The Top 16 marketing opportunities for photographers in November 2010

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on November 11, 2010

in This is Business

Six-year-old McCayla sees her newborn baby sister Athena for the first time.
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Just because winter is heading your way doesn’t mean it’s time to let your marketing go cold.

(Did’ja like that line? Took me hours. Nah, just kidding; it slid off my brain right onto the Word doc.)

A quick visit to the Special Days page at offers up a smorgasbord of opportunities to get the attention of your target market. You can look ahead to any month of the year, and if you let your imagination run, you’ll get more good ideas to market your part time photography services than you know what to do with.

Always be on the lookout for inspiration – in holidays; in advertising from other industries you see in magazines, newspapers, or on television; in sports, cultural and community events, etc. I’d suggest keeping tabs on the calendar above, your local community calendar (via your newspaper, chamber of commerce, or visitor’s bureau), and at least one pop culture magazine or web site so you can stay tuned into the zeitgeist.

Here’s what caught my eye for November 2010:

(My apologies for not getting this list out sooner in the month – my daughter Athena Corinna was born Nov. 1 in Austin, Texas, so I’ve been busy falling madly in love the past week – sue me! But this explains why I don’t below cover Cookie Monster’s Birthday, National Candy Day, Hug-a-Bear Day, or other special days earlier in the month. I’m not purposely hating on the Cookie Monster, I assure you.)

1. Winter Wearables

Autumn leaves are peaking in color (at least here in Texas), so with the colder weather comes some beautiful outdoor scenery to work with on your photo shoots.

Colder weather also means cold-weather fashion: thicker clothing, sweaters, turtlenecks, fur-lined coats and boots, gloves, snowsuits for your northerners, and here in Texas, long johns, dusters and felt cowboy hats. This is a great opportunity to do a fashion article for your blog, letting readers know what kinds of winter clothes make for fun and lovely portraits.

Little blue-eyed girls in fur-lined hoodie coats? Instant riches, my friends.

If you’re not fashion-inclined, find someone who is and work with them on a blog post, preferably someone who sells clothing in your town and would not only know what they’re talking about, but have an incentive to help you out. Just get them talking about what looks great and feels great, then write what they say in your blog, giving credit where it’s due.

Now, take it up a notch: pick a client family to do a ‘fashion photo shoot’ with for this blog post. Offer them a few hi-res, fully processed images on CD for their time – odds are, they’ll buy some extras (as always, the more great art you produce, the more you earn, just as it should be).

This is a great opportunity to do some co-op marketing. Get your retailer friend with whom you wrote the blog post to let you borrow some of their featured fall fashions and dress your client family in the sweet duds. Offer the retailer a set of poster-framed 20×30 prints (on sale for $9.99 at Adorama this week) from the shoot to display in their store. On each print, put your logo prominently in one corner, their logo in the other, and have business cards handy at the register.

As always, take it yet another step further: offer the copy and images from your blog post as a package to your local newspaper for their Lifestyles section. With any marketing effort, never stop asking yourself, “What’s the next level?”

Client wins, co-op marketing partner wins, you win.

2. Child Safety and Protection Month

Doing special photo shoots to benefit good causes is a great way to get exposure and earn trust with some of the most influential people in your community – those who run and support the charities and non-profits.

Seek out a hyperlocal charity that supports child safety, protection, and/or advocacy, and donate a portion of your proceeds for the month to them. Or hold a special benefit shoot with a retail partner and donate all proceeds. Or set up a fundraising program for students to sell discounted photo gift certificates to their teachers, neighbors, friends’ parents, and parents’ friends – split the proceeds with the chosen charity.

There are many ways to combine good business with good causes and co-op marketing so that everyone involved benefits.

3. Peanut Butter Lover’s Month

You know, being a little wacky now and then can get attention and boost your likeability in your target market.

Messy food shoots can be fun. The most common is the cake smash for toddlers on their first birthday, but if this makes for good photos, why not extend the idea to a family shoot?

You could do a photo shoot featuring your client family chowing down on their favorite foods.

You could co-op with a local restaurant or bakery to do impromptu shoots with their eat-in customers. One of my favorite chow-down shots was at a local hot dog stand here in Bandera, where I caught a well-mustachioed local absolutely slamming a massive hot dog with all the trimmings. It was a hilarious photo, and everyone wanted a copy.

If you want to stick with the peanut butter theme for the month, you could do a series of weekly blog posts throughout the month with entertaining photos encouraging folks to celebrate Peanut Butter Lover’s Month. One week, a high school senior girl with a peanut butter mud mask. Another week, a doe-eyed kid grinning through a peanut butter sandwich with holes cut in it for the eyes and a big smile. Another week, stack a bunch of peanut butter cups as high as you dare, and get a cute kid to do an “OH MY GOODNESS!” face in awe of the pillar of candy.

You laugh! But this is the kind of stuff mothers eat up, pun intended. Think like a smart marketing manager for the Peanut Butter Foundation of The Universe – if you had to do a series of fun billboard ads promoting peanut butter, what would you do?

Advertising badass Donny Deutsch said that every rising-star ad agency has to have some cheeky work in its clips to be noticed.

Is your marketing mix all class with no sass?

Even venerable automaker Bentley gets its hands dirty when the time is right.

4. National Children’s Book Week

The second week of November focuses on children’s books, which opens up a bunch of great marketing opportunities.

Donate a portion of proceeds to your local library’s children’s literacy programs for all clients who book for or during this week. Make sure your clients – and your chosen library – are well aware of this effort.

Offer a perk (percent or flat cash discount, free 8×10 print or digital file, etc.) to clients who bring in a new or gently-used children’s book for donation to your library or another local charity that serves children (think shelters, children’s homes, services for abused/neglected children, child protective services).

Use your blog to bring attention to local children’s book authors and illustrators – do headshots of each person featured.

Again appealing to families, share information on local children’s story time / reading and literacy programs at your library. Work with your library to photograph one of these events – while asking parents’ permission to use the image on your blog, you’ll get face time with a nice set of potential clients.

Aside: Does this sound like an unusual marketing tactic? That’s the whole point – do you see your competition doing these things? No? Exactly.

Set up a photo event in coordination with the library’s family reading night. Have kids dress up in costume as their favorite book character and do a quick, fun portrait of each kid. Get each parent’s e-mail address and send them a copy of their kid’s image. Instant top-of-mind brand awareness with those families.

And as always, make sure the local newspaper knows about any special public event you’re putting on in coordination with the library or any local charity – both before and after, a preview and wrap-up. Double up on the positive (and free) press.

5. American Education Week

Any special date(s) celebrating education gives you the chance to work with your local school district – again getting face time with families.

Seek out your school district’s Education Foundation (or similar program that raises money to support teacher-initiated programs like netbooks for middle schoolers, etc.) and network with their board members. Offer your services as a photographer to cover their events and fundraisers – and offer to submit those photos to your local newspaper. Position yourself not just as an artist, but as someone knowledgeable in public relations and desirous to help how you can.

Set up a photo fundraiser for said foundation.

Work with local arts programs (art, music, theatre), which are almost always struggling for funding, to do class fundraisers. When I was in choir in high school, to fund our annual contest trip to Florida, we sold more candy bars than I could count – but we also sold Glamour Shots photo shoots. Offer a 50-50 split on discounted gift certificates sold by the kids – help them out with ideas on how to sell them, and to whom. You’ll dig into your profits, but you’ll curry much favor with the class, the teacher, and the families of the kids involved – not to mention lots of new clients to turn into repeat buyers.

Do a photography workshop for students. Most high schools have photography and photojournalism classes, and welcome professionals in the field to speak to the class. I recently did a two-hour portrait photography workshop with my county’s 4-H Photography Project. Never pass on the opportunity to establish yourself as the expert in your field in your community. High school career days are another chance to move from being “a” photographer in your community to being “the” photographer.

6. Veterans Day – Nov. 11

You can’t go wrong with a military discount.

Beyond the typical percentage discount, though, what can you do to better serve those who serve our country?

Offer free family portraits for active military, up to one per year. You don’t have to do a full-on shoot, just a good family group portrait, and offer the best image as a hi-res file, all for free. The 15 minutes you invest total will mean the world to that family, and endear you to their entire circle of military friends and family.

Offer to photograph one military homecoming per month, first-come, first-served. These can be incredibly poignant, emotional, eternally-cherished images, when families are reunited after excruciating time apart. You will never forget the first time you photograph the emotional face of a father holding his baby for the first time after a long deployment. I suggest only offering one or two of these each month, though, because they can be very time consuming and far from home if you live in a rural area like I do. It’s worth it, though – both for your soul, and your reputation as a professional photographer.

Offer free annual individual portraits to veterans. Have them in full dress, with medals and awards. Use dramatic lighting, deep shadows, and give them a portrait to be proud of. Again, military families are appreciative and fiercely loyal to anyone who goes out of their way to honor their heroes. You won’t find better word of mouth anywhere.

Work through your local military moms group, VFW, American Legion, and support groups to get the word out to the right people.

7. National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day – Nov. 14

This is a great one to get buzz and conversation going on your business’ Facebook page.

Blog a funny anecdote about the most horrifying thing you ever pulled out of your fridge, and encourage readers to leave comments about their own scary finds. Extra credit for photos of the offending food product. Pick your favorite and gift them with a certificate for a shoot and set (maybe five or 10) hi-res digital files on CD. Get folks talking – and sharing – and interacting with your business.

On a more charitable note, as with the children’s book suggestion above, have folks bring in non-perishable food items for your local food bank and receive a perk (discount, free print or file, whatever you like – it doesn’t take much).

8. America Recycles Day – Nov. 15

Green is the new black, as they say – reducing, reusing, and recycling are topics that are popular and can earn you respect with most people.

Use this as an opportunity to blog about recycling groups and efforts in your community, and to talk about your own personal and professional efforts to recycle – paper, ink cartridges, plastic products, batteries and their proper disposal, etc.

9. Button Day – Nov. 16

Must I even suggest it? Do button photo shoots! Give all button-wearers this day a discount or perk. Have a local shop that sells antique buttons, or a local custom swag shop that makes and sells them? Put on a photo event in cooperation with them.

Hold a Best Button Contest on Facebook – encourage folks to put on their best buttons and take self-snapshots, then share those pics on your page. Winner gets a free digital photo package (shoot plus five or 10 hi-res, fully processed files on CD).

Another aside: I love donating or giving away digital photo packages. They cost nothing but time and a CD, maybe some postage to mail it, and those images have a real value associated with them. They are worth something, and your clients know it. Unless you’re booked solid, use these to grow your portfolio and get face time with new clients in as many ways as you can use them – contests, donations to silent auctions, etc.

10. Homemade Bread Day, National Young Reader’s Day, Take a Hike Day – Nov. 17

This is a busy one! Here’s a threesome of ideas:

Homemade Bread Day – Feature a local bakery on your blog, share information on your local food bank or soup kitchen and how readers can volunteer, do a “break bread with the family” promotion with a local bakery to encourage family togetherness.

Young Reader’s Day – Same tips as noted above for National Children’s Book Week. Focus on local authors, illustrators, library, literacy programs, family reading nights. Give perks for children’s book donations for the local library and children’s non-profits.

Take a Hike Day – If you’re the outdoors type, you probably know where the best hiking trails (and associated fantastic scenery) are in your community. Ours here in Bandera County are found at the Hill Country State Natural Area, for example. Work with the entity that maintains those trails to set up a special photo hike for amateur nature photographers. Do a walking workshop and give tips on how to best capture the vistas, small details, and even self-portraits along the trail.

Protip: Show your hiking buddies how to set their camera’s self-timer, put the camera on the ground facing up at an angle, and capture a truly impressive self-portrait as they look out dramatically upon the face of nature. Camera on ground, pointed up at 45 degrees, either 45 degrees or 90 degrees off from the sun, subject in a proud stance facing the sun. Dramatic, lovely, and soaked in beautiful blue sky and clouds in the background. Flip it 180 degrees and get a great silhouette shot in front of a lovely sunset.

11. Mickey Mouse’s Birthday – Nov. 18

Offer perks to clients who bring in Disney books or DVDs for donation to the library or a local charity.

Not a bad time to add a set of Mickey Mouse ears (in both children’s and adult sizes – trust me on this one) to your props closet.

Work with a local day care to do individual portraits of the little toddlers in the Mickey Mouse ears. Compile into a collage for your blog. Wish Mickey a proper birthday. Parents will love it.

Are you seeing some ways to use your photography to market your services in ways other than the obvious? F8 and Be There, my friends.

12. World Hello Day – Nov. 21

Get out on the street and, by golly, say hello! Skip the gimmicks today and just be out amongst your community, be where your target market is. Carry your camera, shake hands, hand out business cards, visit, and if the subject seems friendly to it, do some simple and fun man-on-the-street headshots. Gather e-mail addresses (or, to be less pushy, give them your card and ask them to e-mail you) and send every person you shoot a copy of their photo.

It’s a ‘duh’ statement, but being seen with your camera, taking photos of people, is a really great way to promote yourself as a portrait photographer.

13. Stop The Violence Day – Nov. 22

Remember McGruff the Crime Dog, mascot of the National Crime Prevention Council? This is all him.

Put on a special for law enforcement and their families.

Or better yet, like for the military folks mentioned above, offer a free once-a-year family portrait.

Or better yet, talk to your local chief of police and/or sheriff and discuss doing portraits of every officer, in uniform, including a big group photo for the year. Give them a nice framed 20×30 group shot of the whole department to hang in the station (your logo in one corner, theirs in another, just like with the retailer).

Do a fundraiser photo event to benefit your area Fallen Officer Fund.

14. Thanksgiving Day – Nov. 25

Craft a nice blog post talking about what you’re thankful for in your life – open up a bit and let folks learn about what you hold dear. You’re not just a business, not just a photographer, but a real person with a real life and real feelings of appreciation for the great things in your life. Don’t hesitate to share.

About now is when you want to start encouraging folks to think about their Christmas photos. If you’re like me, you hate having Thanksgiving stuff pitched before Halloween, and even more so hate Christmas stuff being pitched before Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving out of the way, it’s the perfect time to get folks on board with your Christmas photo offerings. Most importantly, let them know the best timeline for booking their shoot, shooting, buying, and mailing their holiday.

If you sell custom Christmas cards featuring family portraits, show and promote them. If you don’t, offer alternatives – either digital files and lists of vendors to buy custom cards from, or bulk print packages so folks can buy a mess of 5×7’s to slip inside their holiday cards to send to family and friends.

Start planning a big Christmas photo event related to family portraits for holiday cards. For example, my local visitor’s bureau always has a fun Cowboy Christmas scene set up outside their office during the holidays. I’ll set up a photo day with them to book a series of quick 15-minute shoots making use of their scene, then market it and sell as many sessions as I can line up.

Along the same lines, look at coordinating doing photos at or during special holiday events in town. Here in Bandera, we kick off December with a Shopper’s Jubilee event, including living nativity and caroling on the courthouse lawn.

What’s my take on Santa photos? Well, it’s more complication than I personally care to deal with, but is there any question they make money? Have you seen the lines for “Photos with Santa” at the mall? Mercy. You’ll pocket checks as fast as parents can write them.

If you like volume work, just copycat the mall setups, but make sure you have a good Santa and a great Christmas scene.

If you prefer a little more structure, do the Anti Mall Santa thing – do a Santa scene, but book scheduled sessions instead of having a free-for-all.

If you want to go high-end, I saw a fellow photographer once do something magical with their Santa photos.

They built a Santa’s Workshop scene from scratch, hired a great Santa, and for each and every child, went through an entire series of little moments and scenes, creating a photo story – the child entering the workshop, wide-eyed with wonder; the child playing with the toys; Santa sneaking up and peering through a window, unnoticed yet by the child; Santa knocking on the door to the workshop, and the child answering it, excitedly finding Saint Nick on the other side; child hugging Santa; showing Santa their favorite toys; the traditional sitting on Santa’s knee shot; a close-up of the child’s face in Santa’s arms; waving to Santa as the child leaves the workshop…

And then they sold parents albums of this photo story, with templates of graphics and text for each page and scene. It was the same experience for each child, exact same set of photos, exact same story told session after session. It was outrageously expensive and high-end customers bought it whole hog. The first album they sold paid for the construction of the scene, props, and ‘renting’ Santa for the entire day.

If you’ve got access to the right luxury market to pull off an epic photo event like this, by all means, don’t let me stop you – it’s money in the bank. Just make sure your clientele can handle the price tag – if not, you’ll eat a lot of cost with too few buying clients to make up for it.

15. National Cake Day – Nov. 26

Throw a big pot luck cake party. Everyone brings a cake, everyone eats cake, everyone gets a free mini photo session. Invite a select set of kids – like a daycare class, or the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts – to attend and share in the cake-scarfing fun.

Do fun free photos of everyone, collect e-mails, send everyone copies of their photos.

Events like this are fun, get great buzz, are shared well on Facebook and social media, and asking folks to sign up for your e-mail newsletter as a part of attending the party is a great way to build your subscriber list. Any time you can trade digital files and a fun experience for the e-mail address of an active or potential client, you’re going to come out way, way ahead in the long run.

This cake is not a lie.

16. Mark Twain’s Birthday – Nov. 28

Great day to offer a simple Huck Finn scene and photo event along a river or creek. Encourage clients to dress their kids in overalls and straw hats, and accessorize with cane fishing poles (you’ll probably have to provide the fishing pole as a prop).

You could also go the Mustache route and recognize fine ‘staches this day. Would make for a fun self-portrait photo contest (Best Mustache!) on Facebook, or you could do a trio of dramatically-lit portraits of the fellows you know with particularly awesome facial hair, then feature them on your blog.

Show your clients you know how to have fun.

Pick a Holiday, any Holiday

By all means, you don’t have to make use of all of the above ideas to run a successful photography business this month.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all of the opportunities you have to market your business – it’s easy to be so overcome with options that you end up doing nothing at all.

Pick any one thing that gets you excited, and do it full on, no holds barred. Let the success (or sometimes, lessons learned) from that one thing give you the confidence and experience you need to do one other thing. Then another. Then another.

If nothing else, I hope you see that there are myriad ways to market your photography and get folks excited about you – your art, the experiences you provide, the culture of your business. You can co-op with other business folk, you can help charities and non-profits, you can get hands-on involved with the community, you can make a difference in one or many lives, you can have fun, you can throw a party, you can be silly and serious and sassy and sensational and solemn and surprising and special in your market.

We are truly blessed to do what we do, my friends.

Next Steps

  • Are you booked solid? If not, sift through the many ideas listed above, and pick out all the ones that really resonate with you, with your friends, with your family. Lay out a plan for how you can make those ideas become a reality in your business, and then how to get the word out to folks who would be interested. This will be the first makings of your monthly and yearly marketing plan, which will be one of the best investments of thought and time you’ll make to grow the success of your business.
  • Use Facebook, use your blog, use your e-mail newsletter, and most importantly, use your feet – get off the computer and go talk to folks; get them excited about what you’re doing to better your business and your community. Approach folks with an attitude of enthusiastic opportunity instead of a sour-note sales pitch.
  • Brainstorm session: If you could pick one special day this month and go hog wild with a fun and awesome photo event for it, what would it be? Where would you shoot? What kind of scene? What time of day? Who would you coordinate with? How could you get the word out about this event to the right people? How many sessions could you book? How much would you charge, if anything at all? What will the buzz and face time with new clients be worth? If this is so awesome, why aren’t you doing it? How can you overcome those obstacles? File this in your Brainstorms folder.
  • My writing at exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to click the free “Subscribe” link at the top of any page of this site.
  • What marketing opportunities are you going to take advantage of this month? Leave a comment below, e-mail me, or call or text me at 830-688-1564.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark August 15, 2011 at 9:56 am

Just an awesome post. Keep doing what your doing. Its really appreciated.


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor August 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Thank you so much Mark! I appreciate your kind words and readership. I also fixed the link to your web site – had one too many M’s in there!

Really enjoyed visiting your site and viewing your portfolio. Beautiful, stylish, fashionable work! Love it!


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