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September 18, 2018

Struggling with Photography Sales? Check Out These Tips

There's a distinct difference between the photographer who conducts live, in-person sales (IPS) and the photographer who hosts photos online or provides the customer with a CD of images. Thriving in the photography profession takes much more than IPS, but it's a great place to start if you want to run a profitable business.

But I'm not a salesperson. I don't know how to do IPS. I'm petrified, you think. IPS is not difficult, and once you understand the process, it's not scary. In fact, the hardest part of IPS is getting over your negative thinking, believing in the worth of your work, and valuing your own time and expertise.

Check out these 10 tips for in-person sales:

1. Do not display small prints in your studio. For print displays, use the same photo for each size, preferably a full-body shot that isn't too close. This lets clients compare the impact and visibility of prints of various sizes.

2. Set up a clean and neat room for your sales sessions that includes a TV or projector, computer, comfortable chairs or couches, cordless keyboard, and mouse. Darken the room like a theater. Some use Adobe Lightroom to present the images and create the slideshow, but there are many good programs specifically tailored to selling.

3. For image previews, less is more. If you shoot 300 photos of a senior, choose the best 50 to 75, and use a good variety for building an album. Having too many choices confuses clients, which makes them less apt to order. Don't take the time to polish all the images before the sales session; some quick post-production edits is all you need.

4. Start your sales sessions with a slideshow that takes fewer than 30 seconds to prepare. It's set to appropriate music, and clients are often in tears before it ends. There's a lot of impact when a client sees their photos for the first time, but that initial impact wanes the more times they view them. So when you host images on a website that clients view over and over, you're losing the valuable emotional momentum that results in sales.

5. Sometimes customers resist returning for an in-person sales presentation; for example, they traveled from elsewhere for the session and they don't want to make another trip. When you meet this challenge, explain to the client that preparing an online gallery not only adds cost, but it doesn't show images at their best—that's why you'd prefer they return when it's convenient for them to place an order. There's no need to be pushy. You're a professional, and you have quality standards as well as business policies. Another option is to do a same-day sales presentation.

6. Understand that you're doing your clients a favor by selling them prints that can be displayed in their home. They will enjoy them every day like the valuable pieces of art they are. Clients don't need hundreds of digital files they'll never look at again; they need a large print on their wall that warms their home.

7. In addition to prints, offer some well-chosen specialty and add-on items. Whichever products you choose to offer, they should make sense for your brand and your client base.

8. Provide low-res social media files of all the images the client purchases in print. Other studios make digital files available for purchase only after a certain amount of print products have been bought. There's no single best way to handle the sale of digital files. Just remember that PPA Benchmark data shows you won't have a sustainable business if you sell digital files exclusively. Selling print products is non-negotiable, and clients need to be on board with that before their session.

9. Portrait photography is very affordable; you must internalize that belief before you can sell it to customers. Most families hire professional photographers only a few times in their life, typically spending $500 to $2,000 for products that result from a one- or two-hour session. That's nothing compared to all the other discretionary family expenses typical for middle-class Americans. 

10. Calculate your cost of sales so you can price products and services appropriately. When you set your prices based on those numbers, you may be surprised that they look high. Don't apologize for earning a living and growing a thriving business. Explain to customers why you're more expensive than shoot-and-burn alternatives. 

To read the full article and get more tips on sales visit Professional Photographer Magazine. If you're not already a PPA member, don't forget to join PPA to get the latest advice and news in the photography world!