If you’re spending all your time attempting to build your photography business by “cracking the algorithm code” and not building relationships, this article was written specifically for you, my friend.

Recently, I had a conversation with a headshot photographer who was frustrated because of a recent slow period in his business where he hadn’t booked a single client in over 2 months.

Listen, if you’re a professional photographer – or any business owner, for that matter – slow periods are a part of the cost of admission.

There’s no shame in this.

When I asked him what he’s doing about it, he ran off a laundry list of tasks related to search engine optimization for his website: adding in keywords, updating his page descriptions, changing the headers, adding more words to each page, yada yada yada.

Now, this is certainly an important piece of the puzzle – at Screw The Metadata, we educate our community of photographers on a variety of SEO practices that help to get you ranked on Google.

I was happy to hear that he just wasn’t sitting at home staring at his phone, hoping and wishing it to ring with a client on the other line at any second.

He’s being actionable.

That’s the good news.

The bad news?

When I asked how he’s developing connection and rapport with his audience, he looked at me with these glazed-over eyes like I was speaking in tongues.

You see, he was under the impression that all he needed to do was to simply play the SEO game in order to build and grow his business.

[Related Reading: SEO Basics For Photographers | Your Guide to Getting Started in 2019]

And that’s when I served him a huge piece of reality pie.

While SEO tactics and riding the algorithm waves play a prominent role in helping you gain visibility for your services on Google and the social platforms, the primary way to build a memorable, referable – and sustainable – photography business is through building relationships with those you serve.

It’s not one or the other – it’s both.
When you’re building relationships with your audience, that starts a chain reaction which eventually leads to building a community of those who want nothing more than to pay to be in front of your camera every time their marketing needs call for it.

So, how do we make this building relationships thing happen?


NYC Branded Lifestyle Portrait Social Pivot PR Donna Cravotta creating a tweet

Create content that matters to your audience

Know how you like to avoid creating content because it’s hard to figure out, time consuming, not worth it…or one of the other 20 million excuses photographers run with to avoid sitting down to write?

Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize a gigantic garbage can.

Now, I want you to take those excuses that you’ve been telling yourself for years and toss them into that garbage can and forget about them forever.

These self-limiting thoughts are killing your opportunities for growth.

When you consistently create valuable content that matters to those you serve, you’re building relationships with a community of clients, advocates and referral partners.

The key word here is consistently.

Consistency leads to trust and trust leads to people paying for your specialized services when they need your help.

So, what does content that matters look like?

  • Informational – Posts/articles that solve specific pain points that your audience feels related to your given space of photography expertise
  • Inspirational – Posts/articles that light a fire under their butts and gets them moving forward and into action
  • Relatable – Posts/articles that helps them get a better sense of who you are and gives them an entry point to enter into your world

Educate and motivate your audience through the content you create so that you get them to both think and feel. This heart/head combination is very powerful and goes a long way to building relationships with those you serve.

And, you’ll also make some new friends in the process, :)

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Engage and share your audiences content

It’s not enough to simply brain dump content onto your social profiles and blog and call it a day.

After all, building relationships is not a one-way street – it requires effort on both sides of the equation.

So, what are we talkin’ about here?

We’re talking about reciprocating the engagement that you receive on your content with those who follow you.

And no, engagement doesn’t begin and end with the like button.

Anyone can like a post and move on without ever reading it and never thinking twice about it.

Not really the goal here.

When building relationships online with those you serve, let them to know  you truly appreciate the effort they put into the content they created.

You do that in two ways:

Option 1: take an extra couple minutes to actually read the content – or at least scan it from top to bottom to get the gist, :)

Then, leave a comment that illustrates that you not only read the post but why you appreciate it in one way or another.

Commenting is more personalized, takes more effort to create and shows that you cared enough to stop and share a thought or simply appreciate  the content you just read.

Option 2: share this post throughout your entire online presence, including your social platforms and blog.

What better compliment can you offer than to share it everywhere so others can read it?

Despite the impulsive and fickle nature of social media, It’s still flattering and humbling to see others sharing your work with their audiences.

Not only is this a great way to build rapport and connection with those in your audience, but sharing content created by people you admire and respect is also a great way to introduce yourself to them without storming their DM’s unannounced.

But remember one extremely important detail – properly tag each post so that the author knows that you shared their content!

NYC Branded Lifestyle Portrait NSA chapter meeting

Find out where your ideal clients hang IRL and go there!

This is a scary proposition because it forces you to have to put on pants and actually leave the house to have actual conversations with people!

I know, I know…

…this is a huge ask for many people, but, it’s also the most effective way to building relationships.


It’s a lot easier to convey the passion you have to solve their pain points when you leverage body language and facial expressions along with your words of expertise and experience.

It’s easier to show potential clients how much you care when it’s a real, in-person conversation.

So, where do you go?

Look up all of the different conferences, meetup groups, expos and networking events that your ideal clients attend and go there with the intention of making new friends.

A good place to get the low-down on all of these upcoming events are on the social pages of your ideal clients. If you come up empty, check out websites like Eventbrite that list a variety of events and conferences in your area.

Once you identify an event or two that looks promising, check it out on social to see who’s on the attendee list.

If you recognize a name, let him/her know you’re going so you can initially engage the room with a partner. This makes for an easier time breaking the ice with new people.

Also, see what people have said about these events in the past.

You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you go to an event where the same 4 people show up to every meeting.

Qualify the event before you commit!

Find a handful of legitimate events to attend per month, and that will balance and enhance your content creation efforts.

Having in-person conversations is a powerful and essential layer to building relationships with those you serve…

…it’s also algorithm-proof, for the record, :)

[Related Reading: Let’s Double The SEO Traffic to Your Photography Website in 12 Weeks]

We live in an amazing time to build a photography business thanks to Google.

That search engine allows us to promote ourselves for free – ads notwithstanding.

It offers our businesses a chance to be discovered by people who otherwise would’ve never known about us.

But, building relationships both online and in-person with those who need your work is still the most effective way to build a referable business.

It’s a pretty magical approach to building and growing a community, if you ask me, :)