Monday, November 6, 2017

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Thank you,
Steven M. Bohne

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Promotion Planning Wheel & Your Promotional Planning Calendar

Here is what you need to layout your business' Promotional Planning Calendar for 2015...and every year thereafter:

1) Promotional Planning Wheel - before Kodak ran into to financial difficulties, they used to give professional photographers a LOT of support: Studio Light Magazine, The Toolbox (a set of promotional planning ideas and tools), ad slicks, ad campaigns, and more. Sadly, as the number of professional photographers dropped...and Kodak's own fortunes slipped...this support dwindled. 

This was a great tool created for the Times of Your Life promotion. You simply set SALE arrow on the date you want your promotion to begin; the other arrows will indicate your dates to PLAN and then LAUNCH. I doubt Kodak has any of these on is nearly 35 years old. But you could give it a shot: it is item P3-708A. I have scanned mine and reproduced it here. If Kodak no longer has them, you could print two copies, laminate the two wheels, and connect them with a brass fastener (AKA "split pin") that would allow the inner wheel to rotate.

2) Wall Calendar - I never paid for one...I received one every year from the fine folks at Shore Color Lab in Munster, IN. Unfortunately, like many small labs, Shore Color has closed. You will have to purchase one at an office supply store. Buy the biggest one you have room for. You will write ALL STAGES of your promotions on here (Plan, Promote, Launch, Results). You will also make note of your event dates (proms, reunions, sports, weddings, etc.) and your TOTAL sales for the month.

I would suggest if you have just one, use a paper calendar. If you have room for two, I would use a dry erase calendar as well. Why two? The dry erase calendar is easier to change if something gums up the works (print materials get delayed, your previous promotion is running into your next promotion, etc.). The paper calendar gives you a permanent record of your promotions, your sales, and your events so you don't have to start from square one each year. You can also see which promotions were good, and which ones may need to be replaced. It also acts as a reminder so you can try to rebook those events for the upcoming year, and lets you compare your wedding bookings...if you do those.

"But I keep my events on my computer's studio program!" Okay, here's what you do: you take that computer, and the studio program, and place it gently where the sun doesn't shine. If your machine tanks, or the program becomes corrupted, or the planets are not in perfect alignment, this information goes buh-bye! And you are what's commonly known as screwed, blued, tattooed...and most likely, sued. Take it from me: as much as I love technology, sometimes old school is best. If you still want to use that studio program, swell. Just have a backup. No one over all the years I was in business could ever convince me to stop using an appointment book. Yes, I had a custom made Xenix studio program that did ALL of that...that they failed to tell me would stop working after 1999. Five thousand dollars flushed down the toilet. Ah, well...I used it for nearly 11 years, so I spent less than $500 a year for the program. Can you tell I'm trying to convince myself?

3) Fine Point Colored Markers - RED to mark the plan date; GREEN for the start date; BLUE for the sales date; BLACK for the gross sales/ORANGE for the net.

Now...RIGHT NOW is when you want to start creating this calendar. Next time I will give you a list of promotions that I used. Many of them ran UNCHANGED for over 25 years! Until next time, may all your highlights read 245, all your shadows read 7, and all of your PHOTOGRAPHY be For INCOME! Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Don't Let Scams (OR Your State Government) Steal Your Income!

I am taking a quick break from the Promotional Calendar series to call your attention to a couple of things that could really hurt your business.

First off, I want to warn you about several scam emails that even the most veteran of computer users have fallen victim to. You may be receiving emails from AOL, Bank of America, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Delta Airlines, CVS Pharmacy, USPS, FedEx, and others. Here are a few examples (I have no control over how long images will be available since they are not mine!) - do NOT click ANY of the links here:
Action is Required
  Payment Declined - Your account needs attention!
Please Update Your Account

update now button

Dear steve,

We're sorry, but we were unable to process your recent payment for your subscription. This may be because the credit card we have on file expired or reached its limit. Please update your billing information as soon as possible in order to avoid any interruption to your services.

You can update your billing information online simply by going to and clicking on "Manage My Wallet and Billing Info." If you need further assistance, you can get help online or contact an AOL customer service representative at 866-485-9217.

In order for your subscription to continue uninterrupted, please update your billing information today.

Thank you for your prompt response.


AOL Member Services
update now button
Update online by visiting or
call customer service 866.485.9217 to avoid service interruption.
This WAS from AOL...trying to charge me for an account I haven't used AOL in about 18 years! Here's another one that COULD have tripped me up if I hadn't been cautious:


Our companys courier could not make the delivery of parcel to you address at 2nd October.

Print your label and show it in the nearest post office to get a parcel.

Print Shipping Label
Copyright 2014 USPS. All Rights Reserved.   

I did NOT click the link, but instead took a look at the header. The mail was sent by you think this is the Post Office's official email address? Nah, I don't either. Feel free to send this address about 1000 long junk emails and maybe his service will be shut off.

Dear Customer,

Your parcel has arrived at September 29. Courier was unable to deliver the parcel to you.
To receive your parcel, print this label and go to the nearest office.
Get Shipment Label
FedEx 1995-2014   

If you were to click the link - which I did NOT do -  it takes you to oBF9dkh7jybwxa +JcMPXP4yF6617EISlQip Ji8yizkI 

I am pretty darn sure this is NOT FedEx's email address either. This link is probably harmless, sending you to a site that wants to sell you some type of window cleaner. But others are not so harmless.

I also got similar emails from PayPal and Bank of America's "Security Department" informing me that an unauthorized attempt was made to access my account, so please click a link and create a new password. Oh, yeah, like I was about to do that! You can bet this was a phishing scam intended to grab my personal info and grab my cash...not that they would have gotten much ;)

Whenever you get an email like this, NEVER click any links until you check the sender's email address. In fact, I wouldn't even do it then. If you are in doubt, contact the business and verify such information. It goes without saying, NEVER, NEVER, EVER click links or download files from sources you do not absolutely trust.

Finally, you want to make sure you keep your taxes - both business AND personal - current. But ESPECIALLY keep your State taxes up to date. Most states have a collection policy that makes the Federal Government look like Girl Scouts. They have huge penalties for unpaid sales taxes and will suck your personal accounts dry, even if you are a Corporation, without any previous notification. The IRS has hardship allowances if you owe taxes. Most states do NOT! They don't care if you won't be able to pay your employees, your health insurance, or your house or car payment. They are blood suckers. Take a look at just how ruthless Kalamazoo, Michigan is.                                         

That's it for this time. Next time we will get back to the Promotional Calendar. And may the tax man never interfere with your quest doing Photography for Income!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Three Easy Promotions You Can Get up & Running Right Now...

Summer's gone and like every year, I promised myself more days sitting in the shade and less days working. And like every year, it doesn't happen. Oh well, such is life. For those of you doing weddings or senior portraits for income, you've noticed a severe and sudden drop off in business, and this is why I have been talking about your Promotional Calendar.

The Promotional Calendar helps to prevent huge peaks and deep valleys in your cash flow. I received an email that said, "Ok, Steve...I'm with you. But I still have the last 3 months of the year, and buddy I need to see some income NOW!" Well, the title of the Blog IS "Photography For Income," so let's see if we can help this gentleman (and you) earn a little income.

The 1st promotion you could do right now is the Halloween promotion. It can be operated in one of several ways:

  1. Charity Promotion
  2. Studio Promotion
  3. Shopping Center Promotion
  4. Day Care/Pre-School Promotion

As a Charity Promotion, you partner with a local charity. The charity covers the advertising costs. Many times a charity will get in-kind donations from media; other times they will receive a discount or a "match" ($10 free time for every $10 spent). You agree to split the proceeds from the promotion 50/50 with the charity. 

You might offer two different packages: 1 5x7/4 wallets for $9.95 or 2 5x7/8 wallets for $12 for example. You shoot it like a prom: 1 exposure, unless there is a blink. You can buy the first package from many labs for about $1.00; the second for about $1.85. The price is low because the lab is printing files all photographed under the same lighting conditions. I would suggest you add $2 per subject over two...otherwise, people will bring their nieces, nephews and cousins to put 12 kids in a 10 buck photo.

You can do this in your studio or at a shopping center (if they permit it) or the offices of the Charity if they are not in an out-of-the way location. Make a simple set: a couple of hay bales, dried cornstalks with Indian corn in them as a background and some carved pumpkins. Carve the largest pumpkin to read "Halloween 2014". Inside this pumpkin, place a small strobe with a built in slave-eye that has a yellow filter over the flash head. Be sure to set your aperture as to not overpower this small flash.

You'll get your best response at a shopping mall or enclosed strip mall. You could see up to 200 buyers. If your average sale is $11, subtract $2 for overhead per exposure - $1800. You give the charity $900, you keep $900, and everybody is very happy.

This same promotion can be operated in your studio, but you will see fewer people. If you need to keep as much cash as possible, check with your local shopping center or department store (if you still have one) and offer them 20% of the gate. The last option is to approach day cares and nursery schools and photograph on costume day. You should be able to photograph several schools during the week of Halloween. 

The next promotion is "Fall Color Families," or "Fall is Family Time." You do outdoor portraits with the Fall colors really popping. This one you will have to get going right now, today. If you do not have a good outdoor at your studio, have the sessions at a local park. For these sessions, I would do a variety of portrait studies. Have a low price offer to get the appointments, such as portrait session plus an 11x14 portrait for $49.95 or something similar. People will want gift size portraits, so put those on special, too...about $2 off the regular price. You don't need to deeply discount these: they already got their discount on the original package and session. When you advertise it, simply say, "GIFT SIZES ON SPECIAL, TOO!"

Be sure to do "breakdowns" of the family relationships: the entire family, just mom, just dad, mom and dad together, mom with the girls, mom with the boys, dad with the girls, dad with the boys, and most importantly, just the kids together without mom and dad. Can they bring pets? You bet! This is a very good promotion.

Finally, you can have the Veteran's Day promotion. Veteran's Day is Tuesday, November 11 in 2014. I live in Michigan, and there is still plenty of fall color and good weather for family portraits. A LOT of people get Veteran's Day off, so it is a perfect time to get the family together. Drop the hint that Christmas is just 6 weeks away, and portraits are the gift that only YOU can give. They are always the right size, and they will never get the same portrait from someone else!

The photo above shows where I took my family portraits. This photograph was taken the end of September, so the color is just ramping up in lower Michigan. DO NOT RAKE YOUR LEAVES UNTIL THIS SPECIAL IS OVER! People LOVED all the colors on the ground and in the background. Have a place where you can photograph indoors as well, because some people will not want them outdoors. It also helps if the weather isn't great. Again, if you don't have a place at your studio, hit the park. Collect leaves in bags from your home in case the park has already sucked them all up!

Again, I normally used a session plus 11x14 offer for around $59. I also took sessions the Saturday and Monday BEFORE Veteran's Day. Again, be sure you do breakdowns of the family relationships. My best year brought 37 families during the promotion, with a sales average of just a little over $225. After costs, advertising, processing, I got to keep nearly $7000 of the $8325 we grossed, and I was happy with that. It was a lot harder to make that kind of markup in the film days!

So there you go: three quick Fall promotions that can make you some quick cash right now. Who says you can't do Photography For Income? Sure as heck not me! You could very easily see anywhere between $8000 -$15,000 in gross sales from these 3 little promotions. Next time, more on the Promotional Calendar. Make all your exposures count!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

If You Use Facebook...

Some changes have taken place at Facebook that you may not be aware of:

Facebook has stopped the practice of businesses requiring customers to first “like” their page in order to receive discounts, prizes, free apps, coupons or other promotional offers.

This technique, called “like-gating,” is defined by Facebook as: “when you force a Facebook user who has not already liked your Page to like your Page before they can see content on a particular custom tab.” The same applies to entering contests, receiving a free eBook, coupons, discounts, etc. 

The "LIKE for a discount" scheme was used very heavily by many businesses, followed up by a free custom app. In my area, a local convenience store/gas station was giving away a free app for your Smartphone if you would first "LIKE" their Facebook page. And this is VERY common. They will now have to pull all of their pump-top ads and replace them to be in compliance with Facebook rules.

Going forward, businesses “…must not incentivize people to use social plug-ins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked your page.”

They go on to state, “It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, check in at a place, or enter a promotion on your app’s Page.” For example, you cannot offer a discount when someone likes your business page, but you could offer a discount if someone used your app to enter a contest, or checked in at your studio.

Now, I think I see a "black hat" way around this. If you have a laptop set up in your reception area, you COULD have your receptionist simply say, "We are offering free wallet personalization if you will "Like" our Facebook page." To be extra safe, you may want to change your DNS settings every day. It is not offered on your FB page anywhere, so if increasing "Likes" is a goal of yours, this would be one way to do it. I'm just not sure if the number of "Likes" really influences many customers.

If you go to the link provided below, you will see comments from a lot of developers...and they are NOT positive. Many people have invested time AND money to develop these marketing strategies...and FB shoves a knife in their back without warning. This is why so many photographers who are relying ONLY on Social Media for promotion are playing with fire. Never bet your success on a platform where you have little or no control.

Last summer, Facebook made changes to the contest rules that they said made having such events easier. But the rules are a little confusing. In the FB contest guidelines, it is stated you may not use "Likes" as a method of voting: "You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion,"  but a different FB pages says you CAN use "Likes" as votes! Here is a resource you may want to review to avoid making mistakes that will get your contest shut down.

After November 5, 2014 it will no longer render on any site. That's too bad. I think it had more weight than "Likes" in many situations. So skip this feature, it will be useless after 11/5/2014.

When you reach 5000 likes, your page can no longer receive any "LIKES." Well, at least not unless you pay Facebook some cash. Understand this includes friends as well. So if you have 2000 friends and you "LIKE" 3000 pages, you will not be able to "LIKE" any more pages UNLESS another FB user suggests you "LIKE" a page. Be aware that this policy may result in your pages not being followed as much.

NOW you see why many business are now hiring a "Social Media Coordinator" to ensure they are A-ok with the rules of each of the various Social Media outlets. To make sure you are all good with Facebook, you want to review their new policy, to prevent a Facebook suspension -- or even loss -- of your account.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thinking About Your Promotional Calendar

Here is a question I received from T.Q. in Minnesota: "I am just getting started doing Photography for Income. I am a hot mess when it comes to planning. I get busy, then things cool down and I think that I should have some kind of promotion, but then it is too late! I need some cash coming in and there's no business to be found...HELP"

I laughed to myself as I read this, because I was EXACTLY like this when I started in business. Then Kodak - back when they used to think professional photographers were important to their business - came out with "The Toolbox." It was basically some promotions and some user testimonials, but the real GEM was the Promotional Calendar. When I discovered this, you would have thought I had found the Holy was genius!

I am going to give you a stripped down version here:

1. Buy a LARGE wall calendar with all 12 months on it. These are available for 2015 at office supply stores now. A dry erase model is best. You want 4 different colors: Black, Red, Green, Blue

2. Next, think about what promotions you will have for the upcoming year; perhaps:

January - Continue Home for the Holiday Special; Snow Days Special
February - Valentine Special; Kiddie Kontest
March - High School Senior (HSS) Reorder Special; Spring & Summer sports
April - Spring Special; HSS Ambassador/Model Program; Proms & Dances
May - Continue Spring Special
June - Moms & Memories; World's Greatest Dad
July - Red, White & Blue Children's Special, Your Best HSS
September - $1 Session fee special for HSS weekdays between 9 AM and 2 PM
October - Preschools; Fall Family Special; It's Not Too Late to Start thinking CHRISTMAS!
November - Veterans' Day Family Special; Christmas Special
December - Home for the Holidays Special

3. Now, think about how you want to promote these specials:

Direct mail - Newsletter
Direct mail - Color post card
Direct mail - two or three color post card
Direct mail - fliers
Fliers handed out at the studio or placed in each order
FlIers handed out in high traffic areas
Sandwich board (employee or temp wears a Sandwich board and visits high traffic areas)
Bird dogs
Door Hangers
School Newspapers and/or radio stations
Social Media
Your Web Site
Email your customer list
Local Newspaper

4. If you want to run a promo in January, you have to start planning it in October. Yeah, I hear some of you now: "OMG, that's too early, I'm busy, wah, wah, wah..." If you want to get off the income roller coaster, this is how it gets done. It takes discipline. You have to have enough lead time for design, printing, mailing, etc. Trust me: if you decide on December 2nd to do a Christmas special, you are wasting your time.

5. In the month you plan to have the promotion, write it down in GREEN (for go). If the promotion is going to last one week, write the name across that week.

6. Three months PRIOR to the promotion, write the promo name with PLANNING in front of it, such as PLANNING Kiddie Kontest. Write this in RED for the number of days it will take to plan and create the media you plan to use.

7. Two months before the promotion, write PRODUCTION OF Kiddie Kontest; write this in BLUE. Include your day of mailing if using direct mail and circle it. Remember if you are using bulk mail (now called Presort Standard or Standard Mail), the post office may hold this mail up to THREE DAYS before delivering it. Build this into your mailing time. If you do several mailings per year, you'll want to purchase a Bulk Mail Permit. If you are new to this, you may want to hire a mailing company to do it for you. Even most small towns have a mailing service.

8. If you are not sure if Standard Mail is right for you, you might consider EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail). This lets you reach customers in targeted neighborhoods without having to provide names or street addresses, and no permit is required! Ask your local Post Office for details on EDDM-retail or EDDM-BMEU options. A lot of photographers overlook this service!

9. To be considered successful, you promotion should bring in at least 8 times the cost of promotion. If it costs you $500 to advertise your Kiddie Kontest, it should bring in at least $4000 in gross receipts.This is another way to say the cost of Promotion was 20%. As you get more skilled at this, you can try for your cost of Promotion to be 10%.

"This is great, but where do I learn more about the promotions?"

You'll want to get on my mailing list to be among the first to get my book, "PROMOTIONS: How Photography for Income is Done."  Send an email to

Until next time...may all of your PHOTOGRAPHY be FOR INCOME.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Your Fatal Promotional Mistake - Part One

A lot of you reading this blog are part time photographers. That means a lot of you are working on a shoestring budget. So, you attempt to promote and market your studio STRICTLY via your website which is affordable if you can do it yourself, and via Social Media because it is free. You spent days...maybe even WEEKS...creating web pages and galleries on your website. You put in HOURS and HOURS posting, blogging, Tweeting, getting Facebook "Likes" pinning on Pinterest, making friends on Google+...

...and now you wonder why you have only photographed 12 seniors through the end of July. Well, I am going to tell you why:

Because Social Media marketing by itself sucks big time.

Let's first of all take a look at your web site. I have seen some web sites by photographers here in my home town that are sad. Laughable, really. My pro friends often say, "You need to come out of retirement...the photographers in your area are BAD!" Well, they make a point. Understand this, friends: unless photography is a hobby, a BAD website is worse than NO website. It can make you 
a laughing stock and make you look silly, unprofessional and incompetent.

Not all of the photographers in my home town are bad, however. Take a look at StudioOne. Operated by Kurt Robertson, M.Photog CPP in the former Byerly's Studio location, his website is totally professional. It was done by Marathon Press. Yes, it cost him some money. But it puts Kurt at the top of the heap in his market. It shows off his talent as an excellent photographer, and it puts the competition to shame...nobody is even close.

Marathon Press has simple sites that start at $99. However, you must purchase hosting from them. The downside is that their hosting is on the expensive side. Even their LOWEST cost package of web hosting is $24.95 per month or $215 if you pay for one year up front...ouch! By comparison, I pay less than $50 for three years for shared web hosting at HostMetro, which is fine for my low traffic site (after 3 years that price WILL increase). On the plus side, Marathon will provide you with limited support; good if you are not a "techie." You'll have to weigh the pros and cons.

If you cannot afford that kind of money, then at least go to Fiverr and find someone who can do a site for you that won't make you the object of ridicule.

However, the best website in the world will not bring you customers if they do not know about it! That's why you have to do SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to keep your site near the top in your category. Again, check Fiverr for people who will do this for you inexpensively.

Then are are some low tech, low cost ways to drive traffic to your website. Here are a couple techniques I used:

Go to the print shop. Have them print a foldover that is business card sized. The front and back of the outside have printed on them a $50 bill (you are not reproducing this at actual size, so it is permitted). On the inside, put your business info and your URL in bold, with some offer that sends them to the site. Drop these in the lobby at movie theatres, at the mall, stick them in newspapers at the newstand (you may have to drop $5 on the clerk to have him or her look the other way)...any place that has a lot of foot traffic.

Print a color business card (Vistaprint is cheap and fast). Use a color image on one side (create one card for kids, one for families, one for engagements, one for weddings, etc.). When you go to ANY restaurant, leave MORE than the average tip. Most people tip 10-18%; make sure you tip 25%, AND leave one of your cards with the tip.

Print a small classified ad in the local shopper that says, "You will see Yourtown's most beautiful people at!"

Finally, in every direct mail piece, include your URL prominently.

What's that? You are not doing direct mail? Silly rabbit! Check back often, because we are going to be talking about that next. Until we meet again, may all your PHOTOGRAPHY be FOR INCOME!