Be Unique

When customers can’t see or understand the difference in your business from your competition, they shop by price alone. Believe me, you don’t want price shopping customers.

  • Identify at least 3 ways you are different from the competition in your area. Use that in your advertising content as well as your conversations on the phone.
  • Set yourself apart even more by offering unique products and services that your competition doesn’t.
  • Have 3 unique super products you offer, in addition to your regular price list, tailored to each of your product lines that you show your clients.

MAP Stories – Raymond Photography

In many ways Raymond Photography is an anomaly in today’s professional photography market. Rather than specialize, they offer a broad range of services; instead of reducing their size, they lease an 8,000 sq. ft. building; while a photography businesses with large billings typically rely on a staff of full-time employees, Anthony and Yvette use contractors as they are needed. This unusual photography business model is largely a consequence of the growth of their corporate photography sector.

“We had a home studio for 12 years, but as our commercial accounts grew, we needed more space. Much of our commercial work came to us because companies were looking for a photographer who knew film and lighting and how to correct shadows during the photographic process so that images didn’t have to be overworked. We were fortunate to find our space during a recession, because it was much easier to negotiate terms. We started with 2,000 sq. ft. and grew from there.”

Yvette adds that when a corporation hires a photography business for a huge, multi-day shoot, they don’t want to deal with a second shooter. “Anthony is the key employee,” she says, “so it works best for us to use contractors rather than have staff employees who must be paid year round.”

MAP is our biggest, strongest employee.

Because they are so aware of the advantages of hiring contractors rather than employees, Anthony and Yvette were quick to understand the benefits of the photography Marketing Advantage Program (MAP), and they are among its biggest boosters.

“We flat out tell people that MAP is our biggest, strongest employee. Given the economy and increased competition, you must constantly strive to make your photography business better, and there’s only so much you can master. It makes no sense to hire someone to market for you when you can benefit from Marathon’s expertise. They’ve been at this for a long time, and they know how to provide support for different kinds of businesses. We lean on them constantly. They give us ideas and shape our ideas, and this frees up our time to concentrate on income-producing activities.”

Yvette credits the printed materials they developed through the photography Marketing Advantage Program with creating exactly the kind of image they believe is necessary to be taken seriously by clients who have disposable income . . . whether they are families, schools or corporations.

“They show the quality of our work to its best advantage. Just adding our Teeny-Tiny Brochure to the letter we send to schools for our fundraisers has increased its success because it shows different styles of family portraits so they can see for themselves that we are professional photographers who know what we are doing.”

Paying it Forward

In spite of their busy schedules, Yvette and Anthony find time to coach and mentor new photographers or colleagues who are struggling in today’s economy. According to Yvette, a key ingredient for success in any business is becoming comfortable with talking to clients about money. “It’s a necessary part of business, and without a doubt, mastering sales techniques is the difference between success and failure,” she says.

Working with your spouse.

The couple also has good advice for other husbands and wives who work together: Make sure your roles are defined and respected, and determine when and why business can be discussed at home. “I’m the photographer and I handle the key business issues in that I make the final determination as to when we say yes or no,” Anthony notes. “Yvette manages the business, which includes support staff, photography marketing, sales and accounting.”

Yvette explains where she and Anthony draw the line on bringing business home: “It’s fine to comment about business issues at home unless it’s about a problem. Problems are tackled in the office, not at home.” Anthony gets the last word on this subject: “When two Italians are married and work together, it’s doubly important to have these rules!

Speed Edit Perfect Heart Ballarina

This is a fine art photoshop speed edit. You can see in this video I do some basic color balancing, light manipulation, basic skin retouching, soft face contouring, color replacement, and texture overlay.

In this video I used Portraiture for the base skin retouching. I like how it does an overall light skin smooth. I will go back and remove any remaining blemishes afterwards. You will also see me to some soft face contouring. I refer to it as soft skin smoothing or contouring because I like to keep the essence of a model’s face. I can do more of an extreme version but I’m not a fan of the high fashion standards where everyone has a perfect jaw line or the perfect pout and they are no longer recognizable. I believe people are organic matters that have different features that make them beautiful.

I always use Jessica Drossin’s Textures exclusively. This particular edit I used one from the Illumination collection you can find it here. They are fun to use because it always transforms your photo and gives it interesting depth and texture.

Fun Fact: If you attended 2015 MAP Getaway with Chuck Arlund you’ll recognize the model. Gotta love Amy.

Maximize Your Promotional Copy

When it comes to writing copy, most people freeze up because they are not born copywriters. As photographers, our words come through a visual media instead. So where do you start?  Let’s take a look at the key elements for successful back copy and break them down.


Attention-getting Headline
Everything starts with a great headline. You need to grab your potential customer’s attention. Look at magazines at the checkout counter in the grocery store. Have you ever noticed what they use to get your attention? Look on the internet at Yahoo News for another good example of attention-getting headlines. Just make sure your headline is relevant to the over-all content!


Be specific with this. Tell people what they are buying and what their investment will be. Sell only one thing at a time since too many choices can confuse the customer.


Show the Value
How much are they saving? If it’s an extreme savings, you may want to avoid listing the amount since it can have a reverse effect. People may see the discount on the offer and think that it’s too good to be true or that they won’t be able to afford your regular prices.


Quick Description
You don’t have to say too much in the body of the description. A brief paragraph or bullet points that describe the session or services is all you need. If possible, add information about what makes your studio unique. Just be sure to keep it brief.


Use Your Website to Say More
Add the extra copy you wanted to include on your printed piece to your website. You can go into greater detail and use it to support your message.


Phone Number
You want people to pick up the phone and call and that’s exactly what your material should inspire them to do. Make your number easy to see and read.


Create a sense of urgency by setting a deadline for 30 days after the offer is sent out. Your  ustomers will want to call right away to take advantage of the special offer.


You can create additional incentive to schedule early by offering a special bonus. For example, “10 Holiday Cards free with the purchase of 20 cards when you call by October 20th” or “Be one of the first 5 people to book your appointment and receive 10 free Holiday Cards with your order of 20 cards”. Always tie the bonus with a purchase, don’t just give it away for free.

Psychology of Pricing

Try these tips next time you are reviewing your price list to make your packages look more affordable and appealing.

  • Make sure your pricing ends in 9’s rather than a 5 or a zero to make it look more affordable
    i.e. $599 vs. $600
  • Leave off the .00 off of your pricing
    i.e. $399 looks less expensive then $400.00
  • When emphasizing savings, use .00 afterwards
    i.e. Save $50.00 when you book before November

MAP Stories – Pro Studio

For Ronnie’s garden cottage studio, seasonal promotions weren’t as effective as they used to be. A long-time client and substantial user of Marathon’s photography marketing products, Ronnie was no novice when it came to marketing. Unfortunately when the 2008 recession hit session numbers began to decline and Ronnie began to worry.

Through the Marketing Advantage Program (MAP), Ronnie had gained access not only to Marathon personnel, but also to industry specialists such as Ann Monteith. Ann’s mission was to help him refocus on financial fundamentals. These changes began to yield even better profits than before the recession.

“I came away knowing that I had to reduce staff, which meant taking over some jobs I didn’t like to do including sales. However, those sales sessions helped to give me a much clearer picture of my clients’ needs and wants.

Stop thinking about money and start thinking about people.

“Ann also made me understand that even in a recession there are still plenty of people who have disposable income. She asked me if I could bring in 300 clients a year who would be willing to spend $1,200 on portraits. That question forced me to stop thinking about money and start thinking about people. I began to picture my ideal clients and ask myself what it would take to get them in the door. I decided that my photography marketing strategies had to show clients and prospects who value a quality product that we value them just as much. My whole mental outlook changed, and everything began to fall into place.”

One of the most effective strategies that emerged from this new way of thinking was a fresh approach to direct mail. Ronnie explains:

“Instead of doing direct mail to get people in during my slow time — January and February — I started to advertise when I knew people had a need for my photography. For example, this August I sent out a classy fold-out mailer that included a gift card for $125 and a free session to get them thinking about the year-end holidays. Marathon personalized each gift card for each individual client. I had done a similar promotion in January for years and gotten around 10 clients each time. In August, 60 people responded! It made me understand why so many photographers say that direct mail doesn’t work: They are trying to get people in the door when the business wants them rather than when the consumer needs something.”

As Ronnie increasingly refocused his photography marketing on client needs, he found opportunities to use his commercial photography skills. Not wanting to jump back onto the commercial band wagon, he changed his mind after hearing other MAP members’ positive experiences at the MAP Getaway. Doing work for the Chamber of Commerce and a local Development Authority was both profitable and enjoyable. Clients enjoyed working with qualified professional that knew how to do business in their county.

If you are doing what everyone on forums is talking about, you’ll be left behind.

“What I’ve learned is that if you are doing what everyone else is doing and talking about on forums, you’ll be left behind. And whatever your favorite photography marketing strategy is, it’s just one slice of a much bigger photography marketing pie. You have to mix it with every other source so that you hit consumers over and over. You can get them in with Internet coupons, but you have to mail them something upscale to increase their willingness to be upsold. And the hardest part of all is realizing that when you’re busy in the summer photographing high school seniors, you have to be preparing your fall photography marketing strategies and materials to bring other clients in when high school senior season is over.”

Looking back to the troubled times of 2008, Ronnie concludes:

“I would never have believed that we would be where we are today: Our strategically important Christmas season has started with October being up 50% over last year. We are busier than ever with clients who love what we do . . . just as much as we care about them. It’s a great place to be!”

Dare to be Different

Do you remember the old 7-Up commercial? The one that said it was the Uncola? I’m giving my age away, but what a brilliant marketing campaign. They certainly were not the only non-cola soda on the market, but they were the only ones who promoted it so clearly. It was an easy to understand (and obvious) message and it was very successful for them.

Speaking of success, talking with successful photographers all over the country inspires me. Their ideas and creativity often seem endless and it can be in the form of photography, Photoshop techniques, Corel Painter skills, photography marketing or branding pieces that represent their business personality. Everyone is as unique as his or her own fingerprints, but how in the heck do you communicate that? How do you create your Uncola?

I was on the phone recently with one of our MAP members, Ramon Nayar, ISO Splash Photography, Naperville, IL. Besides being one of the most talented and versatile photographers I know, he is also what I call a “warm strategist”. A “warm strategist” is someone who thinks things through and prepares for future growth with the consumers experience in mind. He shared some things with me that I have included in this post.


ISO Splash Statement
– Nothing is standard in my studio, including crops and sizes.

Brilliant! It’s simple and easy to understand. This statement could be repeated during a conversation or added to any marketing piece. It hits you like a slap in the face, but in a good way. Can you imagine how refreshing that must be to the consumer? Nothing is standard. What? Where is the same old line I get from all those other photographers who talk about 8×10’s and 20×24’s? If nothing is standard then that means I won’t look average or standard either. I won’t have an average or standard experience when I come the studio. See where this is leading?


ISO Splash Statement
– I want people’s jaws to drop when they walk into my studio.

Regardless of where you meet with a potential client, a studio or on-location, wow them in every way. Tap into all the senses (there are actually more than the 5 senses but make sure you tap into the main 5 – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Pleasant aromas, something tasty to snack on, fabulous press printed materials with interesting folds and textures to see and touch and pleasant music playing in the background. All of this adds up to little things making a big difference. Your work has to be visually stimulating and displayed in a way that inspires people similar to what a furniture showroom does at a furniture store. Inspiration for multiple products begins before the session, not after.


ISO Splash Statement
– I explain to my clients how we are going to change the whole atmosphere, environment and mood in a room with the prints they purchase from me.

Ramon observes space and people and he knows how and what to say naturally to build rapport and get the customer excited. When you are genuinely excited, it transfers over to the customer. An overall “room experience” is much more exciting than talking about print sizes or inches. People can’t relate to inches, to them it sounds like feet. If you put it in context of the emotional state of ownership, then it becomes more than paper and inches. It becomes more about the room and how that room is going to make you feel every time you walk into it.

In addition, most consumers don’t know how to decorate. Do you ever watch those HGTV shows where they transform a room from ugly to gorgeous? That’s what the right display of your images can do for the consumer’s room. I’ve always thought it would be cool to create a photography promotional piece showing a before and after room makeover using portraits. Anyone want to try it? Give me a call. How different would that be from what the competition promotes?

What are you doing to be different? You might take black and white photography, but how is your black and white photography different from your competition?  What products are you offering that are unique and exciting? Is it time to reinvent your studio? Go study under a new mentor. Maybe get a new background or start a new product line.  Refresh your brand and website. Get that cool new press printed piece you’ve been talking about forever with fun folds that screams “you’re different”. When you do these things, it’s like wearing new clothes. You not only look better, but you feel more confident, creative and productive.

Life is too short. Don’t be average or standard! There’s too much of that in this world and you are way too talented. Tell the consumer how you’re different and why you’re great. Why they should pass 5 other studios to come to you and gladly pay more for what you do. Now that is effective marketing! Ask yourself why you pay more at your favorite restaurant and what you can do to create the same buzz about your studio. One last hint – it’s the little things along the way that make the difference.

Try a Referral Card

Referrals are the most cost effective means of advertising. Have an outstanding support piece for that! We would recommend a business card size hand out. It keeps it cost effective and easy for your clients to carry and disperse to their friends and family.