Business + Marketing

9 Ways to Keep Your Photo Business Afloat

April 24, 2020

By JB Sallee

Photo © JB Sallee

During this unprecedented time, it’s important to try to find the positives and use your free time to explore better ways of doing things in your small business that keeps you efficient and profitable. Here are some ways that my partner and wife, DeEtte, and I are trying to keep Sallee Photography afloat and hopefully see our 18th year of business this August.

Texas-based wedding and portrait photographer JB Sallee has come up with ways to help your photo business stay afloat in tough times.
As a business that relies heavily on destination shoots and educational workshops abroad, we had to come up with ways to keep connected with clients during a tough time while also trying to stay profitable. All photos © JB Sallee

1. Reach out to your past clients NOW and encourage them to put down a small retainer for their winter/holiday session.  

Sweeten the deal and tell them the first ten families to book will receive 25 bonus holiday cards with the purchase of 50+ holiday cards, or a complimentary canvas upgrade on 16 x 24’s and up. 

Just be mindful of your cost of goods of the incentive you offer. We aim to keep our cost of goods on all sales at or below 20 percent. Consider offering a complimentary 15 x 10 unmounted e-surface print that only costs you $15 or less from your lab but can later be upgraded in size and finishing/framing for added profit. Make a call-to-action and announce that the promotion is good for seven days and will sell out fast.  

2. Offer discounted gift certificates on your site for new and return clients.  

Discounted gift certificates for future business will help draw business.

We offer “10 percent off $100, 25 percent off $250, and 50 percent off $500” gift certificates. These can be used for up to one year from purchase date for wall art and albums. We are a product-based studio and we pride ourselves on offering only the best products for our clients (which is another reason for our clients to keep coming back to us).  

3. Offer beginner photography tutorials online with a very small price tag.

Stay afloat in your business by offering online tutorials for a nominal fee.

Right now most people have nothing but time on their hands, and many emerging photographers will want to pick your brain and learn from those who have experience and knowledge. From my experience, people will pay a nominal fee, even now, to actually download tutorials and watch with full attention. (See an example of some of the tutorials I have been working on during these slow times, including one on Photo Finishing here.)

4. Write an article and submit it to anyone and everyone you can.  

Pick a topic in photography that you feel passionate about and open your heart to helping others in this industry. Raise the level of photography for all of us. If you get published, great; if not, post your thoughts on your social media pages and let your clients know why they should be coming back to you when restrictions are lifted. 

On top of that, it feels good to give back and you never know when karma will come back to you. I initially wrote all of this not to get published but more to get my brain working again after two months of zero sessions! I now feel geared up to work harder than I ever have in 18 years to keep my business open and keep providing for my family.

5. Continue to look for online and live education, and get your mind ready for when our great country opens back up again. 

Find inspiration from other photographers you look up to, because chances are that their business has slowed down and they have some free time. Be blunt and ask them for help and offer to compensate them for their knowledge and time. 

The best thing we ever did for our business was attend a three-day workshop with Photolux Studios in Ottawa our very first year of business. We went into the workshops wanting to learn how to be better photographic artists but we walked away with much, much more. We witnessed firsthand what a successful studio looked like and we went home seeking more well-rounded professionals in every aspect of our business. 

(We just happen to also offer live education, if you are looking for another boost of inspiration.)

6. Give something away for free!  

We offered our clients a free wedding contest where they could win free photo services.

Everyone loves free stuff and more people are on their social media now than ever. Take advantage of that and drive your social media followers to your site. Add a pop-up that requires them to fill in their info to participate—then you’ll have their emails for future e-blasts. 

Here is one (above) that we made for our wedding clients and here is the link. We are all in this together, so feel free to copy this idea and tailor it to you and your business. 

7. Reassure your past clients that things will get back to normal with a bit of levity.  

It's hard to stay focused and remain profitable, but sometimes a little levity is required to break the ice.

Here is a Facebook post created to remind our loyal past clients and potential future clients that we are here and will be ready for bookings as soon as it is safe to get back to business. These are trying times for every last person on this planet; bring a little smile to anyone you can.

8. Stay on the positive side of things!  

Don’t cloud your mindset with negativity, especially with social media. I look for positive groups that keep me smiling and that are not just 100 percent photography. 

One group I have found is The Mad Photographers on Facebook—it is a lighthearted group that loves photography and loves making each other smile, and they have some great ideas implemented to boost each other in business and life! Check them out here.

9. Stay positive, stay busy, stay inspired.

Try something different than you are used to for innovative ways to keep your photo business afloat.

We are all in this together so let’s all help each other make it out together. This is a unique time for small business owners to hit the reset button and come back stronger than ever, even if you have to try something different than you are used to. Think outside the box, and stay safe!

Sallee Photography has been a long standing and reputable studio in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, becoming known early in their career for their innovative wedding and portrait imagery. A married team who have been photographers for almost two decades, JB and his wife DeEtte Sallee are the heartbeat of the business, investing 60+ hours per week each to their clients and to their small business, which in August 2020 will mark its 18th year in operation. JB is also a veteran WPPI speaker and Print Comp judge, and has had the distinction of Grand Master Photographer of WPPI and Profoto Legend of Light. JB has also won the coveted Grand Award for Albums and is the second most awarded photographer at WPPI. 2020 was JB’s 12th year judging and speaking at WPPI.