A Lesson for Portrait Photographers: Keeping Clients for the Long Haul

We all know that the world of wedding and portrait photography has become more competitive than ever. So how do we create a business that continues to thrive even in periods of economic downturn and industry turmoil? How do we win lifetime portrait clients by collecting and keeping them for the long haul? Not by continuing to beat the pavement year after year, constantly analyzing ROI based on old school advertising and traditional marketing, struggling for every new lead that comes our way!

This, my friends, is not how I want to live, not how I want to run my business. I believe there is a simpler way, one that I have been living for years. It sounds simple and it is.

Our businesses can thrive by collecting and keeping clients for the long haul.

Now if you specialize too much, this isn’t quite possible. If you say, “I only shoot weddings,” well then …

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The Magic Bullet of Successful Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography Tips from Justine Ungaro

“Boy, I never knew I could look so good.”  – Lisa Binder, Washington DC

If you were to create a list of the various components for building a successful wedding photography business, you would most likely include things like great customer service, personality marketing, understanding your ideal client, great photography, recognizable style, and unique product offerings. Yet, there is one component—arguably the most important component—that probably wouldn’t make your list. It’s what I consider to be the “magic bullet” of wedding photography and the one thing that leads to more bookings, more sales, and more happy clients than anything else. Ironically, it’s also the trait that I find to be almost a lost art in today’s highly competitive wedding photography market!

So what is it? THE most important skill for successful wedding photographers is the ability to make people look great. It’s the ability to take FLATTERING photographs of real …

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Sculpting with Light

Sculpting with Light

When I first started photographing weddings (and for many years after that) I was always looking for ways to add more light to whatever I was shooting. More light, more light, there never seemed to be enough light. But, as the years pass and I’ve learned to have more control over my gear and my creative vision, I’ve found that it’s not always about adding more light, sometimes it’s actually better to remove some light. The trick is knowing the difference and when to do what. I found a prime example of this just last weekend as I was photographing a bride getting ready at her parents’ house. We hung her dress in the window of the dining room, backlit and flanked by the curtains her mother had sewn herself. I photographed this photo of the dress.

(SOOC, ISO 500 2.8 at 1/100 sec)

I took a glimpse on the back of the camera (yes, I chimp) and it was okay, just missing that …

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Find Your Client’s Signature Pose…and Name It

posing couples for engagement photography sessions

When I first started out I dreaded the engagement session. In fact, I dreaded anything that meant I had to actually pose or direct my clients. It just scared me because I had no idea what to do with them. But as the years passed and I got more comfortable with the idea, I have actually grown to love shooting engagement sessions. I’ve learned that working with just the couple can be really fun and the opportunity to explore multiple locations allows for a high level of creativity.

Not only does the engagement session allow you to get to know your clients a little better, but it also gives you the opportunity to see how they photograph and to figure out how to make them look their best. Often when I’m shooting an engagement I will stumble upon a pose with a couple that just really works for them. All …

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The Importance of a Pre-Portrait Client Consultation

family portrait photography by justine ungaro

Whenever I walk into a store and a salesperson asks me “can I help you find anything?”, like most people my first reaction is to say “no, thank you” and shrink away as quickly as possible to go hide in a dark corner somewhere. But the truth is that at least half the time I am actually looking for something and I could use some help from an expert after all. Most people just don’t like feeling as if they are being sold to, right? I know I don’t.

But in order to be a successful professional photographer, you have to learn how to sell your work….otherwise you’re just a hobbyist. So how do we sell to clients without feeling as though we are pushing our work on them?

The answer is by preparing them to purchase from you before there is even any work to purchase. There are many ways to …

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5 Tips for Increasing Your Portrait Sales

Family Holiday Card by Justine Ungaro

All the time I hear about successful wedding photographers dabbling in portrait photography who can’t figure out how to actually make any money shooting portraits. It has nothing to do with their photography and everything to do with the way they run their businesses. And it’s no wonder, considering that it’s a whole different business model and needs to be approached in a different way. For weddings, we make most of our money up front by selling packages. Prints or album upgrades after the fact tend to be more of a bonus income stream. If portrait clients were willing to spend thousands up front then we wouldn’t need to worry so much about how many prints we sell. But unfortunately this just doesn’t seem to be the norm in the world of portraits. So if you are struggling with making portrait sales, here are just a few things you can …

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Tips for Storytelling

I am not a photojournalist. I am not a traditional wedding photographer. I actually don’t really claim any particular genre at all. When it comes to wedding photography, I am sort of a jack of all trades. But I try to be the best jack that I can possibly be. I will never be the best photojournalist out there. I will never be the finest at portraits or fashion or architecture or details. Someone who specializes will be the best at those things. And do you know what, I’m very okay with not being the best. But do you know what I am? Pretty darn decent at most of those things. And I think that this has been the simple key to my success. Consistency across the board and good solid storytelling. So today I want to share with you some tips for how to tell a great story and …

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Top Ten Tips for Posing

When the Community Team asked me to start blogging about posing, my first thought was….”huh, I don’t know anything about posing.” And then I started my top ten list for posing tips and I realized that I had over 20. Oops. So maybe I do know a thing or two, but after 8 years some things start to become so second nature that you don’t realize you’re doing them. So don’t worry, if you find this to be challenging, it does get easier with practice.

So before I jump right in, I want to define what I consider posing to be. And it has very little to do with the chin being tilted just so or the fingers on the hand being spread a particular way or many of the other “rules” of traditional posing that can lead to those forced and awkward looking portraits of the past. Now I’m not …

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Client Trust- You Have to Care Enough to Cry

A Wedding Horror Story

Let me tell you a little wedding photography horror story which only some of you will relate to but all of you will understand. Back in 2005 when I was just barely dipping my toe into the world of digital photography, (I was still 90% film based) I was hired to photograph a wedding for a very prominent Washington DC family. At that point it was one of the most expensive weddings I had ever shot, in fact it still ranks way up there. Anyway, it was a beautiful event and I had an incredible time as I usually do photographing weddings. The truth is, I really really enjoy shooting weddings, I think you have to in order to survive and thrive in this business.

So the next day I prepped about 25 rolls of film to be sent off to Pictage. If memory serves me correctly, I …

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