5 Tips for Increasing Your Family Portrait Sales with Alissa Zimmerman
Family photography is far from our primary genre at Salvatore Cincotta Photography. In fact, until a recent shift in our portrait model, we offered these types of sessions only to past clients (brides or high school seniors). Family sessions, when done right, are a great source of income—with little to no headache involved. Whether you’re new to offering family portraits or are a seasoned vet, here are five tips to help increase your family portrait sales.
- Provide the Full Experience
Family sessions are quick, painless and don’t require as much energy as, say, a wedding shoot (assuming you’re booking the wedding client over a year out, shooting their engagement session, working on their timeline, etc.). But this does not mean your family clients should not get the same level of service, from booking to final delivery of product.
When an initial inquiry comes in, the easy thing to do is copy and paste a draft response. We have found much more success in bookings by taking the time to read the requests in the inquiry and start building a relationship from the beginning. Answer any questions that came in with the inquiry, address any key points, then copy and paste the draft response below your more personable introduction. You don’t want these people to get a cold feeling from your response. You want them to want to work with you.
Be available. Be prompt in your responses to any questions along the way. Offer suggestions on locations that best fit the look and feel they want for their family portraits. Do they want unique and dramatic, or do they want more traditional photos of the family posing in a park? Get a feel for who they are as a family, and be the trusted advisor from there. Getting to know your client in this scenario is best done with a phone call. There’s only so much that can be determined about someone via email without any unintentional misconceptions.
Take notes throughout the process and store them in your client’s profile in whatever studio management tool you use. This is extremely important because the little details are the easiest to forget for clients who book months in advance. It’s always impressive to families when you arrive the day of the shoot and know everyone’s name before ever having met them in person. We use 17hats for this, which integrates with our calendar appointments. With it, Sal can easily pull up the shoot on the calendar and see all the notes I have taken throughout the booking and planning process.
After the shoot and sales session and delivery of the product, don’t forget to follow up with your clients. Send a simple email checking in to make sure they love everything and enjoyed their experience with your studio. This is also a good time to request a client testimonial that you can use on your website.
- Price Yourself Correctly
For a long time, we were booking family sessions at $300 for the session fee, with the highlighted benefit of “No Minimum Orders!” This started to backfire on us. We were booking like crazy, but the overall spend from these family portrait sessions wasn’t making up for the time Sal was out of pocket. Before we changed our pricing model, the majority of the families coming through our studio were spending $500 or less, all in. That’s just not a sustainable business model, especially when I could be filling Sal’s calendar with senior sessions at a $2k average.
So what do you do? Pivot. We decided to weed through the tire kickers. Knowing the average we needed to hit to make sense of family portraits, we decided to start booking family sessions at $1,500; $1,200 of that counted toward print packages after their shoot. Now, families coming in for sales sessions have no problem adding on another $1,000 to $1,500 to that. It’s a no-brainer.
This price point makes it easy to see who your client is and who is just looking for Sears family portraits. Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. Family sessions are easy (most of the time), but your time is still worth money.
- Suggest Multiple Looks
We used to do one outfit for family sessions, and found that it didn’t give us much to work with. Now we run our family sessions just like we do our engagements. Suggest two different looks: one casual, one a little dressier. Always have them start out in their casual outfit and build their confidence so their photos in the dressier outfits are the best.
If you are working with your family clients from the beginning of the process, you can help them with color coordination, outfit and jewelry ideas, etc. We send our clients to a Pinterest board where they can see a handful of unique outfit and color inspirations.
Don’t be afraid to be upfront with your clients if they want to do or wear something that won’t photograph well. Remember: You are the expert. They are coming to you for guidance. Guide wisely. Your final sale relies on the success of the overall shoot, and if they don’t like the way they look in their images because of something that could have been avoided from the beginning…well, you’re the only one to blame.
- Shoot to Sell
Understand the products you sell in your packages, and shoot with the intention of filling those packages. If you offer products like a 15×30 print, take multiple images that can be cropped to fit that aspect ratio. Don’t forget to isolate each family member, especially the kids and a few of just Mom and Dad together (because I’m sure they haven’t had their photos taken together by a professional since their wedding).
Most families tell us they want just one good family portrait. Yeah, okay. We can definitely do that for them, but we are also going to get every variation of grouping and individual shots in each outfit and in every scene so we can overwhelm them with incredible images. Sal always tells our clients: “It’s our job to make great images for you, and it’s your job to resist”—meaning resist the urge to buy them all, of course.
- Offer Unique Products
Anyone can get an 8×10 printed at their nearest Walgreens kiosk. I’m pretty sure Walgreens sells canvases now, too. Your job as a full-service studio is to offer products they can’t get on their own. And take it a step further—you want to offer the full control of making sure their images are perfect before they ever go to print (removing blemishes, stray hairs, skinny-ing arms, etc.).
We offer one-of-a-kind products that are meant to be artwork in our clients’ homes. A 30×40 framed acrylic is in our top package. It’s meant to go over a mantle, the centerpiece of their home.
Offer canvases and explain why yours are so much better than what Walgreens offers. Show it to them in person during their sales session. They have to be able to see these products to visualize size and what they will look like on their own walls. This is why it’s so important to have studio samples. How can you sell something to your client if they can’t see it in person?
Family sessions are a fun and easy way to generate extra income if you’re primarily a wedding or senior photographer. In today’s digital world, printed family photos are hard to come by. Use that to your advantage in marketing this part of your business. What good is a family heirloom if it’s just going to sit on a disk or thumb drive in a drawer collecting dust for years?