If you’re trying to get a job, build your portfolio, or develop your travel photography business, there are lots of approaches that you can take. Experience builds skills, so obviously you want to be taking as many photos and learning as much as you can.
But you also have to promote yourself. And that’s something that many photographers don’t naturally excel at. We’re photographers because we have an eye for beauty, an innate sense of telling a story through imagery, and because we’ve learned certain skills related to the technical and artistic sides of photography. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re good at self promotion and drumming up new business.
There are many ways to gain exposure as a photographer, and to grow your client base. Word of mouth is important, as is a good portfolio of work that you can submit as examples.
But did you know social media is also very important for professional photographers?
If you love social media, then yes, you probably already know that. But many people really don’t care to use it for personal reasons. If that’s true for you, you might not understand the importance of social media and how it can kickstart your travel photography business.
In this post, I’ll introduce you to promoting your business on social media. I discuss the benefits of several social media channels, and explain what to include in your profile and how to use it to drive potential clients to become interested in your business.
Why You Should Use Social Media
There are approximately 7.7 billion people in the world.
The question isn’t why should you use social media. The question is, why aren’t you jumping at the opportunity?
In business, it’s always smart to advertise in the location where your customers already hang out. By “advertise”, I simply mean actively participate. (I’m not tackling paid advertising in this post.) Given those numbers above, the chance is really good that the majority of your clients and potential clients are already using social media.
Additional, organic use of social media doesn’t cost anything. They don’t charge you for an account, for posts, for followers or likes, or anything else – unless you get into paid advertising or LinkedIn Premium. Yes, it takes time. You have to spend time learning how to make the most of the social platform tools, as well as allocating time for content creation. It takes some effort to choose photos and write a compelling caption to go with them.
But the payouts can be enormous. A booked schedule. A paid journalistic trip. A publishing deal.
Which Social Media Channel is Best?
Any of the major social media channels can help you build your travel photography business, so in some ways this comes down to personal preference. I suggest choosing one – maybe two, max, if you have enough time – and do everything you can to master them. Then you may want to add another channel, but you don’t have to.
The point is, it’s better to build a focused following and regular distribution on 1-2 channels, than it is to have next-to-nothing on 10 social media sites.
However, I’m going to tell you something that sounds counter-intuitive. Go make accounts for yourself on all of the big social media sites: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and TikTok. This is especially true if your name is somewhat common, or you want to use a keyword-specific or brand name that might get taken by others. The only reason you’re doing this is to reserve your account if you ever want to use these sites in the future.
I personally recommend the following social networks for aspiring photographers. This isn’t to say that others aren’t as good, but I’m going to focus on what I know best!
Instagram for Travel Photographers
Of the three sites, I’m covering, Instagram is the most image-focused. (Pun intended!) This makes it perfect for a portfolio, to showcase your work or sample photos. By default, images are shown in a grid format where the thumbnails are square, unless you do a little extra work when posting them to change away from a square. But when someone visits your profile and clicks on an image, and scrolls down to see more images, they don’t have to appear square there.
The biggest limitation on Instagram is that you only get one link, and that’s from the top of your profile page. You can use it to link to your website, an online inquiry tool, or another social media profile. For photographers, that’s usually ok…you’re generally sharing your visual work as the primary “product”, rather than needing to link to blog posts or physical products on an e-commerce site. So just keep this limitation in mind. (Also if you grow to more than 10,000 followers, you can add “swipe up” links to your Instagram stories, so that’s another opportunity for links.)
Instagram also is strongly focused on hashtags, like #destinationweddingphotographer or #travelblogger. As a user, you can follow hashtags and photos that use them will show up in your home feed. You can also search for hashtags, or click a hashtag on one photo to see other photos that use the same hashtag.
You can also check your profile analytics and see how well hashtags are working for you. Instagram doesn’t break down the analytics by specific hashtag, but it shows you how many visits came from all hashtags for a given post.
Here are some of my favorite travel photography hashtags for Instagram. Depending on your business, you may find others that work better for you. But here’s my gift to you: a free list of travel photography hashtags that you can test for your own business:
Facebook for Travel Photographers
In my opinion, Facebook can focus less on your photographs, but more on your business, than Instagram. Because Instagram is owned by Facebook and advertising on both is done mostly through Facebook, these two platforms can complement each other.
When you create a page for your travel photography business on Facebook, you can obviously upload photographs. But it’s less of a gallery style and has more of a blog post-like format. You can also create a call to action (“learn more” or “call now” or “sign up”) for the top of your page, instead of just having a URL. And it’s a great place to showcase your offerings as well as your experience.
Facebook is the largest social media site in the world. And because your clients or employer probably use it, that means they can actively engage with you there. They can tag you, and you can tag them (with permission) in each others’ posts. People can share your posts, if you allow, so others can see them. That can be a great crossover between word-of-mouth advertising and social media. And because of its size, your travel photography business’s Facebook page is very likely to show up in Google if someone searches on your name.
LinkedIn for Travel Photographers
Think of LinkedIn as your resume turned into social media. It’s not a portfolio like Instagram, and it’s not as great of a way to interact with individuals as Facebook.
But if you’re looking for a JOB, then LinkedIn is where you should be.
Use LinkedIn to highlight your experience as much as anything else. If you have already worked in photography or journalism, this is a great way to showcase your employment history. Even if you’ve worked in another field for a long time, it shows your job history, always an important part of the hiring decision.
You can also use LinkedIn to build connections with publications such as blogs, newspapers, and magazines. Reach out to them to introduce yourself and briefly describe what you do. Don’t be sales-y, but explain that you’re seeking employment and a bit about what your skills are and what kind of job you want.
What should your profile focus on?
Again, this depends on your objective.
If you’re a freelancer seeking clients, show your photographs! It doesn’t matter whether you want to shoot landscapes, weddings, or family portraits; potential clients want to see what you can produce. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, but when you’re a photographer the pictures are really EVERYTHING.
If you are seeking a job in photojournalism, your profile should focus on your photography, but also your writing skills. This includes primary writing sources, such as examples of published articles. But it also includes secondary writing, such as what you write on your posts themselves. Keep in mind that every part of your profile should showcase the quality of your work.
If you have relevant experience, make sure to include that, especially on LinkedIn. It’s also great to include “bona fides” such as client testimonials, sample writing, and portfolio work. Some of these can be featured in your Instagram Story Highlights that appear at the top of your page.
And no matter what kind of work you’re seeking, or which platforms you use, a method to contact you is extremely important! Make sure your link goes to a page with some kind of contact information, whether that’s a phone number, email address, or interest form. No one can hire you if they can’t find you.
For most of us, social media isn’t going to make us famous. But it’s a tool, and in the hands of a good carpenter (that’s you in this analogy!) it can work wonders for your travel photography business.
Schedule a day or half-day for yourself. Secure your profiles on each network, then pick one to get started. Post some sample work to “seed” your account. Follow clients, potential clients, colleagues, even competition that inspires you. Comment, like, and engage. Learn how to use stories to keep your content more visible, and how to use groups to build connections and grow your skills. In short, be present on social media. When you give love to social media, there’s a really good chance it will love you back.