3 Reasons Most Wedding Photographers Fail

29 09 2011

We’re one of the few photography companies that actually created a lucrative business out of catering to the wedding industry. In less than two years, we went from a general photography company to one that specialized in wedding photography, making well into the Six Figure level. Then we doubled our business. And again.

But it wasn’t always like that.

In the beginning, we did what every other wedding photographer does.

We decided to offer wedding related services. We created our first wedding brochure. And we charged and shot pretty much like every other wedding photographer out there.

Dig Deeper: Doubt To Confidence: What Was Your Magical Moment?

But very quickly something started to change.

We studied what the top names in the industry were doing. We learned from the best. And we quickly changed and grew. And we discovered 3 things that most wedding photographers did that were actually holding them back. Read the rest of this entry »

18 Reasons Why They Leave Your Site In Under 10 Seconds

3 06 2011

Have you ever entered a site and you can’t hit the back button fast enough? Something about the page is an instant turnoff, and you back out or get out of the browser window as fast as possible.

I did that this morning when I entered a new page from an email I received. And it got me to thinking about all the reasons a site doesn’t work. And by understanding what doesn’t work, you can reassess your own site, and determine what you can do to make it work – to make it more attractive to the people that are coming there for the very first time.

1. Autosound. This is what got me this morning. I entered a page and started looking around, and a voice started to talk with music in the background. The only problem was I couldn’t find where it was coming from – no audio or video button was noticeable on the page, so I had no way of turning it off. I backed out of the page as fast as I could. I work from a home office, so sound doesn’t really matter. But imagine if I would have been in a busy office. That sound – whether its voice of music – would have made me hit “delete” even faster.

2. Popups. Popups are a dying breed, but they are still around and visible on some sites. I don’t mind an occasional popup asking me to sign up for a free report – once. What really bugs me (and a lot of other people too) is when the popup appears again and again, every time I click to a new page. I get it – you want me to sign up. But that’s not a way to motivate me to the next step.

3. Slow load times. Everyone online has what I call online-ADD. If something doesn’t happen FAST, we move away. We won’t wait 15 seconds for a photograph to load – it’s either there now or I move on. If you load more than thumbnails, or have a slow server, you risk losing your best customers.

4. No purpose.
Read the rest of this entry »

10 Things You Never Want To Do With Your Online Photography Portfolio

11 05 2011

As a photographer, your most important marketing tool is your online photography portfolio. On your website or your blog, this is what’s going to showcase your work, and get you hired. Yet I see mistakes all the time. And I have a ton of questions like, “Why isn’t my site getting any traffic?” and “Why aren’t people contacting me online?” Here are 10 mistakes I see frequently – do you see yourself here?

1. Enter Page
Do you really need to divide up your site, and dedicate one whole page to making your visitors choose? If they type in your URL, they want to see your site. They want to start learning about you immediately, not have to decide if they want to visit your Flash site, Mobile site, Fast site, Slow site, Blog, Flickr portfolio, etc. Yes, you can weave things into your site, and have things on the side of your content that allows them to navigate elsewhere. But don’t make your first impression just a choice.

2. Photo Size
Have you ever gone to a photographer’s site, only to wait 30 seconds for it to load a huge file thousands of pixels in size? Boring. This is the web. You don’t need large files – the smaller the better for loading, and to protect you from clients downloading them to manipulate them. Stick to an image that is between 500-1000 pixels on the long edge, depending on how you are grouping them together. Read the rest of this entry »

How To Develop A Great Senior Portrait Package

14 04 2011

Each year over 2 million high school juniors make their way into their senior year, and start the long trek to finishing up high school and starting out life as an adult. Because it’s the last step to enter adulthood, it’s always been a right of passage to commemorate it with a special portrait session – the high school senior portrait.

Competition is fierce within this marketplace these days. Even just a few years ago, many high schools had a closed door policy, and they would interview and select a few photographers to recommend, and require each of their seniors to go to a pre-approved photographer. Schools have opened up now, and allow anyone to go anywhere. Yearbook inclusions are more lax, and you’ll see a variety of sizes, styles and displays within the senior graduating class section.

Just because anything goes doesn’t make that the right approach to senior photography. If you make it an experience, it can still bring you in a substantial amount of income during the few months of shooting time. But you have to know how to package accordingly. Here’s some advice.

Start out with a plan

Many senior photographers grab a client, head out to the park, and spend 30 minutes shooting a few images. They put them on a disk, hand it over to the client, and pocket $50 or so. And that’s the end of the revenue stream. You will never get a reorder if you hand over the files for this price. The client will take them and run, and do whatever they choose with the images. So that should never be an option.

Your first strategy is to set up more than one package, and gently lead a client to the higher package.

If I offered 3 packages: $150, $300 and $450, and offered the files in the $450 only, how many clients do you think would jump at the $450 package? Yep, a good majority of them. And I’ve increased my profits because I’m still willing to give the files, just not at the lower price.

And your $450 client will be a much better, easier to work with client than the $50 special. They will have more patience, more time, and be willing to let you do a variety of things to bring out the best in the senior. Plus you will feel more comfortable spending time with the senior, knowing you will be bringing in a lot more income.

Give a professional presentation

How do you advertise for your seniors? If you want to bring in a lot of business, you have to showcase your talent.

Marathon Press has always offered a variety of ways to market to the senior market. They have preproduced pieces that give you an easy way to order postcards and brochures, ready for mailing. They also provide fully customized services, allowing you to place your own images into a variety of formats. Because they specialize in marketing pieces for the photographer, their work is 100 percent quality, and their goal is to help you bring in the business.

Create a theme each year, and carry that through your entire promotion. You should also update your images each year, including the recognizable faces from the last class. If you are including photographs from several years back, the new graduating class doesn’t recognize the faces, and has less motivation to use you.

Turn the package into something fun

If you provide a package with an 11×14, a few 8x10s, 5x7s, 4x6s and wallets, it’s easily comparable to everyone else – and to the discount stores that do the printing for a very low cost.

But if you include a 20×20 wall portfolio with a series of images in it, it’s no longer comparable. It’s unique.

Look for ways to turn your senior packages into more than anyone else can offer. Look for groupings, special sizes, and special ways to display your images.

Then showcase your differences. Anyone can take a senior picture. But only a professional can give you the experience of a senior portrait session.

10 Reasons To Blog About Your Photography Business

13 04 2011

Blogging has become the most talked about, significant marketing strategy available to small business owners today. If you are planning on growing your photography business into the future, you should be familiar with the latest blogging techniques available to you, and start using the powerful features that will put you light years ahead of your competition.

Currently 133 million blog records are indexed by Technorati, a blogging directory, with 900,000 blog posts being submitted every 24 hours. For many people the idea of blogging may seem a bit daunting. With that many people blogging every day, what are your chances of using it as an effective marketing tool?

A successful photographer for over 20 years, and a successful blogger for over 4, let me share with you my list of ten reasons you need to be active with blogging. shaking hands

[And if you’re already successfully blogging, feel free to forward this post to your friends and clients who would benefit from learning how to grow their business using a blog.]

1. Find clients.
Blogs allow you to give detailed case studies about each of your clients, including photographs. The more detailed you are, the more you’ll attract the attention search for similar characteristics. And if you’re trying to reach out to a more affluent client, blogging is a definite must.

2. Meet your peers.
Blogging isn’t just for people talking about their personal lives. In fact, blogging is one of the fastest growing tools online. Both women and men are seeing the benefits of blogging, and are turning to using it for business faster than many other forms of marketing. Jump on board now in its infancy, and learn how to capture interest with just a few minutes of work per day.

3. Establish yourself as an expert.
How do you become an expert? By sharing your knowledge. And with the ease and low cost of blogging, nothing could be easier.

4. Build relationships.
StudioPress Premium WordPress ThemesBlogging allows your personality to shine through. While your business blog is mostly business, the occasional personal post lets people develop an understanding of who you are as a person. Even if you’re thousands of miles away.

5. Build your visibility.
Have you ever been to a site with three pages, and just a few sentences on each page? It’s hard to develop an opinion. But with a ton more content, your clients and prospects can visit page after page developing their viewpoint. More content also means more connections in the blogosphere – allowing you to connect with many more people than with just a few pages.

6. Share information with your niche.
I’m willing to estimate that 80 to 90 percent of all photographers choose to have the same Flash website developed as their competitor. You know, the one with just a few pages where the content is fed in to an about us page, a services page, and a gallery section rotates showing the top 10 images. What set up a part was having over 20,000 images on our website, and hundreds of pages of quality information. All of that is easy to do with a blog.

Premium WordPress Themes

7. Inexpensive way to market your business.
Blogs are low cost, and easy to set up. In a short period of time, you can take charge and easily start sharing information with your readers. I would highly recommend creating your own blog instead of using the free blogging systems like Blogger. I’ve heard many nightmares of creating a very valuable blog, only to have it turned off because a service like Blogger misunderstands your intentions and deletes your files.

8. Easy way to get instant delivery of your ideas.
Have a new product? Blog about it immediately. Have a new client? Blog about it immediately. Because you have full control, you can add any type of content whenever you choose, 24/7/365.

9. Get noticed by the search engines.
Google likes blog posts, it’s a fact. And because it likes them, your pages will rank a whole lot better than similar pages on a website. And once you begin learning more about optimization and social networking, you can gain first page rankings on Google and other search engines again and again.

10. Give you a starting point to online networking.
Blogging is the tip of the iceberg. It has so many benefits, it would be impossible to list them in any one place. But the important thing is to get started now, learn this type of technology, and use it to help grow your business in the future. You’ll soon be as addicted to blogging as I am. And if you need help or support with your strategy, I’d be happy to help.

Have you ever tried blogging? Do you agree with these 10, or do you see something else as more pressing? Why do you blog?

image source yan=]

How Do Struggling Photographers Become Successful Photographers?

17 02 2011

What would it be like to be a successful photographer?

Maybe you would travel around the world, photographing the most remote places on the planet.

Maybe you would create photo layouts for some of the most successful fashion houses in the world.

Maybe you would photograph celebrity families.

Or maybe you would be content to have a small photo studio, and have hundreds of local clients put you at the top of the list when it comes to a hometown photo studio.

Everyone has a dream; and no one dream is the correct way to success.

Yet in order for every dream to come true, you do need to follow a certain path.

Where Is The Path?

With all of the changes we’ve been experiencing over the past few years, its no wonder people are beginning to wonder if the dream is even possible any more.

  • The average photographer makes $29,440 here in the United States.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor, around 152,000 people listed photography as their profession in 2009.
  • Over 50 percent are listed as self-employed, a much higher percentage than any other occupation.
  • Most are self-educated, meaning they have no formal training. Instead, they rely on self-teaching methods to pick up the skills needed. This includes both photography and business skills.

So when I tell people we’ve consistently made $200k, $300k and more every year, they tend to find it almost unbelievable. Can you REALLY make that much from photography?

Yep. Its possible.

Which is why we started up our Virtual Photography Studio blog back in 2003. We wanted to give back to the community, and offer tips, resources and strategies to the majority of the photographic industry that was just starting out, and really hadn’t found a way to turn their dreams into reality.

A lot has changed over the last 8 years. For instance,

Traditional marketing is all but dead. If you are still paying hundreds of dollars a month for a phone book ad, or paying thousands of dollars to be listed in a bridal magazine, you probably have been questioning your sanity for quite some time.

Online marketing has grown by leaps and bounds. Google has over 31 billion searches every single month. And Facebook has over 39 billion unique page views a month. That adds up to a ton of searching. Which means your clients are there.


The problem is reaching out to them.

Why Marketing Sucks

Marketing is a love/hate relationship. You may hate it, not understand it, and doubt if it will ever work for you. Yet if you don’t focus on it and do it again and again, one thing is for certain: your business will fail.

A great photographer and a lousy marketer will quickly shut their doors.

Yet a great marketer and a lousy photographer will be in business for years.

Why is that?

Because great marketers knows one thing.

They know how to get people to love buying. Not just do it because they have to. They get people excited about the process, wow’d by the experience, and more than anything have a desire to hand over their money happily.

As we continued to build our business, we became better and better at the marketing side. And that made all the difference in the world.

We quickly understood that the easiest way to success is to stand out from the crowd. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Stay ahead of the pack, and give potential customers something they’ve never seen before.

So we looked at everything we did. If it met those qualifications, we did it. And if it didn’t, we abandoned it.

If You’re Interested In Marketing – Don’t Miss This

During the last hundred years, things have moved rapidly.

I’m sure when phone books were first introduced, having a large ad was cutting edge. Those that took out an ad were almost guaranteed success.

Then magazines and guides came along. I remember when the first bridal magazine was introduced here in Colorado – Colorado Brides. We were one of the first photographers to advertise, and also helped fill the magazine with our images. The business came pouring in because it was cutting edge – nobody else was doing it.

Then the Internet. We were one of the first photography studios to be listed on The Knot. Not only did it bring local business to us, but allowed us to grow our business nationally as well. Very quickly we were getting calls from New York, California, Mexico and even Germany. It was new. It was hot. And it made us stand out from the crowd.

If you are the first to jump at a new opportunity, you’re at the head of the pack. People will automatically find you because you are the originator, an innovator.

But just as quickly as opportunity shines its light, the entire crowd bursts onto the scene, and the opportunity is gone. So while opportunity can be magical, the most important part of an opportunity is being first in line.

As a business coach here at Virtual Photography Studio, that’s what I watch for every day. I watch for the next opportunity. The next magical innovation that allows you to spring forward from your competition, and helps you reach out in a way that makes your clients and prospects say WOW.

And that’s what I’ve found in Mobile Marketing Photography.


The Next Biggest Opportunity

Before I wrap up this blog post, I want to share with you a snapshot of why Mobile Marketing is the next big wave.

Did you know right now, there are over 1.8 billion Internet users on earth, ready to look for you in the online world? Sounds impressive, right.

Nope. What’s even more impressive is there are over 5 billion cell phones currently in use around the world. And because people carry their cell phones with them everywhere, that makes mobile a much bigger force.

If 1.8 billion people access the Internet regularly through a desktop application, imagine what they will do when they can access Internet with their mobile devices. That means you’ll quickly have 3 times the audience. And because that audience will spend much more time with their mobile devices than they ever would sitting behind a desk, you have a huge opportunity just waiting for you.

I was so excited when I started learning about mobile marketing, I quickly implemented this technology into my own business, and have gained multiple clients using this method – this year.

But that doesn’t mean this will last forever. You know how quickly new technology comes on board. And when the masses use this new method, it will quickly become old technology. Back to the “been there, seen that” philosophy.

But for now, it’s brand new and very exciting. If you quickly take it, create a new marketing method with it, and use it to grow your business, you’ll find a ton of customers waiting for you. You’ll be the leader. You’ll be the innovator.

So if you’re ready to make 2011 your year, and you want to be at the front of the pack instead of following behind, this may be your opportunity.

This may be your shot at jumpstarting your business, and seeing how far you can go with it.

It only takes one step. Are you ready to find out what I’ve been using for several months now, and what I know is going to be the turning point for more than  a handful of photographers?


Photography – Moving Forward – Where Do We Go From Here?

11 02 2011

This post is Day 30 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

The questions raised by today’s photographers make you wonder what’s happening to the photographic industry. And rightfully so. Is there a future for photography? Can you still make a decent living as a photographer?

Huge amounts of photographers are coming on board because of digital cameras. It’s easy to buy one, easy to understand and process an image, so it’s easy to announce you are becoming a “professional”.

With so many newbies on board, they take the easiest way possible to make a few bucks. They shoot, give the images on a CD, and then wonder why sales are diminished.

Over the past few years, clients have come to expect the files because of the trend to supply a CD. “Whose photos are they anyway? Why should I pay more than the going price at the big box development center?” Clients ask; photographers give in; sales are lowered; and the possibility of surviving as a full time photographer shrink to nothing.

What’s a photographer to do?

It’s time to rethink the business path of a photographer. Learning to stand out from the crowd is more imperative than ever, especially as we move forward into a technical savvy environment. Right now:

More than 50 percent of cell phone users will convert to smart phone technology in 2011 – this means more people than ever will be accessing the online world from their mobile devices.
Tablet development has increased the use of smart technology. We work, read and play anywhere, any time. We love our apps, and want even more in the future.
People want it easy. They want information, they want entertainment, and they don’t want a difficult path to get there. Should you really be expected to remember a URL from a sign or brochure? No way. There must be a better way, right?

Yes, if you want to succeed in photography THIS YEAR, its time to choose a different path. But what is that path, and how do you find it?

3 Rules To Marketing in 2011

Things are changing. And it’s easy to see that we as business owners need to change with it. We’ve talked a lot about the new forms of marketing throughout this series, and its something that each of us needs to spend time on. If you want to succeed, you have to find a new way to do business. You have to use the new rules of marketing – building relationships, not hard selling. Hard selling simply doesn’t work anymore. But what does? What does it take to move forward into the business world? I’ve personally incorporated 3 rules into my business and marketing plans.

1. Be creative
2. Be original
3. Be innovative

Be creative
A standard business card. An ad in the bridal guide. Nope, I don’t think so. Today’s consumer is unique and trend setting, and doesn’t want to be “just like everyone else.” You have to nave a new approach to engage your customers, and win them over as clients.

What can you do that makes you unique? What makes your prospects look to you as an expert? What can you specialize in that makes you stand out from the crowd?

Be original
Why would you ever hire a photographer that addresses you as “Dear Friend”? People have names, they have likes and interests, and they want you to recognize them. They want something that is developed just for them. Anything else just won’t cut it.

In this highly specialized world, people love originality. They love the experience, and the way they feel when they’ve done something “no one else has done”. What can you do to make each client feel special? What can you do to make them feel like they are the only people in the world that has access to your service?

Be innovative
Being innovative means doing things very few are doing. It means being at the top of the pack, moving into a new direction that people have never seen before. It means following the trends, and using brand new technology BEFORE anyone else is. You’re the innovator, not the follower.

What can you do to be innovative? How can you reach clients in a way that makes them say WOW?

That’s why it’s beneficial to pay attention to where we are heading. What is in the future and what does it look like? How can you grab something new and use it to jump ahead of your competition?

What’s in the future?

Right now, we’re seeing the future in mobile format. People love their mobile devices, carry them everywhere, and use them from the moment they get up to the moment they head back to bed. The Internet is accessed five times more often through a mobile device then it is in the standard desktop computer. So the easiest way to standout in the future is to use this trend. Photographers will create apps for a variety of things; from showcasing their photography in gallery format, to creating special apps for individual clients.

Or maybe we’ll join in to the digital revolution instead of fighting it. People don’t want photographs to hang on their walls. They want the files. So what about handing over files in 50 inch format? If you haven’t heard of IPTV now, you will. I found this article that explains it well. With IPTV, you can take professional quality images and broadcast them to your clients. You create your own “channel” and give your clients rights to your “channel” providing they pay the price. Photographers will send clients to portfolios on TV and retain the rights. And because most consumer grade cameras can’t hold up to the 50 inch size, it brings on a world of opportunity to the innovative photographer.

Or maybe we’ll start creating exclusive content for our prospects and clients, and direct them wherever we want them to go with a QR code. Not sure what a QR code is? It’s simply a bar code that you can scan with your mobile device, and use it to direct your clients and prospects anywhere. All you need is a bar code reader on your smart phone, and you can scan in anything. Do a simple search in your app store, and you should quickly find one. [Try it out with this special QR code I’ve made for you.]

I read posts daily by photographers that talk about the future, and what it holds for our industry. Some say its doomed – we’ll never see the “good ol’ days” where you can make six, even seven figures a year from photography. I disagree. I think the industry is changing – DRASTICALLY – and the photographer of the future won’t look like they did in the past. They won’t be a staff photographer with a local newspaper; they’ll run their own specialized stock house that caters to a distinct industry. They won’t be a general portrait photographer; they’ll specialize in one distinct market, and offer amazing products that fit in with our digital lifestyle.

Opportunity is there; you just have to know how to look. And I’d love to hear where you are finding it.

Author’s Note: This concludes the 30 Ways in 30 Days series. Still have a question or problem that wasn’t addressed here? I would love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment on any of the 30 days posts, or email me directly at lori@virtualphotographystudio.com. I look forward to hearing how this series helped you grow as a photographer.