How do I get my first photography client? – Your First Customer Series, Part 4

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on November 9, 2009

in This is Business

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(Click here to visit the summary post for the Your First Customer Series!)

Ahh, welcome to marketing.

We’ve talked about the benefits of part time photography, how to price your work, what images are solid options for making you money, and now we’ll come to the threshold: Your First Customer.

Let’s be clear from the start: marketing is about getting your name and product in front of people who need, or know someone who needs, what you have to offer at the price you ask in trade. Or, as John Jantsch puts it, you want to get folks with a need, to know, like and trust you.

Odds are, your very first customers will be family and friends, and that’s perfectly fine – that’s how you build your portfolio and get the ball rolling. They’ll give you a nice set of images, invaluable experience, feedback, and kind testimonials to get you started.

No doubt, other than for fun and practice, you should offer friends and family the same pricing system as everyone else. If you’re using my suggested prices and policies, it’s a no-risk investment for them and the prices are such that anyone can afford them safely.

Getting your first customer

While the word “marketing” draws a blank stare from many photographers, there are a number of ways to get your name and product (your art and abilities) out in front of a buying market. And thanks to the Digital Age (the same Digital Age many grognards say has upended their industry), we’re going to get your work out there at little to no cost.

I have a laundry list of free and very low-cost ways to market your business (read my brief list at the end of this article), all ripe for their own articles, but let’s get you started with the cheapest, easiest way to land your first customer.

Social Media Marketing

Social media, MySpace specifically, by far sends me the most business of any marketing I do. It’s also absolutely free and easy as writing e-mail, if you’re even somewhat of a people person.

Running a good photography business is about building relationships – photos are just the common subject over which to bond.

Social media gives you so many opportunities to find potential clients, introduce yourself and your art, establish a rapport and grow a profitable long-term relationship. You can read what people are talking about, get a feel for their lifestyle and family, easily see who is getting engaged or having a baby, and the “social” part of social media gives you the situational go-ahead to interact with people about their lives.

For most people, it’s hard to walk up to a pregnant woman at the grocery store and say…

“Congratulations! When are you due? Have you picked out a name? I am a photographer and would love to do maternity photos with you. Here’s my portfolio – do you like it? Would you like to get together for a photo shoot?”

And God help you if the woman only looks pregnant!

It’s a lot easier to be surfing MySpace and happen upon someone in your zip code with a profile photo showing their pregnant belly. Then you can read their profile, get some details, and send over an introductory message:

“Hey there Jane, I saw your profile photo and wanted to congratulate you on your baby! My son was born two years ago and has been nothing but fun since day one. I run a photography business here in town and I’m working on my maternity portfolio right now; you can see some of my work on my profile. I would love to set up a shoot with you if you would be interested!”

Season to taste (and to match your personality), of course.

One in a hundred people will give you that “uuuuhm okaaaay” look or response, whether you make the offer in person or online. Most photographers don’t approach potential clients directly for fear of rejection. If you’re pleasant and are able to just chat casually with them, trust me when I say that most people will be thrilled.

And that’s assuming you go for the direct approach. You’ll have as much if not more success if you just go about casually chatting with people and adding them to your friends list. When you send someone a message or leave a comment on their page (regardless of the topic), the first thing they will do is visit your profile – where they will see you are a photographer and see the quality of your work. Mission accomplished.

(Brief aside: Never be ashamed of the quality of your work. Photographers are notoriously hard on themselves and rabid perfectionists – you have to start from somewhere! If you’re reading this, I’d bet good money you are notably better at photography than your client base. And if you’re following along with my suggested pricing and policies, potential clients will always know exactly what they’re getting, and they’ll know they are getting a good value. Better art will come with time and practice – and with it, bigger sales and more profits for you.)

In the course of discussion, you’ll always either be asked about or have the opportunity to talk about your photography. Never be afraid to offer people photo shoots. Most people are flattered by the offer, and even if they aren’t in the market at that time, you’ve established top-of-mind awareness: when they think local photographer, for themselves or others, they’ll think of you, and know where to find you.

Setting up and using your MySpace profile

(These concepts apply the same to Facebook, I just don’t have a profile on there – yet!)

When you set up your MySpace profile, try using a display name of something like John @ John Doe Photography. I use James @ Outlaw Photography, for example. Enter your real name and allow it to be shown, so you look more like a real person than a possible spammer.

Fill out as much personal information as you like. Be sure that your photography and business are mentioned, but not hyped.

“I love photographing people and am blessed to do it professionally. You can view my work in my photo album or at Drop me a message or e-mail me at if you would like to set up a photo shoot.”

…is far less abrasive than:

“FREE PHOTO SHOOTS!!!! MSG ME!!! i specialize in maternity landscape newborn automotive commercial industrial pets antiques seniors children families and weddings in the Texas Hill Country Bandera Fredericksburg Boerne Kerrville Hondo San Antonio area… CHECK ME OUT AT”

(No, no…really.)

Next up, post some of your best photos to your profile’s photo album. If you don’t have a feel for how many, go for 10-20 to start. I have hundreds on mine, usually four images per photo shoot, sorted by year into albums.

Visit the Browse Users page under the Friends menu. Search for folks local to your zip code. If you’re in a city, tighten the search – if you’re in a rural area like me (Bandera, TX, pop: 957), widen it out to include surrounding towns.

As one marketer so perfectly put it: Own Your Zip Code. Start by visiting the profiles of people within five miles of your zip code. Check out their profiles, see what they’re talking about, look at their photos, and send them a message to say hello. Be as basic as you want:

“Hey there! I’m new to MySpace and I’m adding people from around Bandera to my profile. I saw you love U2 – did you go to their concert last year? I was there and it was truly awesome. I have some photos from the show in my photo album.”

One by one, you’ll gain access to and build rapport with people from your community. As they visit your profile, see your photos and see that you are a professional photographer, you’ll begin getting inquiries about your prices and booking. As you book these people and shoot with them, you’ll start seeing your photos appear on their profiles – which then appears on all of their friends’ profiles – and the cycle begins.

This is just a small sampling of what you can do with MySpace and social media to reach out and collect your first customers – and to build an ever-larger set of customers over time whose own profiles will serve as the best referral you can’t buy.

10 (other) ways to market your photography

Not feeling the Social Media vibe? Some folks are just that way and you know what? That’s perfectly fine – being a part time professional photographer should be fun and rewarding, and you should never have to do any kind of marketing you aren’t comfortable with.

Here are 10 other ways, in brief, you can land your first customer (all of which I have done and can vouch for as working quite well):

  • Classifieds – Craigslist or your local newspaper. Advertise online for free or in small local papers for a few dollars a week. It’s the least expensive newspaper advertising you can buy, and some of the best read. I have gotten many, many lucrative clients (especially for baby photos) through this venue.
  • Offer to pick up competitors’ excess work – This one might seem a long-shot, but every photographer at some time is unable to meet someone’s needs because of time or price. They are happy to refer work to a fellow photographer who can take on that client – it makes them look good, and it nets you business.
  • Free press – Talk with your local newspaper and get in a press release about your new business, get their business writer to do a feature on you, hold a grand opening event (like a half-day photo shoot at the park) to be featured in the paper’s event calendar, submit photos of local sports and events in exchange for bylines (including your name and web site). Try advertising in their classified section for a month first – often this will grease the wheels when you ask for some PR. Local radio and TV stations are also worth contacting for possible PR.
  • Co-op marketing – This is one that the big-boy boutique studios use. Find a business with the same customer base as you and do a contest, drawing, or event together. As an example, if you’re a baby photographer, visit your local children’s resale store and offer them three photo shoots with files on CD to give away to their best customers. You’ll do the shoots using wardrobe provided by the store, then give the store framed 20×30 prints to hang on their walls – alongside your business cards, of course.
  • Bulletin boards – Be sure your business card is tacked onto every bulletin board in your community. Ever see those “For Sale” sheets of paper with the phone numbers at the bottom, cut individually so people can tear a number right off? Make up your own for your photography services! Many businesses, including your local Visitor’s Bureau, are also happy to display your brochures and business cards.
  • Volunteer – Non-profits can always use more volunteers, and as a photographer, you have a unique gift to give. Work with local charities to photograph their events, membership, and marketing images. You will help a good cause and build an immediate fan base among members.
  • Shoot local sports and events – From Little League to Friday Night varsity football, pet parades to Fourth of July fireworks, communities love to see photos of their friends, neighbors, children, and themselves. Work with organizers to be able to display images from these events on your web site, and to promote your web site at the event. Offer to sell prints from the photos as a fundraiser for the event or organization (such as sports photos for the Athletic Booster Club) as a way to grease the wheels and gain access and permission. Your web site traffic will go up by leaps and bounds.
  • Networking – Being present and involved in the community is one of the best ways to build loyalty and recognition. Attend Chamber of Commerce mixers and business association meetings, high school Project Graduation meetings, Little League board meetings, Kiwanis Club car washes, Education Foundation gatherings, any kind of event where people will get together, share ideas, and work for a common cause. Participate as a member of the community and offer your own ideas. Bring your camera.
  • Models – Beginning photographers get along just fine with beginning models. Use sites like OneModelPlace to set up a photography profile and meet models in your area. Do TFCD (Trade For CD) shoots with them to build your portfolio. They may not be paying customers (at first!), but they can help you practice and grow your art while building your portfolio. And as always, the better your portfolio, the more people will take notice.
  • The Modern Marketing Triumvirate: Your business cards, web site, and e-mail newsletter – These are three of the least expensive weapons in your marketing arsenal, and three of the most effective. Your business cards lead folks to your web site (the best brochure ever), your web site leads people to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter, and your e-mail newsletter gives you a free list of people who are actively interested in your services, along with the permission to market to them.

I’ll expound on each of these marketing opportunities in future articles. They are all wildly powerful, free or inexpensive, and can serve to keep you booked solid.

Own Your Zip Code

So you’ve got your name out there and people are beginning to buzz about your work! What do you do when that first potential client calls and asks about prices and booking? What do you need for your shoot? For your proof viewing session? What about model releases, referrals, testimonials? Come back tomorrow to find out.

Again – Own Your Zip Code. Whether you start with MySpace or visiting with people in your own neighborhood, your end goal is to ensure that anyone who needs photography services – on your block, on your street, in your subdivision, in your town – knows who you are and what you can do for them.

Remember: Be social, don’t fear being direct in asking for people’s business, and let your art and your profile do your selling for you.

Next Steps

  • Head over to MySpace or Facebook and set up your profile as a professional photographer. Use the steps outlined above to maximize your profile’s selling power, then start visiting with the locals. You will make so many great contacts and friends this way, and the more you participate, the more your business will grow.
  • Play around with some of the other marketing ideas mentioned above. Pick any one as a supplement to your social media marketing and try it out. As with all marketing, ask every person who contacts you, “How did you hear about us?” Make note of which marketing efforts are getting you the most attention. Then, track who books with you, and make note of which marketing efforts are getting you the most bookings. Then, track who buys from you, and make note of which marketing efforts are getting you the most profitable clients.
  • For more great marketing ideas, I can wholeheartedly recommend anything (books or blogs) by Seth Godin, John Jantsch, or Michael Port. For a good Marketing 101 education, start with Michael Port’s “Book Yourself Solid,” follow up with Jantsch’s “Duct Tape Marketing,” then graduate to Godin’s numerous excellent books. His book, “The Dip,” will show you how the challenges you face now as a newly-minted part time professional photographer are necessary and welcome along the road to success. Don’t fear The Dip – embrace it.
  • Brainstorm session: What opportunities do you see in your neighborhood or your town to show your target market (parents of newborns, high school seniors, brides to be, all of the above) who you are and what you can do for them? What’s stopping you? File this in your Brainstorms folder.
  • This article is just the first of many on marketing to be featured here at If you like what you’ve learned here, please don’t hesitate to click the “Subscribe” link at the top of any page of this site.
  • What’s the best marketing advice you’ve ever been given? What marketing effort has produced your best clients? Leave a comment below, e-mail me, or call or text me at 830-688-1564.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma Powell December 11, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I do love Facebook, but MySpace and Twitter are much more difficult for me to figure out the interface, so I’m struggling there.

However, what I do have are loads of email addresses! I’m itching to hear your technique on newsletters: what software, database, and email system that allows sending to more than 50 people, etc. So consider this a request for that article ASAP! Thanks


elizabeth November 18, 2010 at 12:11 pm

You might want to head over to facebook. NO ONE uses myspace any more!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor November 18, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I agree, most of your time should be spent crafting a great Facebook presence and experience for clients – but that said, where few are, greater opportunity exists to make an impression.

That’s why Twitter is so powerful – a fraction of Internet users are active on Twitter, but those that are are often some of the most connected and influential folks in their networking circles.

Facebook will give you your best return on investment of time and attention, but a straggler like MySpace or a more select user group like Twitter can land business here and there. A model booked with me via MySpace just last month to do headshots, and I hadn’t even logged in for a couple months. If you’re chasing gigs like band promo and concert photography, MySpace is a target rich environment.

Every tool has its best use. If your Facebook is already rockin’, and you’ve got an extra hour or two total each month, expanding into less popular social media circles can at least give you a presence. You’re never really trying to book everyone, or the majority – you’re trying to book solid for next week, which can be just one or two shoots as a part time photographer. You’re trying to book solid for the next month – or next couple of months. It’s all about making a great impression on a select few, a target group of potential clients, then thrilling them with your art and experience so that they return year after year, bringing their friends and family along with them.


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor November 18, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Also I really enjoyed viewing your web site! You have a great portfolio of fun photos, your style and personality really come through in your work.

Thank you for your comment and readership!


Tiffany Lombardi January 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm

I know this is totally off subject, but HELP! I just booked my first wedding! It is this July, so I have lots of time to prepare, what do I do now? Love Part time, its fantastic!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor January 8, 2011 at 1:35 am

Ahh, your first wedding! You’ll learn very quickly whether you love or loathe that whole section of the photography industry.

I could write a book on the preparations a photographer should go through before shooting a wedding, the art and experience of shooting the wedding itself, and what to expect afterward.

Thankfully, I don’t have to – many others have written more and better resources on the subject than I could! Weddings are a beast unlike any other in professional photography, and my only advice is to study, practice, assist, and second-shoot as much as you can between now and July.

There are plenty of good articles on this subject over at I’d suggest starting with Angelo Stavrow’s piece, and then spreading out into the archives. I disagree with a lot of what is posted on Trevor’s blog (especially anything that includes the words “never” or “always,” as are favorites of the grognards of the industry), but when it comes to professional wedding photography, you don’t need your hand held – you need your ass kicked.

Try to glean advice that you can act on, and ignore all the bubbling hatred established wedding photographers show for the start-up end of the market. They, like many folks ‘established’ in their field, forget that they were once in your shoes – that they had to start with their own first wedding, and work up from there.

Also invest in at least a few different books on the art of wedding photography – there are plenty of them out there. Start reading, practicing, and learning right away.

In the course of preparing for your first wedding, be an artist of solutions, not of problems. I shot my first weddings (plural) with nothing but an original Canon Digital Rebel and a cheap kit lens.

Which brings me to my P.S. advice: Whatever you do, have backups for your gear. A backup camera body, a backup lens, backup batteries, backup memory cards, a backup flash. If this is financially impossible, rent it, or borrow backup gear from a friend. If nobody can or will loan you their gear, if you have to choose between shooting with no backup kit and turning down the wedding, this is one of the only circumstances I will ever suggest that you turn down the work for lack of proper gear. You can reschedule blown portrait shoots – if you have an equipment failure at a wedding with no safety net, you’re set up dead center in the crosshairs for a lawsuit.

And to add another P.S.S., have a contract. I don’t care how simple it has to be, although you can find plenty of free examples online to download and customize, but have a contract that says explicitly what the client is getting and not getting for their money. There should be no room for interpretation on times, dates, responsibilities, expectations, etc.

Wedding photography, again, is a whole ‘nother beast from portrait photography, and not one I recommend new-to-the-fold professional photogs to take on. Unless you flat out love doing it, and many photogs do, the financial return on your stress/equipment/responsibility/complexity investment just isn’t worth it until you are in a position as an artist and business to be unquestionably over-prepared.

Personally, I tell people, “I don’t shoot weddings, but I can be bought.” I charge an exorbitant amount (compared to my portraiture work), I have bold and selfish policies that are not customer friendly, my contract is obviously written in my own best interest, and I am completely transparent in explaining this to anyone who inquires about my wedding photography services. I always recommend other local photographers whom I know and trust. But if someone really wants me, they can have me, and I do book about one wedding a month, even with all these barriers in place. But when I shoot those weddings, I am perfectly happy to do so and can do my best work because I know I am being paid very well by clients whose trust in me is unquestionable – and I work my butt off to ensure that trust is well-placed.


Tiffany Lombardi January 8, 2011 at 9:09 am

I am borrowing my dad’s equipment as backup, which is the same body I have, I might rent a backup lens. So that is taken care of, thankfully. THank for the rest of the advice…it helps a lot…I am also going as backup/assistant to another photog in the spring to learn the ropes. This should give me a good idea of what I am getting into. Probably should have done that first before I committed, but, it was one of those out of the blue things, and they are willing to pay (to me) a price that is more than worth my time. THanks so much for the blog, Fantastic!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor January 8, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Then it sounds like you’re taking all the right steps, Tiffany. Great job taking on a challenge and finding the solutions to rise to it with aplomb. 🙂


Lisa April 22, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I’m so full of questions! My world is full of preschoolers and their parents, but I’m actually interested in senior portraits and family portraits with older kids (I don’t want to wrangle little kids LOL – which, ironically, is the age-group I get most requests from since I am in the whole “preschool world” with my own kids being that age). It’s probably a bad idea to go around approaching/ “friending” teens – so what are the proper channels at a high school to market to their students? When it comes to kids that age, would the marketing start with the parents or with the teen? Teen parents aren’t as accessible to me (or rather, it’s not as obvious to me how to find them) and, yet, I’m not comfortable approaching kids for photo shoots. Do you have any thoughts on that?


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor April 29, 2012 at 8:35 pm

I welcome your questions, and I appreciate your readership! You’re always welcome to post on the site, e-mail or call me to visit about photography. It’s truly my pleasure to help.

Keep in mind for senior portraits, it’s the parents who buy, not the students – so don’t worry too much about approaching students directly. What you want is face time with parents, and as I always say, be where your clients are – where are these senior parents?

Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:

* High school sports is a great venue for a photographer – talk to your local athletic booster club and ask about shooting for them and posting the results to their web site (or yours on their behalf, perhaps selling the files and donating 100% of profits to them).

* Join groups that benefit seniors: scholarship fundraisers, National Honor Society, FFA, FCCLA, music boosters, athletic boosters, prom committee, graduation, Project Graduation committees, so on and so forth. There are so many groups that exist to serve high school seniors, and there are many ways to become active with them as a volunteer – bringing both your ideas and photography skills to offer.

* Where do seniors hang out around your community? Work out a project with those venues to photograph some of their HS senior clientele, and donate the results as wall hangings for the venue to feature as wall art. For example, the Fuddruckers restaurant in Kerrville, Texas, has a huge mural on its walls composed of a bunch of sports photos from the Kerrville Tivy Antlers athletics program. For a time, another nearby high school was hanging massive professional photos on its gym walls of its players during volleyball and basketball seasons. There are just as many opportunities to highlight local athletes, musicians, and academic achievers – and no doubt, the venues you approach which already serve that clientele will only love the idea of highlighting some of their best customers.

Again, just consider where seniors and their parents are, and be there – camera in hand, or via your art and marketing materials. Start small, and as I say, Own Your Zip Code – start with one school, one set of seniors, and figure out how to most effectively and efficiently become THE senior photographer for that school, where there is no question which local photographer is doing the most to both serve and benefit that set of kids. Just one small school could provide you enough part time work for a year.

Please do keep me posted and let me know what you try, and what works best for you! Seniors are my favorite subject to shoot, full of life and excitement and personality – you’ll have nothing but fun once you get the ball rolling!


Lisa May 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Thank you for your marvelous reply!! Your devotion to this blog and helping new photographers is truly inspiring. You’ll be happy to hear that I just (as in two days ago) landed my first gig (at your recommended pricing) with a senior. I’ve been following your advice and, honestly, I wouldn’t have taken this step without it. It’s given me confidence, and not asking for a huge session fee or purchase commitments does give me the freedom to be more approachable and honest with potential clients because I know they lose nothing if I don’t do a good job (which is the fear). I know I’ll do well. I’ve been doing this for pleasure for years and have worked hard at getting good at it (including just finishing up a lighting course at my local community college, along with all the other workshops I’ve gone to on other photography topics). I’ll let you know how it goes!!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor May 14, 2012 at 12:55 am

Thank you for the update Miss Lisa, I’m so very happy to hear of your successes! What an adventure it is, eh? Congratulations on your first paid job! I shall lift a cup of tea tomorrow in celebration (and I mean that in all seriousness)!

Please do keep me posted on your progress! You have a great attitude, and I have no doubts, great successes ahead of you. Enjoy!


Vianna May 4, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Awesome Advice!!!
Im loving this site…I think you are going to get sick of me!

Thank you, Vianna


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor May 14, 2012 at 12:14 am

Never Vianna, I welcome your readership! Thank you for your comments!


Bridget May 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Gosh thank you soo much! I have been glued to your blog for the past week. I even showed this blog to my mother, who is not even a photographer and she is addicted now too! It is really really awesome that you are providing such clear, concise useful information that real people can greatly benefit from. Your humour, humility and honesty makes learning this important material so much fun! Its like an extremely well- written informative novel. You are truly an invaluable resource. I was wondering, would you mind taking a look at my (very simple and shabby) photography Facebook page? Any critique you have would be GREATLY appreciated!!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor May 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Thank you Miss Bridget, for your kind words and readership! I had a grand time tonight looking through your portfolio on Facebook – your art is amazing! What an incredible throw-back in wardrobe and styling! Your photography is spot-on, bold in color and content, fun as can be. You have great subjects, as well – your art is playful and extremely well-themed. You could open up shop anywhere with that style and immediately make a name in the market for your style.

Who are some of the photographers or artists whose work inspires you? It’s as though you take the style of a bygone era and apply a modern artistic twist to it that produces such a wonderful result – I am truly impressed. I have no doubts, if you’re not charging and getting paid quite well for your time already, you need to start. This stuff is just great.

Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures this year! Keep it up, you have an amazing future as a professional photographer ahead of you!


Jessica Dye July 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm


I recently discovered The Part Time Photographer and I love it. I am a recent college graduate who is trying to break into the photography business. With so many questions and very few people or professionals to turn to, I have found your website to be of great help and service to me. Hours and hours have been spent researching photography businesses and, more often than not, I find myself discouraged from those well-established photographers (or grognards, as you would say) who make it seem that the dream is entirely out of reach. Honestly, this is one of the few websites that empowers photographers – and that, in today’s time, is very, very refreshing!

I, myself, am currently at the stage where I need to create a Facebook page, website, or use some other marketing tool to promote my photography. How many pictures do I need to post at first? I have been shooting family and friends for a while now, but only have two or three paying clients lined up.

Thank you for all of your help! I can’t wait to continue reading your articles.


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor August 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Thank you for your readership and kind words Jessica!

Don’t let the grognards get you down – haters gonna hate!

For your starting portfolio, I’d suggest 10-20 of your best images, but only your best images. If you only have five rockin’ photos, then only post those five photos, and keep shooting (free if you have to) until you have a more robust set of images. I’d suggest no more than 2 photos per shoot – you don’t want to post 20 images from two shoots, which makes it look like you’re heavily leaning on very little experience.

On my web site, my portfolio is my photo blog, so I post one primary photo and maybe 5-10 secondary photos as thumbnails so show the variety I offer in each shoot. On Facebook, I’ll post one image a day from my archives, and maybe 3-4 photos for each new shoot I post from and highlight.

The goal is to only show your best work, and to show that you are weekly creating new work that is as good or better than what you’ve made in the past. You don’t want to look like a one-hit wonder – folks want to hire an active, in-demand photographer. In the beginning, you can make this impression by staying consistent with your shooting schedule, even if you’re filling some (or most) of your slots with free shoots.

The more you shoot, the more active you are, the more quickly you’ll add to your portfolio, and the more quickly your art will develop and improve, making your portfolio an ever-more effective tool for marketing your services.

Keep up the great work! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!


Kelsey Thompson March 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Please visit me at
I’m looking for other photographers in the Charlotte area who would be able to be a second shooter occasionally.


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor March 12, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Thank you for your comment and readership Kelsey! Your equine photos are beautiful!


Tushar April 5, 2013 at 9:28 am

I have just completed my course in fashion and product photography but i m not able to find the right path.
Please can anyone suggest me how i can start the work from scratch.


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor May 28, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Thank you for your comment Tushar!

PTP is all about helping you get those first customers, and build a consistent client base – mostly this is through marketing, but of course growing your skills as an artist and business owner are a piece of the puzzle.

Fashion and Product photography are very hard industries to break into – they’re very sexy, very commercial, which makes them attractive to many talented photographers.

In the more competitive markets like this, networking becomes a huge factor in getting work – as they say, it’s about who you know. Find local fashion and commercial product groups, business networking groups, enthusiasts, etc. and find a way to be a part of their events, activites, meetings or gatherings.

Start small – find some small, local designers or boutiques or manufacturing businesses, and offer to work with them to build up some great marketing photos. This will let you see what it’s like working with real commercial clients, even if just on a small scale, and it will let you get some experience as an art director and in making photographs the ultimate client loves. Build that relationship up, help those designers/businesses become successful, and your work will make its way out into the marketplace where others will see your art and hopefully come a-calling.

A humble start will give you a great foundation for building up your portfolio and network. Start by donating your work – then move to trade-outs – then try to land that first paying client. Start With One – don’t try to take over the whole market at once, try to score just one single client at a time, and give them an awesome experience. Collect testimonials. Flesh out your portfolio. Grow your artistic skills. Involve yourself in the right networks, the right circles. Take other successful photographers out to lunch and pick their brains. Build relationships. Ask to assist on commercial shoots, no charge. Day by day, step by step, you’ll widen your circle of influence until you create your own gravity that pulls clients to you.

It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it!

Thank you for your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures.


Laurie November 5, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I can’t thank you enough for all the wonderful information you have been putting out to the universe to help others! For starters, it was you who helped me to use my gut to name my future biz! I really didn’t want to go with my name, simply because it just didn’t flow nicely for me. It didn’t feel right. But the story behind my name did feel right though I didn’t think it’d make any sense to anyone but me and 2 other people in this world: When my 4yr old daughter started asking me to tell her about stories of when I was a kid, I didn’t have too many happy ones. But One of the few was about how my 2 best friends and I made up our own language…and only we were allowed to talk it. Well, a gorgeous oak tree stood near their house and thus Acorn Talk was established! Well at the time my daughter insisted I tell her a story of my own childhood, I was struggling with my name and had read several of your posts. I was hesitating on calling myself ATP because I didn’t think it would make any sense to any body. But after reading your posts, I realized it doesn’t matter at all if it makes sense to any body but me! It makes me happy thinking about it and thus it makes sense. So THANK YOU!! Huge obstacle overcome! Fast forward, I’m “kind of” ready to start taking paid clients, I think. I’ve just recently opened a bizpage on Facebook but have yet to “announce” it to my friends. I just don’t know if my work is “good enough” yet to put it out to the universe that I am ready to take on “real” clients. Clients that won’t just say your work is marvelous because they love you. I feel, after having read the large majority of your posts as if you are my own personal mentor in a field that does not have many willing to give out their secrets to success. Would you mind taking a look at my page and letting me know if its “good enough” to start charging clients? Again, thank you so much for your generosity of your expertise. It has really made a difference in my skill level and in my feeling that I can really do this! That’s priceless!


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor May 26, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Laurie, thank you so much for your kind words and readership! I’m so glad you’re getting benefit from PTP.

You know I’m a fan over on Facebook!

I love your authenticity and willingness to be vulnerable to share your story – I can guarantee that’s going to help you so much as an artist and businesswoman. I love your story of how the Acorn Talk name came about – it’s magical.

I’m so happy that you went with your joy and adopted the name that means something to you. It will give you a special energy, fuel to get you through hard times and sweeten the good. You’re doing great!

Your work is wonderful Laurie, don’t hesitate to charge for it – your art is a blessing to your clients; allow them to bless you with their business. You have all the ingredients for wonderful success as a professional photographer, and I’m truly honored and thrilled to be some small part of your journey.

Thank you again for your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures.


Michael Frazier June 1, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Michael, I have really enjoyed reading and re-reading your blog since I first found it, but I noticed that you haven’t been updating it recently. I do hope that everything is going well with you. And chance on an update to this particular series? This is some great information, but how would you go about marketing on Facebook and Twitter *today* since MySpace is dead? Love the site. Hope you keep it going. 🙂


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor June 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Thank you for your comment Michael!

A redux of this First Customer series is a great idea! I’ll get it on my editorial calendar – thank you so much for the idea.

Social media has almost been wrecked as a marketing medium because of…marketing. I’ve been hearing this same sentiment lately from my mentors, who invested lots of time into Twitter and Facebook to earn their followings, and while they got good returns for those investments, they’re not seeing those same returns now.

With organic reach crashing on Facebook and scheduled posting apps like Buffer taking the ‘real time conversation’ out of Twitter, many marketers are falling back on tried-and-true permission marketing: the e-mail list.

Social media remains great for engagement – you surely want to have a presence where your clients are – but it’s not as important as it was six years ago when I wrote this series. This makes your idea for a redux all the more brilliant.

My best marketing tool in 2015?

Handshakes and smiles. Volunteering. Co-op marketing with fellow small business owners.

Still social networking – just in person instead of online.

Thank you again for your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!


Samantha McKenna August 15, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Hi there, I just booked my first traveling shoot, its 363 miles away. And I’m wondering how to price this shoot (its a maternity shoot by the way). Do I just charge for gas? Is there a base price I should be charging for travel? HELP!


Samantha McKenna August 15, 2015 at 9:31 pm

I didn’t mean only charge for the gas….the price of the shoot and the gas on top of that and so forth… hope that helps. Thank you 🙂


Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor August 16, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Samantha, thank you so much for your comment!

Traveling that far, it’s reasonable to charge for your time, gas, overnight expenses, and it’s not unusual to be compensated for meals during that time as well – all at a flat rate. You shouldn’t be paid less because you’re frugal or efficient. You’re investing as much time as a commercial photographer traveling on location for a shoot.

As with all pricing, be humble, but make sure you walk away with a Cheshire grin on your face.

Make an offer based on this, but have a fallback if you want one – a bottom-line price that you’re willing to do the shoot for, and barter other client behaviors to get to that point. Will they provide you a testimonial after? Maybe a video testimonial? Will they share your art on all their social media accounts along with that testimonial, and link to your web page? Will they refer to you two or three friends who need photography services as well? Will they get one or two other shoots lined up for you that you can do while you’re in their area? Will they make an introduction to their boss, or boss’s boss, that you might have an in with the company they work for for potential future shoots?

There are many ways to derive value, and in the right circumstances, cash is the least valuable option.

Be creative, but get paid something you feel good about for your time invested. If they say no, or they scoff, then they as a client and you as a service provider are not in alignment. Let them book someone local. That’s perfectly okay – in fact, better off for all involved. You can’t force a deal, because either you or the client will feel resentful and taken advantage of. Maybe both. It’s a lose-lose.

I refer out plenty of clients who can’t afford my rates. I also refer out a lot of clients who can afford far better than me. I only work with clients for whom I’m the right fit, in art, personality, and price. And even in a very rural area of Texas, I stay booked.

I hope this helps Samantha! Thank you again for your readership, and please do let me know how your shoot turns out! I’d love to hear about your successes and adventures!


Samantha McKenna August 18, 2015 at 10:01 am

Thank you so much for your response!


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