Business + Marketing

How Wedding Photographers Can Make Money While in Quarantine

April 9, 2020

By Erin and Geoffrey Goudeau

© Erin & Geoffrey Photography

We wanted to take a moment to talk about how COVID-19 is affecting wedding photographers around the globe. We know portrait photographers, gear manufacturers and photo shows have been upended by the pandemic, and that beyond the photo industry, many others have been hit hard. These are trying times for everyone. For businesses everywhere, money is scarce.

And wedding vendors are among the small businesses that have been hit the hardest. Most wedding photographers have lost most of, if not all of their work in the coming months—and those based in the U.S. are looking to recover what money and support they can from the stimulus bill.

[RF asked a lawyer-for-artists to explain wedding cancellations from a legal standpoint, as well as what you should do to protect your business.]

We know that the decision to postpone has been one of the most difficult for couples to have to make. Like most wedding photographers, we truly love documenting weddings and we get genuinely excited to celebrate our couples’ love with them, so our hearts hurt for the couples that will not be able to celebrate their wedding when they were expecting to.

As much as we are saddened for our couples, we are also facing the reality that our own income, like every other wedding photographer over the next few months, has been and will continue to be greatly depleted. Being unable to conduct business and make money as usual will be enough to put many out of business.

However, there are still ways to make money as a wedding photographer and keep a photo business alive in trying times. We’d like to share how we have found success in making money while not shooting, and how you can copy this same process over the next few months during this pandemic.

Print sales don’t need to be done in person.

Despite the common belief that you can only make real money by selling prints in person, we are here to say that this is simply not true.

Selling in person is a truly powerful way to connect with your clients and show them the value that physical products have by putting them directly in their hands. There are varying in-person sales methods out there, from subtle and simple (for those who aren’t natural salesmen) to something more hands-on. But if you can meet with clients in person, there are other successful ways of selling to them.

[See our COVID-19 resource page for business information and creative inspiration that will help you rise to the occasion.]

We found the power of online sales around four or five years ago when we started shooting mainly destination weddings. It became impossible to get our couples back into the studio for an in-person sales session. Without a real way to get our products in our clients hands, we lost a significant amount of revenue.

Since that time, we have developed a system that really works for us. Now, we can make just as much money if not more by doing print sales online as we used to make in our studio.

We want to walk you through the exact steps we take for online print sales so you can start doing this today. We will mention specific companies that we use and why we recommend using these companies, but please know that our systems can be adapted to any proofing gallery that you use.

Build your client’s expectations to purchase prints first.

If you really want to seal the deal, plant the idea of how awesome a print or album would look in your couple’s home before they even have the option to purchase these products. After all, they hired you because of the incredible work you do.

One way we do this is by having photos of our products on our website. And during the shoot itself, we make sure to tell the clients if we take a photo that we know would look awesome printed or in an album.

Trust us: If one of your couples sees you getting genuinely excited about how awesome this photo is going to look hanging on their wall, they are going to love hearing that and will likely purchase and print that exact image.

If you’re stuck in self-isolation from COVID-19 right now, keep this step in mind for when you can begin shooting again.

Give your couples discounted incentives to purchase prints.

In our experience, our couples did not purchase a lot of prints using the online gallery we provided them until we started to incentivize them to do so.

This one key step made all the difference! Seriously. We saw a 300 percent increase in print sales the same month we started doing this: We send out three campaigns of coupon codes amounting to 20 to 30 percent off during the lifetime of their online gallery (usually three years).

wedding photography money print discount code offer erin and geoffrey

The first coupon code goes out the same day we deliver a wedding gallery. Our couples get so excited to see their wedding photos a few weeks after their wedding that they, of course, want to make prints from the awesome gallery they just received. It only takes a small nudge with a discount code to get the ball rolling. We share this discount code with everyone who is important from the wedding—our couples, their parents, etc.

In the first couple of weeks of delivering a gallery, we can easily make $200 in profit from print sales from that one gallery. So, if we deliver four galleries per month, those four galleries can turn into $800.

online print gallery discount code countdown

We know what you’re thinking: Due to the mandatory quarantine, photographers aren’t shooting weddings and may not have any new ones to deliver. In our case, we only have about two galleries to deliver over the next month. Don’t worry. There are still more options.

Remember, the initial 20 percent off coupon code is just the first one we send out. And in our experience, it is the least profitable.

Here is the next one: a “One-Year Anniversary” coupon code. About a month before a couple’s anniversary, we send them a “Happy Anni” 20 percent off coupon code. This is a big one! Now that our couples have settled into life and things have calmed down, they are ready to order products from their wedding. Many of our couples have ordered a large amount of prints, both framed and matted, plus lay-flat albums all in one order after this offer.

ordering prints online through gallery link shared with couples discount code

If you are coming up on a couple’s one-year anniversary, do yourself a huge favor and send them an incentive to purchase prints. Remember, they already want the products you offer; you just need to give them a polite nudge to purchase them.

The final discount code that we send out is on their second anniversary. This one is just to remind them that their online gallery is expiring and now is the time to order any prints or download images, if they have not already done so. We find this discount code has similar success to the second one.

What if your couples don’t meet any of these three scenarios?

You could also send out one discount code of 20 percent off or more to all of the couples in your online gallery system. Be honest and let them know that over the next few months, ordering products from your online gallery is going to be how you make ends meet. Trust me. Your clients love you and want to support you regardless of whether or not they are a new client.

However, keep in mind while you’re sending out all of these incentivizing coupon codes: If something is always on sale, it’s never truly on sale. In other words, do not overwhelm your couples with discount codes. Be selective and have one or two discounted campaigns per client per year.

We have gone overboard with discount codes before; this is definitely a way to kill print sales quickly. It’s worth repeating just one or two sale campaigns per client per year.

There are online tools that can help you with this.

Nearly every online gallery provider will let you send out discount codes. So if you’re a photographer and you’re sending out digital negatives, you may be leaving money on the table by not utilizing these methods already.

Some gallery providers make this process much easier than others. We switched to Pic-Time about two years ago and it has made our lives so much easier.

In fact, a few months back Pic-Time announced their new marketing platform for photographers that lets them send out all of the above coupon codes, so you never have to even think about it. If done right, you could make thousands of dollars each month, truly passively. This could even serve as a main source of income while you’re not shooting.

If you want help making sure that your pricing structure is set to be profitable with products, and you want us to help you set up your Pic-Time gallery to automatically send out these coupon codes to your couples, we are offering a workshop this month using Zoom to help photographers boost their print sales. This workshop will go over how much we have been making in print sales each month, our pricing structure for prints and other products, and we’ll show you the exact emails we send to clients.

There are still other ways to make money from home.

Upselling wedding albums can be a very sustainable form of income. If you’re designing an album for a couple right now, consider designing that album with a few more spreads than their package indicates. There is a good chance that your couples will like how the album looks with added spreads and they may purchase them.

If you don’t turn a profit, you’ll at least break even on the album production cost. Truthfully, we know several photographers who have made thousands of dollars per album just by upselling them. If you’re interested in this process, Fundy Designer has some great resources and training guides on how to do this.

Couples could also opt to hire you for a future family session by purchasing a gift certificate. Just let your couples know that this is an option on your social media accounts.

We have also seen photographers find success in opening up a print shop on their website and selling prints from their travels. Although new for us, we set one up recently.

We are confident that the areas we mentioned here will bring you some extra revenue over the next few weeks and months. If anyone needs help setting this up, reach out to us through one of our online workshops. We would be happy to help.

Erin and Geoffrey Goudeau are a wedding photography duo based in New Orleans.