First off this is a true story. We have done this, it worked for us, and it can work for you too! With the right targeting, photography, and marketing approach you can turn a free shoot into $10,000+. Our example centers around a dance studio, but it can work for any group that fits your targeting – classes, sports teams, a group of friends, if it fits your targeting it can work!
It’s All About The Targeting
Nowadays we do a few free shoots a year for causes that really help the community or we donate additional images to families when it feels appropriate. But, when we first started out we did plenty of free shoots as a part of marketing strategy. We didn’t jump on every offer for “tons of exposure,” but we certainly weighed whether or not we thought that legitimate exposure would help our interests in the long run. Sometimes it panned out… other times it didn’t but for sure we learned one thing – when it comes to free shoots it is all about targeting.
In our case, our original client came to us, but there have been plenty of times we have reached out to clients and offered free shoots, don’t feel like you have to wait for someone to call you! Our original client called and informed us that she was a dance instructor and she had a ballet dancer that was getting ready to graduate and go off to college. The instructor wanted to gift her a photo session in the dance studio and a few images as a congratulations and good-bye.
That was a pretty normal inquiry… but, here is how we replied. Knowing that we could capture some beautiful images of this young lady, and knowing that there were plenty of other families at the dance studio that would be interested in getting similar images, we decided to make a counter offer. We offered the class instructor to do her shoot completely free of charge and offered a discounted rate for prints and products, in exchange for the opportunity to hang a large canvas in the studio with an image of the young lady we were photographing and our contact information and if she would send out a short email to her class list highlighting us and showcasing the final images we delivered of the model. To our delight she said yes!
We bet on the idea that other parents would see the images we produced of the model, and they would call and inquire about booking shoots as well. This particular free session seemed target at a high possibility of additional bookings, so we jumped in with both feet!
Now that We had a targeted approach We had to execute a solid Digital Photography Marketing Plan
We developed email templates to start sending to the list, informing the parents about the accomplishments of our model in the years she had been at the dance studio, and telling them about the free session we were planning for her as a good-bye gift. We then followed up with a series of emails showing off the final images and inviting them to reach out if anyone had any questions about photography for their dancers! Parents that never even thought about having professional pictures taken of their child in their dance uniform, now had a thought in the back of their mind.
Before we had taken any pictures we got 5 replies, with people interested in our pricing and procedure for doing a photo shoot. Targeted Approach!
Here is where it starts to get a little crazy!
As we started booking a photographing other members of the dance class, in addition to the one free session, we made sure to post to Facebook and to send out email newsletters every step of the way! Every email we sent out reminded the other parents that they wanted to get pictures of their kids too, Every Facebook post showed them just how amazing their little dancers could look, every comment the parents of the girls we photographed made told the other families how much fun it was to pose and model like a real big time dancer! Each update and email was followed with more inquiries!
When the first products arrived (a package of prints and one big 24×36 canvas print) we delivered the images to the dance studio and hung the canvas on the wall with business cards and flyers mounted next to it! Every time the dancers and parents came into class they got one more reminder of just how awesome professional dance photography can look – another handful of inquiries.
All in all 9 photography sessions were booked from that one email inquiring about a shoot!
With the right target and the right approach this could be your success story too! Work with us today, to bring in the right clients to your photography business, and to keep a consistent stream of referrals coming your way!