Magazine Article


Marketing Section IV

Creative Solutions With a Twist

Section 4 features marketing initiatives that have driven up profits and customer satisfaction by raising spirits with a novel, unexpected, or light-hearted approach. Studio readers tell us how they meet business objectives by: raising wedding fees in a low-key environment . . . creating big, bold store displays for clients . . . developing a new business plan after 20 years . . . throwing a party for clients and prospects to mark successful first year . . . and turning gift cards into powerful promotions.

No-Obligation Consults Mean Just That Wedding Fees Climb in No-Pressure Environment

by Wayne Sandlin

I began my photography career as a wedding and portrait photographer back in 1970, after finishing my military service. After graduating from Northeast Louisiana University in 1973 with a B.A. in creative photography, I became a civil-service photographer for the State of Louisiana and operated a bridal and portrait studio. I moved to Houston in 1977 and worked on my M.F.A. at the University of Houston in the early ‘80s. My fine-art photography, on view in Houston-area galleries during the ‘80s and ‘90s, remains my true photographic love.

Things change, and more than five years ago, our studio went 100 percent digital. While digital technology has offered so many wonderful changes in our industry, the new breed of digital photographers has so little training in the art of professional photography. We had to find a way to differentiate ourselves from these part-timers with digital cameras.

Most startup businesses seem to be giving their work away, so two years ago, we changed our marketing approach 180 degrees. We dropped all written pricing for weddings. Even during bridal shows, we only give out studio information now, not prices.

Well over 75 percent of our weddings come from referrals, but we want to sell our work, not our price. So whenever brides approach us at bridal shows or call or email us at the studio, we invite them to our studio for a no-obligation consultation. During these visits, we don’t book any weddings. We give each bride-to-be a packet of information and build a total price reflecting what she wants for her wedding photography. If she decides to book our studio, we ask her to make another appointment to come back another day.

This approach lets brides know that we offer quality service and photography, and while our wedding pricing is higher than most, we’re not pushing them into signing. Our average wedding price is now in the $5,000 range, up over 50 percent from a few years ago. We still do only 24 to 36 weddings a year, just as we did before the change.

Our studio is in the business of photography. The bottom line comes into the total picture. I have always believed a statement from a fellow photographer: “Photography is fun, but I don’t do this for fun.”

So many photographers, new and old, seem to get stuck in the belief that we are artists. I believe we are craftspeople involved in a very artistic business, chosen by our clients to capture their personalities and events, so they can share them with others, now and in the future. This is what I hope we will always do.

B.W. (Wayne) Sandlin owns and operates Photography by Design ( in the historical Heights area of Houston, Texas. He is a member of PPA, Professional Photographers Guild of Houston, and Texas Professional Photographers Association. He belongs to the Greater Heights Area Chamber of Commerce, Association of Bridal Consultants, and the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Houston, serving as the Bureau’s photographer.

Oversized Images Enhance Your Brand Bold Store Displays Give You a Commanding Lead

by Steven J. Mackley

We’ve been in business since 1996. A few years ago, we began to feel it was important to show that we are artfully different from the wannabe photographers with their new digital cameras and why clients should be willing to invest more in their portraiture. We started seeking ways to stand out.

First, we used a casual look for display opportunities to get our image in front of potential clients. We worked with local jewelers and baby clothing stores, hanging 11x14s and 16x20s here and there—without much result.

We tried something new for a “Parade of Homes” tour we had been involved with for several years. Because of the trust we had with the general contractor, Time Piece Homes, he let us decorate the home as we wanted: with several 40x60s throughout the home and a 52x87 family portrait of the builder’s family custom-framed in the entryway. The portraiture was the talk of the show. The builder said he got tired of answering questions about the images. The home won Best of Show and People’s Choice awards, in large part due to the warmth the portrait created in the home.

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