Business + Marketing

Why the Photography Slow Season is Nothing to Dread

April 23, 2021

By Elena S Blair

© Elena S Blair

Fall is far busier for my family photography business, but I now no longer have slow seasons. My steady bookings came when I spent time learning how to be a good business woman and market myself effectively. Slow seasons are the perfect time to do that.

I will never forget the thrill of my first booked year. Finally, after lots of trial and error, I had managed to book up my fall months. It was amazing! I was finally making a good income with this photography gig and was really finding my way in business. Then January came and…. cue the crickets. My inbox was empty and so was my bank account. But what’s worse is my motivation had also tanked. This was my first encounter with the photography slow season.

It is hard to stay motivated when you are judging success on inquiries. I get it. I have been there. Self-doubt creeps in and you think, Maybe this isn’t for me… But it’s not true, friend. Even seasoned photographers experience a photography slow season. Not to mention right now, we are still living through a global health crisis!

[Read: 3 Ways Photographers Can Market For a New Reality]

Don’t worry. The photography slow season isn’t anything to be afraid of—you can take advantage of this time, pandemic or not. There are a few things you can do right now to get your motivation back and start planning to make this year awesome.

1. Start shooting for yourself again.

I know my personal work goes by the wayside when my business is busy, so I like to spend the slow months working on my own personal and artistic development.

[Read: Ideas for Photographers to Stay Creative, Productive, Connected and Centered]

Here are a few ideas on how you can motivate yourself creatively:

Take a class!

I try to take at least one class during my photography slow season. Taking a class in a genre you don’t usually photograph can be extremely eye-opening and it will expand your skill set. You can take a class on lighting, editing, etc. and really expand your creative abilities. Taking a class will be motivating as well as inspiring.

[Read: How to Find Creative Photography Inspiration in 7 Steps]

Photograph what inspired you to pick up the camera in the first place.

I take time to bring out my camera just for me and photograph what makes my heart sing, which is my children. For you, this may mean photographing landscapes or nature again. Taking care of your creative passion is important. Doing this during the slow season allows me to return to busy season with an infusion of creativity and a renewed passion for my craft.

[Read: How to Push Your Creative Photography with Series and Challenges]

2. Update your online portfolio and website.

Your portfolio should always be a collection of your best work but more importantly, it should be the work you want to create. Updating your portfolio can be a lengthy process, so the photography slow season is the perfect time to do it.

[Read: 20 Productive Things To Do For Your Wedding Photography Business Right Now]

Here are a few tips on how to update your portfolio:

Make a folder to “dump” your best work in.

Keep the folder on your desktop and name it “Portfolio.” Comb through all of your client galleries from the past year and pick out the images that you think represent you as an artist.

It will feel good to see the progress you have made. Having this folder will give you content to use in the year to come as well as on social media.

Only add photos to your portfolio that meet the following criteria:

— Photos should be examples of your best work. Your portfolio is a place to showcase your talents and expertise. No need to share sub-par work.

— Photos should represent work that you want to keep shooting. If you don’t want to photograph weddings, take all wedding work out of your portfolio. If you don’t want to use props, don’t show photos with props.

— Photos should be an accurate representation of what you can deliver. You want potential clients to know what kinds of photos they will receive if they decide to work with you. If you don’t provide photos with everyone looking at the camera, don’t put those in your portfolio.

[Read: How to Balance Work and Play to Find Your Creative Style in Photography]

3. Get business savvy.

Guess what, friend? Having a photography business that thrives is about 20 percent art, 80 percent business. I now don’t have a photography slow season. Sure, fall is far busier, but I have steady bookings all year long. Why? Because I have learned how to be a good business woman and market myself effectively.

Here are a few ways to start diving into business knowledge:

Spend your free time consuming business-centered content.

Dive into business podcasts and books. Podcasts are free and there are countless podcasters who specialize in small-business matters and marketing. Books are reasonably priced and chock-full of valuable information about business.

[Watch: RF + WPPI’s Free On-Demand Webinars from Photography and Business Experts]

Take a business class.

What better time to learn about business than when business is slow? There are endless options for online business education. The photography slow season is a great time to learn about a specific marketing technique or to learn how to better organize and manage your business with systems.

[Read: Fast Photo Workflow—How to Button Up Your Post-Production Process with Sam Hurd]

4. Diversify your business offerings.

The most successful photographers have multiple offers. Have you ever thought about trying something new? The photography slow season allows you the time to learn a new skill and launch it as an official offer for your business.

Here are a few ideas:

Fine-Art School Photography

School photography is a quick way to bring fast cash injections into your business. It also puts you front and center with families with children, which is perfect if you are a family or newborn photographer. You can photograph daycares, small schools, larger schools, and everything in between.

[Read: Fine-Art School Portraits—The Beauty of Volume Photography]

Branding Photography

Branding photography is a service that provides headshots and photographs highlighting someone’s business. You can offer this to other photographers as well as other small-business owners. Having professional photographs to market one’s business is invaluable. This valuable service can happen all year long!

[Read: Corporate Portraits Beyond the Boardroom—10 Photography Tips]

Presets and Actions

If you are skilled at editing, you can craft your own unique presets or actions and sell those to other photographers.

[Read: What Does It Really Take to Create and Sell Your Own Photo Presets?]

This is a great way to dive into the world of “passive income,” which is where you make money without actually having to be there.

[Read: Lindsay Adler’s 10 Steps to Selling Photographs as NFTs]

Virtual Assistant Services

Consider becoming a virtual assistant for another photographer during your photography slow season. While your business is slow, you can offer services like email support, customer support, album design and more. Many established photographers are looking for help with the administrative parts of their business. This can be a fantastic way to earn more money during your photography slow season.

Use This Time Wisely!

Your busy season will come again, and when it does, you will be so much better prepared if you use this time to educate yourself and grow. You’ve got this!

Elena S Blair is an award-winning family and newborn photographer based in Seattle, Washington. She is also an educator who co-owns Blair & Thurston Retreats and Lady Boss Workshops