10 Things You Can Do Right Now for Your Photography Business

10 Things To Improve Your Photography Business

Today’s post is on your business and your attitudes.

Ten Things to Do Right Now for Your Photography Business

These are slow times for a lot of photographers. I believe they are temporary, and will depart, leaving those who are still standing in a great place. But the combination of summer, the economy, ad revenue down, and the confidence of consumers at an all time low, has been quite a large blow on some commercial shooters. Others are doing well with a large group of clients that they have nurtured over the years.

But slow times also mean some free time. Time to do some things that we may not have had a chance to do before when we were busier. I guess we could go on vacation, or take some “personal time” or other good use of a couple of weeks. But we can also work toward being educated, more organized and fully prepared for the Fall. And these are things that we can work on all year long.

This is a long post as are my previous ones. There are a lot of ideas and suggestions here. Make use of every one you can.

I have almost filled the rest of the workshop schedule for Q3 and Q4. You can take a look at them at Learn to Light. I hope to see you at a workshop this year.
Learn to Light at a weekend workshop

You may also want to read, in order:
Preparing Yourself for “Getting Out There” as a Professional Photographer
Style: It’s Not What You Shoot. It’s How You Shoot It
Shooting for Your Portfolio: Presenting the Work

My current article on ProPhotoResource is on light and gesture and creating dynamics with light and pose. Hope you enjoy it.

10 Things You Can Do Right Now for Your Photography Business after the jump.

1. Organize Files
I should add gear to this, but first we get our files organized. If you have them all organized, then that is great… but if you have been as busy as I have been, there are some serious tidying up to do.

I have a lot of files (being a designer as well) and because of all the legacy documents that are created, I have a two-tier plan that works for my backup. I have just added a third that I am very excited about, but to that in a moment.

Currently TB drives are running around a hundred bucks. So get one and get organizing. Whether you use Bridge, LightRoom, Photo Mechanic or Aperture, you have the ability to start to sort and manage your files.

I use Year, Month, Client folders. Each yearly folder contains month folder inside. And in that monthly folder there are client files. I alsoo have a “Portfolio” folder on my desktop. That makes it easy to simply drag and drop a file that I may want to add to the portfolio into the folder for later editing. I put a lot of images in there, but only a few make it out.

I just added Carbonite to my backup planning, and that is going well. For $55 per year, I get unlimited backup of my files. Offsite and secure. I don’t know about you all, but I generate gigabytes some days. The backup happens between midnight and 5am, so it doesn’t slow my computer down. (I have several, so if one is chugging with the backup, I use a different computer.)

There are many ways to backup and organize your files. Find one that works for you and spend the time getting it up and running. That way when you get busy you will have the works in place and it will be simpler to keep it updated.

Some people refer to this as workflow. And that is fine. I separate the shoot from the post probably because of the way I worked for decades as a film shooter. Regardless of what you call it, maintaining an order and a fast way to retrieve files is an important part of your business.

Digital Photography Workflow: Fine Art Photography
Photographic Workflow: from camera to eternity
Stock Photography Workflow

As you can see, there are different ways of doing it. Pick one, modify it for yourself and welcome Fall with a workflow/image management system to keep you organized.

2. Create a Marketing Plan

Well… that may be a little ambitious for some folks, but let’s break it down into a nice, bite size plan. We are looking at a simple marketing plan, not a big 25 pager. Let’s just get some things lined up for getting work.

Identity / Portfolio / Business forms: See my post on Getting Out There for some clarification on these tools.

Assess what you have now. You know what you need, but how are we going to go about getting those up and ready?

A plan is best. With time-lines for tracking. Look at your upcoming 8 weeks and break it down into a weekly plan.

Week one: Assess identity package. Make notes.
Week two: Assess website. Make notes.
Week three: Assess portfolio. Make notes.
Week four: Assess ‘Brand’. Make notes.
Week five: Review notes and make plans for changing /modifying existing materials.
Week six: Begin revision process.
Week seven: Continuing revision process.
Week eight: Begin marketing the new materials.

This is in no way to mean that you should do nothing but the above. You will be doing some other things as well. This should take a couple of hours per week.

NOTE: If you are not a web designer, find someone who is. If you are not a graphic designer, find someone to trade out with and have them help you with your redesign (if needed). Badly designed and created websites and collateral materials are not going to help you at all.

Join Constant Contact, Vertical Response or ReachMail to handle your emailing and client lists. They have templates and graphics and will allow you to manage an attractive email campaign for a whole lot less than you think.

Decide how many emails you can send and to whom. Schedule it. In writing. Make it something you are going to do.

Create a cold call list and schedule it in. Forget Mondays and Fridays, just focus on Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday and make a time to start calling prospective clients. 10 per day at first. 15 per day after you get the hang of it. Schedule it in writing and place it over your monitor. Then commit do doing it. (Yes, you will be told there is no work, so-and-so is out of the office, would you like their voice-mail, or voice-mail itself. Sucks. So what? Most people quit at this point. You wanna join them or keep on kicking the tires. Staying in motion is the most important part of life.

There are more things you can be doing, but this is a good start.

3. Refresh the Website

Just what it says. No, not necessarily talking about a total redesign. Just get some new images up there. Add a project that you have shot. Change up the photographs. Clean up the about page. Do you have prices online? If so, are there additional packages or items that could be added?

How about your page names? Are they SEO’d for best ranking? Do you have text on the pages that may need updating? How about a ‘news’ section?

If you have a Flash site, you may want to consider adding a blog of some sort. Blogger is free. WordPress is free. Both are good platforms for the photoblogger. Adding a shot every week or twice a week can help your site get found. And it also allows you to become engaged with your customers or potential clients.

Here is a wonderful list of inspiration.

Here are some places to get WordPress Themes:
Untypical designs.
We make some beautiful ones (of course).
GraphPaperPress has some cool themes.
And see this list as well.

Create a simple plan for one update a week. More if you want, but at least one.

4. Shoot Some New Work or Start a Project

There are always things you want to photograph. This is the time to do it. Find something that moves your gut and shoot a set of images.

Here are a few ideas:

  • If you currently shoot DSLR’s, try renting a medium format film camera. Or try some large format for a truly different experience.
  • If you are a studio shooter, try some location work. Spend a week somewhere interesting and see what you can do.
  • If you are a natural light shooter, use strobes. If you use strobes all the time, try natural light.
  • Rent a lens you may not have in your arsenal from BorrowLenses.com and spend a week getting to find out what it can do for your work.
  • If you normally shoot beautiful people, try shooting some regular folks. Find a common thread and work on a project.
  • If you mostly shoot places, try some people. If you mostly shoot people, try some still life or environment.

The point is to create something that gets you revved up. Sometimes shooting outside our comfort zone can be quite a kick in the creative pants.

Take a trip, try something new, add a new set of skills and subjects to your arsenal. Get going and get creative.

5. Create a New Contacts List

I love Barnes and Noble and Border’s. What a great set of contacts can be found in the magazine racks. Editors and Art Directors and publishers, all there. And a coffee shop as well! (Now as soon as they start carrying Corona’s… wow) I will go and sit and make notes on possible contacts from the mastheads. I also make notes on who is shooting what for whom.

I follow the trends and the styles that are all hot. And I note the shooters who are doing things that are outside the trends. Who is shooting classic in a trendy magazine. Who is shooting trendy in a classic magazine.

I look at the subject matter and the styles. Occasionally it is a good thing to create a simple note tool for compiling ideas when looking through the magazines. I use Moleskins, but there are many small notebooks that would work fine.

Adding the contacts list to your existing list will give you more people to get in front of.

Ask for referrals. Ask every client you have for a referral of at least one person. Do it by phone if you can. Touching base with clients is always a good thing to do. Keep the conversation positive and be sure to mention the projects you are working on.

Annuals are also a great source of leads and names. Be aware that after an art director appears in say, the Communication Arts Design Annual, they are inundated with inquiries and post cards. Make sure you show them something really strong and as relevant to their work as possible.

6. Jump into Social Networking

I don’t know really what to say here. Jump in slowly if you have to, but do jump in. Check out Twitter (but don’t do the inane sandwich posts or the stupid “look at me aren’t I cool” posts. Keep it relevant and remember that it isn’t about how many ‘friends’ you have, but the quality of your friends.

LinkedIn is a good site to be involved in. You create spheres of influence with those in the industry and in related industries.

Facebook can be a good tool or a distraction. You will have to see how that works for you. I like my Facebook presence, but I also don’t visit it enough to allow it to be a distraction.

You can try Tumblr, and Flickr for short posts with images.

There are a lot of posts and articles on the social media and its influence. Google it and read. You can make it work for you or against you. Hopefully you will find a way to make it work with you.

7. Edit and Print a New Portfolio (or make a book)

You should be shooting as often as possible. That means new work. That could mean a new set of images for a new portfolio. Grab a Lost Luggage or Pina Zingaro book and make that new portfolio full of new work. It feels great carrying it and showing a new book.

New images sometimes need a new home. If you have recently made a new portfolio, go ahead and make a book at Blurb, or LuLu or MyPublisher and share it with everyone you know.

8. Take a Workshop

There are many good ones out there. Zack Arias has a good workshop. There is David’s whenever he has them, and Joe McNally too. Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Maine Workshops are running all summer. Of course you may want to check out the Lighting Essentials workshops as well.

Take a workshop that may introduce you to something you are not familiar with. My friend Jerry took a multimedia workshop in Santa Fe and is now using that knowledge to pitch clients on more usage. There are incredible workshops on intimate portraiture, photojournalism, glamour, still life, landscape and architecture.

What about a workshop in “Motivation’ or attitude? How about a creative writing course if you are having trouble with thinking of what to add to your blog. What if you found you were pretty good at writing? Adding that to your skills as a photographer would really change the game for you.

There are workshops that take you into the wild with your camera. Or deep into the urban jungle for a look at the inner city. Whatever you want to expand into your world of vision, there is a workshop out there.

9. Find Inspiration

This is simple. Go to art museums, science museums, any kind of museums. Hit the library and check out some older photography books: Weston, Caponigro, Adams, Bernhardt and more. Look for older issues of Aperture and Rangefinder. Find inspiration in paintings and drawings from the Renaissance or contemporary artists.

Cruise the internet looking for photographers who you don’t know. Check out all the shooters at Jen Bekman’s “Hey Hot Shot” exhibitions. Visit art galleries wherever you can find them. If there is a “First Friday” art walk in your town, plan on going next time.

Inspiration can be found at the magazine racks, the book stacks and simply listening to music. Or reading fiction. Or non-fiction. It is out there… you have to tune yourself to receive it.

10. Increase Your Personal Power

This is very important. Limit your time with nay-sayers and doom&gloomers. They are not productive. Stay on point and do not let anyone tell you that it is impossible or that it can’t be done or that you are wasting your time.

That, gentle reader, is bullshit.

Keep yourself motivated by creating new things and being busy. A person who is busy cannot make time to be depressed. Depression is for those going nowhere (clinical depression is a disease that should be treated… I am referring to people who are always negative and on a mission to bring you down.

They are everywhere. Everywhere! Shut them out.

Don’t discuss what you don’t have, frame your language and your efforts toward what you do have. Stay focused on the essentials of your business and your art: making pictures and showing them to people.

Look… there are always going to be challenging times. Some more than others. Refuse to be brought down to the failure group… the hopeless tribe of “it’s all over… whine whine whine.”

I can tell you that if you are doing #1 – #9 above, #10 will take care of itself in many ways.

There it is. My short list of 10 things you can do right now to increase your photography business. If you have some ideas or strategies you would like to share with us, add them to the comments section.

See you next time.

These 10 things, and others you may add, can help you get yourself positioned in a new and exciting way for the times that are on the way. Shooting a lot can leave us little time for the above things, but we can sure do them when times are slow.

If you have something to add, put it in the comments section

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  1. Great post! Times like these we really need to focus on our business and getting ourselves out there thinking creatively. Thanks so much!

    • Seasoned? Was that a nice way of saying “old guy?”


  2. Great post !
    It fit exactly with my actual mood !

    Especially the 10th point, some people around me ask me why I spent so much time in taking/editing photo, make a website…
    few days ago, a contact ask me to shoot a live show with some artist I love. That\’s my answer to them 😀

    work hard pay, and it\’s only the beginning !

    • Yes… agreed. Trying to convince those who covet sitting on their butts in front of the tube that other things can be achieved is sometimes an uphill road.

  3. Great post! Thanks so much!

  4. There’s a lot of things on this list I’ve started doing already, good to know that I’m thinking the same way as a seasoned professional.

  5. Great article, as usual, Don! Two thumbs up!

  6. Timely post Don. Great advice. July has been good to me so far, but the second half of the month is looking a bit slow. I\’ll have to put some of these tips into practice. Got to do more cold calling.

  7. A well done post. Great advice for all.

  8. Great post, Great advice……….

  9. Wow, great inspiration. More of these tips is appreciated.

  10. great post- thanks for sharing your wisdom. i really appreciate your ‘get shit done’ approach.

    ps (any way you can get rid of the spammer tweets above the comments section??)

  11. Hi, I really loved this post, thank you!

    I noticed your links open in the same window. Is it on purpose.
    I usually try to make my links oppenable in a new window, so visitors can always come back to my own website, even if the back button is blocked by the linked website…

  12. Great post. I came across it after googling \’photography what to do when there\’s no work\’. In some warped way there\’s comfort in knowing that business is slow for good photographers across the ocean also!
    I find going for a solid walk alone helps to stir up ideas for own projects. Keeps the depression monster at bay and firms the butt at the same time! And since I\’d rather be shooting than not, I give away portrait vouchers to networking groups and trade shows to use as lucky draw prizes. It gets my name out there and keeps the fingers and mind from becoming atrophied!
    Looking forward to reading more of your writing.

  13. Great post! So much common sense info – but can be challenging to do on a day-to-day basis – thanks for the reminder!

    jen :)

  14. You are an invaluable resources. Thank you for sharing this awesome information. One of my habits now is to shoot every single day, no matter the mood or the obstacles.

  15. I found your list very impressive and gave me some really good ideas to make plans for the coming year. Idea 10 is worth repeating and repeating and repeating. I work in IT as my profession, and it’s tough due to the global workforce, but it can be done. The work is cyclical and sometimes not rewarding at all, but if you keep busy, keep your options open, get to know some good people around North America and Europe, things can be OK during the worst of times and great the rest of the time! It’s the same in Photography as in IT. Get your work out there somehow (website, online gallery, etc), write a blog or a photo blog if you don’t like to write! You don’t need to be as entertaining as The Strobist or any of the Fine Heatherington Products 😉 Just be yourself and every once in awhile someone will find your posts enjoyable and useful and may hire you!

  16. whoaa cool…

  17. Thanks for that really helpful article. It’s good to find out some of my own ideas are useful and it was a pleasure to get everything neatly phrased from you. Many thanks!

  18. Thanks for the great article. Lots of ideas and actually gave some advice I can really use right now. Nothing to crazy or beyond-me type of ideas, but challenging enough and outside of the usual. Like I said… Great article!


  19. Thank you for this post! It is exactly what I needed. I am just starting out in the business, and have hit a bit of a slump. I am inspired to continue to press on!

  20. God Bless ya Don!
    It’s been a while since I took your AWESOME Lighting Essentials course here in Boston.
    MUCH has changed since we connected.

    Lost that great Agency gig I had for 20 years ( “Hope & Change economy” ) and have been finishing up a divorce.

    House, Wife, Job and my 2TB ext hard drive with portfolio …. all died in Dec.
    “Avoid Western Digital products, stick with Samsung drives.”

    Back on the horse ma Man!

    DataSalvage thinks they can recover my images, the rest is up to me and I'm still vertical and taking nourishment.
    Never say “Die”.

    Take a look at my webpage if you get a second, you’ll recognize someone on the home page. ; c )

  21. I am so glad that I ‘accidentally’ came across your site this morning. I will give you two thumbs up since you were the one responsible for helping me pull both thumbs out of my ass in about a 5 minute read..

    I thank you oh great one.

    (now, off to get more Coke Zero, and read the rest of your site ‘cover to cover’…)

    Captive audience, member of at least ONE!


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