There’s More to Growing Your Family Business Than Great Images with Blair Phillips


There’s More to Growing Your Family Business Than Great Images with Blair Phillips

A few of my most prized possessions are my family photo albums from childhood. One of the few things my family was diligent about was having our photos printed. It is really frustrating to see a monumental event in kids’ lives being recorded with a cell phone. It’s better than nothing at all, but not many parents get those images printed. They just spend their life embedded in a phone’s memory. Fewer and fewer children will be able to reflect on physical photo albums of their lives. This has begun to drastically lower the importance of professional family portraits.

There are several things you can do as a professional to continue to grow your family portrait business.

The Session Begins at the Front Door

Parents don’t often look forward to going to a studio for a session. There’s the stress of uncooperative children and unenthused family members. I’ve been able to diminish this stress by allowing extra time before the session. I sit in the front of my studio and watch for my clients to pull into the parking lot. I greet them at their vehicle and offer a hand with children and clothing. This gives them the feeling that I am here to help with more than just taking pictures. When we get inside and get settled, we come back to the lobby. Then I take 10 to 15 minutes making small talk with each individual. My goal is to make everyone feel like a valuable part of the process.

By showing patience, parents are put at ease, and that’s good for when they share their experiences with friends. Most business transactions are very rushed and lack genuine customer service. If you provide comfort during your family sessions, your business will grow by word of mouth alone.

Family portrait sessions and images have become very creative in the past few years. It is very easy to get caught up in the race to reinvent the family portrait, but I stick to a few basics.

My Family Portrait Formula

I have three different styles I shoot for in a family session. This helps ensure that I capture something to please almost everyone.

I begin with very casual posing to loosen everyone up. Families that may not be very emotionally close prefer this look.

Then I take the family outdoors for some environmental portraits. I style these similarly to a high school senior session, which means an edgy look. Many of my families never knew they could look so amazing. They love the results.

The last look I provide is one that has stood the test of time. That is the formal family portrait. This is often the one they choose as the main wall portrait. Everyone thinks you have to do everything so different in order to succeed, but formal will always be a great seller.

Clothes Can Make—or Break—the Portrait

Nothing can deplete your photographic mood and ability more than terrible outfit choices. You can create an amazing image only to see it completely ruined with the wrong clothing.

It has been a long-standing tradition that everyone should match for family portraits. Some families have a tendency to match too much by wearing the exact same thing. That looked really good in the 1980s. I tell clients to bring way more outfits than they will need. If they bring a couple of suitcases full, I have a better chance of helping them find something that works.

I always send them examples of the kinds of outfits that work. That acts as a style guide. If your families are showing up with uninspiring outfits, you are not educating them properly. Educating your clients secures huge dividends during the sales appointment. You get out of it what you put into it.

The Importance of the Family Portrait

I hear families say all of the time that they cannot remember the last time they had pictures made. We seem to be getting busier and less emotionally connected. We have a duty as photographers to raise awareness of the importance of family portraiture. I feel like a politician in a constant campaign to encourage families to preserve moments they will never be able to create again.

When I meet potential clients for the first time, I ask questions about them and their family. This helps pave a road of opportunity that will lead them to my business. The more I remind people that I am here, the more business I create for myself. If you do nothing to promote yourself, you will most likely end up with nothing. One of our responsibilities is to keep the dream alive for future photographers. Think of it as paying it forward to them.

Parents are so busy that they have less time to enjoy their day-to-day lives. Use the time you have with them to remind them why they started a family in the first place. You may be the only person who can bring them close together for at least an hour or so. During that hour, they are disconnected from the outside world and can really focus on being a family. Maybe they are a little dysfunctional, but they are still together. Encourage them to put aside their differences and remember that time together is invaluable. When family members put down their guards, they help you create images that tug at their heartstrings.

Family portrait work can also lead to growth in other avenues of your business. Family members will become high school seniors, get married, have babies and build families of their own one day. Through the experiences you help build, you will become a household name that families attach to some of their most cherished times together.

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the October 2015 magazine.

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