Business Tips
Posted by Jana Ferreira
Updated: October 13, 2023

Ben Hartley’s 3x5x3 Framework for an Effective Photography Marketing Strategy

In this article, we’ll break down Ben Hartley’s 3x5x3 Framework that will take your photography marketing strategy to new heights. 

Aftershoot co-founder & CIO Justin Benson invited Ben Hartley to discuss the 3x5x3 Framework in a Lunch & Learn session that was broadcast live in the Aftershoot Community Facebook group. 

Watch the video interview or keep reading to see what this game-changing marketing framework is all about.

Who’s the mastermind behind the 3x5x3 Framework?

Ben Hartley, the inventor of the 3x5x3 Framework, a photography marketing strategy

Ben Hartley is a wedding and portrait photography business coach and mentor. He’s also the host of the Six Figure Photography Podcast.

Ben has helped over 400 photographers build a thriving photography business and offers his advice freely in his Facebook group, Ben Hartley's Mastermind | Coaching For Wedding & Portrait Photographers.

He developed the 3x5x3 Framework to give photographers a systematic and strategic approach to marketing their services effectively.

The 3x5x3 Framework provides a clear roadmap for photographers to navigate the complexities of marketing in the digital age and make the most of various platforms and interactions. 

So, why is it called the “three by five by three” framework?

What do the numbers mean?

Explanation of the numbers in the 3x5x3 Framework photography marketing strategy

The numbers in the 3x5x3 Framework refer to the key components that are part of this marketing approach. 

They serve as a guide to help you understand the strategies necessary to achieve effective and sustainable marketing results.

The framework operates across three fundamental areas (social presence, society, and search) with the goal of maximizing marketing efforts in each realm.

Within these three areas, the framework emphasizes the implementation of five distinct strategies, and it is then optimized by posing three key questions.

Let's break down what each component means.

3 Areas of Focus 

The first "3" represents the three fundamental areas where the framework directs your marketing efforts. 

These areas are:

  • Social Presence – This refers to your online presence on platforms like social media, where you connect with potential clients and showcase your work.
  • Society –This pertains to in-person interactions and engagements, such as attending events, trade shows, and networking opportunities.
  • Search – This involves strategies to improve your visibility on search engines, like optimizing your website for search engine optimization (SEO).
Photographer working on website on computer

5 Marketing Strategies

The second "5" represents the five distinct strategies that you can employ within each of the three areas to effectively market your photography services. 

These strategies are:

  • Direct Approach – Making explicit asks or sales directly to your audience.
  • Indirect Approach – Offering value upfront through engaging content that addresses problems and encourages action.
  • Partnerships – Collaborating with other businesses or vendors to expand your reach.
  • Past Clients – Leveraging satisfied clients for referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.
  • In-Person Connections – Engaging with potential clients face-to-face and building personal relationships.
Photographer talking to woman at tradeshow

3 Key Questions

The final "3" represents the three essential questions that guide your marketing efforts and help you optimize the strategies within each area. 

These questions are:

  • Who else can I partner with? – This emphasizes collaboration to broaden your impact.
  • How can I move out from behind the screen? – This encourages transitioning from online interactions to real-world engagements.
  • How can I bring value to others first? – This shifts the focus to offering value and solving problems for your audience before making asks or sales.
People shaking hands

How the 3x5x3 Framework unlocks exponential growth

The true power of the 3x5x3 Framework lies in its potential for exponential growth over time. 

Rather than expecting instant results, the framework encourages a more strategic and patient approach. 

By thoughtfully implementing these strategies and questions, you can create a domino effect of marketing efforts that extend beyond initial actions – ultimately leading to the growth and success of your photography businesses.

For example:

Imagine a scenario where you showcase your work at a trade show alongside vendors in related industries. 

As attendees engage with your content, share their experiences, and refer others, your brand's reach multiplies organically. 

Similarly, sharing photos of your work with clients at an event can trigger a wave of positive word-of-mouth marketing.

This photography marketing strategy also emphasizes the importance of genuine interactions. 

By moving beyond the screen and forming personal connections, you create lasting impressions that can translate into loyal clients and referrals.

A real-world example of how the 3x5x3 Framework works

To illustrate the 3x5x3 Framework in action, let's look at a practical example of how a wedding photographer could implement these strategies to enhance her marketing efforts.

Photographer: Sarah's Wedding Photography

1. Identify the core strategy (3)

Sarah's core strategy is to leverage the power of partnerships to expand her reach and connect with potential clients. 

She wants to collaborate with other wedding vendors to create a network that benefits everyone involved.

Woman at florist

2. Implement the core strategy (5)

Partnership with a wedding planner: 

Sarah reaches out to a local wedding planner, Emily, whose work she admires. 

She proposes a mutually beneficial partnership: she'll offer a discount to clients referred by Emily, and in return, Emily will recommend Sarah to her clients. 

Emily agrees, and they start cross-promoting each other's services on social media and their websites.

Collaboration with a florist and makeup artist: 

Sarah also partners with a popular local florist and makeup artist. 

Together, they plan a styled photoshoot showcasing their services. They contribute their expertise and time, and each receives professional photos for their portfolios. 

Sarah shares the photos on her blog and social media, giving credit to her collaborators and linking to their websites.

Makeup artist doing a bride's makeup

3. Amplify across locations (3)

Online (social media):

Sarah shares behind-the-scenes content from the styled photoshoot on her Instagram and Facebook pages. 

She tags the other vendors, creating a buzz and introducing her followers to the collaborative team.

Online (website and SEO):

Sarah creates a blog post about the styled photoshoot, optimizing it for relevant keywords like "wedding photography" and "bridal makeup." 

This increases the chances of her blog post appearing in search engine results, attracting potential clients searching for wedding-related services.

In-person (trade show): 

Sarah attends a local bridal expo, bringing along samples of her work and a slideshow showcasing the styled photoshoot. 

She invites Emily, the wedding planner, and her other collaborators to join her at the booth. Their joint presence attracts visitors and builds connections.

Photo taken at bridal expo

4. Reuse and repurpose content (3)

Social media: 

Sarah repurposes photos from the styled photoshoot for a social media campaign. 

She creates posts highlighting the collaborative effort and the beautiful results, tagging her partners and encouraging followers to explore their services too.


Sarah adds the styled photoshoot images to her website's portfolio section, demonstrating her versatility and ability to capture diverse wedding styles.

Blog and newsletter: 

Sarah writes a series of blog posts detailing each vendor's role in the photoshoot. 

She also includes tips for brides-to-be on how to coordinate different aspects of their wedding.

Woman working on her blog for her photography marketing strategy

5. Connect the dots (3)

Social media:

Sarah interacts with her partners' content regularly on social media by liking, commenting, and sharing their posts. 

This ongoing engagement strengthens their collaborative relationship and exposes each vendor to a wider audience.

Email marketing:

Sarah sends an email newsletter to her subscribers, featuring the styled photoshoot as a success story of vendor collaboration. 

She invites her subscribers to explore her partners' services, fostering a sense of community and trust.

Follow-up with leads: 

Whenever Sarah receives inquiries from potential clients, she shares stories from the styled photo shoot to illustrate how she collaborates with other vendors to create memorable wedding experiences.

Photographer working on her mobile phone

By following the 3x5x3 Framework, Sarah strategically leverages partnerships, maximizes online and in-person opportunities, and repurposes content to expand her reach, connect with potential clients, and differentiate her wedding photography business. 

This comprehensive approach helps her establish a strong presence in the wedding industry and drive meaningful growth in her business.

10 benefits of using the 3x5x3 Framework

In essence, the 3x5x3 Framework empowers photographers to approach marketing efforts strategically, focusing on high-impact strategies that align with their brand and goals. 

By following this framework, you can:

  • Achieve better results
  • Improve your visibility, and 
  • Establish a strong and enduring presence in your photography niche

Let’s look at some of the huge benefits this photography marketing strategy will bring.

1. It offers a structured approach 

The framework breaks down the marketing process into three main areas (social presence, society, search), five key strategies (direct, indirect, partnerships, past clients, in-person connections), and three essential questions. 

This structured approach makes marketing more manageable and less overwhelming.

2. It provides comprehensive coverage

By covering three different areas of focus (online presence, in-person engagement, and search visibility), the framework ensures that photographers are reaching potential clients through various channels, increasing their overall reach and impact.

Photographer talking on the phone with a client

3. It diversifies marketing strategies

The framework introduces you to a variety of marketing strategies. 

This diversification helps photographers avoid relying solely on one approach and maximizes their chances of reaching different segments of their target audience.

4. It offers an efficient use of resources

Instead of spreading yourself too thin by attempting to do everything, you can focus on a few key strategies that align with your strengths and goals. 

This helps you allocate your time, energy, and resources more efficiently.

5. It leads to long-term growth

The 3x5x3 Framework emphasizes the idea of exponential growth over time. 

While the impact of certain marketing actions might not be immediate, consistent efforts and partnerships can lead to a snowball effect, gradually increasing your visibility and reputation.

Image that shows business growth

6. It opens up opportunities for collaboration

The partnership strategy encourages you to collaborate with other vendors and businesses. 

This not only expands your network but also creates opportunities for cross-promotion and word-of-mouth referrals.

7. It follows a value-centric approach

The framework encourages you to provide value to your audience before making sales. 

By addressing pain points, solving problems, and offering helpful content, you can build trust and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

8. It encourages real-world engagement

This approach recognizes the importance of in-person connections, such as going to trade shows, events, and networking. 

It acknowledges the value of face-to-face interactions in building relationships and credibility.

Photographer making connections face-to-face

9. It is adaptable

This comprehensive framework is adaptable to various niches within photography, allowing photographers to tailor the strategies to their specific audience and market.

10. It’s a sustainable strategy

Rather than relying on short-lived tactics or trends, the framework promotes a long-term, sustainable marketing approach that focuses on creating lasting connections and a strong reputation.

If you’re experiencing the following issues, the 3x5x3 Framework will help solve them

The 3x5x3 Framework is designed to address common challenges and problems that photographers encounter in their marketing efforts. 

Here are some of the key issues this framework will help solve:

Feeling overwhelmed and not having time for marketing

Marketing can be overwhelming! Most photographers are busy with photography sessions and editing, leaving limited time for marketing. 

With this framework, you can make the most of your time by focusing on high-impact strategies and efficient tactics.

The manageable steps help to reduce overwhelm and make it easier to take actionable steps.

Photographer walking to the beach

Lack of focus

Many photographers struggle with focusing their marketing efforts on the most impactful strategies. 

Without a clear marketing strategy, you’re bound to resort to random marketing activities that don't yield significant results. 

Ben Hartley’s framework provides a structured approach that aligns with business goals and target audience needs. 

It helps photographers identify the most effective actions to take, preventing them from spreading themselves too thin.

Inconsistent marketing results

Inconsistent marketing efforts will lead to inconsistent results. 

Also, if you don’t have a clear way to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, you might struggle to make informed decisions.

This approach encourages you to take consistent actions across different platforms and channels, leading to more predictable and reliable outcomes.

It helps you set goals and track progress, allowing you to assess your results and adjust strategies accordingly.

Photographer marketing strategy analysis on a computer screen

Limited visibility

New and emerging photographers often struggle with gaining visibility and standing out in a crowded market. 

Without a strategic approach, you might not fully utilize online platforms like social media and your website. 

The framework guides you on how to optimize these platforms for maximum reach and engagement. 

It offers strategies to increase online presence, search visibility, and partnerships, which can enhance a photographer's visibility and reputation.

Struggling to build a client base and convert leads

Building a consistent client base is a challenge for many photographers. 

The framework's emphasis on partnerships, in-person engagement, and providing value helps you connect with potential clients and establish relationships that lead to bookings.

However, converting leads into paying clients isn’t always straightforward.

By offering value first and building relationships, the framework helps improve trust and credibility, which can lead to higher conversion rates.

Photographer showing images he took on his camera

Limited networking opportunities

Networking is crucial for photographers, especially in the events and wedding industry. 

Some photographers don’t capitalize on in-person events and interactions, which is why this strategy encourages you to engage with other vendors. 

The 3x5x3 Framework outlines how to maximize the impact of trade shows, workshops, and other gatherings to generate leads and connections.

In conclusion

Ben Hartley's 3x5x3 Framework presents a fresh perspective on a photography marketing strategy. 

By strategically aligning actions across social, society, and search platforms, photographers can achieve exponential growth in their marketing efforts. 

This framework reminds photographers that success doesn't come from doing more, but from doing the right things with intentionality. 

Whether you're a wedding photographer, portrait specialist, or landscape photographer, the principles of this framework can be tailored to suit your niche. 

Embrace this approach and watch your photography business thrive in the digital age!

Be sure to check out our other articles for more photography business and marketing tips.

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