Category Archives: For Photographers
Summer is here and that means that a lot of families are taking their annual vacations. We go onfamily vacations in the spring and every summer we go to Ocean City, NJ but this year was an exception and we took the girls to Iceland and Paris in July instead. It was very crowded (think 1+ hour wait even with ‘fast track’ tickets) and made me remember the reason why we don’t travel in July (all those people!) but we did have a lovely time:)
I wanted to do something a bit different on this trip in terms of photos – I wanted to create images that captured stories, images that felt natural and fresh – even more so than images I usually create; I wanted to produce pictures that were attention grabbing and different.
I decided not to use my old trusted Canon (I LOVE that camera but it is so heavy to be lugging around all over the place) and instead brought my new favorite – Fujifilm Xt-20. I brought 3 lenses with me but ended up using the kit lens (18-55) most of the time. This in itself made me think a bit more creatively because usually I travel with at least two lenses and I was limited by what this lens allowed me to do.
So how do you stay ‘fresh’ on vacation and make images that are still ‘you’ and capture your family, but that are different and creative? I looked through the images I took and put together a list – my Top Ten Tips on how to produce creative images on vacation. And I illustrated it with pictures from our trip – because who would not want to see pictures of my adorable kids, right? 🙂 By the way – check back in a few weeks for more pictures and details about what we did while in Iceland and France.
And now without further ado I present to you (in no particular order) my Top Ten Tops for Staying Creative While on Vacation!
Tip 1: Do a Shutter Drag
Shutter drag is always fun to do! It might be a bit challenging doing it on vacation without a tripod but can definitely be managed – you either need to find a surface to hold your camera or take a deep break and hold very very still. You also need to instruct your subjects to hold as still as they can. We were at The Musée d’Orsay in Paris (it is one of my top 3 favorite museums in the world – that’s why you will see a few more images from this museum here) and I wanted to capture the chaos and craziness of what it felt like being there at the height of tourist season in July. I asked my girls to ‘freeze’, closed down my aperture, set shutter speed to 1/2 of a second, steadied myself, took a deep breath (I’ve read that it taking a deep breath before pressing your shutter helps to hold the camera steady) and took this image.
Tip 2: Shoot from Unusual Angles
Instead of taking pictures straight on or from above try shooting from below. Here I got down on the ground (white pants I was wearing that day were not happy about that!) and took a picture of my girls being ‘a bit’ excited about going to Eiffel Tower – with the tower in the background.
Tip 3: Shoot Through Stuff
I’ve always loved photographing through things – it is super easy to do, frames your subject nicely (and I LOVE framing my subjects) and makes your images more interesting. Try it!
Tip 4: Use Reflections
Can I just say how much I love reflections? I think they always make images just a tiny bit more interesting. So look for reflections wherever you are – be in a reflection in a mirror, window or a puddle! We were waiting in a cafe for the rain to pass and the girls standing by a glass door. I asked Alexa to stick her head out .. she did and I captured this image. I love her expression, being able to see both of them in a reflection and at the same time seeing busy waiters inside – I think it captures Paris cafe culture pretty well.
Tip 5: Use Leading Lines
Using leading lines is not terribly creative or inventive but you should try to look for leading lines in a new way. Here we were going up a spiral staircase to the top of Arch de Triumph; I waited till the staircase was relatively empty and asked Mia to peek at me from the top.
Tip 6: Look for Light
Always always always be on a lookout for beautiful light. We were heading out of Sacré-Cœur, after a long long day of sightseeing and I put my camera down.. Just then Victor turned around and pointed out to this amazing stream of light coming through the window.. No matter how tired I was I could not go past it without taking a picture so I asked Alexa to try to ‘catch’ that beam of light light.
Tip 7: Shoot Through Glass
Shooting through class can provide very interesting images. We were looking at the statue of ‘Small Dancer Aged 14‘ at The Musée d’Orsay; this statue is enclosed in a glass case and I asked my girls to go on the side of the case opposite of me. I thought that seeing them through the glass with the statue in the foreground would create an interesting image.
Tip 8: Play around with Framing
I love to frame my subjects in unusual ways. In this image one of my girls was reading to my husband a few interesting facts about Paris and my other girl (a.k.a little monkey) was running around. I thought it would be fun to have her ‘frame’ them and the result of that is this image:
But then again – I like any types of ‘frames’ and doorways always work very well!
Tip 9: Create Silhouettes
Do you know that you can create beautiful silhouette any time of the day – not just at sunrise and sunset? We were inside The Musée d’Orsay (in case you are wondering – we did other stuff than just spent all other time at this museum) looking at Paris through this giant clock and I asked my girls to standing by the clock. I thought it would be interesting to ‘frame’ the city by the clock and create silhouette of my girls against the background of the city.
Tip 10: Let Go of Perfection
And sometimes you need to let go of perfection to be able to capture a perfect moment. This image is not technically perfect – the top of the horse is cut off and the other one is peaking through behind my daughter’s head. But for me it is imperfectly perfect because it captures this amazing moment of Alexa interacting with an Icelandic horse – messy hair and all!
Hope you found this article useful and are ready now to go out and photograph your kids in creative ways! And if you are a photographer reading this and want to check out other business tutorials I wrote you can see them all here.
I’ve been mentoring fellow photographers and writing for great photography forums and magazines for a while but somehow I very rarely share photography business advice on my own blog. I decided to change that so moving forward I will be posting business articles here as well. So if you are an aspiring photographer or a working professional looking to get better at the business end of running a photography business (after all, who does NOT want to get better?!) check out this blog from time to time for useful articles on everything – from pricing to workflow and lots of stuff in between!
I love photography. And I also love the business side of running a photography business. Having had my business since 2008 I’ve developed a number of business habits that made me efficient and (knock on wood!) successful.
1. Set financial goals, a budget and track expenses
I am sure most of us got into this business because we love photography, because it is our passion. However, photography business is still a business and as such, it should make money. To make money (and more importantly to keep it) you should have: 1) financial goals: so you know what you’re working toward, 2) budgets: so that you know how much you’re planning to spend, and 3) expense tracking to know how you’re actually doing. I recommend tracking your expenses on a monthly basis. Then if there’s an issue (e.g. your actual expenses are higher than planned, etc.) you can address it immediately.
I am pretty sure most of us started our photo businesses as a one-person show. We wear many different hats; we are photographer, editor, PR, graphic designer, admin, packager, etc., and sometimes it’s hard to give up that control. But there are only so many hours in the day and your time is best used in the area crucial to your business growth. It may be hard to pay someone to do the work you know you can do but you should think about how much time it will save you and in return how much time you can invest back in your business. (Examples include admin activities, bookkeeping, photo editing, even selling!)
3. Send out an e-newsletter
This is one of the easiest and best things I think you can do for your business. Think about it as free advertising. It allows you to share anything you want with your clients: specials you may have going on, new product offerings, calls to action (e.g. time to start booking fall sessions is now), etc. It’s a great way to showcase your recent sessions so your clients remember just how awesome you are. Start with quarterly newsletter and when you get more comfortable with them, consider moving to a monthly basis.
4. Create and follow a business workflow
A standard business workflow is a great tool; it guides you through what needs to be done for each client and ensures each client gets the best customer service. It helps you make sure you’re not reinventing the wheel for every client or missing any important steps.
To create a workflow, use a word document, a whiteboard or even a notepad to keep track of your steps. Here’s a list you may want to include:
- Send out initial email (and follow)
- Send out contract and invoice
- Once session is booked, mail session packet (digital or physical)
- Confirm session details a week prior to a session
- Post a sneak peek after a session
- Edit images
- Send out email about a viewing session (for in-person sales) or online gallery
- Once the order is placed send out an order confirmation emails with timeline for the order/next steps
- Deliver/mail order
- Send out final follow up email
5. Use standard email responses
If you look at your emails to/from clients you will notice that a lot of them are similar. How many times do you find yourself sending the same (or very similar) emails over and over again? Emails that provide info for sessions, gallery availability, order summaries, etc. are pretty standard and writing these from scratch takes a lot of time. It makes sense to write them once (create a template) and then modify when necessary. Note that I love my standard emails but I also make sure to start and finish each email with a personalized note specific to a client.
6. Set business hours
When you own your business you want to provide the best customer service possible and that can feel like you’re on call all the time. Just because you can answer an email or edit images at any hour does not mean you should do it. Having set business hours, even if you don’t have a physical store-front, is a great way to get more efficient and create boundaries between your work and home life. What those hours are depends on you and your situation. If photography is your full time business and you plan to work 40 hours a week then 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. may be great hours for you. If you are a primary caregiver to your children and work around their schedule then hours when the kids are in school (or down for a nap or asleep) are good hours for you. Within these business hours set time to edit, answer emails, work on your marketing, blog, etc. And then do your best not to work and be present in your life.
7. Create and follow a marketing plan
A marketing plan is your high-level plan for a year. It helps you map out all your promotions in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. Creating a marketing plan may sound complex but in reality it is pretty straightforward. Simply list all the campaigns and specials you want to do, plan out when you want to do them and what tasks that are needed to get them done! I recommend creating a marketing plan in January, when things generally tend to slow down. It’s a great time to plan out your year.
At our last meeting one of the photographers that I mentor was telling me that she was thinking about opening a photography studio. Opening a studio location is a big step for any photographer and should be done for the right reasons. Our discussion made me think of an article I wrote for the Clickin Moms blog a while ago on this exact subject. I have not shared it here till now so here it is – better late than never, right? So if you are a professional photographer and are contemplating whether or not you should open a brick and mortar location check out what I’ve got to say on the subject:
Before you call real estate agents and start checking out listings I want you to sit down and think about WHY you want a studio. I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but I remember that when I was just starting out in this business over 5 years ago I felt that all photographers who had retail studio space had ‘made’ it in this business and that was THE reason why I wanted a studio. Having a studio was ‘cool’ and I really wanted it because well, I WANTED it!
I am the first to admit that was NOT a good reason to go and sign a lease for a retail space.
You need a reason other than ‘because I want it’. I hope this article will help you decide whether or not now is the right time for you to get a retail space and if the time is right – how to go about doing it.
1. List your OBJECTIVES for having a studio
Okay, we’ve established that you want a studio – after all, show me a photographer who doesn’t, right? But why do you need it? And keep in mind that ‘just because’ is not a good reason. A good way to figure out whether or not you actually need it is to list out objectives for having a studio.
- Will having a studio space allow you to take on more clients?
- Do you need a place to meet prospective clients?
- Are you considering to moving to an in-person ordering sales model, need a place to meet with clients and feel that meeting at a local coffee shop does not go with your brand?
- Do you want to expand to another market – such as head-shots, boudoir and need a dedicated space to do that?
- Do you feel that having a retail presence will open up more opportunities and separate you from your local competition?
Either one of these may work for you or you have a completely different list of objectives for having a studio space. Whatever it is, you need to make sure that you have valid reasons for getting a space.
2. List Criteria for your Studio
Based on the why you need a studio you should write down criteria for the studio and rank them in order of importance. For example:
- Location: Do you want to be in a retail location that gets a lot of foot traffic. If one of the objectives for having a retail space is to get more clientele and to establish yourself as a high-end boutique studio then having a central location should definitely be on the top of your list. Do you need to be at street level or would a higher floor be fine? Which neighborhoods or towns would you consider given your clientele?
- Price: How price sensitive are you and what can you afford? If you find a perfect place outside of your set budget would you be OK to up your budget? You should make sure your studio becomes and asset and not a liability, so plan carefully within your budget.
- Light: Are you planning to use your studio for natural light photography only? Or are you planning to use studio lights, in which case natural light is not as important? If natural light is important make sure you view the space at a couple of different times of the day and I recommend actually bringing your camera to try it out.
- Size: Do you need something large or you can make do with a small studio. Now bear in mind that the definition of ‘large’ or ‘small’ varies greatly depending where you are located. I am in the NYC area and I consider a 1000 sq foot studio large. But somewhere where space comes at less of a premium a 1000 sq ft studio may be considered very small. So see what works in your market.
Look and feel: What feeling do you get from the studio? Do you want an ‘industrial’ look or something more ‘homey’? Are you looking for high ceilings and wood floors? You should make sure that your space reflects your brand. Keep in mind that there are some things that you can change once you rent the place – with the permission of your landlord of course. Wood paneled walls can be replaced with dry wall and painted, carpet floors can be ripped out and replaced with hard woods but all of that costs money and you would need to account for that in your budget.
3. Budget for Everything
- On-Going Expenses: Besides rent you also need to account for on-going expenses: utilities, cleaning crew, supplies, snacks, beverages, etc.
- One-time Expenses: Setting up a studio takes a lot of effort and can take a lot of $$$ as well. Here are examples of one-time expenses: remodeling (if any), furniture, equipment, samples, Grand Opening and advertising/marketing.
- Paying for it: Do you have enough money saved up to pay for one-time set up expenses? Or will you need to go into debt because of it?
4. Decide on a Budget
Think about how much you can afford to spend on a studio space each month. Where will those $$$ come from? Will you be able to take on more clients, or do you need to raise your prices to cover the rent? You want to make sure that having a retail space will help you add to your bottom line, not subtract from it. Come up with a budget and see whether or not you can afford to space for a retail space and if so – how much. And make sure you take into account ‘slow’ season – because you need to pay rent no matter how few sessions you have. I recommend you to put your ‘rent’ money away for a few months while you are conducting your search. This way you will know what impact paying rent every month will have on your finances.
5. Keep an Open Mind and Look at the Big Picture
When my real estate agent first showed me the space that would eventually become my studio I turned it down right away. It was small, had outdated dropped ceiling with industrial lights and wood-paneled walls that did not go with my high-end contemporary brand. But after seeing a few more spaces and not finding anything I loved I kept going back to it because it fit most of my criteria. It was in a great location, had amazing light, and fit into my budget. And after remodeling it to make it fit my brand I ended up with a studio space that I absolutely LOVE.
So keep an open mind – don’t discard a place that does not look perfect. Instead think about how it fits into your criteria and whether you can do anything to it in order to make it your perfect space.
Having a retail space is great. But like most great things, it also comes responsibility – you need to pay rent EVERY SINGLE MONTH – no matter how many or how few clients you have. But if you get the studio for the right reasons and get the right studio FOR YOU, you will absolutely love it. I still get butterflies in my stomach every time I come to mine.
Pricing is a topic of many threads on many different – it seems that every day new questions about it pop up, invariably followed with a plea for help. I get it: we capture priceless memories and moments – so how do you put a price on something ? At the end of the day, you can be an amazing photographer who captures beautiful images, but if you don’t set up your pricing in a way to ensure you are compensated properly for your time you will never have a successful and profitable photography business. And while all of us love photography and many have left stable high-paying jobs to pursue our dream to run a photography business, it is a and a goal of any business is to be profitable.
Pricing is a topic of many threads on many different photography forums – it seems that every day new questions about it pop up, invariably followed with a plea for help. I get it: we capture priceless memories and moments – so how do you put a price on something priceless? At the end of the day, you can be an amazing photographer who captures beautiful images, but if you don’t set up your pricing in a way to ensure you are compensated properly for your time you will never have a successful and profitable photography business. And while all of us love photography and many have left stable high-paying jobs to pursue our dream to run a photography business, it is a business and a goal of any business is to be profitable.
So where do we start? Before you dive into figuring out how much your session fee and 8×10 prints should be, I recommend you take a step back and think about your business model. Are you a JCPenny or Sears Photos type of business – or so called ‘shoot-and-burners’ – say a Wendy’s of the photography industry? Are you a high-end boutique business – a 3 Michelin Star rated restaurant equivalent? Or do you fit somewhere in between? There are pros and cons for each model and you need to find which one is right for you.
I am a foodie and have spent more than I care to admit eating out at some of the top rated places. I love going to restaurants that require reservations weeks (if not months!) in advance, places with crisp white linens, fancy stemware, impeccable service, creative dishes (and very small portions!); I know all of that comes at a premium and I don’t mind paying extra for it. For my 30th birthday my husband and I flew to Paris to celebrate this occasion (that was before we had kids!) and for dinner our concierge recommended La Tour D’Argent – a ‘Paris institution’. The dinner was absolutely incredible – views of Notre Dame at night, amazing food, great company – I do love spending time with my handsome husband. And long after that outrageously expensive bill has been paid, I still remember what a wonderful evening it was.
Then there are the Wendy’s of the world – and they thrive as well. If I need a quick lunch for my girls between their school and ballet classes and only have 30 min to spare – Wendy’s, here we come! Have you tried to go to one during a lunch hour rush – you have to wait in line for a good 5-10 minutes before they take your order! And while eating at Wendy’s is nothing to write home about, we will leave it with our hunger satisfied, money left in my wallet and very happy kids.
‘Shoot-and-burn’ businesses get a lot of bad rep, but this business model works really well for some people, and is what a segment of the clientele is looking for. If a photographer shoots a session in an hour, hands over to the client a CD of all unedited images and charges $300 for it – she is getting paid $300/hour. But remember to make this model profitable, this photographer will need to be shooting a LOT of sessions. Just like Wendy’s needs to sell a lot of chicken sandwiches to make a profit similar to one meal at a fancy restaurant.
A Boutique Photography approach is the one a lot of people aspire to but it does come at a price – both to you and your clients. As a photographer you need to spend a lot more time building and nurturing relationships with each client – from meeting with them before a session, to the session itself, editing images, helping them decide what to order, etc. You will need to research and invest in product samples, beautiful packaging and stationary, client gifts, etc. You will have fewer clients than shoot-and-burners but you will really be able to get to know each one of them and provide beautiful heirloom pieces of art for them. And clients who choose a boutique photographer do appreciate that and don’t mind paying a premium for it.
Different photography models have different expectations from their clients, they provide very different services and experiences and therefore command very different prices. So think about what model is right for you – depending on how many sessions you want to have each week, how much time you can dedicate to each session and what level of experience you can offer to your clients. Just remember – whatever model you decide to follow be absolutely clear about it to your clients.
Once you’ve figured out what your business model is, we can talk about other items that affect your pricing, starting with a Session Fee. Independent of the business model you use, your session fee should cover your time to prep for a session, shoot it and get the images ready for your client. If you follow a boutique model then you spend a lot more time on each session and therefore your session fee should reflect that. For the majority of boutique businesses, a session fee includes only time and talent of the photographer and does not include any products. However, some include a print credit in their session fee.
If you follow a ‘shoot-and-burn’ model, you spend less time on a session (no editing of images!) and therefore your session fee would be lower than that for a boutique model in your area. Another option for a ‘shoot-and-burn’ model is to bundle up a session with the cost of a CD – e.g. to charge X for a hour long session and a CD of all images. Keeping it simple will make it easier for your clients to understand what they are getting and the price for it.
The next thing to consider is the minimum order size. To do a min order or not to do it? That’s the question that’s been plaguing many photographers and they seem to be divided on it. There are pros and cons of each approach. Clients may feel more inclined to book a session with you if they don’t feel that they have to spend a certain amount; your images will do the work for you and if the clients love them you will have a great order. But having a minimum order in place helps you guarantee that you will walk away with a certain profit from each session.
So which approach is right for you? If you don’t know, try answering this question: would you like to book a session if you know that all a client will be ordering is just three 8×10 prints? If, let’s say, you dedicate 1.5 hours to a session and schedule 10 sessions a week, an order of three 8×10 prints per session may provide you with a desired income. If, however, you follow a boutique approach, dedicate, let’s say, 6 hours to each session and only schedule 2 sessions a week then an order of three 8×10 prints may not be sufficient to make a living.
If you decide to put a minimum order requirement in place, the next step is to identify what that amount should be. The answer is simple: it should be an absolute minimum you are willing to make from each session. Keep in mind that this amount is separate from your session fee, which covers all session related activities.
You should keep in mind that the order amount is not equivalent to your profit. Part it of goes towards COGS (cost of good sold) and therefore is dependent on what your clients order. And although you don’t know what exactly your clients will be ordering, you will be able to ballpark your profit based on the cost of products with highest and lowest COGS. For example, item with the lowest COGS are digital files – let’s say that your cost between printing a custom CD and packaging is around $10. If your client gets $350 worth of digital images you will make $340 profit.
Now let’s assume a product with the highest COGS is a framed print – it costs you $150 to print and frame an 11×14 image. If you sell it for $400 then you will make $250 profit from that product.
So when you calculate your minimum order amount you need to make sure that even if a client only orders the minimum and purchases an item with the highest COGS you will still be left with enough profit.
How to get your own pricing
So how to you come up with your pricing? If you want to run a successful business – and if you are reading this article, chances are that you would – you need to make sure you are priced for profit. If you are not priced for profit you will never be able to turn your photography hobby into a successful career.
In the photography business, just like in any other business, there are fixed expenses and flexible expenses and you want to make sure that both of them are covered and you have profit left over.
Fixed Expenses – cost of running a business
Fixed expenses are the cost of running a business and they are independent on how many client sessions you have – i.e. they will remain the same if you have 15 or 150 clients a year. And since these costs are fixed, you can budget then at the beginning of the year. Fixed expenses include the cost of new equipment and maintenance of existing equipment, software, templates for your products (think Holiday Cards!), business and liability insurance, hosting and maintenance of your website and/or blog, memberships at professional associations and forums, marketing, education such as workshops, online classes and books, training, etc. While it is hard to estimate this expense at the beginning of the year down to a penny, you can do a ball-park estimate based on what you’ve spent in the past; or if you are just starting out, research to find out what these costs are. Are you thinking about upgrading to a brand new camera (Canon Mark III anyone?) or lenses? Include that in your estimate. Want to join Clickin Moms’ photography forum or take one (or many) of their awesome photography courses – add that in as well.
Variable Expenses – Cost of Client Orders
Your variable expenses are costs related to client orders. They consist of COGS (cost of goods sold), packaging, shipping, traveling to client sessions, etc. And since variable expenses are directly related to the number of sessions you have – the more sessions you have the higher these expenses will be. The good thing is that clients’ orders cover them!
Number of Sessions a Year
Next you need to estimate how many sessions a year you can expect to have. Your business model plays an important role here. If you are a high-end boutique studio you will have fewer sessions – as a client pool for high end boutique photography is limited. But you will be able to spend more time with each client and make more profit from each session. If you follow a mall photo studio equivalent approach then you will be able to have a lot more sessions a year but you will also make less profit from each session.
Be realistic with your expectations: if you are just starting out and are following a boutique model it is unlikely that you will have 5 sessions a week, every week. Think about how much time a week you have available (if you have other obligations such as kids to take care of, a full time job, etc. take that into account) and how much time you are planning to dedicate to each session. Also remember to account for the slow times of the year when you will have fewer sessions.
The last step is to do research on your local competition – be sure to check out photographers of different styles and levels of experience. By no means do I suggest that you should copy prices of your competitors but they will give you a good starting point (and that’s all it is – a starting point) that you can build you prices on.
Make sure to research your local area, and research photographers in the same market segment. Photography prices vary greatly depending on the location. A boutique photographer with an established business may be charging $1500 for a CD of all edited images and that may be as high as her local market can support. Or a middle of the road photographer in an area with a higher cost of living may be charging $2500 for the same CD. So make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
Don’t use your competitor analysis to undercut your competition. Thinking that if your local competitor charges X for a session, and to get more clients you should charge ½ X does disservice to you, your customer and eventually the whole industry by driving the prices down and devaluing photography services.
If you are portfolio building and don’t feel that your skill level allows you to command the prices you would like to do later on, set your prices to what you want them to be once you are officially ‘in business’ and offer a portfolio building discount. The key with offering a discount is to offer it for a limited amount of time –enough to get experience shooting and get a variety of images for your portfolio/website.
Now that you have all the pieces of the puzzle – i.e. your fixed and variable expenses, your business model, planned number of sessions a year, competitor research, you can calculate what your session fee, minimum purchase and a la carte/collection prices should be!
So independent of what your business model is and what your personal financial goals are, if you want to make it in the business of photography, make sure you think thoroughly about your pricing! And while defining a pricing structure is time consuming and not one of the easiest things in the world, once you have it done, you will be well on your way to making your dream of a successful photography career into a reality!
To do in-person or on-line ordering – that’s the question that many photographers find themselves asking. Sure, on-line ordering is much easier and less time consuming; you upload a secure gallery with images from a session and then (depending on how you have it set up) you may never need to do anything for that session again.
In-person ordering, on the other hand, is a lot more involved; you need to allocate anywhere between 1 to 2 hours for each ordering session, walk your clients through the ordering process, show them the images from their session, help pick out products that are the best fit with their style, décor and budget, design wall art displays for them, etc. So why would anyone want to do an in-person ordering session, you may ask? The answer (at least mine) is simple, in-person ordering offers a personal touch that boutique photography businesses are known for and that translates to a greater customer satisfaction and higher sales!
While everybody would love to increase their sales average, I have to warn you that the in-person ordering approach may not be for everyone. If you are running a very high volume business, say 5 or more sessions a week, this may not be the right fit for you because of the time commitment each in-person ordering session requires. However, if you follow a boutique studio approach, low volume but high profit, this can be a great tool for you to add more value to your clients and increase your sales.
Okay, so if you are still with me and would like to give in-person sales a try (or to tweak or improve your current sales approach) here is what I recommend to do for a successful in-person sales session:
What you need
Samples of your products
You should have samples of every single product that you offer. It does not matter how great product images in your Product Guide are, nothing can substitute having a client physically touch and feel your products, see how thick pages of your albums are, how high definition metal prints look, etc.
I also recommend to invest in the largest size of products as samples. For example, if you offer canvases in sizes varying from 11×24 to 30×40, invest in a 30×40 sample. TIP: many labs offer sample discounts so check in with your lab to see if they do. People generally tend to buy what they see so if you show your clients an 11×14 canvas they may think that it looks fine and anything larger will look too big on their walls. But if you show them a 30×40 canvas, even if they don’t necessarily have the wall space for it and end up going with a size smaller, chance are they will not order the smallest size you have.
Showing large samples also helps destroy the myth of ‘this is too huge of a size’ that people generally think when they imagine a 30×40 print. Sure, a 30×40 may sound very big, but in reality, on an large enough wall, it looks just right!
You need a piece of equipment to show your clients their images. You can also bring physical proofs but I find that having a electronic device helps tremendously when you sell wall art galleries so I recommend investing in a piece of equipment if you have not done so yet. I started out using a laptop but purchased an iPad as soon as they came out and never looked back. Now I am on my third iPad and think that it is a great tool for in person sessions!
If you decide to go the ‘high tech route’ (e.g. a laptop or an iPad) you need to have a software to show the images. On a laptop it can be as easy as showing them in a photo viewing software like iPhoto. With an iPad there are plenty of options; it can be as easy as using iPhoto or you can purchase one of many iPad proofing applications such as ProofShare (which is what I use).
I believe that you should share your price list with clients at the time they book a session so there will be no sticker shot at the time of ordering. While prices should not be a surprise, I always email clients a link to my price guide a few days before the ordering session so that they can refresh their memory and start thinking about which products they would like to order.
It is always good to have the price list handy during your ordering session as well. I have mine on my iPad (loaded as a PDF document) but you can also have it as a physical brochure.
Design software is definitely not mandatory but it has helped me increase my sales by a lot and sell more wall art collages. Clients may go to an ordering session thinking that they want only one canvas or a framed print but that’s most likely because they don’t know what other options are there. It is your job as their photographer to show them other options, including grouping several images from their session together for a wall collage. Design software helps you do exactly that.
While there are several options available for design, I use ShootandSell and I love it! It was actually the reason why I upgraded my first generation iPad to the latest one a few months ago and just one ordering session with this app more than paid for the iPad. This app allows me to take a picture of a client’s wall, select a wall art product (canvas, framed print, etc.) of my clients’ choosing and then insert their images into it so my clients are able to see what their images look like in their space, true to size! Questions like “will this size be too big for that wall?” are answered even before clients place their order!
The thing I love most about this app is that it allows me to show clients what not one, but several of their images will look like on their wall, something that clients don’t always think about! Together we are able to select a display of wall products that showcase images from the client’s session in the best possible way! It is a win/win; the clients are happy because they love their wall displays and you are happy because you know that your clients are thrilled with their choice of products, your work is showcased in the best possible way, and you are able to sell more than just one wall item.
My ordering sessions last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on what my clients end up ordering. Here is what a typical session is like:
- First I show them a slideshow set to music with highlights of their images. I use Animoto to create slideshows and play them on my iPad using iPhoto. Setting images to music showcases them even better and while it does take extra time to create these slideshows, seeing my clients’ reaction to them definitely makes it worth it.
- After the slideshow (and sometimes after a moment to allow clients to wipe their tears!) I show all images. I tell them just to enjoy the images during the first viewing and not worry about which ones they would like to order at this time.
- Once they see all the images I show a selection of my boutique products and gauge my client’s interest in them. I walk through attributes of each product, e.g. how thick and virtually indestructible my albums are, how beautiful image look on canvases, etc.
- After all images and products have been viewed, the most important part of the session begins and clients go through the images, select the ones they would like to purchase and think about what products they would like to get. At this point I bring in my heavy armor, Preveal, and show a variety of wall displays they can get. I ask clients what they would like to do with the images, where they would like to display them, and walk around their homes (with their permission of course!) to find a good display spot. You will be surprised how helpful this is for them! Once a candidate wall is identified, I let Preveal work its magic and clients decide on a wall display. My clients absolutely love this design process because they get the benefit of this high tech solution, my design experience and get to see what the finished product will look like!
- Some people are not big fans of wall art and that’s fine and for those I help pick out a product that would fit their taste, be it an album, digital images, etc.
- We look at pricing and I calculate what would make more financial sense for the clients, to get a collection or to purchase items a la carte. If you read my article on pricing you know that I offer collections and in most cases my clients decide that it is worth to pay more to get more, as they do with all collections.
- At the end of the session I collect their payment (be it a check or a credit card payment, which I accept using Square), tell them when to expect to get their order and finish up, leaving happy customers behind!
Here are a few additional tips on how to make your next ordering session a success:
- Set expectations with the clients as to how long the session should take.
- I highly recommend avoiding having children at the ordering sessions since you want all attention of the parents to be on images, not chasing after their kids. When scheduling a session, find a time that would work best with the kids’ schedule; I usually do it in the evenings when the kids are asleep.
- Provide clients with your Product and Price list before their ordering sessions and ask them to review it beforehand. Not everyone will be able to review it prior to the session but if they do that will help speed up the ordering process as they will know which products they are leaning towards and what the prices are.
That’s how I run my sales sessions!
I’ve tweaked this process over the years and although it does take a good amount of time to do in-person sales sessions, I find that it is so worth it. Hope you give these sessions a try and that your next in-person ordering session will bring you the biggest order yet!