Business + Marketing

Photography Marketing Tactics: What Works and What Doesn’t?

December 28, 2022

By Angela Marklew

© Angela Marklew

Getting your work in front of the people who can hire you is honestly one of my least favorite things to spend time on, but it’s necessary to getting hired. People can’t hire you if they don’t know you exist, right? Enter Photography Marketing—to succeed in business, there are specific tactics you need to employ to market your brand.

No matter what genre of photography you find yourself in, marketing should be part of your weekly to-do list. 

That being said, marketing your commercial work is a different ball game than say, your wedding or family photography; commercial clients are usually corporate brands and ad agencies, as opposed to private citizens. 

While there is no guaranteed marketing method, I can share what I’ve found works best for me as a photographer primarily in the commercial beauty world.

Let’s break down Photography Marketing into two basic categories.

1. Casting a Wide Net

There are a variety of services you can use that will either list your info in a database or sourcebook (like Found or Workbook), or give you access to a database of potential clients and contact info (such as Agency Access, Yodelist or Wonderful Machine). 

A few years ago, I decided to take the plunge and use one of these services. At the time, I had been contacted by both Agency Access and Found. 

To give you an idea about what each service offers:

Agency Access is a service that lets you tap into a database of client contact info—ad agencies, magazines, commercial and corporate clients, etc. You have the ability to make contact lists and use their service to design and schedule e-promos, for which they provide metrics. They have regional, continental and global plans and fees

Found is a service where you pay a monthly membership fee to be listed in an online directory that is accessible by creatives looking to hire. You can then pay à la carte for things like promo mailers, being included in their sourcebook and consulting sessions.

While Agency Access and Found are similar, the main difference to note is that with the former, you get access to their database, while with the latter, you’re in their database for others to access.

[Read: 5 Fixes to Weak Marketing ROI for Photographers]

Both are an investment, but I ultimately decided to go with Agency Access. I felt having the ability to use this resource to create marketing lists and having templates to help with the promos would give me more bang for my buck. In full disclosure, this was the first time I had ever seriously thought about marketing, and it seemed like Agency Access might give me more leads. 

My Marketing Experience Using a Database

I stuck with Agency Access for three years and kept altering my strategies, but I never got any tangible results—as in, I never had a client book me from receiving one of my e-promos. 

That’s not to say that I didn’t garner any useful information. My first year in, I made a huge list, with contacts in a variety of fields—fashion, beauty, editorial portraiture—and I sent everyone the same promo. 

marketing promos
One of my first promos, where I tried to pick an image that would resonate with everyone on my list.

Upon examining all my metrics for the year, I realized that my lower “click-through” and higher unsubscribe rates were likely attributed to the fact that the imagery I was using simply wasn’t relevant to the majority of the contacts. 

To remedy this, I decided to make three separate lists for each genre. This made it easier to pick out more targeted imagery.

I Am A Photographer promo
angela marklew's marketing promos
photography marketing tactics
A set of promos that I sent to beauty (top), portrait (middle) and fashion (above) contacts, respectively. This also shows a mix of personal and client work.

I stuck with this method for the second and third years, and although I still wasn’t receiving inquiries based on these promos, my metrics did tell me that the targeted imagery was working. More recipients were clicking through to my website.

Photography Marketing promos
My most successful promo, in terms of response. It comprised purely personal work.

Photography Marketing: How It Breaks Down

Like anything, there are good things and not-so-good things to employing this method of marketing.  


  • Theoretically, it puts your work in front of a huge audience of potential clients.
  • It’s quick and easy because the legwork of gathering contacts has been done for you.
  • You can easily tracks the metrics so you can see which potential clients are looking at your work.
  • The system is incredibly easy to use and once your lists are made, there is an option to download them to your computer.


  • There’s no way to know if the clients you want are seeing your work.  While you can see the number of “bounce-backs” in your metrics, it’s impossible to know if your promo has been filtered into junk mail.
  • Although new contacts were occasionally added, the database did not always have the most up-to-date information
  • It’s not as lucrative for photographers shooting in a specific niche, as your number of potential contacts might be a very small portion of the entire database.  
  • When it comes time for renewal, you get a barrage of emails and phone calls—I’m not a fan of the “hard sell,” so this is really off-putting.

The decision to stop using Agency Access came once I decided to specialize in beauty photography. I didn’t feel the investment was worth the number of beauty-related contacts they provided, and they weren’t adding many new contacts to this group. 

However, while the services themselves didn’t provide me with the results I was hoping for, the actual resource (i.e. contact list) did help me out once I changed strategies to a targeted approach.

2. Taking a Targeted Approach

This means sending individual emails to potential clients. Admittedly, this is a much larger investment of time, but it has been my most successful method. 

I use three resources (two of which anyone has access to):

My Marketing List

With my marketing list acquired through Agency Access, I already had the email addresses of a couple hundred contacts in the beauty industry. I started with the brands I wanted to work with most and worked my way out from there. The body of my email introduces myself and my work, and says something specific and complimentary about the brand. I keep it short and sweet. For brands (or ad agencies) located in Los Angeles, where I’m based, I wrap it up by saying I would love to set up a meeting with them.


When I come across a brand, company or publication that I’d like to work with—usually via the internet or Instagram—I will search for employees of that brand via LinkedIn and send a friendly note with my connection request. I’ll also periodically go through the contacts in my marketing list and try and connect with those people via LinkedIn as well (if I haven’t been getting a response via email).

Once they accept, I will send a second message properly introducing myself and my work. One thing to note: you must “connect” with someone (in LinkedIn parlance) in order to see their contact info. If the email listed is a work address, I will add them to my master contact list. If it’s a personal email address, I will only add it if the person works freelance.


Lastly, I use Instagram to find email addresses. This can prove to be more of a gamble because often, it’s a general “info@” or “social@” address; for smaller brands, though, there is likely a person on the other end. I’ve also tried DM-ing brands, but unless they are already following me, the chances of them seeing my message are slim. 

[Read: 5 $teps for Pivoting Your Photo Brand Towards More Profit]

This method of marketing does require much more of a time investment, but I receive a much higher percentage of responses by sending a personal email. Often, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that the recipient is already familiar with my work, either via social media or through e-promos that they’ve received from me in the past.

So Which Is It?

Although you can opt for just one of the methods I’ve described above, I realized over time that the most success for me came from integrating them both. The e-promos start to get your name in front of people on a regular basis. Then, when you send those same people a personal email, there’s already an aspect of familiarity, even if it’s on a subconscious level. 

This year, I’ll be sending e-promos every three months to a small list of potential beauty clients in both L.A. and New York City, using MailChimp to manage my list. In the interim, I’ll be sending personal emails to either try and make new contacts or follow up with someone who has opened my e-promo. 

My forays into marketing took a while to start paying off, but this past year, I got more response than I ever had before.  

Photography Marketing Tips:

Be patient

Marketing techniques always take a while to start working, and it’s 90 percent about timing. I recently booked the biggest job of my career thus far through a LinkedIn message. When the client got my note, she just happened to be planning the brand’s next shoot.

Make a marketing schedule for the year

List when your e-promos will go out and then determine a time when you’ll follow up with the people that opened your email. Check your metrics, and set daily goals as well. I typically try to find one potential brand to reach out to daily via Instagram, and I use LinkedIn to request connections with five people. When you break it down to give yourself small tasks every day, it doesn’t seem as daunting.

Pay attention to job titles

Simply because someone works at an ad agency or magazine doesn’t mean they hire photographers. Start with art buyers, creative directors, art directors at ad agencies and companies. and photo editors at magazines.

Don’t forget about your visuals!

This should be obvious, but make sure to keep your website up to date. You always want to make it look fresh for potential clients who may have already seen it. Similarly, make sure the work is relevant to the people you’re reaching out to. 

Sharing personal vs. client work.

It’s always hard to judge what a potential client might want to see. I’ve used both personal and client work in email promos, and I find that I consistently get more response to my personal work. Instead of trying to figure out what your contact list might want to see, send the type of work that you want to be shooting.

Remember, when it comes to marketing, minimal work almost always equates to minimal reward.

Photography Marketing Resources:

Client Database Services

Agency Access 
Wonderful Machine 

Directory Services


Email Services

Constant Contact

Angela Marklew is a beauty, fashion and portrait photographer based in Venice, California, who excels at photography marketing. Before she was a photographer, she worked as a chemist testing explosives for the Canadian government.