So, you are at the point where you have decided that you need quality photography to promote your business. You may even have gone so far as asking for prices, only to find that everything is a lot more expensive than you had expected. And while it might certainly be the impression at first glance that photography is out of reach. The real issue is that most businesses don't understand exactly how to exploit their purchase to the fullest.
One of my specialties is architectural photography, so I do a lot of work with architects and interior designers. Of whom, many are with small firms or one-person business that don't have much experience with marketing yet. So when the conversation gets to pricing they are essentially going from a budget of $0. for photography, to what must seem like prices through the stratosphere. The problem is that they see photography as an all or nothing proposition. They think" if I switch to a professional photographer for my portfolio then I will have to pay "all this money" for every project, without really knowing the benefit of the new expenditure. This is where things go wrong, because rather than being boxed into a corner at this point, in reality you have lots of options at many price points.
Time to break things down.
You don't need to jump right into the big leagues. If you can be strategic about how you use a single image or a small handful of images, a few hundred dollars can make a big impact on how your business will be seen in your market.
Lets say you have an interior design business and that much of your business is local. Hopefully, word of mouth has served you well, you might have met a client while networking, handed out a card or had a friend of a friend recommend you. If you are lucky and they remember you, they will come looking for you. And since it isn't the 90's anymore when they look for you it is not going to be through the Yellow Pages. They are going to Google you, and if they don't fully remember your name, they will search for something like "interior designer near me".
The results of your potential client's search will be a mix of all sorts of information. Google will probably suggest businesses near you with a map, there might be some local directories like Manta, Yelp, Google+ and if you are lucky and have a good enough website your webpage will hopefully show up in the first page of results. What you really want is continued engagement, you need for your client to contact you and for you to ultimately make a sale. And if it takes longer than a few seconds for you to make an impression than you are probably in trouble.
All of the local directories are there for businesses, if you go to their page and claim your business you are allowed to add information like web page, contact phone numbers, email addresses and hours of operation. Going on these sites and claiming your business is a big step in the right direction, it speaks highly of the level of care and service that your business provides. But what I see as one of the most important features is that you can post photos. Photos are a big open window into your business. They are welcoming and assure people of the level of engagement and care this business takes in serving their clients.
A typical search in a local directory provides tons of listings, some businesses have claimed their listings and have a phone number or email that is easy to find. But, very few businesses post photos, especially good ones. They might post some dingy iphone images that should scare anyone in their right mind away. But bright and engaging photos that attract attention are uncommon. One thing that is clear when comparing businesses though, is how much of an impact a great photo or a couple of photos can make. I barely notice the listings without images and unless I am specifically looking for a particular business I will probably be distracted by the most impressive listings.
Imagine this scenario, your client has heard great things about your work and is ready to hire you. They look up your name in Google but also find some great looking images in the exact style they had in mind by a designer a mile away. The images popped right up in the map results because that designer claimed their listing and posted a few professional images. If your client is considering getting a second bid, they might have just found their designer.
So lets get down to brass tacks.
You really love the work of a photographer, the style fits with your brand and the pictures look like they are out of a magazine. The photographer quotes you $250. per image for unlimited use online, you decide to get two, even though it seems expensive. One picture of your interior design and a great head shot. Most people stop there and don't really use the pictures. They might post to facebook or istagram and think the money was wasted (it probably was).
Here is how you should use the images:
Find your listing in Google maps, claim your business and post the photos
Create a listing on Linked-in and post your headshot and photo
Create a listing in Google+ and post photos
Create a listing in Manta and post photos
Create a Bing business listing and post your photos
On your Facebook business page, update your profile with the headshot and use the design photo for your banner
For $500. you seriously upgraded your local businesses marketing and boosted the first impression of almost every single person that contacts you. You got some very positive looks from people trying to find your competition. You added a bunch of links to your website and made it much easier to find. Give it a couple months and If you like the results get another two images and slowly build up your assets. You actually have lots of options, and you don't necessarily need to start spending a fortune on photography. You can get a couple of stellar shots and supplement with iphone photos. How you proceed is up to you but if you have been scared off by high prices, you are probably doing it wrong.