The holiday season is the Super Bowl time of year for professional photographers. High demands and extra stress can easily lead us to be off balanced and often carryover onto our personal lives, impacting the quality and time we spend with our families.
Year after year I’ve seen amazing photographers struggle with illness and the hardships of their personal lives. Some even burn out completely and leave the industry. It breaks my heart. Documenting the lives of our clients is what we love and it shouldn't have to come at such a high personal price!
At the other end of the spectrum there are your clients who are dealing with their own busy lives and feeling the weight of the holidays. I had to find a way to continue to provide the utmost best for my clients while personally maintaining a happy healthy balance for my family and I. A better system that would allow me to do what I love while meeting the needs of my clients in a way that would be easy on BOTH of us.
Here are a few tips that really helped me provide something special for my clients while still allowing my photography business and family to thrive.
1. Book Holiday Portraits Early
Like October early! After going through a few holiday seasons full of late nights and stressful last minute deadlines, I quickly realized I needed to kick-start the holidays much earlier. I needed enough lead time to be able to provide my clients with the beautiful archival products they come to me for while not pulling out all of my hair. I now offer holiday minis and full holiday sessions in October which leaves November to focus on order fulfillment. December, as it should be, becomes the time we celebrate with our loved ones. I am firm on my order deadlines and I politely decline the last minute bookings and avoid the chaotic rush. As a result my clients plan on getting portraits done early and enjoy the perks of having more options. Every photographer works differently but we all can benefit from more time.
2. Do What Makes You Happy
If bringing in Santa and using props is your thing...do it. If it isn't then don't. Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean you have to go against your usual style. Year after year I allowed others to tell me what to photograph and how to do it. What I've learned is that by not taking the lead I wasn’t allowing myself the opportunity to offer my artistic approach. One of the best tips I can give to others desiring to grow in their work is to dig deep and ask yourself “what do I love to photograph and how?” Be specific and then go out there and do it! Share it over and over again and become known for it. This will attract the type of clients that share in your vision and allow your art to flourish.
3. Create Holiday Collections & Get Your Clients Excited
You need to prepare your clients for earlier holiday sessions. Create excitement about getting ahead of the game and having a stress free holiday through blogs and social media. I did a fun countdown on my accounts leading up to the release of my Holiday Portraits 2016 announcement.
Having a few seasonal collections offering the most sought-after holiday services and products makes it easy for your clients to choose. The average client wants family images for holiday cards and gifts. Often times they feel the easiest and most affordable approach is to only purchase digital files so they can make cards and gifts on their own. What they don’t realize is the DIY approach results in more tasks on their to do list and mediocre products from consumer labs. Avoid this by offering your clients collections that include custom high quality cards and archival prints that can be framed in their home or given as gifts.
This year I’m teaming up with a high quality lab that offers card services directly to my clients allowing them to take a more active design role. It's a great option for those clients that “just” want digitals (which by the way I only sell as an add on but that's another blog). This also helps shift the time I spend creating cards to time creating archival prints and wall art, maximizing their investment and the amount of hours I spend on post production.
4. Offer an à la Carte Menu
Don't assume that every client has the same needs and or that you need to include everything in your holiday collections. Do make it easy on your client by including the season's two most sought-after items (cards and prints). Creating an à la carte / add on menu gives clients the opportunity to purchase other items AND keeps you from leaving money on the table. Make sure when selecting unique holiday products to offer that they are coming from professional labs that can only be purchased by professional photographers. This way you can stand behind the archival quality of the product and client's will be assured they have chosen a very special gift that can be enjoyed for generations to come.
5. Limit Your Mini-Sessions
Mini sessions are perfect for those that really want to focus on a few great images for cards and gifts. What worked for me? I only offer them once or twice a year, any more than that makes them less effective. All sessions are offered over one or two days at the location of my choosing and are part of a special menu for that season. I do not compromise value in these sessions….in other words I won’t give my work away. Yes, I want to give my clients something special but not if it means devaluing what I offer them and not if it will result in them walking away without something archival. Please note, I am 100% convinced that in person viewing sessions are absolutely the most effective way of presenting images to clients, however, due to expedited turn around time for clients during this busy time of year our holiday sessions include an online viewing gallery and are designed to include key essentials. See my example below.
2016 Mini Holiday Session 20 min session Online Viewing Gallery (25) 4x6 Archival Fine Art Prints in Linen Satchel Card Marketplace Link 10% off product purchase
For those clients that want a longer photographic experience, I've created Full Holiday Sessions so they too can benefit from the streamlined holiday process I've created.
2016 Full Holiday Session 60 min session Online Viewing Gallery Digital Collection (50) 4x6 Archival Fine Art Prints in Leather Satchel Handcrafted Silver Ornament Card Marketplace Link 15% off product purchase
Thank you for getting to the bottom of this blog! I hope some part of it encourages you to structure this busy time of year in a way that will bless your clients, yourself and your family. If you have other tips or suggestions for photographers or have any questions please feel free to reach out to me…I’m always happy to help.
Wishing all of my fellow photographers a prosperous, healthy and joyous holiday season.