Custom Photography Sales: In Person or Online Proofing?

July 6, 2011

There is much debate in the photography community between the merits of in-person photo sales consultations versus online photo proofing and ordering methods. Both can be effective sales techniques, and there are multiple factors to consider. They type of photo shoot, the client, and the photographer all have to be considered when deciding on a photo proofing and ordering method.

If you have shot a wedding and have 800 photos that you would like for your bride and groom to view, sitting down with the happy couple and looking at this number of photos is not worth your time. The couple may take hours to peruse the many photos, and will likely want to share with relatives or friends as well. Online photo galleries are imperative for this volume of photos. The initial view is best done online, though you may wish to schedule a consultation once they have chosen their favorite photos to make suggestions and a plan for prints, albums, and gifts.

A boudoir photo shoot is another instance where face to face ordering is not necessarily ideal, due to the intimate nature of the photos. Just because you have seen them before does not mean that a woman will want an audience as she sees herself in these photos for the first time. Again, a consultation for the use of the photos in an album, prints, etc, may be something to discuss in person, but the initial sharing may be best done online.

For children or portrait sessions, you can often create a connection with the client and may have success with upselling an order if you discuss the photos in person. It also can be gratifying as the photographer to see the excitement when your client sees their photos for the first time. Presenting the photos in the setting where they may be displayed in the future is also effective. Some photographers choose to invest in a projector and project the images onto a wall in the client’s home to give them a feel for the size and look of a photo in their space. This can help the client determine the proper size to order, often larger than they would have anticipated. Most people have never ordered a photo larger than an 8×10, so showing them the image in the space they plan to hang it could make them more comfortable with spending the money on a much larger print. Also, viewing the photo gallery together can encourage the client to order while they are excited about the photos and have you present to take out any further steps involved in making it happen. However, make sure that they do still have their photos available online to share with friends and family, which can result in surprise orders from Grandma that just add to your profit.

Another important factor to consider when determining your photo sales style is your own personality. Some photographers are by nature not comfortable with the sales angle of their business. If you are a photographer working on your own, you do have to become comfortable discussing prices, sales, and being a just a bit pushy. However, you can take some of the discomfort from the discussion if it is clearly written and the expectations are given to the client up front. If you are uncomfortable telling your client the total sale price, perhaps an online shopping cart for photos is the way to go. You should make sure that your client knows the process and can contact you with any questions, but perhaps having them see the prices in black and white is easier than telling them they owe you hundreds of dollars. If this is you, use online proofing to assist you, but most importantly: gain confidence in your abilities and the value you are providing, and practice having those discussions with every client so that you are more comfortable with what you have to offer and feel good about your work!

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