120: Jonathan Canlas – The Best Online Portrait Sales Strategy I’ve Ever Heard

I knew of but didn't know much about Jonathan Canlas so I was shocked to hear what I think is the best online portrait sales strategy I've ever heard during this interview. There's one thing that makes his strategy EVEN BETTER than the best strategy… he shoots exactly what he likes, how he likes and has spendt almost no time doing post production. The guy is living the dream in every sense of the word and in HAWAII of all places!

Before todays interview, all I'd “heard” about Jonathans was:

  • He’s loud, he’s funny and he’s an open book.
  • He is a giant advocate of film photography and loves photographing families.
  • He says, “Anyone with a camera can shoot families.
    Not everyone can do it well.”


“If you took away all other subjects and left me with just one, I’d choose families. No questions asked.”

Jonathan is consistently making multi-thousand dollar sales for each session he shoots, while owning a film lab, shooting weddings, teaching workshops, writing books, and parenting six kids!

Here’s some of what we cover:

  • How Jonathan has structured his photography business
  • How Jonathan manages his time with 6 kids and a lot on his plate
  • How Jonathan “started over” when relocating to Hawaii
  • Why Jonathan has almost stopped shooting weddings
  • How Jonathan started getting bookings fast after moving
  • Which social networking accounts Jonathan prefers and why
  • Pricing and packages that make sense for your clients and the studio
  • Sales strategies that absolutely work
  • How to identify what customers need and utilising these need as a sales tool
  • Why Jonathan shoots film and think you're crazy for not doing the same
  • Why you need to be shooting personal work and how it will affect your business

Jonathan Canlas Photography Podcast

What’s on Offer for Premium Members

If you’re a premium member, you should have received an email with links to your version of this episode where you can hear lots more content from where we dive deeper into some of the earlier topics plus some new ones that I pushed hard for that include:

  • The real secret to Jonathan's successful photography business
  • Printing your work – why you need to be doing it
  • How to encourage clients to share your work
  • How Jonathan copes with shooting the same locations all the time
  • Jonathan's workflow and how it frees up so much time
  • Why family sessions are way more profitable than wedding photography
  • The best thing Jonathan has done for his business
  • The importance of diversification in your business
  • How Jonathan handles unhappy clients
  • Why Jonathan doesn't take any inspiration from wedding photography on social media feeds
  • Where Jonathan gets inspiration for his work and creativity
  • The importance of thinking about and treating your client as an extension of your family instead of cash cows

If you're on the fence about becoming a premium member, join with the $1 trial today and get access to the FULL interview with Jonathan, get access to an amazing back catalogue of interviews and ALL future interviews delivered automatically.

What is your big takeaway?

Following this interview, I’d love to know what your biggest takeaway is – what is the one thing that you’d like to implement or learnt from what was shared? Let me know by leaving your thoughts in the comments below.

Everything that I shoot, to me, is personal work – Jonathan Canlas

If you have any questions that I missed, a specific question you’d like to ask Jonathan or if you just want to say thanks for coming on the show, feel free to add them below.

If you’d like an easy way to show Jonathan your thanks and support for the show at the same time, click the link to create a tweet and automatically show you’re listening: https://photobizx.com/tweet

Jonathan Canlas Photography Podcast

iTunes Reviews and Shout-outs

Each week I check for any new iTunes reviews and it's always a buzz to receive these… for a couple reasons.

Firstly it's confirmation that I'm on the right track with the interviews and that they really are helping you improve your photography business. That's awesome!

Secondly, iTunes is the biggest search engine when it comes to podcasts and it's your reviews and ratings that help other photographers find PhotoBizX. More listeners means more interviews and ultimately a better show.

If you have left a review in the past, thank you!

If you haven't and you'd like to, head to https://photobizx.com/itunes and you can leave some honest feedback and a rating which will help both me and the show and I'll be sure to thank you on the show just like I have with J Osbourne below, and add a link to your website or blog if you let me know your website URL.

Inspiring and relevant

In iTunes by James Osborne from Melbourne Australia on June 10, 2015

What a great podcast.

Andrew is an insightful and knowledgable host who digs past than the gear to uncover real insight and depth.

Loved the interview with CJ Chilvers, but all the guests bring something unique and meaningful to take away. Keep up the great work, ask the tough questions and keep challenging and inspiring us to get out there and make it happen.

Jonathan Canlas Photography Podcast

$1 Trial for the PhotoBizX PremiumMembership

If you're a regular listener to the free podcast, you definitely know you're missing out on a ton of good content that could be the difference in you speeding up your success in this business or working things out yourself… slowly.

If you've wondered what you get for $20 per month with the membership, will it be good value for you?

I'm not creating a bunch of portraits that you want. I'm creating portraits that you need – Jonathan Canlas

Now you can trial the Premium Membership for a measly $1 for the first month! Here's the link to go check it out and stop missing info that will impact your photography, your business, your life: https://photobizx.com/try

Any questions or hassles, email me or leave a comment below – hope to see you in the membership area shortly.

40% Off for 10 Days Only

Make sure you capitalise on the amazing offer from Jonathan in todays episode and get 40% off either or both his business guides.

Find: Biz Guide – discounted link to shopping cart

Find: Ohana Means Family Guide – discounted link to shopping cart

The special price on both guides will only be available till Thursday 25th June 2015 and is available to all listeners!

Jonathan Canlas Photography Podcast

Shotkit The Book

I like to think I’m not a gear freak but there is something very cool about this new book from Mark Condon – the founder and curator of the website, Shotkit.com.

The eclectic collection of shooters is fantastic and although I don’t normally drool over camera equipment, I found myself zooming in, clicking, swiping, checking details and reading why one photographer chose one product over another. The book and bonuses are the perfect addition to the Shotkit website and like everything Mark does, it’s been perfectly executed.

The book is priced at $15  – you can see and learn more about it at Shotkit – The Book

Go Your Own Way

Regular listeners know I'm a super fan of Kristen Kalp and her life changing book, Go Your Own Way. Following the interview with Kristen, I've “preached” about the book and what it can do for your business but always advocated printing the book to get the most out of it rather than trying to complete the questions and worksheets digitally.

Printing the book, although a bit of a hassle and cost was definitely worth the trouble.

Well… now you don't have to! Kristen has made the book available in printed form through Amazon and you can order it here: Go Your Own Way: free yourself from business as usual

Jonathan Canlas Photography Podcast

Links to people, places and things mentioned in this episode:

Jonathan Canlas Website

Jonathan Canlas Weddings

Jonathan Canlas on Instagram

Jonathan Canlas on Twitter

Jonathan Canlas on Instaproofs

Film is Not Dead

Film is Not Dead on Facebook

The Find Lab

Find: Biz Guide – discounted link to shopping cart

Find: Ohana Means Family Guide – discounted link to shopping cart

Tough Guy, Wolverhampton England

One of the images that the art buyer bought – oh the irony : https://instagram.com/p/wZWEFAPTdl/ (taken on family vacation in st louis missouri!)
The shot that lead to 6 figures in commercial work: http://canlasphotography.blogspot.com/2007/12/wolf-creek-ut.html


Richard Photo Lab

Artifact Uprising

Steven Shore

Shotkit – The Book

Go Your Own Way: free yourself from business as usual


Voigtlander Bessa R4M Wide Angle 35mm Rangefinder Manual Focus “M” Mount Camera Body with Mechanical Shutter – Black

Epson Stylus Pro 9890

Pentax 645NII

Voigtlander Bessa R2M 35mm Rangefinder


Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex Camera

Rolleiflex 2.8 FX TLR with 80mm f/2.8 S-Apogon Lens

Rolleiflex Close-Up Filter

Jonathan Canlas Photography Podcast


Thank you!

Thank you again for listening to the show and thanks to Jonathan for being a fantastic and thought provoking guest!

Personal work will always lead to the most rewarding professional work – Jonathan Canlas

If you have any suggestions, comments or questions about this episode, please be sure to leave them below in the comment section of this post, and if you liked the episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post!

That’s it for me this week, hope everything is going well for you in life and business!

Thanks and speak soon


By | 2017-02-13T16:16:02+00:00 June 15th, 2015|Podcast|16 Comments
  • Loved this interview. Jonathan shows us how it is possible to be an awesome business person, passionate artist and amazing parent all at the same time?!?!?! WTF! Thank you (then again maybe not as I look at my laundry pile….)

    • Haha, thanks Anita – I know! 6 freakin’ kids, the man’s crazy!

      I still think it’s more difficult for the mums out there doing the same thing… no offence Jonathan.
      As for that laundry pile Anita, simply close the door and walk away… that’s the “man answer” anyway. 🙂

  • what a cool dude, he does all that with 6 kiddies…
    I like how he shoots lots of personal work still ! and I like what’s on show on the wedding section of his site.

    I haven’t got a photo of what I was looking at, at the time, I was driving over the Anzac bridge early this morning and streaming, but that’s a fun idea.

    • Agreed Orlando – and how his personal work is one and the same as his paid work – that’s the holy grail of photography right there!

      As picturesque as the Anzac Bridge is, I’m glad you didn’t get busted taking a photo while driving! Next time you’re listening, come play and add a photo.

  • Caroline Nilson

    What an awesome guy, so insightful, full of good advice & funny too – really enjoyed listening to him talk. Jonathan seems like someone you’d want to spend the afternoon taking pictures with, or invite to dinner! His work speaks for itself, and how he does it all with 6 kiddies is incredible. So inspiring.

    Listening to this interview, a couple of things really hit home – how much he shoots for himself, and the power of personal work (as he said, the reason we all got into photography after all). Also, about how we should be printing our work – something I definitely would like to incorporate into my business. Will be dusting off the film camera and getting outside after hearing this one 🙂

    Big thanks to you both for your time and effort. Loved this.

    • Thanks Caroline – great to read your comments – I was nodding along while reading.

      I just wrote below how the grail of photography has to be shooting the same thing for personal and paid work – exactly what Jonathan seems to be achieving.

      Yep – I think we could ALL learn to print more of out photography, especially the personal stuff. I’ve been looking at having my Instagram photos printed into a book for home. Actually, I’ve been talking about that for 2 years – really should do it.

      Love to hear how you go with the film camera!
      And if you get the chance, have a listen to the interview with Kirk Mastin – I think you’ll love it and his thoughts on shooting with film.

  • The guides are great, both are really well put together with a great way of doing things.
    I use instaproofs now and have implemented about 50% of the things i need to, some good things and bad things. It’s great system for sharing photos after a wedding and if no one buys then there is no cost. When someone buys it’s great but instaproofs pays only when you have completed the job, there isn’t a lab associated with it here in aus yet so can’t do direct to client shipping and once the fee is taken off from instaproofs you also get hit with the paypal fee. Still, better than the aus options in my opinion.

    I was driving and then Andrew called me when i was listening… it’s like the podcast came interactive.

    • Thanks for adding your comments Alan – super helpful!

      So once you receive orders via Instproofs in Australia, you collate the orders and send them off to your local lab for printing then you mail them to your clients – is that correct? But the clients have already paid for their order via Instaproofs?

      Gotta love an interactive podcast episode 🙂
      Great chatting to you too – looking forward to giving the “Breakfast Sessions” a try.

  • Marianne Kim

    I love that photobizx featured Kirk Mastin and now Jonathan Canlas! I own the camera that Jon mentioned (Pentax 645NII) and have shot rolls on it and developed it at the FIND lab. The folks at his lab are incredibly helpful. Shooting film is tricky and frustrating at times but they are so great at helping people get the look they want. It’s so great that he is helping to keep film photography alive along with Kirk Mastin who is bridging film and digital. I also use Mastin Labs presets for my digital work 🙂

    It’s so true that when I pick up my DSLR, I think of work. In fact, I find myself heading out less and less to take photos I really enjoy but this interview has reminded me how important it is to shoot personal work, and who knows maybe it will lead to something great like it did for Jon. If not, then at least it will keep my love for photography alive.

    A nice, compact Fuji x100t might be the solution too.You’re making me want to switch to the mirrorless team Andrew!

    • Sounds like I’ve nailed the perfect combo of photographers for your Marianne!
      I’ve promised to give film another try after these interviews – I’ve just sold all my Nikon gear apart from an old F90x and a 50mm lens so no excuses! I’ll see you in the trenches 🙂

      Love your takeaways Marianne and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in the whole DSLR = Work mentality.

      You’re going to love an upcoming interview I have with Mark Condon who is building his wedding photography business because of his personal projects, it’s a cool story and approach he’s taking.

      Haha, don’t jump into the mirrorless system on my account but DEFINITELY get the X100T and you’ll come to the same conclusions.

  • yes Andrew that’s all correct, clients pay in trapdoors, you fulfil the job, then once the job is completed they pay you, it’s on a fortnightly basis

  • Michael Croshaw

    Really enjoyed this one. I went into it thinking it might not be that relevant, but there were several things that resonated..
    – that whole thing about treating professional work like personal work, I shoot my kids a lot of the time but recently I’ve been too busy with work and have slacked off, this is encouraging me to get back on the case.
    – the DSLR = work thing..one of the reasons I switched to the Fujis, they give that film camera fun/feel but without actually shooting film.
    – the diversify thing..at the moment I’m working on weddings and teaching, but this interview got me thinking about doing more on the portraits side.
    – taking inspiration from people in other genres of photography. That is something I am definitely going to adopt.

    This guy is quite far removed from me in terms of his situation, but I still really enjoyed getting an insight into his professional life and got a lot of useful information from it.


    • Hey Michael, thanks for adding your comments. I love when I listen to a podcast and learn something when I wasn’t expecting anything – feels like a bonus win 🙂

      Great takeaways and all things I’m working on or trying to incorporate into my life and photography.

      Hope you’re enjoying your Fuji cameras as much as I am.

  • Monika Bauer

    Bit late to the table, but I am listening to back podcasts that I haven’t heard before! I have followed Jonathon on Facebook through “Film is not dead” and I LOVE that he shoots only film. There is no way digital can emulate film exactly and not without lots of work in front of the computer….something Jonathon does not do!!
    The fact that Jonathon is always shooting personal stuff is inspiring…..always shooting and always practicing. This is one thing I will definately take away with me from the Podcast as I need to be consistently practicing my manual focus and exposure techniques.
    I love his work and I love his attitude.

    • Not too late at all Monika – this is one interview I regularly refer listeners back too – Jonathan has the best online sales strategy I’ve ever heard.

      And what a way to shoot – no computer time!
      He’s pure inspiration.

      As or manual focus, I think you’ve heard the interview I did with Joao de Medeiros? If not, you’ll love his approach too. It was Joao’s influence that lead me to buy a second hand Sony A7 today! Scary manual focus learning curve ahead for me. 🙂