My Print Pricing Journey

I’m a shoot and share photographer. My favorite part of the job is photographing and I want to share my digital photos with my clients. I’ve discussed it quite often on this blog. However, at the same time I want to find a balance to offer professional print options to my clients.

I’m a big fan of doing a gallery review with my clients after their photo session or wedding and have always used this as an opportunity to make print sales, offer discounts and ensure that my clients have great archival memories of their photos after all is said and done. I do want their photos to last both online and offline. I want my clients to have their digital files stored for a lifetime online, which is why I use PASS, but I also want them to walk away with heirlooms to pass down to their family, like an album.

So, I wanted to tell you guys a story about something I’ve learned lately. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve come in business – I’m always learning and trying new techniques to try to be better at this job. When I learn something new and find out what’s working for me I like to share it here with you. Of course, my techniques are not always right for everyone, but they work for me and that’s why I share them.

The story goes that I was talking to a photographer friend of mine over the phone. We were talking about how the demand in the industry is getting higher for digital photos and we want to be able to provide that, but how we also believe they need to have something hanging on the wall. Somehow pricing products came up and it just dawned on both of us how much the photography industry marks up print products. We mark up our products more than most any industry in the world. I was telling my friend that for some reason the last year I’ve noticed my print sales decreasing and I couldn’t figure out why. I was still selling, and I wanted to provide the digital files, but I wanted to find a balance to do so.

That lead me to last December where I started thinking about how we, as photographers, not only have to compete against each other in this industry, but how our print prices now have to compete against the likes of Walmart now too. I wanted to check out some of these crappy print options for myself and compare them to some of the professional labs I’d been using and see if I could use that as a marketing tool. I had done the same thing years ago, but with how fast technology grows I figured it was about time to check it out again.

I have to tell you that Costco’s print lab beat out several of the professional labs. A lot of the other labs like Walmart, Shutterfly, etc. (I tried them all) didn’t look great and had color problems, but man Costco caught me off guard. Of course I doubt that Costco uses the same sprays and tools that a professional lab does, but it makes for some legit competition.

The big question was, how can I compete against the likes of Walmart’s prices, still sell high quality prints, and meet the demand by my clients for digital files? So, I’ve been sitting on this idea for several months, researching, thinking, and planning.

I realized that we as an industry don’t have any set standards for professional print prices. They are all over the place. When I first priced my products I did so by looking at what other photographers were pricing for theirs. I have learned that I may be over valuing what I thought my prints were truly worth.

That led me to experiment. I wondered what it would be like to drop my print prices a little bit to compete with the likes of Walmart, but still make sales and a small profit off of what I sell. So the last several months I cut my prices on my prints a lot. I was surprised because I worried that no people would still print elsewhere or that I was devaluing my own work. However, my print sales have increased hugely. My clients are loving the new prices and the ability to get professional quality prints, and products at affordable prices.

I guess I didn’t expect it to work well, but I was willing to try it out. I’m making more off my print sales then I ever have before. I think my clients are happier. I’m happier too. This is an experiment I’m going to continue throughout this year to see where it leads me as wedding season begins.

I just wanted to share this story, and my thoughts with you. I think one of the most important things we can do as a business owner is stay current with what is popular with our clients and find a way to do what works for them in a way that we can also still benefit and be happy. Like I said, there are so many methods that work for different people in different ways. Mine isn’t always the right path for everyone, but I’m here to share and help if I can.

Product Review – Shootproof

UPDATE 5/30/13: Since this blog post was written I no longer use Shootproof as a way to send online galleries to my clients and use Pixieset exclusively. At this point in time I wasn’t very thrilled with Shootproof’s interface compared to some of the newer services that emerged on the scene. Some of the features of Shootproof have also changed quite a bit since the original date of this post. 

UPDATE: 3/11/15: Since the last update and even prior I’ve experimented with PASS, Zenfolio and a variety of online gallery options. Last week (as of this update) I went to WPPI 2015 and got to check out Shootproof’s amazing new user interface. A lot has changed since I originally wrote this post two years ago, but I continually get referrals from it. I was so impressed with the amount of changes, features, and customer service at their expo booth that I made the switch back to Shootproof and am SO EXCITED about their new interface they are releasing later this Spring (2015). Some of the information below may still be really out of date, because of age of this post, but I’m looking forward to writing a new Shootproof update in the coming weeks to show off all their amazing new features. I’ll link it here when it’s ready so you can continue to follow my journey all the way back around 3 years later to Shootproof – clearly they were always the dudes for me!

UPDATE: 3/21/17: Still using and loving Shootproof so much. To see some updates on this review head over >here< and >here< and make sure you use the coupon code: SWAILS25 to get 25% off any annual plan with them!

Now onward to the original post…

When I first switched from Smugmug to Shootproof.com I really wasn’t sure if it was going to be for me. I mean paying monthly for storage of a certain amount of photos, what if I needed more? What if it ended up too expensive? What if I didn’t like shootproof being my middle-man?

In the past when I used Smugmug I really didn’t enjoy having them be the middle man to all the orders, having to request my payments and only receive them once a month. If a client’s order had something go wrong I had to send them to Smugmug and couldn’t fix it myself very easily. In order to offer the best customer service possible I was searching for a place where I could give my clients an online gallery, allow them to order online and I would be able to set the prices and fulfill the orders myself. Shootproof.com was my best option so I tried it out (they have a free trial) and loved it. I was able to set my own prices, fulfill my own orders and change my pricing plan for how many photos I wanted to be on there depending on how much I needed.

One of the things that has always stood out to me the most with Shootproof is the customer service. A few days ago I got a personal phone call from someone who works there just to thank me for sending them referrals and other photographers. A phone call just to thank me is a pretty big deal in my book and just awesome. Now I’m looking forward to meeting the people behind the scenes at the WPPI conference in March!

1. Product Quality: 5/5 Awesome service. The options with Shootproof keep growing. You can chose from a variety of price points and plans. Basically I feel as though their options are endless and the staff is always adding new features. Everything is very intuitive and easy to use, and easy to find. You can customize your price lists and set everything up to fulfill orders yourself or you can chose one of the labs that shootproof offers service with and have the lab fulfill any online orders. The best part is you can have the lab fulfill only certain things and not others. I’m currently moving to a new lab http://www.proDPI.com because I had some sad customer service issues with Simply Color Lab who I’ve recommended in the past. One of the best parts of being with ProDPI is that they fulfill orders through Shootproof. I’ll be setting up my whole online ordering system so any prints will be automatically fulfilled by ProDPI and the canvases, albums and other press products I’ll fill myself with my other preferred labs. They have several other labs you can choose to work with as well, or you can choose none of the labs and fill all your orders yourself with the lab you like best.

2. Customer Service: 5/5 Basically any place that’s going to take 10 minutes out of their day to chat and thank me for my referrals would really get an above and beyond rating. This really stands out in my book. Places that make that extra step just to thank you are worth working with because you know they truly care about their customers. I’m incredibly impressed.

3. Ease of Use: 5/5 As I said before, the website is super easy to use. I’ve never needed to ask for help. It’s very intuitive so things are easy to find and easy to manage. I also love that when I get an order I get paid right away for it so I can get my client’s order in right away and don’t have to wait like I used to with Smugmug.

Anyway it looks like I’ll be sticking with Shootproof.com for a very long time and I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the faces behind their excellent service in March. Any company that goes above and beyond is just the absolute best in my book! Make sure to hit up their website >Shootproof.com< and give that free trial a go.

 

How to Clean Your Camera

how to clean your cameraDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

Hello world! Thanks for all your support and nice emails while I was down and out being sick with the flu. I’m SO happy to be getting back to blogging with you!

As the season slows down and you’re photographing less I really want all of you to consider taking your camera in for a cleaning. This is something that should be done annually, and sometimes photographers who use their cameras often will do it twice per year.

Essentially you just want your camera sensor to be cleaned, and have the pros give your camera a “check-up.” This can be super important for your camera’s health for the rest of the year. A check-up and cleaning can prevent worse problems down the line and sending your camera in now while you have time may save you lots of money and tears later.

Send it in to the Manufacturer for Cleaning
There are lots of different options for this. You can use the >Canon Professional Services< for repair or cleaning or >Nikon’s Professional Services.< You also have the option of using any local stores and their services as well.

One thing I would reccomend for Canon and Nikon users is paying an annual fee and becoming a member of the Professional Services groups above (for whatever camera type you have). This can save you money, and having a membership will often give you discounts on repairs, camera loans when yours is in service, quicker repair times and free annual cleanings. If you’re not a member and still want to send in your camera for cleaning you can still do that, but you may want to rent a camera from Borrow Lenses in the meantime so business doesn’t slow down.

When to Clean Your Camera & Lenses
As photographers we use our cameras pretty often and while there is no perfect time to clean your camera, when you start changing lenses and notice a lot of dust – get it cleaned. You may also notice dust spots on your images as well from your sensor.

Cleaning your lenses is another story. You can purchase a lens cleaning kit. I recommend if you are using your camera on a weekly basis to take the time to clean it once a week. When you purchase a lens cleaning kit follow the instructions carefully. The last thing you want to do is be rough with your camera and scrape the tinniest piece of dust across your glass.

Can I Clean My Own Camera?
Cleaning your sensor yourself may come with a risk of damaging your sensor too. A damaged sensor can be expensive to fix. If you aren’t familiar with your sensor or the inside of your camera I would say it’s safest to send it in to the experts to do it. The cost of a cleaning won’t be as much as a repair if you mess up your sensor trying to do it yourself. However, if you’re really sure you know what you’re doing, you can grab a cleaning kit online and do it yourself.

How Much Does It Cost?
With the Canon or Nikon Professional Services Membership you pay your membership fee and the cleanings are usually free.
I called my local camera store, which also does long distance repairs if you ship your camera in, Mike’s Camera, and they quoted me $65 for a cropped sensor and $95 for a full frame sensor. Each of these prices were quoted with one lens attached so you can get your lens professional cleaned as well. Additional lenses were around $18 each. If you take your camera to the manufacturer they will also update the firmware as well, so that’s something to consider.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to get myself a Canon Professional Services membership. Their middle tiered membership costs $100 annually and includes 2 cleanings among other things. Although, one of my cameras is still under warranty so I may send it in for free for a cleaning before the warranty runs out too.

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18 Products Photographers Should Sell

photography productsSo you set up your business, maybe you’ve figured out all that taxes and get legit stuff and maybe you’re sorta organized, but you’re taking photos and now you’re sitting down trying to decide how to sell them. I am offering a great class coming up on perfecting your In-Person Sales techniques, but maybe you want to figure out exactly what you want to sell first.

All these wonderful professional photography labs have so much STUFF you can sell to your clients and I find it overwhelming. A lot of people have asked what should they sell so here’s a list of all the basics. I try to limit what I have on my list to sell because I think too many options can be overwhelming and result in no sales. However, if someone asks for a specific product type I wouldn’t hesitate to offer them a “custom” sale.

This list is the items that I offer on a regular basis to my clients and are based on my experience over a number of years of what sells best. I find that wallet sheets and magnets and photo mouse pads aren’t big sellers for me. However, that being said, being a good salesman is all about being good at selling products. The more interested you are in the products you sell, the easier they are to sell. That means this may not be the best list for everyone. I know many photographers who are great at selling things like photomugs.

Print Sizes
4×6
5×7
8×10
11×14
16×20

Canvas Sizes
10×10
12×12
11×14
16×20
20×30

Birth Announcements, Save the Dates/Wedding Invitations, Graduation Announcements
Set of 25
Set of 50
Set of 75

Albums
*All come with options of Leather, Photo, or Fabric covers

The Little Black Book (5×7 for boudoir sessions)
5×5
8×8
10×10
12×12

Yes, I realize I didn’t list my prices here. How you price these items is up to you, but I would encourage you to not charge the wholesale prices the labs charge you. Price these items to make a profit since it takes you the time and effort to create the photos and then put in the orders. Pricing for these types of things vary as much as pricing for sessions depending on your area, region income averages and experience.

album design tutorial
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The Step-by-Step Photography Booking Process

photography bookingAfter you’ve marketed and you have your inquiries rolling in the door and you’ve emailed back and forth about pricing there can be a little bit of that “what’s next” going through your mind. The booking process is almost a workflow in itself and you want to ensure that you are going over the same information and treating each client the same. This is basically a little step-by-step guide on how I go through my booking process and what works best for me. Maybe it can help you out.

Step 1 – Meet in Person

One of the biggest sales tips I got from a well-known mentor on doing sales was to do them in person. Meeting people in person can be an opportunity to develop trust with a client. Once you develop a trust, their desire to work with you is higher. After emailing back and forth with prospective clients about pricing, what’s included and all that jazz I invite them to my office to meet. There’s no guarantee that we’ll sign the contract then and there, but it’s nice to meet in person, show them more photos, and give them an opportunity to ask as many questions as they’d like. By meeting clients in person I find my booking rate is very high. Rarely does anyone who comes to meet with me not book a session. In 2012 I had one prospective client not book with me after meeting and that was it for the year so I find this method to be a great way to be personable and really show clients that they’re not just hiring your photography talent, but also hiring someone they want to work with and be around. If you don’t have an office to meet at you can still plan to meet at a nearby coffee shop and bring sample albums and your portfolio with you. Remember to offer to buy the client coffee.

Step 2 – Follow Up

After a meeting with a client I always follow up within 24 hours. Send them an email letting them know how nice it was to meet them and how you think it would be great to work with them. Offer them an opportunity to sit on their decisions and email or call with more questions if they have any. I’ve received a lot of responses from clients who say that I was the only photographer they met with who followed up with them after so this can be a HUGE plus for them booking with you. Impress them with your attention and customer service.

Step 3 – The Contract & Deposit (Retainer)

Once they’re ready to book you need to have a signed contract. You can do the contract at the initial meeting if they’re ready or after. If I have clients who are ready to book at the meeting I just let them know I’ll email them the contract information after our meeting. I use >Pixifi< to sign contracts and accept deposits online. A retainer (deposit) is required to hold a date and I cannot hold a date without the deposit. Pixifi allows me to send an online invoice to my clients they can pay online with a credit card – it’s super easy!

Step 4 – Confirmation

After they have signed the contract and sent you the deposit be the first person to send them an email and say thanks! If you’re booking a wedding you can start talking about the where and when you want to do engagement photos. If you’re booking another session you can send them information to get prepared and start talking dates and locations.

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Step 5 – Share Information

Many photographers have magazines, books, brochures, welcome packets and more. I always wait until after I have a signed contract and deposit to send the information so I’m not wasting valuable time and money I’ve put into products to send it to a client who hasn’t booked. Once you’ve confirmed everything with them you want to send them any materials that will help them prepare for their photoshoot!

Step 6 – Send a Thank You Card or Gift

Depending on what type of client you are booking you may save a thank you gift until the end, but a thank you card right after booking with you is a great treat for your new client to receive in the mail. It can help you seal the deal and start bringing in their referrals before they’ve even been photographed by you!

Simple Wedding Photography
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