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Five Tips To Make This Off Season The Best Ever

By Chris Nachtwey on December 2nd 2014

Well I hate to say it, but here in North America, old man winter is coming to town, and besides colder temps and less daylight, winter brings the off season for many wedding photographers. It’s that time of year that photographers dread. The slow season or “off season” can be horrible; you go from working all day and night to no jobs on the books or inquiries for your services for weeks. It stinks, but the off season can actually be just what the doctor ordered to not only make you a better photographer, but also a better business owner.

[REWIND: PHOTOGRAPHY AND I BROKE UP! HOW I REKINDLED OUR LOVE AFFAIR]

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking about the off season a lot lately. I’ve not been thinking about the possibility of less work or less inquires for my services, but more so what am I going to do with all this time I have on my hands. This year, I’ve actually put together a plan for what I want to do in the next three or four months before wedding season starts up again. I’m actually excited about the off season this year, but if you have no idea of what to do with all this newfound time off, here are five suggestions to help make your off season the best you’ve ever had.

Five Tips For Making This The Best Off Season Ever

Create Images Just For You

This should almost go without saying, but the off season is a great time to put together some personal photography projects or shoots for yourself. During the season, it can be hard to find time to shoot what you want to shoot. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting weddings, but sometimes I just want to shoot something different for no one but myself. This is where the off season is awesome, you have more time on your hands and I know you want to use all that fancy gear you have!

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You can choose to shoot whatever you want, but make a point to actually do it and not just think about it. It’s too easy to get sucked into staying home and not doing anything but stare at your email waiting for an inquiry. Maybe you can rent a studio space and set up a shoot with some local models and make up artist to do some wild, creative portraits. Maybe you love to cook; instead of just cooking and eating all that delicious food, brush up on your food photography skills by photographing the great dishes you make in your home.

No matter what you decide to photograph for yourself, make sure it makes you happy and gives you a reason to get out of bed and do something productive during the off season.

Update Your Website

The off season is a perfect time to update your website! Unless you love to work on your website on the regular, many photographer sites don’t get the love they deserve. I see a lot of sites from working here at SLR Lounge and so many of them I visit are either outdated or hard to navigate. Use the off season as a time to make your digital footprint beautiful and easy to use. Your website is one of the most important parts of your business. It’s your portfolio, it’s your voice to potential clients, and in the end, is your digital business card. When the snow is falling, don’t just sit on the couch and binge watch shows on Netflix, take some time to make your website awesome for not just you, but current and potential clients.

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[RELATED: 10 MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN BUILDING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE]

Network And Form New Relationships

If you’re a wedding photographer, you’re not the only one dealing with the off season blues; all the other wedding vendors are dealing with the same problem. The off season is a great time to reach out to fellow photographers, wedding planners, venues, etc. and form new professional relationships. Use the off season as a time to set up meetings with venue directors and wedding planners you want to work with in the future. Offer to buy them a coffee and chat about what you can offer to their clients as a wedding photographer. You might not see any work come from those meetings, but you also might form a new business relationship that will bring both of you a lot of new business. The same rings true with fellow photographers. Some people believe having a relationship with another photographer is bad because they are the competition. That cannot be further from the truth. Fellow photographers will be your second shooters, they will refer you work that they can’t do, and in the end, can be allies in the industry.

This business is so much about networking and relationships, putting in the work to build new professional relationships is a lot easier when people have time to sit down and meet with you vs. during the busy season when we are all slammed with work. Take the time to meet some new people and network, it will only help you not hurt you. Trust me.

Blog All Those Weddings

I know, I know, you hate blogging. Well, it’s the off season and you have tons of awesome images you should show off, and a lot of time on your hands, so use that time to blog all those awesome weddings you shot. Blogging about the weddings and couples you meet during the season helps to show potential clients that you’re shooting on a regular basis. It shows that you can indeed shoot a whole wedding vs. just making a few awesome images that are showcased in your portfolio, and honestly, potential brides love to look at other  weddings.

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Having a strong blog can help to not only attract new clients, but gives life to your business. Use your blog posts as a way to tell a couple’s wedding day story, showcase fellow vendors you love, and talk about all the awesome experiences you had during the season. Don’t just blog and hope people find all those great posts, share your blog posts on social media, hit up Twitter, and share some images from the season on Instagram. Use the off season as a time to build up an online following vs. watching cat videos on YouTube.

Get An Education

I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell you how many times during the season I have to pass on watching a great class on CreativeLive or the newest tutorial on Phlearn’s YouTube page because I have client work to do. The off season is a great time to build up your photography and business education level. The amount of free education available to photographers online is almost unbelievable, and there are tons of seminars and workshops you can attend in person during the off season. Use this down time to learn and grow as a photographer and business owner. I’m personally looking forward to sitting down with a cup of coffee and scouring the Internet for some awesome free education!

And of course, check out some of our new SLR Lounge products: Photography 1o1 and the Smoke Texture Pack.

Conclusion

I know it can be hard to find the motivation to do anything photography or business related during the off season. We are tired or even burned out from a long season, but letting the off season go to waste is a horrible idea. Use it to become better at your craft, meet some new people, become a better business owner, and most importantly, spend some quality time with your family and friends that you don’t get to see all that often during the busy season.

What are your plans for the off season, let us know in the comments below!

Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

10 Comments

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  1. Tosh Cuellar

    Good article, great tips for keeping up with it all during the down times.

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  2. Richard Bremer

    Great tips! I use my time in this off season to get my brand up and running. Or, as Mac Macdonald says, working towards actually having a “season”. I’ve shot a few weddings already and find this marketing thing difficult. And a helluva lot of work! Enjoying every bit of it.

    Keep at it, Chris! Love your posts!

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  3. Mac MacDonald

    My goal is to work to the point where I actually have a “season”. Ah, the life of a newbie!

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  4. Daniel Thullen

    Thanks again Chris for rock solid advice! All solid points for running a wedding photography business. I’d add in a sixth point: Do something to recharge: take a vacation, explore your artistic side in some other form: painting, music, etc. The three R’s: refresh, relax, and recharge will help you run a better business.

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  5. Scott Eisenbeisz

    Thanks for the thoughts! With the bitter cold we have here durring winter, it can be hard to go out and shoot! These are some great things to keep in mind!

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  6. Aaron Cheney

    That is a beautiful looking website. Currently I am using go daddy and wordpress for mine- amichaelphotography.com and my year with go daddy is about up. With that I would like to switch from them and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for new hosts. Also, who are you using as a platform and how do you like it? I am not so big on coding and had a friend help build mine. With that I am looking for a new platform that is easy for me to build and is streamline for guests to navigate.

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    • Chris Nachtwey

      Thanks Aaron, I’m personally a Squarespace fan. I have no clue how to code and squarespace allows me to create a polished site that clients always compliment. I have heard squarespace can hurt your SEO a little, I honestly can’t comment on that either way because I just don’t know. I was on wordpress for awhile and just was not a fan of it for my business sites. Best of luck!

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    • David Justice

      Hey Aaron,

      As someone who’s not into coding you should definitely consider Squarespace. ZenFolio, Format, or PhotoShelter. They will give you the types of websites you would like.

      I personally use BlueHost as my domain provider and I use Koken for my website (http://davidjusticephoto.com). It’s pretty good and I love being able to customize things on my own (I enjoy coding a little bit).

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    • Aaron Cheney

      Thank you both for your help!

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