Photographer’s Guide: How to conduct an annual review and use it to build greater success.

December 11th, 2023
black female sitting at wooden table with a coffee pot, mug, and using a colorful laptop

Successful photographers consider downtime a golden opportunity to improve their photography workflows and services, and view it as a springboard to achieve long-term success. During these periods of reduced activity, these professionals strategically invest their time and effort in reviewing business strategy and refining workflow, ultimately paving the way for increased efficiency, elevated service quality, and enduring success in their photography endeavors.

Annual Review Process

Annual reviews, commonly known as annual performance assessments, serve as a valuable tool to comprehensively evaluate the successes and challenges within a photography business over the course of the year. Engaging in this process is crucial for establishing fresh objectives and strategizing for the upcoming year.

While some photographers may shy away from annual reviews due to the potential discomfort of scrutinizing their business’s overall performance, it remains an indispensable practice for sustained growth. Others may find the process daunting because they haven’t maintained organized review notes and documents throughout the year, leading to frustration when the year-end assessment approaches. Establishing a systematic approach to documentation on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis can alleviate this challenge and enhance the efficiency of the annual review process.

Here are steps to guide you through the process:

Gather Data

Collect key data and metrics related to your business performance throughout the year. This may include financial records, client feedback, and analytics from your website and marketing efforts.

Try this: Use data visualization tools to create visual representations of your business metrics for a clearer understanding. Utilize Zenfolio’s analytics tools to track website performance, client engagement, and sales data effortlessly.

Review Past Goals

Examining both accomplishments and challenges, especially if you didn’t set specific goals. Acknowledge the wins, like successfully expanding your client base or mastering a new photography technique. Equally, learn from setbacks, such as a marketing strategy that didn’t yield expected results. 

Try this: Use your calendar to review what you did over the course of the year to help you identify notable “successes” and “failures”.

female photographer sitting at wooden table with laptop and camera

Assess Finances

Scrutinize your financial performance, including revenue, expenses, and profitability. Identify areas where you excelled and areas that may need improvement.

Try this: Conduct a detailed cost-benefit analysis for different aspects of your business to identify areas for potential cost savings. Leverage Zenfolio’s dashboard data to compile profit insights.

Analyze Marketing Strategies

Review your marketing initiatives and assess their effectiveness. Identify successful campaigns and consider adjustments for strategies that didn’t yield the desired results.

Try this: Evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of individual marketing channels to allocate resources more effectively. Analyze marketing campaign performance, identify successful strategies, and reallocate resources for the upcoming year.

Evaluate Client Relationships

Examine client interactions and feedback. Understand client satisfaction levels, and identify opportunities for improving customer relationships and service.

Try this: Implement a customer feedback system throughout the year to gather insights in real-time. Send out client satisfaction surveys. Collate feedback to identify areas for improvement in client interactions and services. Add top testimonials to your website and social channel.

Organize Documentation

Ensure that your review process is smooth by maintaining organized documentation throughout the year. Keep track of important notes, milestones, and relevant documents on a regular basis.

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your photography business. Capitalize on your strengths, and develop strategies to address areas that need improvement.

Try these:

  • SWOT analysis: Find out what the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your photography business are. This analysis will quickly help you identify areas of improvement and develop actionable business strategies.
  • Self-evaluation: Conduct a self-evaluation to reflect on your personal experiences and assess your performance as objectively as you can. The goal of this exercise is to identify aspects of your business where you feel less than confident and to pinpoint challenges you can work on.
  • Competitor analysis: Browse other photographers’ websites and list what you like and don’t like about their offerings, pricing, and marketing strategies. Then compare it to yours and look for gaps in your services or areas where the competitors excel to find improvement opportunities.
  • Analyze key metrics: Review key performance metrics such as client retention rates, revenue growth, website traffic, and conversion rates. Identify areas where the numbers have stagnated or declined, since they indicate areas for improvement.

a person carrying a backpack standing with a camera on a tripod on top of a mountain at sunset

Set Measurable and Attainable Goals

When you’ve completed your review it’s time to set new goals.

Based on your assessment, establish clear and realistic goals for the upcoming year. Breaking down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks is a strategic approach that promotes focus, productivity, and sustained momentum for photographers. This method allows photographers to approach complex objectives with a structured plan, making the journey toward achieving their goals more manageable and less overwhelming.

Try this: Establish SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) based on the insights gained from the review. Develop a detailed action plan outlining the steps you’ll take to achieve your new goals.

It might not be as enjoyable as taking photos, but conducting an annual review is a strategic investment in the future success of your business. This dedicated reflection period can act as a springboard, moving you toward greater success year over year. Discover more ways to make the most of the slow season by checking out this blog, “Maximizing your photography business success: How to use the slow season to your advantage.”


  • Cheryl Dell'Osso

    Cheryl is the Director of Content Strategy at Zenfolio and the Owner/Photographer at Portraits by Cheryl and Seniors by Cheryl in Raleigh, NC. Cheryl has mentored countless new photographers looking to build successful photography businesses.

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