How would you like to shoot less and make more money? Just think, if you doubled the amount of profit you make for each shoot then you can work half as much (or work the same amount and double your income).
Print sales are a huge key to increasing those profit margins and building your business.
So the first thing you have to do before any of the tips below is buy into the notion that your function as a photographer is not just to take nice photos of your clients, but to offer beginning to end photography and portraiture services with the end goal being that your client has personalized fine art images hanging in their home.
Most of this article is directed towards the portrait shooter but many of these techniques can be used even for landscape photographers who want to offer a more complete service than just online purchasing. This can include something such as personalized designing and hanging of in home fine art products included in the purchase.
1. Sell Prints
Well this one should be pretty simple, right? The first thing you need to do is incorporate print sales into your business model. As simple as this may sound, it probably requires the most work.
First you have to decide what you will offer. Go to any print lab and you will be overwhelmed with choices including paper prints, canvas, metal, acrylic, and an assortment of other specialty items. You can even get your photo printed on bamboo if you were so inclined.
Keep it simple! Pick a few types and stick to it. If you have a client ask about something else they saw then of course you can accommodate their request, but if you offer a million choices, they will end up overwhelmed and defaulting back to plain old paper prints or giving up altogether and asking for a digital copy.
Make sure you offer a variety of sizes though, especially if you want to use some of the techniques below to boost your sales. It is important that you can adapt to the spot that your client wants to hang their art. The option to accommodate a variety of sizes eliminates a huge barrier to sales for a client.
2. Market Effectively
This is not an article on marketing, so we will not be going into the topic in depth, but it is extremely important that your marketing at least mentions prints sales, if not encourages them. This can include Facebook posts, website pages, Instagram posts, and any other avenue you use to promote your business.
There are a number of ways you can accomplish this. Instead of just putting your photos on your website, show photos of your prints hanging on a client's wall. Make sure you have your client's permission of course! Clients may be sensitive about a photo of their home being out on the web. This probably is not covered in your basic model release, so if you sell a great wall piece and want to promote it, you should have a separate release signed by your client giving you permission to use any photos you take in their home. Perhaps even offer them a small discount for allowing you to do so.
3. Price Accordingly
Here is where many photographers get frustrated or just simply make mistakes. This is also where a little business savvy can go a long way. There is no automatic formula for pricing your prints, but there are some things you want to be aware of when setting your prices. The first is the cost of the print for you. Remember, even if you print at home, you have costs, including the ink, the paper or canvas, and even the cost of the printer itself. You also need to factor in the time you spent preparing the photos for printing, ordering the photos, examining them after printing, and delivering them to the client (whether that be in person or via shipping).
Once you understand your real cost for producing the prints, then you can make a more educated decision on how to price them. If you are a part-time or hobbyist photographer, you can probably just estimate what you think is right and go from there. As a full-time professional though, you should decide how much you need to be earning per year to make a living, then estimate how many shoots you plan to do in a year or how many print sales you expect to make and try to determine how much profit you need to make per sale. This is not an easy thing to do and is well beyond the scope of this article, but if you don't price appropriately, then it won't matter how good you are at sales.
4. Target the Right Clients
This tip may be a little controversial.
If you want big print sales, you need clients who are willing to make big print purchases.
I will acknowledge that giving back to the community and offering photography services to those that can't otherwise afford them is important and even can be helpful to your brand as a business. However, you can still do those types of shoots as a charitable endeavor while targeting clients for your primary business that can make you the most money. In fact, I would go so far as to say that maximizing your profits allows you to do more charitable work. But that is enough about whether you should be doing this, let's talk about how.
First, it can be as simple as how you set your prices. Instead of a just a sitting fee for a portrait session, increase that fee and have it include credit towards prints. This has a couple of effects. It draws in only clients that are interested in prints. It get's them thinking about prints right away. Finally, it encourages them to buy bigger and more expensive prints. If they already have a $100 credit for prints, they will be more encouraged to buy that $250 canvas because they now see it as only costing an additional $150. Of course that doesn't make mathematical sense, but consumers make decisions with emotion, so it can make the difference between a less expensive and more expensive print sale.
You can also target clients in your marketing. Facebook allows you to be very specific in who sees your ads so take advantage of this. Find other local high end businesses such as restaurants and stores and target people who have liked their Facebook page.
One of my favorite tactics is to offer free shoots to local big ticket charity event auctions. Events such as that tend to draw people that have the disposable income to make a big wall art purchase after their free photo session and it also get's your name in front of all of the other attendees that didn't win the free shoot.
5. Prepare your Clients
If the first time your client hears about wall art is at the sales meeting after the shoot, then you have significantly lowered your chances of selling them any. From the very first time you talk to them, you should be talking about wall art. This does not have to be in a “salesy” kind of way either.
Tell them you want to make sure they have some awesome photos hanging in their home when all is done and ask them what they are looking for. This helps you encourage wall art sales and also helps you identify customers that are just going to want a USB drive or online gallery with all the photos on it. There is nothing wrong with telling them that your prices include prints or credits for prints and that maybe you aren't a good fit for their needs. Just by having that discussion at the beginning, you may even convince them that prints are better than a USB drive or online gallery.
Talking to your client ahead of time also lets you identify the space they are trying to fill in their home and what kind of photo or photos they want to fill it. Now you know, for example, that you need to take a landscape orientation group shot and you can make sure you get a few variations of that for them to choose. Alternatively, they may want a cluster of smaller canvases to fill up a space so you know that you need more of a variety of shots that go well together. Knowing your client's needs ahead of time makes selling them later an effortless task.
6. Shoot for the Prints
We touched on this a little in the previous section but there is more to it than just knowing what kind of shots your clients want.
Remember to leave enough space around the subjects. You have to keep in mind that even though most cameras shoot in an 2:3 ratio (which would be an 8×12 print), most frames come in 5×7, 8×10, 11×14, etc. None of those fit a 2:3 ratio image. So if your client wants to frame them, especially if they already have frames for the photos, then you better leave some space on the long end or else you will be in Photoshop hoping that content aware fill can work its magic and fill in the background space.
Now you may be thinking, “I'll just sell canvases, they can be any size.” This is true, but remember two things. First, you never know what size space your clients want to fill. So you want to be ready for anything. Second, canvases wrap around the frame, so unless you want someone's face to be wrapped around the top of the canvas, you better have some extra space. Again, this can be fixed in Photoshop later by expanding the sides, but hopefully, you are selling enough that you don't want to be spending an extra 20 minutes in Photoshop for each canvas.
Another thing you can do during the shoot is show your clients some photos to get them excited. Some photos may need some post processing but some just look awesome on the back of your camera. This is the perfect opportunity to show your client and tell them, “I think we just got the one that's going on that wall in the dining room!” If they love it on the back of the camera then before you even show them the final product, they've made up their mind that the photo is going on the wall. Of course they may find one they like better, but the internal commitment to purchasing some wall art is already there and your job is much easier.
So remember your ultimate goal when shooting and it will make both the sales and the printing process much easier.
7. Have Samples
As photographers, most of us know what a canvas looks like and want an acrylic print looks like. But many clients have no idea what you are talking about. Images of these products on your website and in your promotional emails can only go so far. Nothing compares to the tactile experience of holding a beautiful print in one of these alternative forms. In fact, even paper prints look much better in person than on the screen. The client can see and feel the difference between the prints you create for them and the ones they got from the local convenience store kiosk.
This physical experience is tremendously important in demonstrating the difference between some images on their hard drive and well done wall art. For many clients, this is all they need to close the deal. But without some physical examples, no degree of explanation can convey the quality of the products you want to hang on their wall.
8. Suggest Clusters and Splits
Selling one canvas or metal print is nice, but selling a cluster of six in various sizes or a single photo split across two or three frames is great. If you have done your job well, then the client has chosen a bunch of photos that they like and is trying to decide which one is going on that wall they want to fill.
Why should they be limited to one photo? Offer them a “cluster.” This is essentially a selection of various photos of various sizes arranged in a way that compliments the space. For example, you can set up a cluster that goes up the wall alongside stairs. You can also arrange a cluster to form around something already on the wall to compliment it. Your client will see this flexibility as a tremendous service. For you it is a tremendous sales technique to sell multiple pieces instead of one. You never have to take the hard sell approach, just tell your client what you can do to solve their dilemma and you can close the deal.
Another approach is a split. This is when you take one photo and divide it among multiple pieces of canvas, metal, or whatever you choose. Although, I wouldn't recommend trying this with framed prints. The frames break the connection that the photos have to each other. This works especially well if you have shot a more environmental portrait that includes a lot of the scenery. You can have your clients in the middle frame and let the scene continue out to the other frames. Just don't divide the frames down the middle of anything important.
9. Show, Don't Tell
What better way to convince a client how awesome a cluster of photos will look in their home than to show them? There are a number of software products that will let you either take a photo on your client's wall or use a stock room to demonstrate exactly how the cluster, split, or individual photo will look, to scale, in that space. I would suggest searching for “wall art sales software” to get started.
You can incorporate this into your in-person sales strategy (recommended) or even just present them with the option to do it themselves online (ok, but not the best solution). Have a few galleries pre-made for them to see the possibilities and then adjust and modify from there. You may be surprised how easy it is to have a client fall in love with a cluster of eight pieces. That's a four figure sale just because you took the time to show them how good it looks. Would you rather have shot five more “shoot and burn” sessions to make the same profits? Of course not!
The product I use for this is called Swift Galleries. This is not an ad and they haven't provided me with any incentive to mention their name. However, when I reached out to them to ask a few questions about how their product worked, they were extremely helpful and responsive. So I feel very confident in recommending them as a solution. When I let them know I would be mentioning them in the article, they wanted to extend an offer to the entire Improve Photography community. Use THIS LINK for a $50 discount.
10. Use the In-Person Consult
If you don't already do this then doing so will be the single biggest thing you can do to increase sales. So much of what has already been mentioned is either enhanced by in person sales or impossible without it. How can you show your client a sample of a metal print if they are ordering from their computer? How can you suggest a certain arrangement of a canvas cluster if they are making the decision from their own computer without you there? How can you get their complete attention if they get the email with a link to their online gallery while they are in the middle of dinner?
The short answer is that you can't accomplish any of those things without being there.
The most popular response to this from photographers is “I'm not a good salesperson.” Well that's ok, because you shouldn't be giving them a “hard sell” in any case. The goal is not to push them into buying more. The goal of in person sales is to help them and guide them into making good decisions. If you do it right, your client will see it as an extension of your service, not as a sales meeting.
11. Provide Beginning to End Service
So your client just bought $2000 worth of metal prints to hang in a cluster on their wall. How do you extend the client service so that they tell all their friends how amazing you are? Offer to come to their house and hang up the prints yourself. After all, since they first contacted you, you have been telling them you want to make sure they have an amazing display of art hanging in their home that features their family.
A cluster of metal prints doesn't look so good sitting in a box on their dining room table and visitors to their home won't be asking who took such amazing photos if they never get hung up. So if you have the skills to make this happen, then you can go that extra step further and make this happen for them. In doing so, you are ensuring that these get hung up quickly and are all lined up perfectly. (If you don't think you have the skills to hang a photo straight…it's a lot easier to learn than Photoshop, so learn it!)
12. Get Testimonials
You just went the extra mile and made sure your client had exactly the photos they wanted in the medium they loved, on the wall they needed filled in, in a cluster they love, and you even hung it up for them and it looks amazing. Your client could not be happier. Now is the time to ask them if they are happy with the process. Make sure to ask them a question about the prints themselves so that their answer makes it clear they bought some prints. Write down the great things they say and then ask if you can feature their comments on your site. Include their first name and maybe the town they live in.
Social proof is a strong motivator and new people reading your website will see these testimonials and feel more confident in you as a photographer. You will attract clients that want that kind of service, you will already place the idea of prints in their minds, and you have put them at ease about hiring you. That brings us all the way back to the beginning because this will bring bolster your marketing and bring in your next client where the process starts all over again.
Have a great print sale tip that I didn't mention? Share it with us in the comments. As always, let's start a great discussion of business strategy and help each other grow our businesses.