Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Should professional photographers have business cards? It seems like an obvious answer at first: small business owners should always carry business cards around with them, right? Well, as you read this blog and learn from our experience you might find out that the answer isn’t so simple.
The past few weeks Sarah and I have been doing some re-organizing at home, and as we sorted through old boxes and cabinets, we discovered ten BOXES of old business cards, almost half of which hadn’t even been opened. By our best guess, we recycled almost 2,500 old business cards this week, and it’s gotten us thinking.
Now we know that each photographer and each business is totally unique, so there likely isn’t a one-sized-fits-all approach. But we want photographers to spend their hard-earned cash on things helping them advance their business, and not just doing what they believe is expected of them. So in the interest of fairness, we’re going to present both sides of the argument, and let you decide whether or not business cards are right for your photography business.
As photographers, showing off great imagery is one of the most important parts of your outreach strategy. That’s why it’s our very first piece of advice to new photographers. You can be incredibly likable, have great business systems, and the most professional camera gear on the market, but if you can’t demonstrate good imagery, no one will hire you. A business card is an opportunity to give someone a small piece of your portfolio that they can hold in their hand. Don’t underestimate the power of printed images in an increasingly digital world!
Although making a business card doesn’t take more than a few minutes and cost only a few cents each, they still establish some small level of credibility. Especially for newer photographers who don’t have tons of client reviews or a robust portfolio and website to back them up, just handing out a business card can change the way your prospective client thinks about you.
While your phone might run out of battery or become disconnected from the internet, your business cards will show that favorite image of yours 24/7, rain or shine, internet or not. While “just look me up on Instagram, here’s my handle…” may work for some, not everyone keeps a smartphone full of social media apps at their fingertips (think about your parents or grandparents’ generations).
As printing companies are quick to point out, there are plenty of opportunities to distinguish your card. You can make them ultra-thick, or print them with reflective ink. You can make them square, or triangular, or engrave your information into an especially thick cardstock. We’ve even been handed business cards printed on cloth or wood. Although expensive, if you’re in a market where standing out during in-person interaction is important, it may be worth the extra investment.
As a photographer, your style will likely change and develop over time, especially during your early formative years as a professional. And even if you’ve been in business for years and you feel like your style has reached a stable point, you will hopefully take better and better images every time you shoot. You should always be improving, which means your “best image” from February might make you cringe by October. Even if you opt to have no image on your card (a strange choice for a photographer) there’s always the chance that you’ll re-brand or update your logo or contact information, making yet another box of business cards obsolete.
If your style is always changing and your “best image” is always developing, then you’ll either be handing out business cards that you’re embarrassed about, or you’ll be ordering business cards very frequently. And if you’re anything like we were in the early years of our business, you’ll be fooled by the logic of “For only $10 more I can get double the cards?! What a deal!” In the end, you waste paper, time and money, and end up throwing out boxes and boxes of old business cards like we did.
It always seems like people ask us for our business card at the precise moment when we don’t have any on us. We’ve stashed them in our camera bags, in both of our vehicles, in Sarah’s purse and in my backpack, and I even keep a couple in my wallet. Yet we always seem to get asked when there are none to be found, and the only thing worse than spending lots of money on business cards is spending lots of money on ones you never use.
We know photographers who swear that Instagram is the new business card. It has not just one, but a constant stream of their best images, and a convenient way to get in touch with them. If your target audience is tech-savvy and already using Instagram or Facebook (like the vast majority of people in the developed world are), then this may be an easy alternative.
The jury is still out for Sarah and I as to whether or not we’ll order more cards when our current box runs out (or we throw it away due to some currently unforeseen reason). But we’ll surely be thinking about all of these reasons!
If you’re interested in learning more from us personally, and joining a community of other photographers also striving to grow their businesses, click here to join our Facebook Community, Mastering the Wedding Photography Biz with Hunter and Sarah!