Building a pinup business in this day and age can be a daunting task. Although digital capture has made our jobs easier and morecreative, it has also given our potential customers the ability to capture their own important moments. Just a few short years ago, photographers were only competing with other local photographers to win business. Now it can be a friend or family member. With all that added pressure, it is oftentimes harder to discover a way to break through the barriers to carve out your niche. You may be the most creative photographer in the world, but without understanding the power of relationships, you could really struggle to build your brand.
But there is one key aspect of my pinup work that has made a huge difference, and it might really surprise you—it's networking! I know I've covered this before, but for boudoir and pinup photography it's HUGE.
One of the first accounts I ever secured with a pinup vendor happened totally by accident; however, it had tremendous impact on my business. One day I stopped into a little lingerie boutique. As I wandered around the store, I noticed several images of a local photographer’s work. I vividly remember thinking how nice it would be to have my own work hanging in such a cute place like that. I was just getting into pinup photography at the time, and had very few clients.
As I walked through the boutique, the owner asked me if I needed help. We looked at different lacy items, getting to know each other as I shopped. I wanted to mention that I was a photographer, but I held back for fear of finding out that she already had a photographer who she worked with. I felt more and more nervous thinking of some way to bring it up. I was on the verge of leaving the store without mentioning it, when I took a deep breath, found some inner courage and told her about my work.
I told her about my studio, the different types of photography that I offer, and the charities that I work with. Finally, I mentioned that if she ever wanted some fun pinup portraits, I would love to show her samples. She was very enthusiastic about this, saying she hadn’t had any pinup photography in her store before, and that she loved the idea.
[blockQuote position="right"]You never know who you might meet, where you might meet them and who they might know.[/blockQuote]
After seeing my work, she said I was welcome to display any albums, marketing pieces and framed work that I wanted. I was numb with shock, yet thrilled with the new prospect. She was very kind and complimented me on my work and my openness. I will never forget walking out of that boutique on cloud nine. I’m sure I radiated happiness and shouted for joy when I got into my car.
I have often wondered what would have happened had I not opened my mouth. As it turns out, that networking brought in nearly every one of my pinup sessions that year. I quickly learned the power of relationships and how sometimes you just have to ask. I’ve done this with other types of photography as well, seeking out complimenting vendors and approaching them in a professional way. I’ve made appointments, come prepared to show samples of my best work along with a little treat—a box of cookies or brownies—as a welcoming gift.
Although I was turned down many times, more often than not, I at least made a new friend. Soon those ties grew and some of my best vendors were referring me to other vendors. Together we created a network of support to each other. To this day, many of those vendors are clients who I consider dear friends.
If you truly love photography, as I’m sure you do, then never shy away from expressing your passion. You never know who you might meet, where you might meet them and who they might know.
Had I walked out of that lingerie boutique without mentioning photography—as I had initially wanted to—who knows? I really believe that chance meeting changed the course of my business and it set the target for my future endeavors.
I hope this secret to pinup success will help you push through the jitters and make some new connections in your community.