The number one question I get asked from fellow photographers is how I made the jump from being a new photographer to selling wall art and products to my clients. So I wanted to make sure and share my process of proof prints and making the jump to print sales.
When we are new to the industry, we are hungry for clients (okay, that never really changes), but we are new and learning so we photograph people and give them all of the digital files. It’s a way to build our portfolios, gain experience and move forward as we build our business and brand. There are some of us who continue with this business model. The industry calls them “shoot and share” photographers. And then there are those of us who want more out of it. There are those of us who want to offer a highly customized experience for our clients and make sure they are only getting the highest quality in all of their tangible art. You can read my thoughts on the shoot and share business model and I why I think it isn’t sustainable here, but let’s move on.
I got to a point where I wanted my brand to be more. I wanted to be a part of the process more. I wasn’t OK with just burning a CD and shipping it to my clients. It didn’t justify all of my hard work in preparing, planning, styling and shooting my clients. And the worst? The worst is all of the money and time invested into my education and training as a professional photographer only to have my client take the images to WalMart and print them. I have been trained to achieve the right skin tone and color in my images and WalMart does nothing for them. My brand was becoming too big to end up in a Walmart printer. I wanted only the best for my clients because that is what they and their personal art deserve. And hey, if they preferred WalMart printing that was fine, but they began paying a higher price to get the digitals.
So how did I make the jump? What were the steps? I knew where I stood and it was between being a new photographer trying to gain clientele and becoming a solid brand in the industry. How do you bridge that gap?
One obvious thing was to add more to my client process. I had to add value to what I gave my clients so there was never any question why they were paying what they were and why I sell art and products. I had to add value to the client experience to make it unique, enjoyable and unforgettable so that they enjoyed the process. So that they enjoyed the investment in their personal art because they understood the importance of it. I compare it to buying a handbag at Marshall’s or from Louis Vuitton. You can find a beautiful Ralph Lauren handbag at Marshall’s, but there’s no experience to it. People who love the experience of purchasing things get this. Even though Marshall’s may have a beautiful bag, you would love the Louis Vuitton more because of the feeling you get in the purchasing process.
My plan was to create tangible pieces within my brand and client process. To keep to the art of paper and tangible gifts so that from beginning to end, my brand was exuding what my belief is. And my belief is that the tangible photograph is priceless. No one wants to view their family photos through a screen. It loses all of it’s magic and story.
One of the pieces I added to make this change in my business model was proof prints. Included in my photo shoot fee is 4×6 proof prints of each image within my client’s final collection. While I was taking away offering all digitals to my clients, I still knew I wanted my parents to have copies of their photographs. The proof prints do this and they also offer a way to view what the images look like printed, if color needs tweaking at all as well as giving my clients an easy way to make future print orders without it being a hassle or headache. Let me explain what I do.
Each print has my logo added to it. This ensures there is printing protection and also reminds my client that these are not supposed to act as official art for their home. These are simply “negatives” for my clients to own. When I receive a set of proof prints in, I print a set of labels for them. The labels match exactly how the client’s images are stored in my digital system. So in the future, when Mom decides she wants to print a large canvas for a wall within her home, she simply emails or calls with the label on the back and I know exactly which image that is and can process her order right away. I don’t have to re-upload their client gallery. Simple, easy and convenient.
This year I am doing away with online proofing and sales and will be doing everything in person. A big step and one that I have thought about for some time knowing it was in the future for my brand. This will allow my clients to see my product line, be able to touch and feel finishes as well as ask me questions in regards to the appropriate art size for a particular space. Why? Because this is my job as their photographer. This is my job as an expert in my craft – to offer assistance to my clients every step of the way. Of course I will be sharing about this change and process in the future, but I hope my thoughts on proof prints are helpful in some way as you navigate the road for your own brand and business.