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Did you know an engaged email list is still your best marketing and business-building tool? In fact, email marketing is still 40x more effective than social media at converting readers into paying clients. Ready to learn more about how to build a rock-solid email list?

In this guide, we're talking about capturing emails of your photography admirers and turning them into repeat clients and raving fans.  From crafting irresistible lead magnets to nurturing those connections, we're about to dive deep into the art of list-building.  So, get your laptop ready – it's time to master the inbox game!

We’ve heard new photographers describe creating an email list as unnecessary, intimidating, or even outdated. Sure, it might feel like this- but let’s look at some facts about email marketing:

  1. Email is not outdated when it comes to marketing, it is still 40 times more likely to convert readers into paying clients than social media.
  2. Far from being unnecessary, any person with a thriving business will give credit where credit is due to their email lists. Even if it's not huge- if maintained and nurtured consistently, it’s making money, building their business, and saving time.
  3. Regarding being intimidating, we’ve got good news- it doesn’t have to be, and we’re here with actionable steps to simplify it.

Having an email list is a MUST for photographers, and it continues to be one of the savviest marketing tools you can use. Building your list is also much simpler than you might expect.

Not convinced yet? Let’s dive into the basics of email lists,  the reasons you need an email list for your photography business, and how to create one as a new photographer.

What Is an Email List?

As the name suggests, an email list is a list of emails for existing and potential clients. You can use your email list to send offers to potential clients in hopes of converting them to paying customers, and as a way to generate additional income from previous clients. It’s a great way to gain clients, nurture repeat clients, add value, and expand your reach as a photographer.

Photographer looking at emails.

Why Do You Need an Email List?

Email lists are effective, inexpensive, and easy to use. Here are some of the benefits of this classic but powerful marketing tool:

More people are using email

One age-old piece of marketing advice is, “Go where your clients are.” And no matter who your clients are, you can probably reach them via email.

Even though social media has exploded recently, email is far from obsolete. About 92% of the digital population in the U.S. uses email. And what do you need in order to sign up for a social media account? An email address! That means anyone who’s on social media also has an email. 

Better engagement

Social media platforms determine who gets a chance to see your content. And then you have to hope that they just happen to be scrolling when you post. Even then, the odds are high that they’ll scroll right on without genuinely engaging with your post. After all, it isn’t personal. It’s not speaking directly to them. So, it’s easy to ignore.

With email, you know that your content will reach its intended audience. Plus, the people on your list are people who have opted in. That means they’ve specifically asked to see your content, so there’s a better chance they’ll pay attention. 

According to Hootsuite, Facebook engagement rates range from 2.21 to 6 percent on average, while email open rates are around 15-20 percent and click-through rates are about 2.5%. Email is your best bet if you want to ensure your marketing reaches your target audience.


Email is one of the most affordable marketing strategies out there. It’s free! You may pay for a service that helps you use email marketing more effectively, but these are also relatively low cost, depending on which platform you choose (more on this below). By contrast, effective social media marketing is increasingly becoming pay-to-play. It’s hard to increase your reach and engagement organically. 

You own your list

Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t build your house on someone else’s land?” This applies to putting all your marketing eggs into one basket on social media platforms.

Social media can get hacked, or platforms can go offline. They can even fold–think MySpace, Vine, or the recent controversy surrounding TikTok. The reality is that you don’t truly own your social media audience. But your email list is yours, so it’s always a reliable way to connect with your clients.

Build relationships

As we mentioned above, email is more personal than social media. With emails, you speak directly to the client and can even send specific messages to specific audiences. You can include names and personal details that make email feel more like a warm, handwritten letter than social media ever could.

All these factors make email an excellent relationship builder. By regularly sharing helpful information, offers, and updates straight to your clients’ inboxes, you can build trust and connection. And that increases the chances that leads will become clients and clients will book you again (and even recommend you to their family and friends).

Drive people to your website

With more users, higher engagement, and better relationships, email is a great way to drive people to your website. Include links to exciting content, new products, and special offers, that will entice people to visit your website and learn more.

Understand your clients

Email gives you all kinds of ways to have interactive conversations with your clients. You can ask questions, request feedback, and run surveys and polls. It’s a powerful tool to better understand your clients and give them more of what they want.

Know what works

Email marketing programs give you tons of valuable information about your campaigns. You can see how many people (and which people) open your emails, click your links, and make purchases. With these insights, you’ll learn about what works, what doesn’t, and how to make your marketing even better in the future.

When you are choosing an email marketing program you’ll want to look at some different features kike design capability, templates, how many subscribers you can have at each plan and price point, as well as the particular platforms, bounce, and delivery rates for emails. Most plans will charge a monthly fee, but some platforms, like Mailer Lite offer a free plan for up to 1,000 subscribers.

Crossroad signs

How Can New Photographers Build an Email List?

Now that you know how many benefits to having an email list for your business, let’s look at how to build one.

Start with choosing an email marketing platform, then craft a welcome email that introduces you and your business, what they can expect in your emails, and how often they can expect them.

Then, it’s time to start rounding up subscribers. Here’s how!

On Social Media

Use your social media platforms to drive people to your email list with these ideas:

  • Talk about your email list on social media and include a link in your bio. Use enticing language like, “Subscribe to my VIP mailing list” and describe what subscribers can expect, like special offers, upcoming specials, and so on.
  • Offer freebies in exchange for email addresses. If you’re a newborn photographer, this could include the best ideas for newborn outfits or tips for prepping newborns for photo sessions. You could also offer presets, images for desktops or screensavers, or printable thank-you cards.
  • On Facebook, add an email signup form.
  • If these options aren’t creating the results you want, try running some paid social media ads to bring in more subscribers.

On your website

Your website offers many places to plug your email list, including:

  • Top menu
  • Widgets
  • Blog posts 
  • About page
  • Contact page

You can also feature landing pages or pop-ups on your website with freebies that require an email address, or a pop-up asking people to sign up for your VIP mailing list. 

Using Lead Magnets to Build Your Email List

This is one of the best ways to build your email list for multiple reasons. First, you are giving away free value to your readers. This helps build like, know, and trust and will make it easier for you to make a stronger connection with your audience and potential clients. Second, if you give high-quality free value away in your lead magnets, people will be more willing to pay you for your services when the time comes. 

Consider your community when you are coming up with ideas for your lead magnets. What could enhance their lives? Why are they coming to your website? Whether it's a comprehensive client guide, a helpful posing guide, unique photography locations, wardrobe suggestions for photo sessions with convenient outfit purchase links, or even an enticing gift certificate – all these elements can serve as compelling incentives to give you their email and book with you in the future.

Photographer smiling at computer.

In-Person Ways to Build Your Email List

Because so many things happen online, we often overlook the power of in-person marketing. Here are some IRL ways to recruit email subscribers:

  • Post paper signup sheets in your studio or at events like craft fairs or trade shows.
  • Ask clients after sessions if they want to be added to your VIP mailing list for special offers and upcoming specials.
  • Talk to local businesses about working together to promote both of your email lists. 

A few more ideas

Beyond your website, social media, and face-to-face, you can also promote your email list in:

  • Other materials you provide to clients (welcome packet, style guides, etc.)
  • In emails to partners, vendors, inquiries, or clients that aren’t yet subscribed
  • Order forms

There’s no shortage of strategies to spread the word about your email list and increase subscribers. Most of these strategies are low-cost and easy to implement, and they’ll bring major benefits to your business- and your bottom line.

Don’t Forget to Get Permission from Your Subscribers

Email consent is when subscribers to your email list give you permission that allows you to send them marketing emails. According to GDPR regulations, this consent must meet specific criteria, including “being freely given, explicitly stated, well-informed, and unmistakable. Consequently, utilizing pre-selected options, concealed terms, or unclear language to secure consent is not permissible."

As you build your email list, remember to always comply with privacy regulations and get consent from subscribers. Include information about opting out in your emails, and be sure to honor any opt-out requests promptly. 

Wrapping Up

Consider this: practically everyone has an email address. It's an intimate and engaging channel that unveils insights into your clients' desires and helps you see the marketing strategies that are resonating with them.

Building and nurturing your email list might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. With some strategic thinking and a modest investment, you will have a  powerful resource for attracting new clients and nurturing repeat ones.

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