Shooting Family Portraits for Large Prints with Blair Phillips
It’s easy for families to become disconnected and completely lose the importance of family portraits. Your sell can be greatly impacted by the relationship they have within the home. There are tons of families living under one roof that just can’t seem to get along very well. This is where the photographer plays the biggest role in creating an environment that will help sell larger wall portraits.
I always help build the relationships within a family during the session. I tell them it is okay to get close to one another, to hug or to simply put their arms around each other. With the continued subtle encouragement of this behavior, it will at least look like they still love and like each other.
One must be careful not to force those relationships if there is any sense of resistance or discomfort. For this reason, I find it imperative to allow time before the session to casually hang out for a short time with the family. We sit in the lobby, where I get to know the dynamic between the family members. There will be one person you feel you can joke with, followed by someone more on the shy side. You will gravitate toward the person who matches your personality the closest. Getting to know the family and creating a comfort zone allows you to sell larger family portraits.
Some families come in already knowing exactly what they want. Other families come in with no idea what they are looking for. I like to get an idea of what their print objectives are. It’s good to know what sizes and quantities they are looking for before you just start blindly shooting. If clients provide you with that information, you have already sold at least that quantity before you ever take the first image.
From there, it is your job to be creative and motivated enough to create images they cannot leave on the table. I sell more wall portraits by photographing the family, then combinations that complement the family portrait. Photograph siblings individually, together, and then Mom and Dad together. This leaves clients little to no choice: They’ll want multiple wall portraits to create a sequence in storytelling. Little things you suggest while shooting can help build your sell on the backend. I give constant encouragement: how well they look together, how beautiful the family is, how great the portraits are going to look on the wall. Creating a positive environment is a big piece of the puzzle.
There seems to be a huge disconnect with some photographers who can’t sell their work very well. The one thing I hear the most is that people feel they want to just give everything away. Another popular comment is that clients just don’t buy portraits. Those are excuses that allow you to escape the reality that you should be paid well for your hard work and creative vision.
Many clients look only at the price and are never able to focus on anything else. This is where you should never be afraid to validate yourself or your pricing. In my case, we have a large, very nice studio full of an amazing variety of set options and equipment. I constantly remind clients of just that. They are constantly reminded of all the variety they have access to. We educate them that there is a whole lot more work involved than just pressing the shutter button, like the constant expensive education we undertake. This shows clients how complex our job is, and hopefully earns us a little more respect.
How you have your sales area set up can make or break you. We have 30×40’s hanging everywhere in the studio and sales room. I figure that if I can get them used to looking at the really large prints, they will not be happy with anything smaller. We used to have the same print in all different sizes lined up along the wall. For some reason, most clients gravitated toward the middle. So we sold much smaller wall portraits, and our bottom line suffered. ProSelect’s Room View is selling software designed for photographers. One of my most favorite features allows clients to see the images to scale on their wall before they even make the purchase. This tool has helped us sell larger family portraits.
Most families do not update their wall portraits each year. One of the biggest reasons is that the experience can be excruciating. Constantly remind the family just how important it is to update. I thank them several times throughout their session for allowing me to create such amazing images for them. I remind them how important my family is to me. I always ask them to share their experience with any friends they think would love to have images created. If you have the audience before you, do not let them escape without the tools they need to help find new clients.
Making the parents feel special is a huge step in selling large wall portraits. It’s rare for parents to even remember that last time they were photographed together. I take a few moments with Mom and Dad alone. I build up their relationship with one another and create an environment they will remember for a long time to come.
When I am working with siblings, I encourage Mom and Dad to leave the room. Children change the moment their parents are not around. You can get them to loosen up by directing all of your focus on them.
I encourage Mom to come alone to the sales appointment. This allows her sole focus, and keeps Dad out of the loop on how much this costs. If there are small kids running around during the sales appointment, you can cut your order in half. Parents shut down and are ready to leave if the sales environment is the least bit chaotic.
Simply arranging a convenient time for a family to assemble for a session can be daunting. Work schedules, school schedules and naps are enough to put off the dreaded family session for one more year.
You will find that most families want an appointment in the late evening. They do not want to disrupt their workday. This leaves you abandoning your family for work. We began opening up on Saturday for families that couldn’t seem to get to us during the week. We offered outdoor mini sessions that were 15 minutes long. This works out perfectly for families that have limited time and patience. Families dread having pictures made, but a session lasting just 15 minutes makes it a lot more bearable.
We shoot every session in the same outdoor location all day long. It makes for a long day, but we are able to service a ton of families that would not make it to us otherwise. I don’t like working Saturdays, but I am willing to sacrifice for financial gains that help my family.
Selling large wall portraits to families involves great photography and great personality. If you can get clients to genuinely like you, they will be a lot more willing to spend more. Their budget plays a large part in the sale, but you can take the focus off the money and put it on which images speak to their heart.