Today I’m sharing the three processes you need to run your photography business more efficiently. But even more so, how to automate these processes, so that you can work less and continue to bring in your photography clients and income.
Before we dive in, let’s talk about automation. For starters, what the heck is it? The Merriam Webster dictionary says it is the technique of making an apparatus, a process or a system operate. Basically, automating your photography business means that you are able to have your photography business run seamlessly, while working less, and having these systems and processes in place, so that if you were ever able to sell your photography business to someone else, that it would run seamlessly for them as well. The new owner would quickly and easily understand exactly how to run your business the exact way that you did. Now obviously, they wouldn’t be able to be you or have your personality or anything like that. But for the most part, they would understand the ins and outs of how you run your photography business.
So, now that we’ve got an idea of where we’re headed (full on automation, woohoo!), let’s dive on in. If you are in the beginning of your photography business, and you are not yet investing in a customer relationship management system, like Irisworks, Honeybook, or whatever these are still processes you can have in your business, you’re just going to be manually doing them.
The goal is to eventually have you take these processes, and automate them by signing up for one of the awesome programs out there. If you are already using a program, like the ones I mentioned, you’re going to map out these three processes and then turn them into automatic processes inside of whatever program you are using. I will mainly refer to Irisworks, because that is what I use. If you want to try them out you can. And then if you decide that you want to upgrade and start paying for it, you can save 20% off any subscription by using the code BROOKE and it will save you some money.
Okay, let’s get into these three systems and processes!
1. Booking Process
The very first process that you need to have in your business is a booking process. Start by thinking of all the steps someone needs to take from the minute they reach out to you and inquire about your services up until the point where you show up on location at their session. Here’s an example of what that looks like for me:
First, someone, we’ll call her Sally, reaches out to me by asking one of two questions: “How much do you charge?” or “Do you have a certain date available?” People often reach out to you with these questions first simply because they don’t know what else to say or ask.
I’ll typically go take a quick peek at her social media, if I can find it, and figure out a little bit more about her, so I have something to go off of. Then I’ll respond with a simple message like: “Hi, Sally, Thank you so much for reaching out!” And then let her know that I’m going to be sending over my investment guide. And she can take a look at that and then let me know when she’s ready to book. I also try to leave it with a question, so the conversation continues to flow and I avoid getting ghosted by her. Next, a few things can happen:
Scenario 1: Sally will pop back, and say, “Yes, I’m ready to book. Thank you so much. I want to go with such and such package.” And I reply and send her the booking calendar. And at that exact second she gets it, because it is automatic. That’s one of the great things about Iris works, she will book a date and then literally all of my emails will start going to her inbox based on the schedule that I put in place.
Don’t have a program to automate with yet? No worries! Just make sure you know what dates you’re available ahead of time, so whether you keep a running list in your notes app, or carry a paper calendar with you, it’s up to you. I just want to encourage you to not ever tell your client, “I will check on that as soon as I get home”, because I used to say it all the time. Trust me, it’ll save you the hassle! You’ll want to have a template saved and ready to immediately copy and paste, so that their wait time is minimal. They’ll have more of a chance of booking you, because you were quicker to get back to them.
If you already have programs set up, then this process should be automated. If not, you need to decide what the next step is once they choose a date. How will you let them know they actually booked? When my clients book, they will get a confirmation email saying the date that they selected and a reminder to pay their deposit within 24 hours to actually secure that spot. If you are not charging deposits yet, a great starting point is $50. The deposit will help you minimize cancelations and no-shows, because seriously who has time for those?
Once the deposit has been paid, the next thing I focus on, generally two to four weeks before their session, is prepping them for the session itself. This is when I send them my Style Guide and plan a styling consult. The Style Guide email is sent out first and then I have a few emails with tips and tricks for preparing their husband, how to get their kids to show up in a good moods, etc. Any remaining emails will be instruction based like locations, directions to the chosen location, all of that. Those final emails round out my booking process and lead us to the day of the session.
2. Session Process
The second process that you need to have in place is your session process. So what does that look like? This process includes everything from the time you guys meet at your session, then photographing them and to the time they depart all the way up to sneak peeks and editing, so this is a lot. Trust me, I know, it is a lot, but this process is probably something you’re already doing, you just may not realize it.
My goal is for you just to be able to put this process on paper, so that every client is getting the same great experience. Obviously, everyone’s different, so they’re going to get a unique experience. Having this in writing will really make sure you’re not dropping the ball or only going above and beyond for a few clients and not all of them. It will help you remain consistent across the board.
Here’s what my session process looks like: I start by telling my clients to meet me at my car and I provide my vehicle model and color, so they know exactly what to look for. So when they show up, I roll down my window or get out of the car and give them an overview of what’s going to happen for the night.
For instance, last night, I had a family session. When they pulled up, I told them that we we’re gonna drive just a little bit further and that they could follow me. I also gave them instructions for what to expect when we arrived like: “Once we are there, we’re going to walk just a little bit, so
make sure you guys bring anything that you want: blankets, extra outfits, anything like that, let’s go ahead and take it with us.” Then, they follow me, we get to the exact location, everybody gets out and we walk into the grassy area we were going to be photographing.
I always start family shoots with everybody in the picture, only because you’ve got to break the ice somehow. Starting with a posed Christmas photo right away helps everyone start smiling and loosen up a little bit. This also give me a change to get my lighting set. I always have about five to 10 throwaway images within the first few minutes of a session. During this time, I’m typically complimenting people and making jokes as I continue to break the ice, I want to relieve any awkwardness that they might feel at the top of the session in under five minutes.
After that I go through prompting and posing. Since I primarily shoot families, none of my sessions look exactly the same. I always run my session based on the youngest child’s mood. If they’re upset, then I will ask one of the parents to take the child, walk them around or play some music. Oftentimes, I’ll hand them my phone, so that they can pull up YouTube or something and get their child in a better mood. Then I will focus on maybe mom, the other kids or do individuals. There is no wasted time. I don’t stand around and simply let that child be in a bad mood. I take control and do everything I can to make sure we don’t waste time while also making it super productive.
Once we’re done with the session, I always end my sessions with this question: “Was there any pose or anything that you came to this session wanting that I did not capture already? “99.9% of the time they say no, I think you’ve got everything. We’re good. Like you did so much. We feel super confident with what you got.” Occasionally I’ll have a person pull out their phone to show me one last picture they wanted and I’ll capture it. I don’t mind doing this, because I literally just took full control over the entire session. Then, I just make sure every expectation was met by the end.
Once we’ve wrapped that up, we typically have candid conversations while we walk all the way back to the car. I thank them and we exchange payment, if they haven’t already paid the remaining balance. I also tell them when they can expect to see their sneak peek images along with the full gallery is expected.
Also included in the session process is the post session process. Basically, this process shows what you do when you get home after the session ends? What do you do with your equipment? How do you actually transfer images over and how you edit it all. This is going look different for everybody.
Here’s what happens when I get home from a session. I put my card into the card reader. I get my hard drive and immediately transfer those images on to my number one hard drive. Then, when the card reader is finished, I unplug that and plug it into my number two hard drive. Hard drive two is where my Lightroom is set. I will transfer the images on to there. Then, I go through my calling process. And if you don’t know how I call or select images, I actually did a visual training of this inside of the Social Selling for Photographers Facebook group. You can find that in the unit section under trainings.
After that, I go through the editing process. And now that I’ve started using Photoshop, it does take me twice as long to edit my sessions. Totally worth it, but does take a little longer. I also like to batch my sessions, so I’m probably spending two to three days per session, but it’s usually not in a row. Once it’s done, I upload my gallery to Pixieset and let my client know that their full gallery is available for viewing.
During the editing process, I try my absolute best to send the clients one to three sneak peeks of my favorite images within two to three days of the session.
Now I want to mention one thing about sneak peeks. I used to be the photographer that would rush home, ignore my family, and go straight to the computer. I would go through the gallery, pull a couple images that I thought were the best and quickly edit them. Then, I would send them to my client either the night of or the very next day. They would be so excited, because they got to see them, but I never felt like I took enough time to really decide what editing style I wanted to go for. It felt like an obligation, because other photographers were doing it. I just truly believed that if I didn’t give a sneak peak within 24 hours, people would stop booking me. That’s false! It’s simply not true.
My clients realize that I put my whole heart and soul into editing their pictures. I spend an hour with them at the session and then often drive back home over an hour. I’m not in any mental shape to come home and start calling and editing images immediately. Not to mention, I’ve already been away from my family, for anywhere from one to four hours. I’ve found that my clients just respect that about me. Friend, if you feel the pressure that you have to give sneak peeks immediately, I want to let you off the hook right now. That does not have to be the case. In fact, there’s some photographers who don’t give sneak peeks at all. And that could be anywhere from three weeks to eight weeks later. Remember, it’s your business, your lifestyle and your priority, so you can decide what you want to do.
3. Lead Generation Process
My third process is my lead generation process. This boils down to the basics of how you are getting people to book your sessions. The number one thing I hear is ‘Brooke, I want to book clients consistently.’ and ‘Brooke, I’m barely bringing in $500 in my photography business. How in the world can I make this work?’ Well, all of that goes back to your lead generation process. This goes further than just social media. This means having a plan in place where each month you know exactly what you’re offering, when you’re available and what goal you’re trying to hit. Plus, you’ll know how you’re going to achieve that. This is the number one thing I’ve done in my business for the last four years that has helped me see that consistency in my bookings.
Okay, so let’s go back to the top here. You can’t just sit around and hope that people will run to you to book a session. If you want a booked out calendar, it’s different for everybody. Booked out for you might be two sessions a month, it might be 15 sessions a month. I don’t know what that looks like for you. That’s for you to decide.
I literally pull out my calendar, and look at what’s coming up for that month. What’s coming up in my personal life? Am I going to any football games, vacations, have any prior obligations? If so, I mark those days off my calendar. Then, I look and see what’s left. Out of those remaining days, how many days do I want to book sessions? Then, how many days do I want to take a break or reserve a day for editing in between. I typically choose between eight to 12 dates that I have available.
This is when you go to your Notes app or calendar to list all of these dates out. For me, I just hop on Irisworks and go to my booking calendar to mark those days available. I then decide on times by looking at the time of sunset for those days.
I know what my eight to twelve dates are in my booking calendar. Now I’m deciding if there is any themed mini session I’ll be doing as a cash flow opportunity. I could have more than one session a day, evening or a weekend. If not, then we’re talking about eight to twelve regular, full sessions.
Now that you know what you’re offering, you need to get those eight to twelve families to actually book full price sessions. This is where you’ve got to start looking at the different ways to market. I create a posting schedule and come up with different captions. This is why I created the 30 Instagram captions, which also can easily be tweaked for Facebook. If you need a shortcut, go get that. Next, if you don’t want the shortcut, create a specific plan for getting these people to book.
Number one: You’re going to have to show up on your social media channel as much as you can. You’ll need to find several different angles to evoke that emotion like educating them and giving them a perk of working with you, sharing your testimonials and third party validations, etc. If you’ll use all of these things to craft a posting schedule, then you will see more inquiries coming through the door.
Once this lead generation process starts working, they’re moving into the booking process. Once they’re done with the booking process, you’re moving into your session, and post session process. You can easily see how these steps and systems are used over and over again in your photography business. Once you can stop doing it manually and invest in an automation system, like Irisworks, or Honeybook, then you can see how this saves you so much time.
Your brain may be totally overwhelmed at this point, but I wanted to walk you through each step. These are the three processes and systems that you need to have in your photography, business. These are things that you do over and over again, so that every time you’re working with a client, you know exactly what you’re doing.
So, let’s review:
- The booking process takes someone from that initial inquiry all the way to their session.
- Your session process, which is from the time you get to the shoot to delivery of their full gallery.
- Your lead generation process where you look at your calendar to plan your offerings and how to get there.
Again, this is everything I do in my photography business. Remember, it does take some time to put it all into place. Once you have it automated though, your life will absolutely change.
If you don’t have these processes in place photography business yet, don’t stress! I would be happy to walk you through it in a power hour mentorship or through a coaching session. You can sign up for either of those options HERE.
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