Mini Photo Shoots: 7 Tips on How to Add These to Your Photography Business
It started off as an idea to break up the late-winter lull. You know what I’m referring to – that January to March period where family shoots are few (because everyone just had their Christmas card photos taken), but it’s too early for wedding season. I wanted to do something special for Valentine’s Day, and soon the idea came to me: a Valentine’s Photo Booth!
Going into it, I saw the Valentine’s Photo Booth as an opportunity to try something new and offer cute photos at an inexpensive price. I didn’t realize what a fantastic marketing event it would turn out to be. I teamed up with a local shop owner who had available space for me to set up a makeshift booth, props and treats. I sent out emails advertising the event, hung up a few posters at coffee shops, and asked my friends to tell their friends. I decided to make it an open event, no appointment necessary, in the hopes that at least a few people would show up that day. As it turned out, I had a steady stream of customers – so many that I never got a chance to eat lunch. It was exciting and exhausting.
The most exciting part happened weeks later when I started receiving emails and phone calls from people who said they heard about me from Valentine’s Photo Booth customers. That’s when I realized the booth had tapped into an important aspect of word-of-mouth marketing: GIVE PEOPLE SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT.
Although business picked up quite a bit as the weather warmed up, I was still thinking of ways that I could get my name out to more people. I decided to do Mother’s Day Mini Photo Shoots, knowing that it might reach new customers and generate more word-of-mouth. This time, unlike the Valentine’s Photo Booth, I scheduled people into 20 minute time slots. I arranged to do the mini-shoots in a local orchard. My advertising focused on the idea that moms are always BEHIND the camera and this was a chance to be in the photos with their kids. The response was overwhelming. I ended up adding an extra day of Mother’s Day Mini-Shoots in order to accommodate all the requests. I met a lot of new people from all over the valley, and have seen an impact on my business that is a direct result of the mini-shoots.
Prior to the Valentine’s Photo Booth and Mother’s Day Mini-Shoots, my clients consisted mostly of friends and acquaintances. However, since those two events, my customer base has broadened exponentially. I am now scheduling two to three months in advance, which I would have never dreamed of a year ago.
Tips for doing mini-shoots:
- Don’t do it often. I recommend no more than two or three events a year.
- Do your best to connect with each client, even though it’s a very short session.
- Tie the mini-shoots to holidays that will attract your target clients. (In my case, 20-35 year old women with children). This isn’t a necessity, but I think it was a key to my success.
- Remember that your goal is to generate more word-of-mouth, not necessarily to make a lot of money from this specific event. I found that the resulting business more than made up for the low rates I charged at the mini-shoots.
- Hire an assistant (or bribe a sweet friend) to help with organizing payment/paperwork and to greet clients as they arrive. It’s very difficult to stay on top of everything while managing consecutive shoots.
- Make it very easy for clients to share their photos. I’m specifically referring to online social media. Provide web-sized images (with your watermark or information) and mention that they are welcome to share the photos on their blog, Facebook, etc. This is an effective form of word-of-mouth.
- Finally, be original. Be yourself. Clients will come back to you again and again (and refer others) because they like YOU and your photography.
[Amber, of Amber Fischer Photography, is a recovering Elementary teacher who has been doing photography for a couple years out of Boise, Idaho. She calls her Canon 5D "Lucy" and drinks way too much coffee.]