It’s time to work smart with portraits ~ Part 2

Feb 18, 2009 | Business, Studio | 7 comments

My message today is ‘Get ready to reap the benefits of the upturn’. If a lack of portrait bookings at this early stage in the season is worrying you, it’s time to… step back and look at the bigger picture. You can look at this 18 month period as a downturn blip and gear yourself up to maximise the rebound.

If you are down on shoots it is likely that you have more time on your hands but not too many financial resources to play with. ‘Time is money’ is a phrase I often hear, but I think time is worth far more than money. You can’t get it from a hole in the wall for one thing. The majority of all medium and long term business development and marketing strategies are time based and there is no time like the present to realign your long term path. Perhaps you could start by reading, or better still listening to ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven Covey. I say ‘listening to’ because you can download the 74 minute audio book from iTunes. Play it in the car and you might turn out to have a life changing journey. Once you’ve listened to Steven’s time management strategy you will understand how to utilise your box 2 time.

Great products and legendary service will drive your upcoming success.

Now, is the ideal time to learn new core skills like low key lighting or perhaps you can learn how to post produce your pictures to create the latest ‘in vogue’ looks. these will make your pictures more suitable for big pieces of contemporary art.

Refresh all your products. Make new show albums, frames, and blocks. Combine your newly invigorated picture styles with innovative ways of displaying them. Although there will be some demand for ‘photo wallpapers’ and the like, there will always be a greater demand for individual pieces of art to hang.

Visit your local art galleries, not just the popular ones in shopping centres selling prints but the real galleries selling one offs. Get presentation and framing ideas from the galleries and seek the opinion of you past customers before committing to spend money on new stock. Remember, just because you like a particular frame it doesn’t mean your customers will.


A website redesign is probably on the cards – sell the sizzle not the sausage. Make sure there is a compelling reason for your customer to buy your product in each paragraph of text. Make the pictures you use online desirable and the whole proposition exciting.

If you are only vaguely familiar with SEO I suggest you read this book and act upon it: ‘Search Engine Optimisation, an Hour a Day’ Implement a strategy to succeed in attracting organic listings online. I used the strategies in this book on my new Broncolor pages and I’ve got to a top spot in Google in under one week for the search term: Broncolor Mobil. Our new website is only 6 weeks old and it’s already working well at attracting new customers. I’m working on many other search terms and landing pages but it is worth noting that you can invest a bit of time and do search engine optomisation yourself.

Revamp your online prospective customer experience path paying special attention to the detail at every stage from the wording you use on your website landing pages, your online enquiry response form, your enquiry response letters that you send out from the studio, your answerphone messages and so on. Make your wording customer focussed rather than saying how good you are.

Product delivery – The customer experience

Get the basics right and build on them. In your viewing room perhaps you can introduce a drinks menu, offer an elaborate coffee experience by acquiring a Nespresso machine. You could redesign the lighting in your client area so that the light in the room falls on the products not the space between them. 

We always have fresh flowers in our studio at no cost to us. We have come to an arrangement with a local florist that we photograph every arrangement she delivers and she gets the pictures and we get the flowers. We get new flowers each Monday and she gets a set of creative pictures of each display the following week. It’s a win win situation.

Repaint your client area to refresh the look. Remember, when it comes to paint, colour is free, so don’t be scared to use it to add impact, set a mood or draw attention to a particular product or area.

These are just a few of the many things you can be doing with your time right now. Please feel free to add to these ideas in the comments area below.

While your competition is wallowing in despair and destined to fail you can seize the initiative and gain market share easily and effectively. When the tide changes and the doom and gloom is past there will be a lot of families and other clients in need of new portrait pictures and your business will be in good shape to supply that demand.


  1. damien

    Thanks for your kind comments everyone.

  2. Kevin Mullins

    Damien – a great article. I’ve run a web development firm for the last twelve years and am now aiming to “go pro” photographically and am finding your articles extremely useful. The SEO tips are extremeley important and all those sites that ar just Flash based need to think seriously about incorporating SEO into those too. Thanks again, Kevin

  3. Chris Taylor

    Thank you Damien, it’s so refreshing to read something positive, not only that but your articles are always packed with really useful recommendations, I’m now off to order that book from Amazon.
    Thanks again, keep up the great work!

  4. Anna

    Great advice as usual Damien – another thing which I have found to be really useful is networking with other local business people. There are loads of networking groups out there now run by local Chambers of Commerce etc, and they are great for building relationships and getting your face and name out in the local community

  5. pat

    Great article Damien.

    It can be difficult to keep a possitive frame of mind when the going gets tough. However as you say by keeping a positive optimistic mind set and planning for the future we are setting our selves up for the eventual win.

    In addition to your excellent suggestions, we could also offer our services for free in order to build & improve our portfolios or get free PR perhaps by helping a local good cause.

    As you say, there are many great opportunities to keep our minds off the doom and gloom and make the best from the additional time we now have. We must also remember that 9 out of 10 people will still be in work and have the same spending power they had before the recession.

  6. damien

    Wow, thanks Mark.

  7. Mark Byrne

    Its rare that I bookmark many blog entries on my RSS reader – yours are the most often bookmarked. Great advice, sensible ideas. Thanks again Damien.


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