Today’s Family Requires a Little More with Blair Phillips


Today’s Family Requires a Little More with Blair Phillips

Going to the dentist is one of the most dreaded experiences in our lives, even though the dentist is providing us necessary care that makes our lives more enjoyable. A family photography session can cause the same level of dread. That feeling is generally leftover from subpar experiences in people’s past. Add to that the change in the way families value pictures these days, and you have a tough assignment ahead of you.

Family sessions don’t have to be terrible. It is our job to build the session up and raise awareness of the importance of continual updating. Today’s generation will most likely not have photo albums documenting family vacations. Maybe they can at least have a family portrait created every once in a while.

You will be hard pressed to find another studio as diverse as mine. Our family portrait session numbers have continued to grow in the past few years. I believe it is a direct result of the communication, education and awareness we have put into our hometown market. We began by speaking to everyone we came in contact with.

Most new conversations I enter, I find a way to talk about family life. This gives me the perfect opportunity to share what I do. I explain how we create a whole different type of family session. I explain the really laid-back atmosphere, the way we get to know everyone and how we make everyone extremely comfortable. This gains me a spot in their brain for a little while.

I want to be the first person that comes to mind when they start thinking about family pictures. The importance of updating family portraits is slowly falling victim to this busy society we live in. When you meet someone new, don’t forget that they may be your next family session. Posting to social media is not going to make families pour into your studio. Creating genuine conversations and building up an experience will. You have to talk it up before you can live it up.

The main focus on a family session is obviously the immediate family. In most cases, the more people involved in a photo, the more you sell. We have begun encouraging families to bring extended members with them. This generally turns into a much higher sales average. By bringing aunts and uncles, they are providing me more combination options. I always photograph everyone as a group, and then in immediate-family groups. If people are going to take the time to come in, I can promise you they will buy.

At the order appointment, I try to schedule everyone to come back together. It helps bring sentiment to the sales room. It’s amazing the number of times family members have tried to outdo each other by spending the most. You could not ask for a better environment for that. Don’t get all hung up on charging an extra session fee for the extra people who come in with a client. I promise you will make way more if you do not nickel-and-dime your clients. There is power in numbers.

If someone’s desire is strong enough, they will take any means necessary to get it. Photographers are notorious for working really long hours without getting paid for each and every one. I used to work really late hours because I listened to clients about when they could come in. No one ever could take a half day off work. Upon the arrival of my first daughter, I began working four days a week, and took my last session at 3 o’clock. I got to thinking that you would not tell your dentist that the only time you could come was at 7 o’clock. Why should you be any different than the dentist? The family that really wants you will take time off to be there. The family client that refuses to take any time off work should generally not be given an appointment. The more you give them, the more they expect.

A couple times a year, we go against our grain and open on a Saturday for limited-edition sessions. The idea is to create a very simple and inviting atmosphere for family portraits. The sessions are done outdoors with a particular theme. They last no longer than 15 minutes. Even the worst families can come together for 15 minutes.

These sessions allow us to reach the family that gave us no other options throughout the week. We also reduce our prices for these sessions. We rely on a large volume of clients, making it feasible to reduce the prices a bit. The last family limited edition we offered was really quite simple. It was named Field Day. We took a beautiful leather couch into a great big field and posed families all day long. While they were there, we were always taking about the possibilities of future session opportunities.

Even though these sessions are only 15 minutes, we still have each family come to the studio for an order appointment. We have found that online sales do not work as well. It is much like chewing gum. After you chew it for a length of time, it is less desirable. We have found that choosing, ordering and paying for images is most successful inside our studio.

You get out of your family session exactly what you put into it. If your numbers are not continuing to grow, you may not be talking enough. Things change in this world, but family is forever. With all of the changes society is throwing at families, you may have to be willing to come to them. For this reason, it is imperative to go over clothing choices. I like our families to have similar color harmonies. Shooting with similar color harmonies is a great inspiration for any photographer.

You will be amazed by how invaluable a phone conversation with a family is prior to their appointment. This helps tremendously in building the whole experience and not just shooting images.

If you continue to take ownership of your business, I promise you will photograph more and more families.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the April 2016 magazine.

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