Jamie Hayes, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API, and I have owned and operated a photography studio together for over 25 years. During that time, we’ve had to shift our business in every single way. We went through the time-consuming and scary transition to digital. We changed our marketing focus from baby boomers to Generation X and are figuring out the millennials and beyond. We learned to create and maintain a website, build a brand, post, pin, tweet, and IG. Now we’re tackling TikTok. The one thing I know for sure is that we have to be nimble and ready to accept changes as they come, especially if they resonate with the clients we want to serve.
Many things in our studio have never changed. We pride ourselves on a sterling reputation, having a brand name with wide consumer reach, and providing platinum customer service. These practices are the very foundation of our studio and have allowed us to operate a profitable and successful small business. Our core values allow us to curate the right clients, photograph the types of sessions we enjoy, sell the products we believe in, and garner a good living in a profession we love.
If you’re selling too many of your basic products, then you’re probably giving too much away at that level; if you’re selling a lot of your wow products, then it’s time to raise prices.Mary Fisk-Taylor
My top practices to guarantee success:
1. Create, maintain, and follow a sound business plan. This seems rudimentary and even mundane, but it’s so important. Included in my business plan are my short- and long-term goals as well as my studio’s mission statement, editorial calendar, marketing plan, pricing, and product lines. I evaluate and re-evaluate these every quarter to make sure we’re meeting our goals.
2. Follow the good, better, best, and wow approach when developing product lines. Generally, people purchase in the middle, so I put the products I most want to sell right there in the middle of my price lists. This applies to a la carte products, portrait collections, even creation fees. This is an easy way to keep sales averages exactly where you want them to be. In my experience, if you’re selling too many of your basic products then you’re probably giving too much away at that level; if you’re selling a lot of your wow products, then it’s time to raise prices.
3. Have in-person or video call design consultations before portrait sessions. Meeting a client for the first time when they arrive for their session feels to me like creating a dress for someone and not knowing their size. I have to have a pattern or a blueprint for the session. I want to know who we’re photographing, the client’s preference for the style of photography, and the space in their home that we’re designing for. I use all of this information to help me plan the perfect session for my client.
4. Photograph for the sale. I often hear photographers complain about not selling albums or large portraits or extra images. The first question I ask is, Did you photograph for that album, portrait, or extra images you wanted to sell? I approach every session with the intention of creating a few images that are appropriate for a wall portrait, then I make sure I have anchor images to go with it in case the client decides to purchase a wall portrait collection. I also make sure I have at least 20 different images the client can fall in love with for a portrait album. I don’t sell those items to every client, but I’m more likely to sell them if I have them to sell. So photograph for the wow sale each and every time.
5. Be authentic, transparent, and nice. Most of us do not live in communities with too few photographers. Competition is everywhere. So we have to mind our customer service practices to the ultimate degree. If you’re authentic, clients will choose you because of you. Make sure the attitude and work you’re sharing are a reflection of who you are as a person and an artist. And finally, just be nice. Say thank you, return phone calls and emails promptly, use kind words in your literature, especially when addressing your policies. Take time to write thank you notes and make phone calls. These things don’t cost anything and they go a long way with clients.
Mary Fisk-Taylor is the co-owner of Hayes & Fisk Photography in Richmond, Virginia.