In 8 years of being a photographer there are a lot of things that worked, but also things that did NOT work. Today I want to dive into 4 things I have done that did NOT help my photography business grow in hopes that it saves you the time and energy from trying them in your own business. But also remember, that just because these things did not work for me, doesn’t mean they will not work for you. Every business is different so take this with a grain of salt!
I have a love/hate relationship with photography mini sessions. Because they seem like a rather easy concept but ultimately they never did much for my business and they were more stress than they were worth.
Let me just say though, I know a lot of photographers who do mini sessions regularly and have found a lot of success with it. So to each their own! But I have set the personal boundary in my business to not offer back to back mini’s.
For a lot of photographers who are just starting out in their first couple years of business, I think mini sessions can seem like the lowest hanging fruit so they go for it. OR I have also seen mini sessions as a knee jerk reaction when you aren’t booking enough regularly priced sessions. Similar to when people just randomly offer a sale out of no where, it’s typically because they think more people will book them when they have an empty calendar staring them in the face.
After all, think about it. You can charge $100 for a 15 minute mini session and have 10 slots available back to back and make $1000 in just a couple of hours.
Seems easy enough right? Well, this is where the misconception comes in. Also this is where I ran into issues. I’m going to be channeling my inner business/marketing nerd for a moment to make this point so bare with me.
LOWER CLIENT EXPERIENCE
Something I have always strived to offer, and what I think anyone should offer is a high end client experience. Why? Because this is how you are going to be able to charge the big bucks for something. Why would someone pay you thousands of dollars to be their wedding photographer if you are offering the same exact things as every other photographer out there?
Once I knew I had a solid experience, I priced myself accordingly. Keep that in mind. Your pricing should reflect a few things. Expenses, your talent, skill, knowledge, equipment, time, and so on. All pricing is, is a math equation.
Now let’s jump back to mini sessions. For me personally, I have found that mini sessions tarnish the experience that I offer. Because they are a fraction of the price of a normal session, and include less things because of that.
Does that mean the photos would be any less quality? No. But what it does mean is that I am unable to do all the things I would want to do for my full price paying clients. And the experience I offer to full price clients is what generates the most word of mouth recommendations for my business.
TYPE’S OF CLIENTS THEY ATTRACT
Another thing I noticed with mini’s is the type of client they typically attract. My ideal client is someone who understands and respects the investment that comes with photography and wants the full experience and my very best work. Those are the people paying $600+ for a normal session.
When I have offered mini sessions in the $100-$200 range, I have been met with the price shoppers. The picky clients who are unhappy with every image. People who have more demands, cancel last minute or no call no show to their allotted time.
THIS is a common trend and frustration I hear about with mini sessions. So eventually I had a little come to Jesus moment and decided that I would just no longer offer them anymore.
Best decision I could have made for myself and my business.
Again, maybe they work well for you and you have it all figured out. But personally for me, they just are not my bread and butter. Looking back on things I did in the past, I do think I could be more successful at them now. But they just don’t excite me the way a full session does when I can really get to know my clients and have a longer period of time to establish a relationship with them.
Remember, you do not have to lower your prices, or offer mini sessions or reach for the lowest hanging fruit to build your business. Elevate your experience, product and offerings and then talk about it. I promise that with consistency you will see those bookings go up.
I am going to throw second shooting into this list even though it doesn’t exactly fit with the title of this episode. It wasn’t so much that second shooting “didn’t work”. Mostly it became that it was no longer feasible for me to offer second shooting services.
Newbie photographers who want to get into wedding photography should most definitely be second shooting to gain experience and understanding of wedding day workflows. And even for experienced photographers, second shooting can be a great way to earn a little extra cash. The nice part too is that you essentially get to take a back seat of just help out the lead shooter. You are not responsible for client communication, or any of the business side of things. I always loved the change of pace that second shooting brought for me.
Where I had to draw the line with second shooting was when my calendar was getting way too full with my own booked weddings and also being that I moved around a lot.
Where I live currently is about 2.5 hours away from a majority of my booked wedding venues. I established my name in those areas and that is where I continue to book the most wedding clients.
Because of this, I have adjusted my pricing accordingly and my cost of doing business makes logical sense.
With second shooter however, it does not. For me to drive 5 hour round trip after shooting an 8 hour wedding day and only getting paid $400-$500 is not worth it to me. Especially being that I have a husband and soon a baby waiting on me at home.
Leaving them on the weekends for such a small amount in the grand scheme of things doesn’t make sense to me. My time with them is more valuable than that. So because of that, I set that boundary in my business and no longer do any kind of second shooting.
This may surprise some of you listening, but getting featured has not done a single thing for my business. In 2018 I had a full 2 page spread in Real Weddings Magazine and I have also been featured in Western Wedding Magazine and various large social media platforms. Brands have shared my work to their pages and so on, so forth.
But not one time have I received an inquiry because of those features. Did I get more followers? Sure! However 99% of my bookings come from my content marketing efforts I put into social media, and word of mouth.
Now this is not to say that I do not still send in things to get featured, or that getting featured isn’t a cool feeling. Because it totally is! There is nothing wrong with getting featured and wanting to get featured in something. And I do think it adds credibility to your business.
BUT my time and efforts spent on getting featured in minimal. I focus more on building relationships and nurturing my audiences on social media where I see the most ROI (return of investment).
ONLY FOLLOWING OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS
No matter what industry you are in or trying to get into, typically the first thing you do on social media is follow a bunch of other people in your same industry, right? I know I did.
Turns out though, this hurt me a lot more than it actually helped. Here are 2 key reason why:
Social media can be a beautiful place, but also a place where you find yourself stuck in a comparison rut. If you are following hundreds of other people doing what you do, it’s easy to have those negative thoughts creep in. Thoughts like, “their work is so much better than mine” or “why am I not booking as much as they are”
It can also be really easy to want to copy other people, even if you are not doing it intentionally.
You Will Never Stand Out
Don’t make the mistake of putting yourself in an echo chamber where all you are consuming all the time is other photographer’s content. Especially if it leaves you feeling uninspired and yucky about your own work. It’s ok to follow people that make you feel good, but mute or unfollow anyone else.
Also, when you only are looking to other photographers or people in your industry to get inspired, you are never going to stand out from them. Just like anything else, things in the photography world trend.
Right now we are in a season where warm colors, pampas grass and studio work is trending. Also western fashion and content is trending and more and more western photographers are appearing. And desert vibes. All the desert vibes.
But a few years ago, the trends were dark and moody edits. Eloping on mountain tops, and hiking 5 miles to get to your desired location.
I promise you, in a couple years from now we are all going to be shifting to something else.
And don’t get me wrong. It’s good to be trendy because people/clients do tend to gravitate to those things. BUT you have to walk the line of following the trends, and being a trend setter.
The way I like to get inspired and think outside the box is to follow people who are NOT in my industry.
If I want to revamp my website, I am not going to only look at other photography websites for inspiration because then my website will look just like theirs. NOT the goal. But if I look at websites from people in completely different industries, then I can have a brand that actually stands out from my competitors.
No two businesses are the same and it’s important to remember that just because these things did not work for me, does not mean they will not work for you.
No matter how you choose to run your business or what you choose to include or not include the most important thing is to be passionate about it and prioritize what is working.
Lean into the things that you are already having success with before adding in something new. I know you are going to do great things! Keep on keeping on my friend!
OTHER POSTS YOU’LL ENJOY //
- 5 tips to book more weddings as a photographer
- Second shooter etiquette
- Tips For Photographing Your First Wedding
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I'm Sarah Elrod
I'm a Cowgirl turned serial entrepreneur.
I'm a horse trainer, western wedding photographer, business coach and ranch wife.
I help women in the western industry grow thriving businesses from rural America.
When I am not strategizing new marketing tactics, you will find me riding my horses, cuddling my cattle dog, or kissing my hot husband.
There is also a good chance I am buying way too many outfits from western boutiques.
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