong believer in the power of client experience. We can post beautiful images all over social media, but what truly wow’s is how we treat our clients. Your clients will be your biggest advocates when you genuinely interact with them in combination with telling their stories in epic ways. Also, assist your clients on how and where they can share their reviews of you. This makes it super easy for them to brag on you for others to see!”

Yves Schepers – Website | Instagram

“My number one source of client leads has to be word of mouth referrals. Whether it’s through photographer friends who know how I work, former clients who experienced how I worked or guests at weddings who have seen me work – these people are my main ambassadors. Therefore I also give my best every time I capture a wedding because anyone at that wedding can get you work in the future.”

Chad & Beth Winstead – Website | Instagram

“I built my local wedding photography business off of word of mouth. Over 71% of my bookings come from fellow wedding vendors, venues, friends, or past clients raving about us. On average, I book 20% of these leads that come in this way. The remaining percentage of bookings come from Facebook, Google, or Wedding/Bridal shows.”

Jeff Tisman –  Website | Instagram

“Honestly after being in business for 26 years my #1 source of leads is and always has been word of mouth. I know it seems so simple but exceeding client expectations and truly listening to them and hearing their story means everything. It’s not about being the best. Or most awards. Or social media presence. Or SEO. Yes, of course they are all important. Take care of your customers. No amount of advertising or social media can compete with word of mouth.”

[REWIND: Never Struggle with SEO Again]

Advertising on Social Media

The E-commerce space created the necessity for online ads and over time Facebook developed a robust Ad program to help small businesses capture their local audiences. Many have turned to Facebook Ads when figuring out how to book more wedding photography clients because of their ease of use and targetability.

Ett Venter – Website | Instagram

“Without question, my biggest source of leads is Facebook ads. Nothing I’ve ever done has brought me even half the leads I get from Facebook ads. Seriously, if you’re not pouring your energy into FB ads, you’re leaving really, really easy money on the table. The ads I run are incredibly focused, geographically. I know where my ideal clients are likely to live, so my ads are only served in those areas. Along with that, I use the copy in the ad as a means to do further targeting. For example – I generally prefer to photograph couples who are a little more outgoing, as I’m a full-blown extrovert myself. So my ad copy will say something like “If you’re a fun, outgoing couple, not afraid to kiss in public, hit me up!”. In doing this, people who identify with that copy are more likely to click the ad, and conversely, people who don’t identify with that copy will avoid clicking the ad. Good marketing is polarizing, and that’s what that copy does. That kind of ad copy is also a means to filter out people who I’d have a harder time working with.”

Lubomir Jiponov – Website | Instagram

“Facebook has helped me receive more leads and bookings for weddings in the last year due to proper targeting (for my region) only by these three criteria: country, age 23-39 and both male/female.”

Linda Puccio – Website | Instagram

“When I started my business as a photographer, exactly like all beginners, I was just an unknown name. My first step to making myself known to customers was through word of mouth. I focused a lot on every photo shoot I did and everything had to be perfect because I knew that a satisfied customer would talk a lot about their positive experience. Soon after, my next step was Facebook. I started by defining my actions to set goals to achieve on social media. Defining these goals also allowed me to react quickly when social media campaigns were not meeting expectations. Tagging people in my pictures, posting photos of interesting places, has allowed me to greatly expand my social network and introduce myself to many people. Today, after 6 years of business, most of the inquiries come directly from my website. Even if I use Instagram and IG Stories to reach new customers and keep their interest high, Facebook remains the most powerful advertising tool for my business.”

Wedding Directory Sites

Over the past couple of years, there has been much chatter surrounding whether or not sites like The Knot and WeddingWire actually benefit photographers or not. When it comes on figuring out how to find wedding photography clients, sometimes it helps to step into the mind of the consumer and establish yourself on these directory sites that put you on par with other wedding vendors they may be searching for within your area.

Scott Josuweit – Website | Instagram

“I’ve actually had a lot of success with The Knot. I know a lot of other photographers aren’t a fan of The Knot or Wedding Wire but it has worked well for me. I think that you need to approach leads from these websites in a very specific way in order to have success in converting those couples into clients. Reviews are also a critical part of achieving success on these platforms so I am always trying to get new reviews from my couples.”

Marlies Hartmann – Website | Instagram

“When I was starting out, I invested heavily in marketing through The Knot, and was fortunate to book about 75% of my clients via their platform. Since I didn’t have any referral base, this option worked really well for me and kept me busy building a solid portfolio and skill set. As my pricing and experience increased, the majority of my leads + bookings now come from either word of mouth referrals from past clients or via wedding planners. This has definitely advantageous since word of mouth clients typically approach you with a certain level of trust and have likely heard positive feedback about your work!”

JD Land – Website | Instagram

“I know that a lot of photographers despise The Knot & Wedding Wire. For me, I’ve been using The Knot since I moved back to the Philadelphia, Pa area in 2014 and it has done nothing but generate leads and bookings, 22 weddings booked last year via The Knot. There seems to be a misconception out there that if you’re pricing crosses a certain threshold, say $4,000 for my area of the country, a site like The Knot is no longer viable because it doesn’t provide the types of quality leads who book higher end wedding photographers. I hate to break it to everyone but that’s just not true. A bride doesn’t know that she is a higher end bride and she shouldn’t be using The Knot. Instead, she googles Philadelphia Wedding Photographers and the first website to come up will be The Knot. I do pay up for the best positioning and I do get a ton of price shopping leads, but I also get a lot of quality leads. The best part is, getting so many leads has provided me with something I can’t put a price on, the ability to say “no” to brides who are a bad fit for me. In the end, the best marketing strategy is whatever puts your work in front of as many couples as possible! For me, that has been The Knot.”

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

One of the simplest marketing tools a photographer can implement when considering how to get more wedding clients is SEO. Working on SEO for your website is like working out at the gym – you likely know what to do and how to do it already, but the hard part is staying consistent and motivated over time.

Jesse La Plante – Website | Instagram

Our number one source of client leads can most accurately be described as the “Google Image Search Rabbit Hole.” Most of our clients come to us because they’re looking for something a little different. They’ve already gone through their venue’s preferred vendor list and recommendations from their planner, and they haven’t quite found a photographer whose work they’re in love with. Their next step is to Google image search their venue or city plus the word “wedding” (e.g. Aspen Wedding) to quickly browse a variety of images and see what jumps out at them. Our work tends to be a bit different from other photographers in the area (for better or worse), so they find us pretty easily this way. Or, they’ll do the same thing on Instagram, just with hashtags instead of keywords (#aspenwedding).

Citlalli Rico – Website | Instagram

“Our #1 source of client leads is Google! I try to keep my site updated and with good SEO practices to make sure people can find me. But I would say our #1 source of clients that book us are former clients and other photographers that recommend us. With so many good portfolios out there, it is hard to know as a consumer who to choose. I think word-of-mouth is more valuable than ever. That is why customer service needs to be as good as your images and vice versa.”

Aaron Storry – Website | Instagram

“My primary source of leads is from search engines (specifically Google). As my business has grown so too has the depth and breadth of my content, and with carefully optimized pages and well written unique content (and award-winning photography), I have been able to secure a number of top positions for my chosen set of keywords. It also helps that I have a background in web development which is very helpful when putting this into practice and staying ahead with the latest SEO techniques. Although I don’t specifically target venues, I make sure that when I’m publishing articles I include particular words and phrases (eg type of wedding) that I feel potential leads might have an interest in. And once a lead lands on my site I do my very best to keep them engaged with my content.”

Other Ways To Book Wedding Photography Clients

The question “how to get more wedding photography clients” doesn’t have just one simple answer. For example. becoming a preferred vendor at a venue is also a great option for those looking to connect to their community. Going to bridal exhibitions and shows is also a common networking activity that puts a face to your brand in the mind of the consumer.

Ben Hartley – Website | Instagram

“Bridal shows. Sounds crazy, right? But the results I’ve been getting have been nothing short of INSANE. Bridal shows are hands down the BIGGEST driver of growth for my studio.

…more than FB ads…

…more than AdWords…

…and WAYYYY more than Wedding Wire.

They have literally been a game changer. But it didn’t always use to be this way. Back when my wife and I were first getting started and only charging $700 per wedding, bridal shows worked GREAT! Then we attended another show after we raised our prices to ~$3500 and completely BOMBED 💣. ZERO BOOKINGS. After that, I completely swore off bridal shows and declared them only useful to beginning photographers. Fast forward to January of 2017, I got invited to be a vendor at a bridal show free of charge. It had been 3 years since I attended a show, but I put my reservations aside and decided to go…but if I was going to give this another try, I had to try something completely new. So, I decided to rethink my entire approach. The result? We walked away from that one show with over $70,000 in new bookings 😮. Mind = Blown.”

Nicole Chan – Website | Instagram

“My #1 source of leads are wedding venue coordinators at several venues that I photograph at often. Couples tend to book their date and venue first, and in conversation with the wedding venue coordinators, my name pops up. I was born and raised in Boston, and I’ve gotten close with some folks that work in the hospitality and the event industry. Being nice, courteous, and respectful of space and venue staff have always treated me very well with a great source of Boston wedding photography leads!”

Paco Van Leeuwen – Website | Instagram

Here in The Netherlands, we have an organization called: Open Wedding Location Route. Four times a year, the top wedding locations in The Netherlands open their doors to the public. This, so that a lot of wedding couples can visit multiple locations in one day to find their dream wedding location. After shooting a wedding in a gorgeous castle, the wedding location asked me to be a preferred vendor during these events. This is a great collaboration for both of us, as I can meet new couples that are searching for a higher end venue. The photographer usually follows soon after picking a venue. The venue benefits from it, because those couples can get an impression of an actual wedding day at their location through the pictures I show them via a slideshow. This has helped me book more clients as you can meet potential clients in person. The couple can quickly know/feel if you could be a good fit for them and plan a proper sit down for a first meeting. Once you have them in your studio, there is a big chance they’ll book you!