There comes a time in every photographer’s career when you’re at that crossroad – you have lens envy and want to upgrade your equipment, however, you also need to book more in order to pay for the equipment you want, which means investing in marketing. Which should take more precedence – investing in equipment or marketing?
The first place to start is to reflect on what equipment you are currently shooting with. When I was a hobbyist photographer I shot with a Canon Rebel. After I added better lenses to my collection and became more confident in my shooting abilities, I turned to wanting to shoot weddings. I looked at the capabilities of my 1600 ISO maximum capacity Rebel and the newest full-frame model, the Canon 5D Mark II at the time, and knew that in order charge a fair amount for photographing a wedding, I especially needed to be fair to my clients and have proper equipment.
A few recommendations:
- Don’t go into debt purchasing equipment, as this can easily snowball out of control. This is especially true if you already find yourself not booking as much as you’d like. Instead, rent the equipment for your sessions until you can afford to fully purchase the equipment. This is also good to test drive it to make sure you really do like it and see how often you will use it during a session or wedding.
- Take a look at your website and blog objectively to see if it’s reflective of your brand. By looking at your current clientele and your current work, you can tell if you have been booking the clients you want. Read Google Analytics or other web statistics to see if your visitors they staying on your website or blog.
- Ask yourself, will this equipment vastly improve the quality of your work? You might be booking clients, but you might feel “stuck” and want to increase the value of your work. Will this improvement in equipment take you to that level?
For example, I shot with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 for a significant amount of time before investing in the Canon 50mm f/1.2. Of course a lens doesn’t strengthen or define a photographer’s style, and rarely changes the way one shoots, so I decided to hold off on the upgrade until I was ready. Eventually, with this particular upgrade, I knew that the improvement in the quality of glass, the durability of the lens, and the extra light that it would allow was worth the investment.
However, for that time being, I felt a custom blogsite paired with a promo video would keep visitors browsing. It would also strengthen my brand and allow potential clients to get to know me through my promo video. Therefore the marketing became my utmost priority and once it was complete, I saw an increase in visitors and bookings that allowed me to raise my prices. So for myself, the return on my investment of marketing was undoubtedly worth the investment of hiring marketing and video professionals. The increased revenue allowed me to upgrade my lenses and other gear without going into debt.
If you believe your work is in a good place, but you aren’t seeing a significant profit, consider a new web/blog template or enlisting professional help with rebranding. An artist with great skill and great marketing, but with subpar gear will have no problem getting clients. On the other hand, poor marketing alone can be the death of any photographer’s business, even one producing great work. To go even further, imagine the work the first artist mentioned would produce after he upgraded equipment and imagine how much easier that upgrade in equipment would with a steady client base.
Keep in mind that beautiful work, and a pretty blog doesn’t necessarily equal an increase in bookings. You’re going to need an all-encompassing marketing strategy, with regular use of social media, good local SEO, and more can get you in front of potential clients. If you feel that your tools of creation are significantly inhibiting the quality of your work, then upgrade accordingly, but proceed with caution and grow your equipment as you grow your business.