Back before I started doing in-person sales, I threw confetti, blew a noisemaker and did a celebratory dance both times that I sold more than $100 in prints. That’s right. Both. As in two (2) times. Now that I do in-person sales, my average client order is around $1,500.
Why the big difference? Let’s think about this. It’s time for you to buy a new car. What do you do? You go online and find the car you want, click ‘add to cart’ and wala!
That’s how everyone buys cars right? Of course not! If you were buying a new car you would go down to the dealership and test-drive that puppy. You would want to feel that new leather, crank up the stereo and see how it handles. Why do you think dealerships let you test-drive their cars? They know you are more likely to buy when you have driven the car.
The same is true for photography. In this digital society, people forget that there are amazing products available for photographic wall art. Do you think someone is going to buy a 20×30 canvas for their wall if they have never seen one before? Just like someone won’t purchase a car online before seeing it, most people won’t buy anything more than an 8×10 print if you don’t have other products to show them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you have to sell like a used car salesman. Doing in-person sales (IPS) doesn’t mean up-selling and pushing products on people. If you have done your job well and have beautiful product samples ready, the pictures will sell themselves.
So why is doing IPS so important? IPS lets your clients take your work/products for a test drive. They get to see and feel that awesome leather-bound album. You get to show them that a 16×20 canvas isn’t really all that big on the wall. And most importantly, you get to use your professional knowledge to guide them in their purchase. After all, they hired you because they loved your work and considered you to be a professional.
What sounds more professional to you?
“Your session has been uploaded into the online gallery. The gallery will be open for 2 weeks. If you have any questions let me know.”
“Your session is ready for viewing. We can meet in my studio or wherever is convenient for you. I will have product samples and pricing information for you to review. We will proof your images together so you can narrow down your favorites. The sales session usually only takes an hour and I will deliver your products to you when they are ready.”
I believe that in-person sales sessions are a portrait photographer’s best tool for increasing profit. But it’s not just about profit; it’s about giving your clients professional guidance and professional products that they will cherish forever.
I’m not saying that you should never use online galleries. I think that online galleries can be very beneficial in certain circumstances. For example:
- Wedding clients (for friends and guests)
- Commercial clients
I won’t speak much on commercial, event and sports clients because it is outside my scope of expertise. But I’d imagine that online galleries would be very beneficial for these busy clients who often need to exclusively purchase digital images.
For wedding clients, I recommend doing in-person sales before you ever post an online gallery as well as having a minimum order requirement that must be met before the gallery will be posted (or just built into your package). This will insure that the client places the bulk of their order in-person with you there to guide them. This also gives the clients an opportunity to see their photos before their guests. Online galleries are great for family, friends & guests to place orders.
I’m strictly a portrait photographer, so I don’t do online galleries at all. Personally, I think the risks outweigh the benefits. You see, when a client shows up for an in-person sales session with me, they know that it is their one big opportunity to view their photos and order products and they want to make sure they get everything they want. If my clients knew that there would be a gallery online for them later, they may hesitate and second-guess their decision and chose to wait. When this happens, they rarely end up ordering much (if anything). But if you really want to offer online galleries to portrait clients, I highly recommend having an order minimum that must be met before the gallery is posted.
I believe that the reason my business is surviving and thriving today is because of in-person sales. I’m so passionate about it that this year I created an in-person proofing app for the iPad to make IPS easy, portable and affordable for all photographers.
But if you don’t have an iPad, you can always use printed proofs from your professional photo lab. Be sure and get individual proofs and not a proof book (you’ll see why soon). I don’t recommend this in the long run as it is time consuming and expensive, but it’s great for the first few sessions until you’ve made enough to purchase an iPad. Whatever you use, make sure it’s professional. I don’t recommend using a computer or iPad program that isn’t designed for photo proofing. You’re running a top-notch photo business and you don’t want to look cheap!
I hope that helps you! Do you do in-person sales, online galleries or both? I’d love for you to share your experience in the comments!
Editors note: Ann recently answered this question on the YouProof Blog, so we wanted to share her awesome video as well.
Ann Bennett is a high-school senior portrait photographer serving northeast Oklahoma. She is also the founder of the YouProof app for in-person proofing.
Ann married her high school sweetheart just out of college and they live on a farm with their son, two dogs and two horses. She’s passionate about her faith, her family, photography, and helping photographers profit.