No matter how technologically advanced society becomes, nothing will truly ever beat the power of human connections. This is why even on your purely digital photography website, you should always include a short bio and a way for people to reach out to you. Regardless of how incredible your work is, potential clients will eventually make their decisions based on how well they connect with you.
Not only that, but most clients will actually reach out to you based on what people say about you. Word of mouth is more powerful than pretty much any marketing effort. Because of this, your goal should be for people in your field to know who you are, and to recommend your services to everyone they come across.
These 15 networking tips for photographers will teach you everything you need to know to create meaningful connections with people in the industry and take your career to the next level:
Put excitement over fear
Build a solid online presence
Print out business cards
Put an action plan together
Find relevant networking events
Stand in a high traffic spot
Bring a friend along
Be a good listener
Repeat people’s names
Respect their time
Create genuine connections
Write down notes
Meet people through people
Follow up within two days
01. Put excitement over fear
Meeting new people can be scary. Terrifying, even, if you fall on the introvert side of the spectrum. But as unappealing as networking can seem, the benefits undoubtedly outweigh the fears. What’s ten minutes of discomfort against a lifetime of professional success?
As you get ready to start reaching out to people, take a few minutes to sit down and envision your goals. Think about how those individuals can help you advance in your photography career, whether it is in a direct or indirect manner. Whenever you start feeling anxious or unsure, focus on your goals and on how beneficial these connections will be in the long run.
02. Build a solid online presence
Maintaining an attractive image across the web is absolutely imperative in this day and age. Even more so for photographers, as this is the main platform people use to consume media and hire services. Before you start your networking efforts, create a professional photographer website that truly reflects who you are. This will not only allow you to showcase your work to anyone interested, but will also serve as the center of your networking and marketing efforts.
Ideally, every person you talk to will end up visiting your online portfolio. There they’ll be able to see the best examples of your work, as well as the services you offer and all the different ways they can contact you. Make sure to link all your social media accounts so visitors can see more of your day-by-day work and follow up on your newest projects.
03. Print out business cards
Contrary to what you might think, business cards are very much still a thing. In fact, not having them might lead you to lose quite a few business opportunities. In networking events, they will serve as a reminder for the people you talk to. With the amount of people one talks to at these types of occasions, it’s easy to forget someone unless you have a tangible reminder to take home with you.
You can easily create professional business cards with the Wix Logo Maker, without any initial design knowledge. Start by creating a photography logo using the customizable options offered by the platform based on your characteristics. Afterwards, download your logo to use it across your branding assets on digital platforms as well as have it printed on business cards to strengthen your offline image.
04. Put an action plan together
In your quest to become a professional photographer, you’ll often find that every big achievement appears much more attainable when broken down into smaller steps. This not only applies to key milestones such as opening your first exposition, but also to smaller day-by-day occasions such as meeting potential clients.
If you’re planning to attend a networking event, creating an action plan beforehand will make it much easier for you to meet your goals. For example, come up with a minimum number of people you want to have a conversation with. Whenever possible, do some prior research on the attendees so you can figure out the top most relevant people you should try and talk to.
05. Find relevant networking events
One of the most important networking tips to remember is to never waste your time. (One could stay it’s more of a life tip, actually.) You should make sure to learn enough about the event before signing up for it, especially early on in your journey. Attend networking sessions that you know you can benefit from, based on your field and goals.
For example, a wildlife and an event photographer will rarely find themselves aiming to talk to the same people. The former will look for publishers and gallery curators, while the latter will seek venue managers and local organizers.
06. Look approachable
If there’s anything the Fab 5 have taught us, it’s that how we present ourselves to the world plays a major role not only in how people see us but also in how we feel. Make sure you pick an outfit that is both comfortable and also makes you look professional. If you want to stand out, as well as have the perfect ice breaker, include the color scheme of your photography website in your clothes. Even if it’s something as small as a tie or scarf, it can make a big difference.
The same level of care should go to your nonverbal communication. You should carry yourself around in a way that exudes confidence, while still coming off as approachable. Make sure to keep your arms uncrossed and have a genuine smile ready for whenever someone sparks conversation with you.
07. Stand in a high traffic spot
One of the most popular photography quotes by Ansel Adams says that “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” The exact same concept applies to networking events: the spot where you stand will make or break your chances of success.
There are two main locations you should aim for: the main door and the bar. These two high-traffic areas will maximize your chances to start a conversation with as many attendees as possible. By the main door you might have the opportunity to be the first person they talk to, while at the bar you’ll catch them in a more relaxed manner.
There is a third high-traffic spot you should avoid at all costs: the area surrounding the food. People around that zone are either searching for food or looking forward to eating more of the food they just took. Either way, someone with an empty stomach will rarely make for a good conversation partner.
08. Bring a friend along
Pairs are good for more than just a couple photoshoot. If the thought of approaching strangers to talk about your photography business makes you want to lock yourself in the darkroom until next summer, you might want to ask a friend to join the networking fun. Preferably, said friend should have great people skills and know a great deal about your work.
09. Be a good listener
The key tip to a successful networking exchange is to be as interested as you’re interesting. Much like the photography balance, finding this harmony between being the ‘talker’ and ‘listener’ should be one of your main priorities.
Come up with interesting questions to fuel the conversation and keep on learning more about your interlocutor. The more engaging the discussion, the more likely they are to remember you after the event is over.
10. Repeat people’s names
Hearing our own name has a tremendous impact on the brain, activating the same regions as self-representational actions such as looking in a mirror or expressing our feelings. Essentially, we like it when people say our name out loud. This is why it’s so important to refer to your conversational partners by the name they introduced themselves by.
Repeating their names through the dialogue (always in a casual, non-forced manner of course) will inherently make them feel more comfortable. Plus, much like with any photography skills, repetition will ensure that you actually remember their names afterwards. Is there anything more awkward than forgetting someone’s name as soon as they say it?
11. Respect their time
No matter how interesting someone is, nor how important your conversation seems, remember that they most likely didn’t attend the event just to talk to you. Make sure to keep your discussions somewhat short and sweet, leaving your partner craving for more. This way, you’re not only allowing both of you to talk to more people, but also increasing your chances of being contacted later on to continue your conversation.
Think of this networking tip as a series of Instagram Stories, where the content is good enough to keep viewers watching but short enough to keep them coming back for more.
12. Create genuine connections
One of the most common mistakes for beginners in the networking world is to come with a memorized elevator pitch about their business. Contrary to what it may seem, networking and pitching are as similar as chalk and cheese. You should see the former as a chance to connect with people, rather than to sell your latest business idea.
Just like you dedicated a significant amount of time to finding your photography style, you should make a strong effort to ensure people get to see this uniqueness. Treat every conversation as an opportunity to allow people to see the person behind the camera, rather than to get them to buy the pictures you shoot.
13. Write down notes
Unless you’re like those incredibly talented waiters who can remember 20 orders with each of their special demands and dietary restrictions, you’ll need to take some notes throughout the networking event. Think of this as a fun activity, like when you write down the most interesting things that happen each day during your travel photography adventures.
These notes should be short and to the point. Use the business cards you’re given, or even a napkin, to pencil down a brief recap of each conversation you have. For example, your interlocutor’s name, job, and three to five facts to remember them by. While it might seem like a hassle at first, you’ll be happy to have these pieces of information later on as you reach out to them to continue the conversation or move forward with potential business deals.
14. Meet people through people
Needless to say, networking events are one of the best places to put all these networking tips into action. They are, after all, occasions built entirely around the goal of letting people connect with others. But just because they offer a great opportunity to network, it doesn’t mean you should limit your efforts to them.
Word of mouth is probably the most powerful photography marketing asset. To take full advantage of it, you’ll need to actively reach out to people both online and offline outside of networking events. Talk to local businesses in the field which you work to see how you can both benefit each other. Give business cards to colleagues who maybe have a friend who might be interested in your services. Use every occasion to your advantage, as the worst it can happen is that you get to practice your networking skills in the real world.
15. Follow up within two days
Throughout your photography career, you’ll realize that all the things that matter take a lot of time and effort. No matter how amazing your first conversation with someone was, you should assume that they had at least ten other conversations just as interesting within that same day - especially if said conversations took place within a networking event.
As a rule of thumb, you should always follow-up with your leads within 48 hours of meeting them. You might want to do so via email, social media, or scheduling a meeting in person. Ideally, this should be based on each person’s preferences - which should be the last piece of information you get out of each conversation.