Jemman Photography’s digital strategy vital for weathering pandemic
For Elenora Luberto, owner of Kemptville-based Jemman Photography, the past few months haven’t allowed much space for making mistakes.
“Before I might have taken a more, DIY, oh, well, let’s see if this works approach,” says the photographer whose focus on events, portraits and branding photography has been strained by the pandemic. “There’s no room for that now… now, it’s got to just work the way that it has to work.”
Luberto is thinking strategically about her business and in a world that is mostly relegated to virtual interactions, the photographer has been getting more creative than usual with her decision making. But as Luberto talks about how she got into professional photography, it’s clear she’s always approached things equal-part strategic- and creatively-minded.
A lifelong photographer, Luberto built a career as a high school English teacher. Her husband’s role in the military meant they were always shifting to new locations, giving her plenty of new places and subjects to photograph.
In 2013, she realized her love of photography could be a second career and registered the business as a way to formalize the transition. “I (read somewhere) you should make a career of things that you would give away for free,” she says. “That's sort of when I felt: okay, I'm good enough that I could be charging for the service and for my photography, that’s when I started up the business.”
She spent the next few years growing her clientele and finding her niche in wedding photography, portraits, headshots and commercial work. Luberto says she saw an uptick in commercial photography in 2019 with more businesses looking for photographs of them at work or beautifully shot images of their products in order to distinguish themselves on social media.
“Everybody can set up a website or Facebook page, Instagram page or whatever, but in order to look timely and look like someone that you can trust, they need images,” says Luberto. She says the uptick in business at the studio might’ve been tied to her growing profile but there was also a groundswell in demand for content. “I had sessions-on-sessions booked for 2020.”
And then the pandemic destabilized that.
“As soon as we were shut down in March, all of those sessions had to be put on hold and suspended and when we reopened in June then it was catch-up mode,” says Luberto. Not to mention the very way business is conducted had become far from the usual. Like its clients, Jemman Photography found itself in need of building a deeper digital presence.
Luberto says she already had all the major social channels for the business and was active on them. “But there’s just a different twist now,” she says. As a full-service studio, walk-in consultations and sessions used to be the norm – everything was done in person. “The pandemic has changed that… I've had to reject some things and consultations are now virtual over Zoom,” she says. “So I've had to rejig things to maintain the same level of service that I offer in-person in a way that isn't impersonal online.”
She says this is what she’s exploring with Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners like Google to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. Luberto says she hopes working with the Future Proof Transformation team will help her make those strategic decisions necessary to prepare the business for what’s ahead.
“I'd like to work with a team of people that will help point me in the right direction, or at least take the temperature, you know, take a look at my website and say, okay, is it optimized properly? Is there something that I could be doing behind the scenes to make it more functional?” She says. “That's the kind of stuff that I don't know a lot about – I need to know how things function and I need to make sure that I'm doing it properly.”
That, says Luberto, is what’s going to help her thrive at a time when many businesses are focused on surviving.
Written by Andrew Seale
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.