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Creating Different Session Types to Welcome Everyone’s Dollar

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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Creating Different Session Types to Welcome Everyone’s Dollar with Blair Phillips

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

 

Newton’s first law states that an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. If things could just automatically stay in motion, all businesses would be set. Unfortunately, we are always faced with an unbalanced force. To remain successful, you must possess the ability to continually change and adapt to the marketplace.

 

We have seen many changes in our business over the past 10 years, with the largest change beginning about a year ago. It was common for clients to pay an average of $2,000 for a portrait order. The general public has begun to lose sight of the value of professional photography. In years past, there were not as many options for a good portrait. Now you can get a decent image on a phone, use an app for a decent edit, and your image is ready for social media. Social media seems to be the most important reason for pictures these days. In response, our studio recently completely overhauled its offerings.

 

Just as retailers are closing more and more stores and innovating to protect themselves from the bite of online sales, photographers also have to find ways to stay relevant in the marketplace. It is easy to sit at a desk and find the lowest price in the world and have something shipped right to your doorstep. Americans are accustomed to getting what they want when they want it. So at our studio, we have three pricing tiers that fit almost every budget.

 

The first option we offer is the traditional session that we have offered from day one. It’s a two-hour shoot with unlimited sets, indoor and outdoor, followed by an in-person sales appointment. Hair and makeup are included. If they don’t want hair and makeup, the price for the session does not change. We explain that it is complimentary. With hair and makeup, sessions tend to be more inspired. This session is for the individual or family that is not as budget conscious, and are used to getting exactly what they want. You should always keep products and services that may be considered too pricy for the average client. You should not punish the client who will spend a lot of money. Always have the higher-ticket offerings available for those clients. Think of it as the parking lot of a shopping mall. You peruse the parking lot and find vehicles that range in price from $500 to $100,000. There are people from all walks of life who gather there, in search of similar things, with completely different budgets.

 

We were getting phone calls from people stating that they had a certain budget they needed to remain within. Some of those budgets did not fit within our offerings at the time. Realizing we were turning away potential income-producing customers, we developed our second option. We wanted to create a way to let them spend their money with us. Our second session offering includes a modest session fee that nearly anyone can afford. We fought the issue of people that only want the digital files for long enough. This session generally lasts less than an hour, with two outfit changes, and includes only the digital files.

 

We also offer 40 percent off the regular price of prints should they choose to order any from us. When they order through us, they get the very best color, consistency and quality. Think of this as an express session for the working family that wants the experience and quality that you offer, but may not have a big budget. This gets them in the door. You have not put forth a ton of effort, and have created a new client who will market in the community for you. This has allowed us to reach a ton of new clients who would not have come in for the premium session that we offered in the past. It has opened up another side of our business. The key is adjusting the amount of time you put into these types of sessions to ensure you maximize your profits.

 

We developed our third type of session for the client who loves our work but cannot afford our higher-priced products. I see no harm in making everyone’s money welcome. We offer a session that takes 10 minutes, on one set, and post the images online for them to order from. The key is to collect the session fee and a minimum order requirement up front. This way you are guaranteed to make at least that amount of money for your efforts.

 

There’s very little work involved. We would never be able to reach these clients otherwise. These clients often return again and again. This turns into a constant influx of small amounts of cash. We stack these appointments on certain days each month. These sessions are an in-and-out type of deal. Every dollar I bring in helps the bottom line.

 

However you view the photography industry, we can all agree that it is constantly evolving. There are not many things in life that remain the same for eternity, without constant improvements or attention. The photography business is not self-sustaining without your constant evolution and willingness to answer the call of clients’ spending habits.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

In-Person Sales: Overcoming the Top 5 Most Common Objections

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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In-Person Sales: Overcoming the Top 5 Most Common Objections with Alissa Zimmerman

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

The art of in-person sales is a terrifying beast for many photographers. I never wanted to be in the sales room because selling is very low in my skillset. Like many photographers, I didn’t have a choice. Even though I was thrust into this role, many photographers don’t have a choice because their businesses just aren’t profitable without in-person sales. If I can do it, so can you.

 

Here are five of the most common objections I have run into in the sales room over the past year in this new role. Role-play these scenarios with a friend, family member or coworker until you’re comfortable making the sale. Your clients can smell your fear when you’re not confident in the “why” behind your responses to these objections, and will pounce at any opportunity to take advantage of that weakness to score photography and products at a discounted price. Don’t let it happen. Remember, your answers should always be: “No,” “Why?” and “Can I offer you an alternative?” Without using this formula for any objections, your clients will eat you alive.

 

  1. We can’t afford it.”

 

This is probably the most common objection you will run into, especially with brides after their wedding. The post-wedding sale is the most difficult, but if it’s handled right, you’ll see extra income and a boost in your client averages.

 

It is crucial to set yourself up for success. Make sure your clients know your pricing before they come in for their sales session so they aren’t blindsided. I send out pricing the night after their photo shoot (engagement session, senior session, family session) or the day after the wedding. I attach the pricing document to the email I send to schedule their in-person sales session. This gives them a two-week window where they are able to process how much they are willing to spend. Of course, all of that goes out the window when they come in and love every single image (more on that later).

 

During the sales session, if your client is having a hard time pulling the trigger because of price, offer a payment plan. It’s important that they know the order will go into production once payment has been made in full. We have done payments split into two and up to six. The payment plan timeline can be worked out with your client that night, but get their credit card number before they leave so you can run it on the agreed-upon dates without having to chase them down.

 

  1. “Is an 8×10 big enough for my wall?”

 

I guarantee that at some point in the course of your career, you will run into this question. And I guarantee it will take everything in you not to crack up laughing when you hear it.

 

Of course, it depends on where and how your client is wanting to hang the photo, but in the case of creating artwork and the staple centerpiece of their home, the answer is no. But you can’t just tell your client no. You need the tools to support your response. This is why in-person sales are so important for photographers. A client with this mindset of needing only an 8×10 will never understand how small that is when looking at their images in an online gallery. Having them in your studio with your samples (all at least 16×24) hanging over couches, mantles and sofa tables is the only way for them to get perspective.

 

We showcase a variety of sizes and products in our sales room, and have smaller sizes hidden to bring out when this question comes up. When a client sees an 11×16 next to a 30×40 over a mantle, their entire mindset changes.

 

Something else that has helped with this objection is a tool called Room-Vu from a company called N-Vu. With Room-Vu, you can use preloaded stock images to show your clients what their images will look like on a wall. You can also ask clients to take pictures of the wall they want to decorate in their home so you can mock up their images using their actual home within Room-Vu. The value of being able to do this in person after they have just seen all of their images for the first time is priceless.

 

  1. “We just want the digital files.”

 

Ah, yes, the objection every photographer dreads hearing.

 

The first thing you need to determine is whether or not you offer digital files in your packages because the wording will be different. The main point you want to drive home to your clients who think they want only the digital files is that you are a full-service studio and your job is to create one-of-a-kind artwork for your clients’ homes.

 

If you do offer the digital files (which you should do only if your client purchases a certain package), explain that you’re a full-service studio and believe in printing artwork for their home, but that the digital files are available for purchase or included in your top package.

 

  1. “We don’t need that many pictures on our walls.”

 

This one is magic to my ears. I take clients through a narrowing-down process in Lightroom after I have shown them a slideshow of their images. We go through and sort out the images they don’t like. Through this process, the client normally ends up with an overwhelming number of images they love. That’s when I present the folio of our packages and walk them through the products listed in each.

 

This is your time to play trusted adviser and push them into the top package that includes an album: “You don’t want all 84 images in your home? No problem at all, that’s where an album becomes the perfect product to showcase your images without having to hang them all over your walls.”

 

As the trusted adviser, go through the package and show them the images that would look best as big wall art, and which images would be best to fill the album.

 

  1. “Can I swap out items in the packages?”

 

First of all, if you do not have this disclaimer written into your pricing sheets already, go do it right now. At the bottom of your pricing document, you should have a sentence with an asterisk in front saying, “*Packages cannot be altered.” This will save you when the question comes up because you can always refer back to the document you sent them in the email scheduling their sales session.

 

Your language here is very important. You want to point the finger at something else instead of just saying no because your margins don’t allow for it. We tell our clients that packages cannot be altered because they are tied to specials our vendors are running.

 

Also note that the packages should be structured in a way that shows the value of going into a package versus buying à la carte, so they are already discounted.

 

And we all know what Sal always preaches: You cannot discount a discount.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Using Albums to Increase Sales

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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Using Albums to Increase Sales with Craig LaMere

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

When it comes to sales, there are a million ways to skin a cat. In photography, there are a million and one products you can use to sell that cat. My studio is product-based. We sell digital files, but they are the last option for our clients. Our philosophy is anything digital will at some point be obsolete, and products never will. Our biggest genres are high school seniors, families, weddings and boudoir sessions. While we don’t sell albums for families, we do sell a ton of them for the other three categories. This month, we look at my studio’s best-selling product: albums and books.

 

Time Management

 

When I first started shooting, I wanted every shoot to be 100 percent unique. I would find all new locations for every shoot, find new poses for each person or family, and design each album page by scratch. I felt if I was not shooting and creating this way that I was doing a disservice to my clients and me. When I was building my book of business, it wasn’t an issue to spend extra time finding a new location for each shoot or building custom pages and layouts. As my book of business grew and my other obligations to the studio grew, I found myself getting more and more behind.

 

I asked friends who were shooting way more sessions than I was how they kept up with the work. A few of them told me it was just a matter of time management and setting routines. They were right.

 

Albums and books are a fantastic way to sell a variety of images to your clients, but there are a number of pitfalls you need to be mindful of, or they can quickly become a loss leader and a pain in the ass to offer your clients.

 

Probably the most common mistake when selling albums is pricing. The actual cost of the physical album is not that substantial when put up against metals or acrylics and even some canvas displays. Where you get yourself in trouble is the amount of time you invest in the creation of the album or book. Time investment includes shooting, editing and layout.

 

Pay close attention to your time. The easiest way to gauge it is to take the amount of money you are charging and divide it by the number of hours it took you to shoot, edit, design and deliver your book or album—that gives you a rough estimate of how much an hour your are making. If you take too long, you get beat up; if you can do it faster, you win!

 

Fighting Your Need to Be Creative (All the Time)

 

Artful shooters have a tough time suppressing the need to be creative during client sessions. This might sound weird, since what we do is art. But it’s important to adopt a set routine for sessions. I understand the need to flex your creative muscles so you do not get into a rut or get bored. So learn how to accommodate both your artistic and business needs.

 

You need a system that incorporates posing, locations, post-processing and design. Have a go-to shot list you go through when you shoot your session. These are the shots you know are going to sell every time. These are the shots that are pretty much going to look good with any client. These are the shots that you have done so many times that you can tweak them to fit any client. Have a location list that you know is going to have great light at a certain time. You know how to get the best depth of field because you know exactly where to place your subjects. When you take your images into post, have a base system and an order for each image. Have a system that gives you consistent results. From there, you can get creative. The system for your layout should be tried, true and pretty quick.

 

This will get boring for some of the creative shooters out there, but you can fill your creative needs by scheduling your own personal shoots. I do it all the time. It is my time to cultivate the artist in me. I can go as wild and take as much time as I like, and it does not affect my bottom line. This allows me to grow as an artist, which carries over to my clients.

 

Planning for Spreads

 

I always ask clients to send me pictures of their outfits. This helps me streamline my shoot and prepare for the layout. I have talked in other articles about how seeing the clothes will help with picking out locations and choosing backdrops because of the color palette of the clothes, but there are a couple other advantages to seeing the clothes before the shoot. One is that you will have an idea of how many changes you are working with. Because my main goal is to fill spreads, the more the merrier; if a client sends you just two clothes changes, you are limited in image choice at the view and order session. It is hard to sell a 10-spread album or book when you have only two outfits.

 

With high school senior sessions, we want a minimum of five clothes changes, and not more than eight. We stay out of the studio as much as possible. The only time we are in the studio for senior shoots is when we shoot fashion or sports uniforms. Most of the time we are running all over the place to different locations. If they have too many changes of clothes, clients start to get antsy.

 

Our boudoir sessions are a little different. Although we are still shooting to fill spreads, we do not need the same number of clothes changes for variety. That’s because 95 percent of these shoots are in the studio or indoors on location somewhere, so we are able to change the looks of the outfits with lighting. You can take a white outfit and shoot it with a 4×6 and make it light, soft and airy. You can take the same outfit and shoot it with a strip light and grid, and make the image contrasty, dark and moody.

 

Shooting for Layouts

 

When I’m shooting for albums and books, my mind is in layout mode. When you shoot for spreads, you do not need a million images. You need only three solid images. With any one pose, I shoot a full-length, a three-quarter, a tight crop, a vertical and a horizontal. This ensures I have all my bases covered for layout purposes. You can have more than three images in a spread, but you don’t want a cluttered page. Spread sessions go fast.

 

Layout: Don’t Do It Yourself

 

When I started selling albums, I laid them all out by hand. I created the layout templates using clipping paths, and bought different backgrounds online for each spread. I spent up to 30 hours editing and designing each album. I had it in my head that each album had to be totally unique. I felt I would be cheating my client and myself if I didn’t do it this way. After a while, I realized my clients were never going to see each other’s albums, and I was not cheating my clients or myself by changing my process.

 

The first thing I changed was how I did the layouts. I had been creating albums for so long that I had a bunch of templates. If I needed a spread with two vertical placements and one horizontal, or if I needed a spread with two horizontal placements and one vertical placement, I was in business.

 

The problem was how long it took to place everything by hand. Then someone introduced me to this company called Fundy…and my life was changed. I could go on an on about Fundy, an automatic layout program. All you have to do is load your images, hit a button and choose a layout you like. You can easily tweak a layout in seconds. What once took me hours I could now do in minutes.

 

I also changed my album design. I had been painstakingly matching the background of the album with the images, framing each image, and on and on. It was so time consuming. Just as my shooting style has changed, so has my layout style. Instead of using all these crazy backgrounds, I use a plain white background for my pages, which has saved a lot of time in the design process—while making my studio more profitable.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

The Marketing Headshots Game Plan

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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The Marketing Headshots Game Plan with Moshe Zusman

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

When I first picked up a camera, I had no idea I was going to use it to photograph powerful CEOs, fly on their private jets to where they wanted me to photograph huge business deals and find myself almost too busy in my studio. If you’re starting off in weddings, it can seem like a pretty big leap to jump into a new genre of photography. A lot of people think it requires a completely different method of marketing, but it doesn’t.

 

When I first moved to D.C. from Israel, I started researching photographers in the area, and kept hearing the name of a celebrity photographer (no I’m not going to tell you who). Everyone knew him. He was marketing himself perfectly. The celebrities he photographed and put on his website weren’t paying him to be their photographer, but somehow he was photographing them regularly. Bingo. Marketing brilliance.

 

Marketing is much like math. Math is the same in every language, and marketing principles are the same in every business. Marketing is learning how to get your business out there and make it look attractive enough that people will want to plunk down their dollars to work with you. Everything in D.C. is who you know and who knows you. I knew no one when I came to the states, so if I can do this, anyone can. Here’s my game plan for marketing myself in the headshot world.

 

  1. Meet People

 

Photographers hate this part. A lot of us are introverts and got into photography because it put something between us and everything else. If you’re working with headshot clients, you’ll soon discover that being a people person is no longer an option, it’s a must. You have to learn how to bring your client’s best self out, which comes through conversation and getting them to let their guard down.

 

Thankfully my wife, Ashley, was working in a PR firm at the time and introduced me to a foodie who got me in to photograph top chefs, cocktails and food. I was growing my portfolio, but more importantly, I was meeting people—business owners, magazine editors and publishers, all people that I could network with to grow my business. You don’t need your own Ashley for this. Think of how you are already connected and start expanding your network there. As Tim Sanders says, “Your network is your net worth.” Networking and word-of-mouth became the cornerstones of building my business and life those first years.

 

  1. Photograph People

 

I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but work with me on this one. If you don’t have a portfolio, you’ll need one. If people don’t know you photograph headshots, you’ll need to do more of it. If you’re not comfortable getting people comfortable in front of your camera, you’ll need to practice.

 

This is where my headshot date idea came into play. When I was transitioning from weddings to studio work, I needed to create a portfolio. Unlike weddings, I didn’t need to spend the next year developing a portfolio. I could do it in a day. And I did.

 

I sent out invitations to everyone I knew and asked them to let me photograph them. In just a day, not only did I build a complete portfolio (exactly like we do at www.headshot-bootcamp.com), but I also practiced my lighting, developed my banter with my subjects and built relationships with people from all types of career paths. It’s one of the best things I did to jumpstart my headshot business.

 

  1. Make It Easy

 

Photographers spend so much time getting clients in the door, but when the client finally gets there, they’re met with obstacles. If you want clients to book with you and leave happy, you have to make everything extremely easy for them. This starts the second they get to your website.

 

My website (www.headshotdc.com) is chockfull of information for my clients. They’re first met with an Animoto video introducing them to me and my studio. They can then browse through my comprehensive portfolio and take a look at my pricing and packaging in the info section. The most important thing about the info section is the FAQ. Every typical question I get is listed there, along with a video summarizing the most important parts. I give my prospective clients everything they need to decide if they’re going to book with me.

 

Now comes the best part. When a client decides they’re ready to book, they don’t need to call the studio. They don’t need to send an email and wait for a response. Everything is done right through my website. Clients use Square Up (related to Square, the credit card processing service) to choose a booking time, type of session and add-ons, and pay right there on the spot. It makes my life easier because the system is linked to my Google calendar and, once an appointment is booked, it updates my calendar automatically. The whole process is fast, effective and super easy for the client.

 

After the session, delivery of the images is just as simple. I tell them they’ll receive their final retouched images within 48 hours of the session, and all they have to do is wait for an email. Using CloudSpot, I share the images with the client in a super sleek email with an easy-to-use photo sharing system. It doesn’t get any easier for me or my clients.

 

If you’re looking to change photography genres like I did, or perhaps you’re just looking for an extra marketing boost in your current business, these principles will help you out. Not only will they better your business, but they’ll better your life as well.

 

Check out this video to see a few more marketing tips for your headshot business.

 

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

3 Ways to Nail Client Consultations

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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3 Ways to Nail Client Consultations with Vanessa Joy

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

One of the best experiences I had when I was working for another photography company was being able to observe consultation sessions. Out of all of the photography education out there, there isn’t much on how to talk with clients—or, more precisely, how to talk clients into trusting you with their money and memories.

It’s not easy to teach because you’re essentially teaching people skills. There are other elements to it, like selling without being salesy and setting client expectations while walking them through your process. But at the root of it all is the ability to communicate and connect with other people. To some, this comes naturally, but if you’re an introvert like I am, you’ll need to work on this. Our students work on it while shooting their portfolio for half a day at headshot-bootcamp.com.

#1 – Practice

How do you practice consultations and sales sessions? It’s unlikely that another photographer is going to let you hone your skills on their potential clients. But that doesn’t mean you can’t practice talking.

One of the best ways I learned to speak to people was by traveling alone. It can be as simple as taking public transportation and striking up a conversation with a stranger. I would take the PATH train from New Jersey into New York City and find people to talk to on the way.

Doing this boosted my confidence in speaking to people, but it also taught me how to talk to just about anyone. It’s easy. First, I’d break the ice by commenting on an article of clothing they were wearing, or maybe a bag a woman was holding. I’d continue by asking them questions. It’s all small talk, really, but that kind of talk is all you get when talking with clients. You get one first impression, and it’s best to give it while not shyly stuttering.

#2 – Lead

When you meet with a client, lead the meeting. This ensures it goes where you want it to go, and gives off an air of confidence and experience. I guide my wedding clients through a few crucial steps, hitting all the important things they need to know.

Don’t chatter through the whole presentation like you’re giving a lecture. Leave room for them to ask questions. Have a plan. If there is a lull in the conversation, you should know exactly where to move it.

Here are the things I always cover in an initial consultation:

  • Rough timeline of the day
  • Pricing and packages
  • Delivery times and methods
  • Next steps for booking

#3 – Read

Learn how to read people.

Interpreting body language and reading between the lines is an art. You need to be able to figure out how people are feeling without them saying it. So much of their unspoken communication tells you if they’re ready to book, if they need a little push, if they need a little time or if they just want to get the heck out the door.

Understanding how your clients are feeling will help you lead the session and speak to them better. It’s also a matter of demographics. I realized a long time ago that my typical New Jersey/New York clientele just won’t go for that cliché sales pitch ending: “Does this sound like what you’re looking for?” Even if they did, yuck—those words would taste like vinegar coming out of my mouth.

Toward the end of a consultation, I can usually tell if they’re ready to book, in which case I say, “Do you want to me send you a contract to look over?” Or, if I feel they need to think about it or just aren’t interested, I give them space and tell them to go home and talk it over, and let me know if they have any questions.

Either way, I want to leave them with a good feeling, like we connected. Whether or not they hire me, they will have only nice things to say about me. That is a successful consultation in my book.

Making people feel comfortable is one of the most important skills a photographer can possess. We can be amazing at our craft but fail because we have no idea how to relate to other people. We can’t be shy. Wallflowers have a much harder time booking gigs since most of us are sole proprietors.

The same goes for marketing. I know too many photographers who are incredible at what they do behind the camera, but can’t make a living because they don’t know how to market themselves. That’s why this issue of Shutter is your goldmine. It holds the keys to growing your business. Don’t just read this. Do it.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

5 Tips to Increase Your In-Person Sales Averages

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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5 Tips to Increase Your In-Person Sales Averages with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

When we talk about the world of professional photography, it’s pretty sad to think that some of the most creative people make less than a Starbucks barista. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Starbucks, but we are artists. We are documenting the memories of our clients. Don’t we deserve more? Well, here is the thing. You don’t deserve shit. Sorry. Time for us to come to the understanding that in the real world—you know, the one we all actually live in, the one where your parents aren’t there to argue with your teachers for a better grade and give you a hug when things don’t go your way—you don’t deserve anything.

 

If you want success and more money, you have to go out there and get it. Work hard. Fail. Pick yourself up and try again. So, to that point, in the world of sales, you are not going to be successful if you don’t implement strategies to ensure your success. Below are tips to help you get more out of your sales and make more money immediately.

 

Offer high-end products.

 

Photographers around the world have convinced themselves that clients don’t want physical products. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clients want to show off their images in their homes on their walls. We know this because we see companies like Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Snapfish and ShutterFly making billions in photography-related product sales. Those are our images they are using to make money. So, clients want these products—they just don’t want them from you.

 

This challenge can easily be overcome if you find a way to stand out. Clients are not willing to overpay for a product they know they can get for a fraction of the cost at their local box store. Our studio offers high-end products that clients see the value in.

 

Below is a custom product we created.

 

Show it to them.

 

There is no point in having a sales process that doesn’t show your clients the actual product you are trying to sell them. It is mindboggling to me when I see a business owner not show the product. I don’t know too many other businesses that can survive that way. Can you imagine buying a TV without seeing the picture? Why do photographers think they are going to sell their clients a $500 product if they don’t show them what it will look and feel like? We have to show them the quality of the product. They are paying for this quality.

 

Make the investment in sample products. When they see and feel them, they’ll know immediately whether or not they want to buy them. They will either like them or not, and you adjust your offerings based on what the clients spend their money on. If all you offer is digital products, you will never sell products, and your sales potential will be reduced to almost nothing.

 

Stay current.

 

One of our jobs is to keep up with trends to ensure we are offering our clients the products and services they want. This is very important to understand. I am not suggesting we change our business every day with the wind of change, but I am suggesting we look at the current consumer demands and behavior to determine our strategy. I look at this once a year.

 

Trends pertain to both products and services. Do you remember when photo booths were all the rage? All of a sudden, every photographer on the planet was scrambling to offer photo booth services—myself included. Brides were inundating us with requests for booths. After turning down several of these requests, I realized there was a lot of opportunity here and that I should probably add this to my services. We did, and made thousands in extra revenue from events we were already working.

 

Trends come and go. Just as quickly, the photo booth craze subsided and we stopped offering it. We paid attention to trends in the marketplace. This applies to both services and products you offer your clients.

 

Take advantage of online sales.

 

The sale doesn’t end in your studio. There is gold in them thar hills. And the hills are the world of the Internet. If you are not using online galleries, you are missing out on huge sales and marketing opportunities. Your clients will share these images with friends and family who will either want to buy products or remember you when they need a photographer themselves.

 

We use N-Vu.com for our online hosting. No commissions. No upload limits. This gives us the opportunity to sell even more to our clients and their networks.

 

Don’t just post online. Offer discounts or a 48-hour sale to get friends and family members to make purchases. Sure, they are probably not going to buy a 20×30 canvases, but what about 8x10s or other gift prints? We don’t get $2,000 sales online, but we see an additional $200 to $500 from each event we post just from ancillary sales. Every sale makes a difference to the bottom line.

 

Relaunch your galleries.

 

What are you doing with your clients’ images after your initial sales meeting? Most photographers I know do nothing. Talk about lost opportunity. Up until recently, we were in the same boat. We use N-Vu’s Re-Vu feature, which is a reactivation service. It automatically relaunches your client galleries on a predetermined date. This can be a wedding anniversary, Christmas, Mother’s Day, you get the idea.

 

This was groundbreaking for us. Think about it. Christmas rolls around, and every client who logged in to the gallery gets an email from you saying the gallery has been reactivated and there is a 48-hour sale. You can create a sales email that goes out encouraging them to use the gallery for Christmas presents for the wedding couple or the family. You make money by doing nothing. This is brilliant.

 

I hope these tips help your sales process. They’ve certainly helped ours. I am always evaluating what is working and what is not. What do you have to lose? Try them now, and make 2017 your year.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Use Contests to Expand Your Social Media Reach

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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Use Contests to Expand Your Social Media Reach with Curtiss Bryant

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

In the past, we had great success with Facebook/Instagram ads. Then something changed, and they are no longer as effective. We were spending more money and not getting the same amount of engagement as before, so we started to abandon them. We still needed something to gain reach on social media to replace Facebook ads. We decided to run a contest for a free shoot, and the results were amazing. It’s the same thing we were doing before with the ads, only this time it was all organic reach and we didn’t pay a penny. Let’s look at how to use contests and “free” giveaways to drive social media reach to grow your business.

 

First, let’s dispel the myth that free devalues your brand. Shooting a cover for a large magazine is often a free shoot; but in return, you get the cover image on a magazine that is seen by thousands (sometimes millions) of people. That is certainly not a bad use of your talents. Free doesn’t have to be a bad word. Embrace it to help your business grow.

 

Step 1: Build the Demand

 

We rarely discount our services, and everyone in our area knows that. When we do offer a contest for a free shoot, it is a big deal because it’s the only time you can get us for free. If we did discounts or sales all the time, there wouldn’t be an incentive to enter the contest, as they could just wait for the next giveaway or discount. If we did a monthly mini-session, why would anyone want to pay full price for a regular session when they can just do a monthly mini-session for a fraction of the price? It is the same concept here. If we always offered a discount, why would anyone pay full price?

 

We run these contests twice a year, coinciding with engagement season and the holidays. The one over the summer is for engagements and the two we do over Christmas are for regular sessions as well as engagements (one for each).

 

Step 2 – Decide What You Want to Offer

 

Do you want to offer a full session? Do you want to offer digitals? Prints? We want to keep our out-of-pocket costs as low as possible on these giveaways, so we offer only digitals—they are the cheapest product for us to produce. Digitals also happen to be the most expensive product we offer, so the giveaway value is huge. Our Christmas giveaway is our biggest value of the year. We give away the session and include 20 digital images, which is worth over $1,000. For the engagement giveaway, we include the session and five digital images (a $499 value). We have found that the bigger the value of the giveaway, the more people are interested.

 

Step 3: Structure It for Success

 

Since Facebook ads stopped working well, we needed to find another way to reach a large audience. With these contests, we are able to do so if we structure them properly. We cannot just post the contest and tell people to message us. Once we post the contest on our page, we tell people they have to do three things to enter the contest:

 

  • “Like” our page
  • Share the post
  • Comment with the word shared on the post (or have them tell you their favorite movie or something else fun)

 

We don’t have time to monitor it to make sure they do all three things in order for their entry to count, so we count them just as long as they comment, since we need names to include in the drawing. Posts that include an image with the giveaway details are seen more throughout Facebook than a post with no image. The most important aspect here is that they share the post so it builds organic views. The more people who share it, the more Facebook puts it out. The likes on the page don’t mean much, but it does get noticed by potential clients who are looking for a photographer. To them, more likes equals a better photographer, so they aren’t a bad thing to have.

 

Our engagement contest is a bit different. We use the same idea as above, but we ask that people comment on the post with a name of someone who recently got engaged, rather than commenting “shared” on the post. This way, we have the names of the bride and/or groom, and they can see the post as well (and share it). This can be more successful than a bridal show because the engaged couples are now being given to you on a platter (for free) rather than you having to find them on your own or pay money for a bridal show. Bridal shows are an important part of what we do, but this gives us extra names to help us fill our books (more on that in a bit).

 

An important thing to remember is that they have to go to our page and like, share and comment on the post on the page in order to count. They cannot do it on shared posts since we will never see them. We want them on our page checking out our work.

 

Step 4: Determine a Winner

 

Now that we have all these entries, how do you know whom to pick when the contest ends? We take all the names of those who commented (or those tagged engaged couples) and put them into a spreadsheet so each is assigned a number. We hop onto Facebook Live and use a random number generator to generate the winner. We announce them live so that people see it’s a transparent process and we aren’t just selecting people we know. Normally, we do the big giveaway (the reason they signed up), and then, as a bonus, we include a few smaller giveaways (mini-sessions). This way, more people win and we surprise them, which gets them talking about us with their friends.

 

Step 5: Make Everyone a Winner


This is huge for our studio. We reward everyone who participated in the contest with some type of prize. For the portrait giveaway at Christmas, we offer everyone a discounted session fee. We do not announce this; we simply message each person with the offer. This weeds out those who aren’t willing to invest with us, and allows us to shoot more portrait sessions than we would have otherwise.

 

For our engagement entries, we make everyone a winner of a free engagement session. This gets them into our studio, where we can show them what we do. If they hire us for the engagement session, chances are they will hire us to shoot their wedding.

 

We make it known to all the secondary winners that products and images are available at an additional cost and are not included in the free/discounted session they receive. This eliminates any confusion. They know they are expected to pay for any prints or products they want.

 

In addition to the winners (who will likely spend more money with us), we have all the people who saw our name all over Facebook for a week. Those people will remember us when they look for a photographer, and will likely reach out to us first. Our recent campaign for Christmas brought over 20,000 views, over 280 shares and 200-plus likes to our pages. We didn’t pay a penny for that reach, nor did we boost the post. It was simply organic reach, using the power of social media to get the word out and get people to our pages.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Crush the Competition: 3 Ways to Get Ahead in Business

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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Crush the Competition: 3 Ways to Get Ahead in Business with Jeff Rojas

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

As a business owner, you’re constantly battling the competition. In an ever-evolving market, it can be exhausting to keep up. This month, I show you how to crush the competition.

 

Remember: You are the competition. Everyone else is just a benchmark.

 

I went to my first hockey game recently with a friend and client, Mark, who was introducing me to the sport. He’s a tech entrepreneur I admire whose business has been vetted by all the biggest social platforms, along with major hitters in the entertainment industry. He and his two business partners are killing the tech game.

 

I digress. Mark starts discussing the dynamics of the sport and why certain players are so important to their team. He says that as a child, he loved playing hockey and that there was no better feeling than when you scored a goal and your team cheered for you. You were the rock star for that moment in time. The crowd didn’t matter. He turns to me and asks which position I’d play.

 

I sit for a few seconds thinking about it. “Who’s the best person on that ice right now?” I ask.

 

Mark points at a guy on the ice.

 

“I want to be better than that guy,” I say.

 

He asks me why.

 

“It wouldn’t matter if anyone else knew,” I answer, “but as long as I’m better than that guy, then I know I’m the best, and that makes me feel happy.” I believe everyone has one leading trait that guides them. I’m competitive. I’ve always been competitive. I’ll always be competitive. That’s who I am.

 

Here’s the thing about being the best: You have to be wise with whom you’re comparing your success against, because it could be hindering your progress. I say that because most artists are so focused on their specific market, they forget how big the world is. If you’re a goldfish in a fishbowl comparing yourself to other goldfish, you’ll be only as good as the best person in that bowl. If your goal is to be a shark, then you need to focus on how to swim with the sharks. That’s the simplest mindset to have.

 

If you’re training with the pros, chances are you are light-years ahead of local competition. Think about that the next time you’re hung up on your competitor’s next award or victory. Think bigger. Find better mentors. Hang around better people. Be better.

 

Here’s a personal example. Every week, I pull social media reports on the largest names in the photography industry. Without naming anyone, I’ll show you how I benchmark everything from my successes to my social stats against people I’m striving to reach.

 

Figure 1.2 shows my social stats in a single week against five industry leaders. While I’m still in sixth place in followers, my active growth and engagement is far greater than that of my competitors. Through that benchmarking process, I’ve learned how to craft my content in such a way that it resonates better than that of my peers, which has allowed my brand to outperform my competitors if we average our stats for audience versus engagement ratio. This is the methodology that can reach 1.2 million on Facebook this year, a million minutes watched on YouTube, etc.

 

Your brain’s perception of what you’re capable of is the only thing hindering you from what you want to accomplish. As the old saying goes, “Work until your idols become your rivals,” and once you’ve reached that step, find new idols.

 

Stop talking and start doing.

 

These days, it seems like everyone is either a “photographer” or an “entrepreneur.” The truth is, 99 percent of people who claim either are full of crap. We’ve all seen them, the relative with a camera who is a “photographer,” but really makes his money working in an office Monday through Friday. If that’s your gig, that’s great. I respect that you’re putting food on your family’s table, but you’re not a professional photographer unless you’re making your income from photography. Professional photographers make their living from photography, not accounting. In that same respect, you’re not an entrepreneur just because you’re working for yourself or because you’re trying to work for yourself.

 

“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.”
–Harvard Business School Professor Howard Stevenson

 

I always tell aspiring photography professionals that they need to be an entrepreneur first and an artist second. Photography isn’t easy, but learning how to adapt to an evolving market and client expectations becomes paramount when you’re trying to grow or start your business. Resources should not be a problem when you’re beginning a business. Any great businessperson can turn $1 into $1,000 if they’re resourceful. That’s the attitude I expect my peers to have.

 

This is why I appreciate action over talk. It’s great to have plans, but it’s always better to accomplish them. I’ve found that most people talk more about their dreams and aspirations than they actually spend trying to accomplish them, and it frustrates me. Why? Everyone is capable of grandeur if they’re willing to work for it.

 

Here’s the secret to accomplishing long-term plans: Dissect them into smaller, more manageable pieces.

 

I wrote two books last year. Anyone who’s written a book (or an article) can tell you that it’s just like high school. Most of us just sit there and stare at a blank screen if we don’t have ideas in front of us. The worst thing to do when you have a large project is to try to accomplish it all at once, which leads to procrastination. Dissect that project into smaller pieces.

 

When I’m writing a book or article, I write a working title and a brief description. From there, I break that content into three to five manageable sections and then break each of those into subsections. If you read my Photographing Women last year, you noticed the book is divided into three sections: Theory, Posing and Lighting. While it makes it easier for the audience to understand the content, it makes it easier for me to write because I’m able to break down the content by section and then feel like I’m getting things accomplished quickly.

 

People who get things done always outperform people who talk about it. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

 

Remember that copycats can’t make the cut.

 

Worried about someone stealing your style or replicating your work? Get over it. After I published Photographing Men, some of my own peers tried emulating my lighting, retouching and posing, which flattered me. Why? Because it told me I was doing well, that I was onto the next best thing.

 

“They can imitate your style, but they can’t imitate your creativity”
–Sonya Teclai, TheGoodVibe.co

 

This is why I find it interesting that so many photographers spend the time trashing their competition for mimicking their lighting, styling or businesses. If you spent that time working and growing as a businessperson instead of complaining, you’d grow your business more quickly. Those five hours you spend each week writing emails and commenting on social media are much better spent on technique and business. Focus on what you can control.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Building Blocks: Great Seasonality Doesn’t Happen by Itself

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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Building Blocks: Great Seasonality Doesn’t Happen by Itself with Skip Cohen

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

It’s February, one of the three times of year you don’t have to do much to attract customers. Love is in the air thanks to Hallmark, American Greetings, Godiva and the rose industry. The demand for photography under the love umbrella is stable and the need for engagement, wedding and boudoir images is high.

 

If you’re reading this and didn’t do much to promote your business in February, it’s too late, but there’s another round of great seasonality coming in the spring. Most of you will now turn your thoughts and energy toward Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduations starting in May.

 

But here’s the point I want to hit hardest this month: What about the times between holidays? The times when you’ve got to stand on your own without help from society? Most of you simply kick back and wait for the Seasonality Fairy to sprinkle business on your doorstep.

 

Nothing happens during all those other days of the year unless you get creative and aggressively go after the business. You’ve got to create your own seasonality.

 

Here are some ideas to get you out of your complacency. You have so much control if you make an effort and go after the business that’s out there.

 

Your Blog

 

There it is again, that four-letter word that haunts you. Build a stash of content so you can be sharing something fresh at least twice a week consistently.

 

Not sure what to write about? Think about the value of photographs. Remember, your target audience is Mom, and her kids are growing up way too fast. Share an image with lots of emotion and write about the value of stopping time for a memory. Share a few photo tips for better images. Share some great locations in your community for backgrounds. Share articles about things to do with images—from frames to slide shows, to some of the novelty items every lab offers.

 

Create Your Own Events

 

You don’t have to wait for Hallmark to put the word out. Create your own.

 

Children’s photographer Vicki Taufer has been doing it for years, and I’m stealing a few ideas from her playbook.

 

She sent me one of her holiday cards years ago whose impact I’ve never forgotten. It was a four-panel accordion style. On one of the panels was her calendar for the year. Remember, she’s one of the most talented children’s photographers in the industry, and knew she just needed to support Mom’s need to capture memories. First she created a product she called “Limited Edition Prints,” which she described as “very special portrait sessions offered by V Gallery. We photograph each themed session at certain times during the year, which makes them very exclusive. Our extensive investment in props and accessories makes these portraits one of a kind.”

 

Next, she created one theme after another with incredible “Mom Appeal.” Here are a few examples:

 

March

2nd – 12th: Children’s Formals and Shabby Chic

16th – 19th: Grandparents’ Special

23rd – 26th: Funny Faces Week

 

April

13th – 16th: Best Friends

20th – 30th: Baseball Dreams

 

May

4th – 7th: Little Flyers

11th – 21st: Once Upon a Time

25th – 28th: In the Garden

 

Before the new year even started, she built her own seasonality by creating opportunities for images that no mom could turn down, but that was only part of Vicki’s marketing.

 

Use a Few Adjectives

 

You’re artists, not writers, but think about how you describe your work. Are you selling an album or the “first heirloom of a new family”? Are you offering a print or creating “a tangible fine-art memory to share with future generations”?

 

Most of us rarely paid attention in English class, but here’s where it all pays off. Don’t just describe your products with all the excitement of a chemist in the lab. Let a little romance in. Spice things up. If you’re stuck because you hate to write and you cut most of those English classes, it’s time to go back to school.

 

Relax. Go to a local high school and find yourself a senior who loves to write, or, for that matter, an underpaid English teacher who’d like to work part time for you.

 

Seasonality in Every Specialty

 

Children’s photography might be one of the easiest to talk about, but there are opportunities in virtually every specialty. For example, in the pets arena, Vicki Taufer, in another moment of brilliance, did the original “Dog Days of Summer.”

 

She knew there was a correlation between pet owners and family, so she launched a program for a free 5×7 pet portrait to kick it off. This was cause-related marketing, with a requirement to make a food donation to an animal shelter. She had a few partners in the community to help promote the event.

 

When the day of free 5×7’s ended, Vicki and her staff had photographed 120 pets with 40 on the waiting list. It eventually established V Gallery as the number-one pet studio in the area.

 

Utilize Your Data Base

 

Before you start worrying about where to find new customers, what are you doing with your old ones? Let’s use wedding photographers as a perfect example.

 

After couples start families, there are endless opportunities for portraits. It’s not just the bride and groom any longer, but a constant stream of potential memory makers as the kids grow and the family dynamics keep changing. Mom and Dad are typically missing a little romance. Life, kids, responsibilities get in the way.

 

Here’s your chance to be a hero in your community.

 

On the family side, do a direct mail piece to all your past clients. It can be as simple as a personalized letter. Remind them of your skill set and let’s get you in there to help capture those memories of the family changing and the kids growing up. Before you roll your eyes and tell me you’re not a children’s photographer, if you don’t want to build out your skill set, then build a relationship with another photographer. Find an artist who specializes in children’s and family portraiture.

 

On the romance side, launch a program reminding Mom that’s it’s been too long since you did their engagement portrait. I love the concept of date night, and it’s so easy to make it fit into your business.

 

Date night starts with you reminding Mom, “When was the last time you and your husband got out for a night without the kids?” Next, go to work with a local restaurant and get a discounted gift certificate for a romantic dinner for two. The components of the package can also include a short portrait session loaded with the same fun you put into the couple’s original engagement session. It’s all included in one package price. They’ve got to get the sitter, but you’re there to capture another memory.

 

There’s so much more I could write about, but here’s the bottom line. You don’t have to wait for society to give you reasons to capture images. Building a business doesn’t happen by accident; it’s the result of planning and an incredible series of efforts all built on your passion for being the best.

 

If you’re stuck, email me. Most of you know how much I love this stuff. Sometimes the biggest challenge is being too close to your own business.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

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