Welcome back for another edition of “Don’t Be Lazy!”, your dose of tough love when it comes to your photography career… you may have the artistry down, but if you don’t understand the fundamentals of running a business, and you don’t work your butt off to put it all into practice, you won’t be a professional photographer for long.
It’s officially autumn, which can only mean one thing: holiday print orders are about to begin! You may have just pulled your sweaters out of storage and started ordering pumpkin spice lattes, but your workflow should be heading into full-on winter mode. This is your chance to give a nice bump to your revenue—if you formulate a strategy ahead of time and are diligent in executing it.
“But, Richard,” you say. “My clients don’t want to buy prints. They just want their digital files.”
Those excuses won’t work here, buddy.
It’s your job as a photographer to educate your clients on the value of print, and it’s your job as a business to sell products/services and make a profit. If you aren’t selling prints, you are missing a chance to make additional revenue from a client you’ve already obtained. And any good business owner knows that it is easier and less expensive to keep an existing client than to get a new one. Why would you miss out on an opportunity like this?
DON’T BE LAZY! With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can turn winter into a profitable season. Richard has five pointers to help you pull it off…
PREACH THE IMPORTANCE OF PRINTS
There are tons of reasons for your clients to buy prints from you and not just digital files—like the risks of expiring technologies, the personalized sentimentality of a printed photo gift, and the convenience & superior quality of prints that you, as the photographer, can provide. So, make sure they get the message! Use every opportunity, from phone calls to emails to handwritten notes, to communicate the value of prints to your clients.
Psst… It’s best to start these conversations before a shoot even takes place, but if you didn’t, don’t be discouraged—the holiday season is another relevant time to gush over all the wonderful things about printing your photos!
You can find five persuasive talking points to convince clients not to pass on prints (plus a few other things you can do to subtly promote print sales) here.
KNOW YOUR COSTS
If you’re going to make money, you better know your raw costs. If you’ve been keeping up with our “Don’t Be Lazy!” blog series, you already know the importance of tracking all your expenses for everything that keeps your business running. When it comes to holiday print orders, you’ll want to keep an eye specifically on your raw costs for individual print products, the order minimum price from your lab, and the cost of shipping (whether you’re drop shipping using your lab’s packaging options or having the lab ship to your studio so you can mail the prints yourself).
Oh yeah, don’t forget to weigh in the value of your time, too! Calculate how many hours you’ll spend marketing to clients and prepping/placing their orders, and assign a clear hourly dollar value to that time. This will not only help you build that time spent into your pricing, but will also help you balance how much time you are spending on promoting holiday print sales with how much you expect to see in return.
PRICE YOUR PRINTS STRATEGICALLY
Now is the time to mark up your prices… like, RIGHT NOW! Why? You see, the psychological strategies behind sales & discounts are absolutely fascinating (there’s tons of great reads available on the science of sales, so get out there and do some research). The idea here is to bank on principles of value and urgency to get your clients buying.
If you increase your prices now, you can offer significant discounts during the holiday season that make your customers 1) feel like they are getting an item that is of much higher value than they are paying for it, and 2) feel a sense of urgency to purchase before the discount is no longer available. But increasing your prices now is key to still making a worthwhile profit on these sales.
REACH OUT EARLY AND OFTEN
Part of making sure you’re prepared to deliver prints is making sure your clients know it’s time to order them. Start reaching out now so your clients know that there are plenty of opportunities coming up that are perfect for prints, from holiday cards for everyone on their list to photo gifts for loved ones to a New Years’ spruce up of their walls with frames or canvas wraps.
You can also boost your efforts by turning every day into an occasion for prints! Early-bird sales, abandoned-cart sales, last-minute sales, start-of-winter sales, end-of-year sales, one-for-you-one-for-a-friend sales, the possibilities are endless…
If you’re using a gallery & storefront hosting site (like Instaproofs, Shootproof, or Pic-Time), then you already have tons of great marketing tools at your disposal to automate communication not only with your clients but everyone who has viewed a gallery. That last part is pretty important, so take note—think of how many more prints you can sell when you have extended family buying prints from a kid's portrait session or the entirety of the guest list buying prints from a wedding!
Bonus: Make sure your gallery is organized to facilitate sales—detail shots from a wedding are great for publications, but no one will be buying a fine art print of the bouquet. Highlight portraits and candid moments featuring people.
KNOW THE DEADLINES
Don’t let the clock run out on print orders! First, make sure you know your lab’s turnaround times on prints. Remember, turnarounds don’t include shipping time, so you’ll need to factor that in, too.
Then, figure out your deadlines so you can communicate them outwardly. You’ll need to consider how long it takes you to prep files for print, your lab’s turnaround times, the volume of print orders you’ll probably be placing (to gauge your workload), and how much extra “wiggle room” you need to give yourself (since surely you won’t be spending the next three months in front of your computer waiting to submit the next order that comes in).
Bonus: the earlier you can get a client’s order, the more profit you can make! That’s because you can wait to fulfill orders for certain print products until your lab puts them on sale, lowering your raw costs. Lay out some early-bird deadlines with incentives, like a free 8x10 print or discount on a future portrait session, to help get orders back to you promptly!
Every photograph has a story. Framed prints keep stories alive...
This piece of gear might not be in your camera bag for a typical paying gig, but it should be: a tripod. It goes hand in hand with film, just like a light meter, but it’s often overlooked (especially by hybrid photographers). Why pump up the ISO on your digital camera instead of grabbing your tripod and shooting film?!
Tripods aren’t just for “slow photography” like landscapes or studio portraits—they can be incredible tools that help you control variables so you can shoot film throughout an entire wedding or other event.
Photo by Rebecca Yale
SHOOT IN LOW LIGHTING
Film loves light, which is why a lot of photographers are hesitant to stick with it in dim conditions. But this is the perfect time to bust out your tripod with some high-speed film! You can feel free to set that shutter speed nice and sloooooow so your negatives have time to soak up all the light they need—and you won’t have to worry about holding the camera steady.
In this scenario, the tripod will not help you get the first kiss shot in a dark church or catch the tear rolling down Mom’s face... but it will capture a shot of the inside of the church with candles everywhere that sets the scene of the wedding. The reality is, light and locations are sometimes not ideal at weddings—you have to make do with what you have. You may find yourself shooting details in a dimly lit room because it’s raining outside. But the details don’t move, and the tripod doesn’t move, so you will be able to keep that shutter open as long as possible and not suffer from underexposure.
When a photographer knowingly underexposes their film, pushing that film (leaving it in developer longer during processing) can be a way to compensate. But it can also cause color shifts, and that risk can make pushing your film a no-go. This is another reason that tripods are so nifty in low lighting—you can keep hues and contrast looking natural by giving your film enough time to be properly exposed in camera.
Using visual elements to inject atmosphere & feeling into an image is what separates simply recording a scene from capturing a moment in time forever. As a pro photographer, you are tasked with documenting a once-in-a-lifetime event that someone has spent months, even years, planning. So your goal is not only to deliver the visible moments they experienced, but the emotions they felt being in those moments. Tripods can be a tool for transforming real events into a gripping piece of fine art by helping create ambience, motion, and more!
Photo by Jose Villa
Rebecca Yale explains how a tripod was the key to getting the perfect movement and ambience in the below shot: “I use a tripod when I want to show movement in the frame. I took about two rolls of film of this exact scene as the pigeons whirred around the couple so I could try out a few different exposure options and have my pick for the exact position I wanted the pigeons in, framing the couple.
Photo by Rebecca Yale
"I asked them to stand very still as I was bracketing at 1/30th, 1/15th, 1/8th and 1/4th of a second on my tripod. I wanted to show movement in the wings of the bird but still have them in focus enough to see them. This frame was clearly the winner, but I always like to overshoot moments with movement, taking extra frames so I can decide later which is the best. The slightest of movements from the beating of a bird’s wings to the extension of a pinky finger to the angle of a leg can transform a good photo into a great one.”
When you use your tripod, your camera angle and framing becomes standardized for every shot you take. This makes getting consistency a breeze! Think about group portraits or detail shots—your camera position is set for the best lighting and composition while you move the subject matter in, out, and around the frame. For a lot of photographers, shooting film is a way to slow down and truly think about every shot, and a tripod only complements that idea. It will help you create and fine-tune your composition strategy, and then carry that carefully-considered planning into multiple frames.
Photo by Jose Villa
Now, we're not saying there isn't a time and place to bust out your digital camera, but we want you to feel empowered to choose from all the options you already have in your photography tool kit (and think outside the creative box). If you love shooting film, then consider a tripod your new best friend!