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.