I think I charged something insanely low like $50 for a session plus a disc of all the digital negatives. I put the images in an online gallery, but I didn’t really sell many prints. I got lots of compliments about how people loved that they got the disc and could do what they wanted with it.
I told myself this was simply a case of meeting my clients’ needs and giving them what they wanted, so it was a good business practice.
The problem was, my ideal clients, the ones who valued photography and really wanted to preserve their memories didn’t just want the disc. They wanted someone to walk them through the photos, help them decide which ones would look best on their walls, and suggest products that would truly help them preserve this time in their lives as best as possible. I just didn’t believe that.
Not only that, but sometimes life gets busy and sometimes people simply don’t do what they intend to do. Eventually I stopped just giving the disc away and started charging for it to help encourage print sales, but then I’d get clients who raved about their image but never actually bought anything. Life just got busy and they never got to it.
That made me a Sad Panda. See?
I wanted to keep this from happening in the future and find a better way to make sure that clients placed their orders. I had heard that projection sales were the way to go, but I didn’t have a studio so that didn’t seem practical.
I made excuses. I even believed them.
Honestly, I was afraid to do in-person sales. I didn’t want people to feel pressured. I didn’t want to offend them or annoy them.
I was even afraid they’d hate the photos and I’d have to sit there with them in person and feel their disappointment the first time they looked through them.
There were SO many things that kept me from wanting to do them. They were inconvenient, and I’d have to drive to their homes or meet in a coffee shop and find a way to go through everything without the luxury of a studio.
Not doing in-person portrait sales is a HUGE mistake, and almost every newer portrait photographer makes it. Including me. So here’s what moved me to start doing in-person sales and what you can learn from my mistakes.
The first in-person portrait sale
Eventually, I realized that I was putting far too much time into portrait sessions to be making only a few hundred dollars and that I needed to increase my average significantly in order to turn a profit.
I raised my prices, mostly to prints, and thought I’d give in-person portrait sales a go. I didn’t have much hope in it, since I live in a small, blue-collar town where average salaries are low. But I talked to other photographers, and they assured me that it was going to be awesome.
And it was.
My first in-person sale was triple what my average sale was in the past.
My next one was even better.
And it blew my mind.
It’s not an annoyance for your clients, it’s a way to go above and beyond
The thing that surprised me the most was that clients thanked me for taking the time to help them walk through the proofs and be there with my professional opinion to consult as they were placing their order.
It’s not pushy at all unless you make it that way. The images sell themselves. I just need to be there to help make suggestions when they have questions and to tell them what their options are and what I think would work best for them in their situation.
You aren’t a slimy salesman who just wants money. You are an expert helping them to best preserve their memories. And they love it.
I would have had to do 2-3 sessions with online galleries to make as much as I did in one session with the extra in-person sales meeting. This stayed consistent for as long as I continued shooting portraits.
So why would you use an online gallery at all?
There may be cases where doing online proofing is a good idea. For example, I think weddings should all be hosted online as it allows many more people to see and order photos than you would have had with just an in-person meeting. Moms and grandmas like to get photos, and they’ll often make a point of doing it.
You may also have clients that come in from far away for a portrait session who can’t be with you for an in-person session. In this case, I’d still do an online gallery but I’d only leave it active for a limited amount of time, or I’d put it up for one day and do a skype or phone ordering session and take it down thereafter.
Lack of time is not a valid excuse. You can shoot fewer sessions and still make the same amount of money or more, so there’s no reason not to do this. Plus it’s such a GREAT way to go above and beyond and really serve your client.
If you shoot weddings, I suggest picking up Photocart for online proofing. You’d have to self-fulfill your own prints and albums and such, but you only pay once and never again so it pays for itself quickly.
If you only do portraits and only need an online gallery from time to time, check out Instaproofs. They don’t charge you anything unless someone places an order through the service, at which point they take a % of your total sale.
But Jamie, in-person portrait sales are SCARY! They are intimidating & frightening for someone shy like me!
I was afraid too. But honestly, are you really going to let fear hold you back? How bad do you want success? The only thing hindering you is YOU! You can do this. The images sell themselves at an in-person sales session (although doing sneak peeks can significantly lower sales, so make sure the first time they see their images is at the sales meeting.)
Have confidence. Practice on a friend first. As long as you’re setting proper expectations up front and they aren’t going to be surprised by your pricing during the session, it’s going to go great. Trust me on this one. They’ll love that you’re helping them, and you’ll make bigger sales because of it.
So how do in-person portrait sales work?
I share everything I used to do in my in-person portrait sales here, however if I were to start doing portrait sales again I’d completely change to doing what Matt + Katie suggest in their In-Person Portrait Guide (affiliate link), because it’s stinking brilliant.
Not only does it give you the methods & the reasons behind them, but they even give you a script to help you learn exactly what to say (but of course, you can fully customize it if you want!) I’m pretty sure you’d make even more money using Matt + Katie’s method, honestly, and would make your money back that you paid for the guide within your first sale. They made a quarter million dollars a year in portraits in a saturated market, where Katie (the main photographer and sales person) was shy but stepped out with courage and learned what to do.
You can do it to.
Yes, you can.
The results will give you a confidence and freedom that draws people to you and your business. Go after the business you’ve always wanted, and start with the in-person sales.
Have an in-person sales success story? Share it below in the comments. I LOVE hearing them!