Business + Marketing

What To Do If You’re Not a Busy Photographer During the Busy Season

November 14, 2019

By Sandra Coan

© Sandra Coan

Fellow photographers Ike & Tash and their family.

This is the time of year that photographers love to get on social media and complain about how busy they are.  

I’ll admit it: I’ve done it too.

And while it can be hard to keep up with the fall and holiday rush, it’s even harder to hear about others who are exhausted from all the work coming their way when you’re inbox is empty.

[3 Things You Can Do in January to Get Your Business on Track for the New Year]

So, what do you do if you’re not busy in the busy season?

First, don’t panic. Every business has its ups and downs. If yours happens to be on the downside at the moment, use this time to look for the weaknesses in your brand and business and find solutions to fix them.

Two of the most common problems that keep photographers from booking clients are inconsistent work and lack of a marketing plan, and luckily, both are fixable.

Creating Consistent Work

If you can take great photos sometimes (like on beautiful sunny days) but not all the time (like in the fall and winter when the weather turns and days grow dark), you have a consistency problem.

Clients want and deserve beautiful pictures all the time. That’s why they come to professionals. As a pro photographer, it is your job to create consistently beautiful images every time you pick up your camera, no excuses. If it’s raining, if it’s dark, if the circumstances are less than perfect, you still have to produce professional quality work.

This may mean investing in a class or two to learn how to use artificial light (I have some great resources here), or it may mean upgrading or purchasing some new equipment. Yes, you’ll have to spend some money, which can be hard when business is down. But, if the end result is the ability to create consistently beautiful images for your clients, the investment is worth it.

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Inconsistency can also be about what you choose to share on your website, portfolio and on social media. If sometimes you share landscape photos, and then puppies, and then newborns, and then food, someone looking for family photos in the fall will probably not come to you.

Sharing all of the things sends a confusing message to potential clients. If they don’t know what you offer—and what the photos they are going to get from you will look like—they probably won’t book you.

To fix this problem, only share what you want more of.  

If you want more families in the busy fall season, share family photos throughout the year. Save the cute pictures of your dog or the delicious meal you are about to have for your personal Instagram feed. And use your downtime this year to get crystal clear about your vision, your point of view and your look. Then clean up your website, portfolio, and Instagram feed to reflect those things, so that next year your work will be consistent and on-brand.

[How Wedding Photographers Get Followers and Clients on Instagram in 2019]

Making a Marketing Plan

If your work is super consistent but you’re still not booking, you probably have a marketing problem. 

Start by looking at your marketing plan. Do you have one? If not, how are you getting your business in front of potential clients?

Start by building your SEO. The fastest way to do this is by consistently blogging about things your potential clients are searching for. Photographers love to write blog posts like “The Smith Family” and then share images from the Smith family’s shoot. But no one is sitting down to their computer and Googling “The Smith Family” when searching for a photographer.  

Instead, write posts with searchable titles that educate and inform potential clients about things they care about. Examples of this kind of blog post would be “What to Wear to Your Fall Family Session,” “The Five Best Locations for Family Photos in [name your city here],” or “How to Get the Perfect Picture for Your Holiday Card.” Think like your client and blog about things they’ll be looking for. This will help you pop up first when they search in Google, and it will establish you as an expert, which builds trust.

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Do the same thing with your social media feed. Use Instagram and Facebook captions as a “microblog” and, again, write about things people care about and things that will help and educate them. It will establish you as an expert in your field.

Remember, always look for solutions—not excuses. The best thing to do if your business is not where you want it to be is to resist the urge to say things like, “The industry is just too saturated,” or, “My competition is underpriced.” Track down the problem areas in your business, make the necessary changes, and prepare yourself for a busy season next year!

Sandra Coan is an industry educator and award-winning newborn and family photographer specializing in studio portraiture, artificial lighting and fine-art film photography. A regular Rangefinder contributor, she last wrote about her simple sales approach for photographers who don’t like in-person sales.