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Photography Business 101: Why You Need an Email List


As a photographer, you’re likely focused on Instagram marketing or other social media platforms to grow your business. After all, a photographer should market on photo-based platforms – right? So why do you need an email list?

Instagram is an excellent place to display your work and gain a following, of course, but never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned email list. With 4 billion daily email users and climbing fast, email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your target market. 

An email list allows you to cultivate a group of people who are interested in what you do. You can communicate with them directly – no algorithms or ads necessary. In this article, we’ll explain why every photographer needs an email list, and how to get started building yours.

how to start an email list

What’s an email list?

Great question. For anyone out of the loop, an email list is simply a list of email addresses that you’ve collected from people who want to hear from you. You can then use an email marketing service like Flodesk or ConvertKit to send newsletters, updates, special offers, and connect with prospective and past clients more directly to their inboxes.

More than 60 percent of small businesses use these lists, so there’s every chance you’ve actually signed up for one or two in your time as a consumer. Suddenly, you’re receiving emails from the brands you’ve shown an interest in. You might have even made a purchase as a result of one of these emails! 

Why you need an email list and why not having one is a mistake

As a photographer, you need to be where your target market is – and these days, that’s email. Here are some statistics that show just how important email marketing can be for businesses like yours:

  • Every $1 spent on email marketing has an average return of $42. That’s an ROI of 4200%!
  • For a ‘welcome’ email, the open rate is 82% – which means lots of people will view your promotional content. 
  • 49% of consumers actively want to hear from their favorite brands on a weekly basis.
  • The average unsubscribe rate for email lists is 0.01%. Most people on your email list will stick around!

As you can see, neglecting to start an email list means you miss out on a bunch of opportunities. Not only will you struggle to reach as many people as possible, but you’ll also miss out on key chances to engage with them and encourage conversions.

Maybe one of the most important reasons to start an email list is to own the contact information. On social media, things can change quickly. If that platform was shut down tomorrow, you’d have nothing. You would no longer have a connection to your clients. How would you find the people who were interested in your work?

With an email list, you have your customer’s email address, and you can contact them. No one can take the email list away from you. It’s a guaranteed way to maintain connection with your clients. You can’t say the same thing about social media platforms. Can you see why not having an email list can be a huge mistake for your photography business?

How photographers can get started with an email list

Building an email list from scratch can sound daunting, especially if you’re a one-man show, which is often true for photographers. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Exit-intent popup

This is a automatic pop-up that appears when someone goes to leave your website. This can be set up using plugins on your site. You can use exit popups to offer a limited discount on a session or other incentive in exchange for their email address. This can be tied to a lead magnet (explained below) the client wants for free in exchange for providing their email address. 

Homepage sign-up 

Place a signup form on your homepage and link to it from your social media platforms. Make sure the form is short and easy to fill out – you don’t want to put people off! You can ask people to sign up simply to be kept up to date and the first to know about upcoming photoshoot and promos. This can give prospective and previous clients the advantage of having first dibs on your offerings. 

Lead magnets

Come up with an incentive that you offer in exchange for someone’s email address. It could be a free ebook relevant to your clients, a mini course (maybe on how to shoot their kids), or anything else that would be of value to your clients and target market. You will work with your email marketing service provider to automatically email out your lead magnet when someone signs up for it. 


Run a competition on your Instagram or Facebook page, and require entrants to sign up to your email list to enter. You can do a giveaway for a mini shoot or a local gift that your target market would value. 

Email lists are essential for any business that wants to succeed in the long term. By building yours now, you’re giving your photography business a solid foundation on which to grow.

Lead magnet ideas for your email list

photographer lead magnet client

If you’re stuck with a low budget, or just don’t have the time to design an ebook, never fear! These lead magnet ideas can be created quickly and easily, without breaking the bank:

  1. A list of your best photography tips. 
  2. A free downloadable desktop wallpaper or phone background, featuring one of your images. 
  3. A coupon for a discount on prints, sessions, or other products.
  4. Mini tutorials on using different editing software, or tips for getting the most out of your camera.
  5. Templates for photographers. These could be anything from non-disclosure agreements to model release forms, and would be an invaluable resource for anyone just starting out in the industry.

The best way to come up with your lead magnet is to think about what would be most useful for your target market: other photographers, and customers wanting to book a session. Keep it focused, and make sure it’s something you can create quickly and easily.

Email marketing ideas to batch and plan

Wondering what kind of content to include in your email marketing campaigns once you’re reading to engage with your list? The best campaigns are succinct, attractive, and offer value to the reader. Here are some ideas you can batch and plan ahead, so you’re never stuck for content:

  • A monthly round-up of your best blog posts or sessions from the month before. Not only will this save you time, but it will also remind people of the value you offer, and encourage them to visit your site. 
  • A behind-the-scenes look at a recent photo shoot. This could be a short video or series of images, showing how you set up and capture your images. 
  • A ‘day in the life’ style email, giving insight into what it’s like to be a photographer. 
  • A mini-course on taking better photos with your phone. 
  • A lineup of your current promotions, competitions, and services.

Remember, the key with email marketing is to focus on quality over quantity. Your list members will appreciate receiving emails that are interesting and offer value, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find a style and format that works for you.

Flodesk vs ConvertKit: which is best for photographers?

Maintaining an email list is incredibly hard work without the right tools. This is where an email marketing service comes in: to make the process of sending out newsletters, messages, and other automated emails much easier.

When it comes to email marketing services, there are two that stand out for photographers: Flodesk and ConvertKit. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to decide which one is best for your business before making the investment.


Flodesk for photographers

Over the last few years, Flodesk has been gaining popularity for its simple setup and beginner-friendly interface. The support team is responsive, too, which is always a bonus. Most of all, their email templates are simply stunning and well suited for a photographer. 

Flodesk is essentially an automation platform; it’s great for sending out automated emails (like a welcome series or an abandoned cart email), and you can customize your email marketing funnels to suit your messaging. 

With a 30-day free trial, it’s easy to give this tool a go before committing to anything. The unlimited plan will then cost you $59 per month billed annually. 


ConvertKit for photographers email list

Many photographers would consider ConvertKit their go-to email marketing platform; it’s got all of the benefits that Flodesk offers, plus many more features. For instance, ConvertKit lets you split-test your emails to see which performs best in terms of open rate and click-through rate. If your photographer business is thriving and you need more features, this could be the service for you. 

Additionally, ConvertKit has a large collection of ready-made templates you can use to build powerful automated workflows. While Flodesk undoubtedly has the prettier interface, ConvertKit packs a punch features-wise. 

Not all of ConverKit’s features are going to be necessary for a small photography business – like paid newsletters, for example, or the 100+ integrations – but at less than half the price of Flodesk’s unlimited plan, ConvertKit is the better choice. 

You can start with the 14-day trial, then choose from the Free Plan ($0), Creator plan ($9/month), or Creator Pro plan ($25/month), with the latter two being paid annually. 

So, should you start a photography email list?

The answer is a resounding yes! An email list is a powerful tool that will help you build relationships with your target market, sell more products and services, and grow your business. Just remember to keep your content focused, valuable, and interesting, and you’ll be sure to see success.