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Opinions expressed are based on the Author’s own experience.
You’ve set up the photo session. You’ve taken the pictures. You’ve culled, and edited, and poured your heart into creating works of art. The next step, of course, is getting those images in front of your client.
But the debate rages on among professionals in the photography business: in-person sales or online galleries? What is the best way to show your clients their images and which option will be most profitable for your business?
With in-person proofing, a photographer meets with a client in-person to show the images from a photo session. No studio? No big deal. Meet with clients in their home, or at a local coffee shop. (Keep the receipt from that coffee you buy them for tax season!)
Basic Tools You’ll Want
- 4×6 prints of the sessions images, or a computer/tablet with the digital files loaded into a slideshow.
- Order forms and pens.
- Your price list. Get a copy printed at your favorite lab and mount it for durability.
- Samples. Bring along a small canvas, a gallery wrap, an accordion book, and whatever other products you’d like to sell. Be able to show the client what a finished product looks like; it’s easier to buy something when you can hold it in your hands instead of imagining how it might look!
- Knowledge. Know your products! Be able to explain to the client how long the color on their prints will last, why they should choose a 20×30 canvas over an 8×10 print for the living room wall, or why they may wish to choose a soft-covered book over an album for Grandma.
Advantages of In-Person Proofing
Let’s face it: you’re a business person. The reason you’re selling your photography is to make money. (Yes, you want people to be happy, and yes, you love taking photos, but if you can’t keep your business afloat, you won’t be able to do either of those things!) Meeting with your client in-person gives you the upper hand in the sales process.
When you hand those proofs over to the client to view for the first time, you get to see her immediate emotional reaction to your work. This knowledge is crucial in the sales process: sell the images she cried and gushed over, and stress less about the images she wasn’t entirely impressed with. Trying to sell a large canvas? Do it with the image she fell in love with. She only wants your mid-sized package, but you’d like to sell the next package up? Remind her how much she loved the photo of her two children hugging, and how she won’t want to part with it. Being a part of the emotional connection helps guide your sales.
Disadvantages of In-Person Proofing
In-person sales takes time, a lot more time than slapping your images online and sending your client a link. A viewing session could take upwards of an hour, plus travel time and the extra time it takes to order the proofs from the lab, prepare a presentation folder, and print order sheets.
In-person sales also takes an initial investment; you’ll need to incorporate your cost of printing proofs and your vehicle’s gas into your pricing, the same way you incorporate your cost of goods. Don’t have an iPad and want to show your images digitally? You’ll have to cough up a bit to invest in one. However, if you’re willing to go the extra mile, you can certainly benefit in profits from in-person sales.
In-person sales also works best for photographers who are comfortable with setting limits. You have to be able to walk away from an sales session with the client knowing he or she leaves everything behind if she doesn’t make a purchase. The sales appointment is the sales appointment; no sales are made afterwards and the client doesn’t get any more time to make their decisions.
The alternative to in-person proofing is online proofing, meaning rather than meeting with your clients face-to-face, you post their images in an online gallery. From there, the clients decide which photos they want to order, and perhaps are even able to access digital files for download, depending on your business plan and product offerings.
Tools You’ll Want
The beauty of online proofing is the sheer lack of materials needed to successfully post your images in a gallery (affiliate). You’ll simply need an online proofing company that incorporates all of the necessary components (organized galleries, a cart or payment system so your clients can pay online, a way to email your clients with pertinent information, etc.) and an internet connection that can handle the uploading of your images at a decent pace. However, don’t forget to ask yourself about components that are often overlooked:
- Do the galleries have a professional look that matches your branding?
- Is the system easy to use, for both you as the photographer and on the client end?
- Will you be charged commission on your sales, or will the company dictate how much you must price your products?
- Can you set passwords and keep galleries private if you choose to?
- Can your clients pay for their purchases online without ever leaving the proofing website, for a seamless checkout process?
- Does the company integrate with local professional labs? Can you have your client’s orders printed directly, or do you have to be the middle-man?
- Are enhanced features available? Can you add music, create a slideshow, make mobile apps?
- Is there a support department that can answer questions late at night, when you’re trying to meet that important deadline?
Advantages of Online Proofing
Online proofing is pretty painless in that it doesn’t require the immense amount of time that in-person sales does, and it also is a low-pressure way to sell your images. This can come in handy especially for photographers that sell packages up front and all a client needs to do is choose the specific images to complete them. Online proofing is also a great way to show unedited files to a client with ease; some photographers prefer to allow the client to choose which photos will be edited or, for example, in a wedding gallery, which photos will be shown to friends and family. Showing your proofs online also gives your clients time to make their choices, and of course, to be able to show Grandma (who lives across the country and could never make it to an in-person proofing session) the images so she can make her own print and product purchases.
Disadvantages of Online Proofing
While it’s an advantage to have low-pressure proofing, it’s also a disadvantage. When clients are given all the time in the world to make their print choices, it can be harrowing to get them to make a final decision. (Choosing an online proofing company that allows you to set expiration dates on the galleries can help with this problem.) Up-selling becomes a null point with online proofing; how often will clients willingly spend more than they planned to when they do not feel the pressure to make their decision right away? (Remember: you’re a business person!)
You also lose the ability, as a professional, to review product choices with your clients when all of their choices are made online. For example, clients may not understand the difference between canvases and standouts; without a sample and without you there to explain the features, that client may find it easier to purchase a simple $25 print, and whoosh! — there goes your $300 sale.
In Person Sales with Online Galleries: Combining the Two
It is perfectly possible to get the best of both worlds by meeting your clients in-person, and also utilizing an online proofing company.
Imagine it: you meet your client over a latte in your studio or at the client’s home. You have printed proof-sized prints for them to sort into “like & dislike” piles, or you have uploaded their proofs to your online proofing website and have a slideshow ready, set to music.
Your clients gush over their images; they love how you’ve captured the moment beautifully, they love flipping through the pictures, and they can’t stop staring at their favorites. You show them a sample of a canvas and go over the features; you describe the professional print quality of your lab and how modern a canvas looks on the wall. You explain your pricing and what packages are available, or you remind them of what they’ve already pre-paid and discuss the add-on options you have to offer, reminding them that Grandma would love an accordion album and Aunt Sue certainly needs a few prints for her wall.
You let the client know that you will email the link to the online gallery directly over to them, so that they can choose the picture they love most for their mantle, and that you’ll set up a promo code for them so that there’s no cost to them. You also offer to create a mobile app of the client’s favorite photos to share with all of her friends and family members, knowing that the app will link back to the gallery where these viewers can make their own purchases. The gallery will remain active for a few weeks, so that if your client decides she needs just one more print, she can order it simply and easily, and it will be delivered straight to her.
Your client gets digital downloads as a part of her package? That’s easy with an online proofing company, and doesn’t cost near as much as purchasing USB drives or CDs with fancy labels. It also doesn’t mean giving up any more of your time to make that happen: remind your client she can go through the gallery later, make her choices, and a link will be emailed to her instantaneously, along with the text of your Print Release. She can download her photos at her leisure and store them safely on her own computer. For kicks in the marketing department, tell her you’ll also send her low-res, watermarked versions of her ten favorites that she can share on Facebook and Pinterest.
Proofing Gallery Solution
Your research into an online proofing company can begin and end today with ShootProof. ShootProof is a close-knit team of developers, product designers and professional photographers who help photographers run their businesses. Since 2010, we’ve helped tens of thousands of photographers sell, share and print millions of photos. Best of all? ShootProof charges ZERO commissions on your sales, and is easy to get up and running in minutes to get your photos in front of your clients. Get a 30 day trial to ShootProof.