Conquering COVID-19: How to book more small photoshoots and grow your revenue by up to $10,000 a year

With the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacting this year’s wedding season, photographers everywhere are trying to find new ways to make up for lost income. While selling prints or teaching online courses are great ways to diversify your photography business, here at Focal, we’ve had good success helping our partner photographers grow their business through booking more small shoots. In 2019, our top photographer grew their income by just over $10,000!

Why small shoots?

Small shoots are the untapped potential for many photographers. Chances are, you're already doing them — you just need some marketing support to help you do more. Better still, small shoots can supplement your income without cannibalizing your main wedding income because you can focus on them in the offseason or on days when you don't have bigger shoots.

The way the photography industry currently operates makes it particularly difficult for customers looking to book small shoots. Think about it this way:

It’s your mom’s 70th birthday next weekend, and the whole family is going to be in town to celebrate. You realize that it’s a great opportunity to hire a photographer to capture some priceless photos of the whole family together. You search online for "family event photographers near me" and find a photographer's website. But 99% of the time, their site has nothing to do with family photography; it's filled with wedding photos and maybe a short biography. Now you have to email them through their contact form to ask if they do family events, what their prices are, and if they're even available. Compound this situation with the fast-approaching deadline and you can see the problem.

Customers don’t want to have to spend hours researching and contacting photographers in order to book them for a small shoot. They want it easy. They want to know how much it costs, that you're available, and that you can do what they want well.

A father and daughter play in the autumn leaves.

Unlike with weddings, which often involve research, customers are usually quite keen to book small shoots as soon as possible. The better-tailored you are to capitalize on this, the more you'll be able to succeed.

How to position yourself to earn more small bookings

Imagine for a second that you’re walking down the street and you pass by a shoe store. "I could use a pair of runners," you think, so you walk into the store. Except when you enter, all of the shelves are empty, save for one. The shelf that's full has nothing but high-end designer shoes. No runners to be found.

Confused, you go up to the shopkeeper: "What else do you sell? Do you have any runners?" The shopkeeper says, "Sure, what size are you, what brand do you want, and what's your budget?" You then have to explain that you're a size 7, you're looking for Nikes, and preferably in white. They go into the back and bring out a couple pairs they think will fit. This goes on until you find a pair (or don't).

Read more: 7 Tips for Growing Your Photography Business

It's a silly analogy, but it's how a lot of photographers run their websites. They stock the designer shelf with wedding photos, because those bookings are their biggest earners. But when a customer comes looking for family event photos, their offerings are nowhere to be found. They have to ask: "Do you shoot family photos?" And that's if they ask at all.

From a business standpoint, this makes absolutely no sense. You want customers to be able to see what you offer; otherwise, you risk them leaving because they don't know you have what they need. Stock your shelves! You'll have customers bringing the pair they want right up to the counter and paying.

How do I stock my shelves as a photographer?

The good news: it's not that hard! All you have to do is make it easy for customers to understand what you offer. Here are some suggestions: 

  1. Create a page for each small shoot that you offer. Make that page specifically about that shoot and nothing else. This makes your package digestible and like a real product. 
  2. Include sample photos that you’ve taken from the same type of shoot. When a customer sees a family event photo vs. a normal family shoot, they will know exactly what they want. 
  3. Be transparent about pricing. It’s more professional to set a value on your work. Customers will appreciate you for it, and it will weed out the customers who are only interested in price-shopping.
  4. Detail what’s included. This is more than just number of photos and hours of coverage. (Though customers need to know this too, so be sure to cover this.) It’s also a great place to highlight any extra things you do that are valuable. Maybe it’s being willing to travel 'X' kilometres, or offering a video consultation before the shoot. Highlighting these things will convey your professionalism to clients. It's what we business folks call “value added.”
  5. Tell your clients what to expect. Give them a rundown of the experience they’re buying. After all, they aren't just buying “100 photos” — they're hiring you to make them comfortable in front of the camera and bring their vision to life. At Focal, we like to detail the timeline of events from after booking to during the shoot to post-shoot. Tell them how you’ll consult with them ahead of the shoot to talk about their vision, you’ll arrive at the event early to set up, you’ll capture some formal shots of the whole family, and then work on getting some candids of everyone enjoying their time together. Describe your proofing/editing process and when the photos will be delivered. The closer the customer can imagine the experience that they’re buying, the more comfortable they will be and the more aligned their expectations will be.
  6. List the fine print. Things like cancellations, weather, and licensing aren’t problems until they are. Be sure to list them on your package page so that there is clear guidance if any of these things arise.
  7. Call to action. After customers have all the information and are ready to book, make it easy for them. Include a call to action button on your page so customers know how to move forward. 

Ideas for small shoots to offer

Corporate Event Photography

While perhaps still somewhat on the horizon due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are always looking to capture their events — and often have higher budgets. Whether it's a quarterly meeting or the annual Christmas party, businesses want to share what they're up to with the world.

The Kixeye office celebrates their annual Christmas party.
Office Branding Photography

One of the ways that businesses can position themselves as a great place to work is showing off their beautiful offices and how exciting it is to work there. We often get businesses that need a photoshoot that captures the joy of working for their company. Whether it’s jamming out to Rock Band in the break room, or the team plugging away at a big project, companies want to convey their culture visually.

Retail/Store Photography

Retail businesses need photos of their storefront for things like their Google listing. In fact, Google states that businesses with proper photos of their storefront, interior, and products have a 42% higher chance of customers requesting driving directions and a 35% higher chance of customers visiting their website.

Food Photography

COVID-19 has only increased the need for restaurants to digitize their businesses. Studies have shown that restaurants with photo-based menus have a 25% higher conversion rate. Restaurants are in need of high quality food photography to convey the value of their offerings. Photos are often used on their websites and social media in addition to their online menus.

A trio of waffles tantalize on a plate.

First impressions really are everything. According to Forbes, the tone set by your digital first impression makes a lasting impact on how people interact with you. A good headshot leads to good impressions — but this doesn’t just mean a high-quality photo. Customers are looking for photographers that can truly capture the essence of their personality. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking “headshots” are just for the corporate suit-and-ties. Small business owners, life coaches, beauticians, musicians, and more need headshots for branding.

Family Event Photography

We often get customers that are looking through a photographer’s family packages but can’t find one that fits. This is because they’re having a family event and don’t just want a portrait session, but event coverage too. Simply offering a family event package in addition to your regular family sessions will dramatically reduce your chances of a customer bouncing. It seems like a small distinction, but customers want to know that you’re offering exactly what they want.

Graduation Photography

Prom begs for professional photography. With all the beautiful dresses, handsome suits, boutonnières, and corsages, parents are always springing to capture the moment. Many families are eager to hire photographers for the pre-prom. This is usually held in a backyard where graduates hang out with friends and family in their attire and get ready for the big evening celebration.

University and college graduation can be a boon for photographers, too. (The first time that parents see a glimpse of hope in getting their kids off the payroll! That’s something to celebrate!) Many schools offer formal headshot photos, but the look hasn't changed for decades. That's where you can differentiate, by offering family shots with the new grads.

A mother kisses her son at graduation.
Product Photography

Brands need photos of their products for their websites and social media. You can offer in-studio product sessions (with or without models), or on-location sessions, too. We recently did a shoot for the sunglasses brand YYCMOOD — and because they were from out of town, they asked us to arrange models to showcase their sunglasses. If you know the local creative community well, try offering to arrange models as an add-on to your product photography packages.

Pet Photography

Puppers, floofers, doggos and kitties. (Or snakes, or hamsters, or whatever.) People love to pamper their pets. Whether it’s outdoor adventure sessions, in-studio portraits, or puppy photos, there's someone that needs it for their beloved pet.

Now let them know!

Don't forget to put your packages out there. Whether on your own website or on Focal, we think you should be proud to show what amazing photoshoots you’re offering. You never know who might be planning their next family event, who needs headshots, or who's trying to brand their business. More than ever, our communities are coming together to support local businesses. Go out, build some amazing small shoot packages and share them!

Here are some channel ideas for sharing your packages:

E-commercifying your photography business is easy with Focal

With Focal waiving subscriptions fees for photographers, there’s no better time to join our community and try out our closed beta. We are working extremely closely with our partnered photographers to build a platform that serves you in your business. If you’re interested, we are slowly opening up the platform across Canada. Feel free to get in touch and our team would be happy to meet you and figure out how we can work together.

Easily build photoshoot packages that increase bookings

With Focal’s fully-customizable photographer portfolios, you can easily create stunning photoshoot packages — adding photos; telling your story; detailing what to expect, and what's included; and setting things like cancellation, weather, and payment policies. After you’ve built a portfolio and packages, you can easily share them with customers by sending them a link. Plus, your portfolio and packages are beautifully optimized for mobile.

Take bookings seamlessly

With Focal’s booking platform, you can easily attach your photoshoot packages to an invoice, add line items (like add-ons or discounts), and then send it to your customer by email. You can also designate a meet-up location, time, and any instructions for that particular booking. After the customer pays securely through the Focal platform, they can easily reference their online booking anytime by using their email link. If it’s a bigger booking, easily split the payment into a 50% deposit and then a remaining balance due at your designated date. Focal’s booking and payment system makes it seamless to book shoots and take payments.

Full ownership

At Focal, our goal has always been to empower photographers — which is why we designed our platform to give photographers full autonomy over what goes up on the platform. This means things like getting to put your logo front and centre so you can build your brand, setting your own prices, and having full management over your portfolio and packages.

Apply or just reach out for a chat!

If you're interested in applying for Focal, you can use the form here. But, if you're not quite ready for that just yet, feel free to just drop us a line with any questions you may have at Whether it's getting a bit more info about Focal, or even passing on some suggestions from your years of experience in the industry, we're always happy to chat about how we can serve you better.

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