Laying the Foundation
Justin Grafton of Justin Grafton studios was in the middle of attending WPPI in early 2019, along with his girlfriend and business partner Emily. On a whim, after passing by White House Custom Colour’s booth, Emily picked up a brochure that included information about WHCC’s recent partnership with PhotoDay. Thinking it might be exactly what they needed to cut down on their back-end operations, Emily tried to convince Justin to consider giving PhotoDay a shot. At that time, however, he was not convinced online sales worked - past attempts were met with disappointing results.
After WPPI, Justin and Emily went back to work at their Oregon-based studio. However, the possibility of transitioning to an online business model did not entirely disappear…
Justin was always a sports fanatic. His passion filtered down to his two young daughters, who he was raising on his own before his reinvention as a photographer. At that time, he was working construction and doing his best to provide a good home for his family. It was only on a whim while at Costco did he purchase a camera kit, spending nearly an entire paycheck to take photos of his children at sporting events.
Up, and Up, and Up
His initial attempts proved unsatisfying for Justin - he just wasn’t capturing the images he wanted of his kids in action. But after receiving some helpful advice from the professional photographer at these sporting events, his images became better and better. “Naturally”, says Justin, “I’m competitive so I had to figure out how to make [my images] better - and it went from there”. Over time, Justin began attracting business with his newfound photography skills. “Getting better and competing against myself is what drives me every day. I figured out that I could actually make money at this. I loved seeing the other parent’s reaction”.
As his business grew, so did the workload. Justin brought in his mother to handle much of the back-end work, processing forms, orders, and billing. Even with the extra help, though, the stress of juggling both the artistic aspect of his craft and the intricacies of running a business were taking a toll. When Justin’s mother became ill and had to take a step back in mid-2019, he remembered the pamphlet Emily had brought to him at WPPI. This was the push Justin Grafton Studios needed to once again attempt online sales.
The results showed promised right from the start. The first two high school jobs using PhotoDay saw a 100% increase in sales from previous years. Not only did Justin see more sales, but he found more time. “It blew my mind”, says Justin, “all I had to do was capture, edit, and post and then just sit back and watch sales”. He was able to use this time to focus on once again improving his skills - his focus shifted away from the business, and realigned with taking better photos.
The View from the Top
[Emily gained similar satisfaction watching him zero-in on what he loves most. “[Justin’s] talent is so under-appreciated and under-recognized. Having PhotoDay has been able to make us have the security and time to do the things he loves and thrive at [them]”.
Justin’s customers have also appreciated his turn towards online sales. With PhotoDay, there is an opportunity for sales at any time. When faced with parents who could not afford to pay for their photos right away, he was able to assure them that their photos will still be there when they are able to purchase. He was even able to use FaceFind to quickly locate a family’s photos after they had recently been lost in a house fire, and replace them at no charge to the family.
These experiences proved to be a revelation to Justin, who is now convinced the future of photography sales truly is digital. “If you don’t start learning this, you will get left behind”, warns Justin, who stresses the importance of developing trust and communication with leagues and organizations. “It’s hard to get people to buy online if you haven’t built the trust. Stay the course, and keep pushing ahead and learn”.