Online Proofing and Sales

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by ekaterina_s, May 24, 2012.

  1. Hello, everyone!
    So, I've set up a very simple web site, where I can upload pictures onto galleries and have my clients review them and pick which ones they want. What I've noticed is that it actually got worse, not better.
    When I had families look at the galleries, they were all so excited, loved the pictures, showed them to the whole world.... and lost all interest in them. Even though it came as a surprise at first, I slowly realized it's sort of a social network effect - "if all of my friends saw my pictures and how beautiful I am, why do I need anything else? I'll just move on..." So my income stops after I get my session fee, and then people tell me "I'll def do something, just not right now".
    The other situation I am facing is that when I do preschools (which I do a lot), parents just don't look at the pictures online. Either they are not computer literate, or they don't want to bother checking something on the computer when they get home, or they simply forget to look. Even those who said they were definitely going to purchase a specific package. So I end up printing what I choose, which is not a bad situation, but I am loosing on a potential up-sale from parents who might like to have more pictures than what I've included in the package, because there are always more than 3-4 really good ones for every child. AND I am loosing time waiting for parents to log on and look at the pictures, which is also a huge problem, as I don't have that much time to begin with.
    So was that web site a not-very-smart investment? Should I go back to paper proofing or not do proofs at all (for preschools), and in-person proofing for families?
  2. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The world has changed. People don't want prints that much. Most of them ended up in a drawer for years, back when they did want them, so maybe they have just figured out that they never really wanted them.
    Charge what you need to make for the shoot and for print-quality files if they want them, and don't look at prints as the way to make money. I sell prints at a fairly low price, but I get them done at Costco (the local one has very high standards), people like them and it's extra money.
  3. Jeff, thanks for advice! Clearly, my problem is that my session fee is way too low, but raising it now will make some of my regular clients angry. I wonder what would be a good business approach to discussing these things with them, especially with those who do order albums and prints. I charge what I feel is reasonable for digital images, but what upsets me is when people don't even want that, because they've used my site as a sharing platform for "this is what my life looks like right now" for their friends and family.
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Maybe one way is to raise the session prices and tell them it includes a set of prints.
  5. Ekaterina, Thank you starting this thread! You now have me wondering. I did a wedding last year and they loved the photos. As usual I tell them to choose X amount of images for agreed price and then I mail them the cd. I also give them the option to have their own prints made or order from my Smugmug website. I warn them about quality inks, paper and the other stores not getting the colors right, compared to Smugmug. Of course, they rarely use my site, but probably opt for their local drug store, wallyworld etc... to save a few bucks. So it has been 13 months. I contacted the wedding 6 months ago to check on them and they told me they had been busy with work, kids etc... I wonder if they got divorced :-0
    In November I did a family shoot and same situation. They loved the pix but still have not got around to choosing the images for me to tweak and send to them. I have already been paid for both events, so it is not a problem, but now you have me thinking I should change the passwords, since they may be just using my website for viewing. I have watermarks all over the images, so I doubt they are doing screen shots of them. It used to be that families chose their images within a month, if not a couple of weeks, but I am getting more people taking a long time to decide.
    I wonder if that is why some photographers post on their websites that the photos will be up for 30 days or so?
    I should not complain, since I have gotten paid and I don't have to spend time tweaking images, but then again, I hope that some of the clients will order from my website. I don't think I am overpricing my prints. When I shoot events like triathlons and parties at local clubs, I have no problem selling prints.
  6. John, do you have different systems for selling prints at triathlons and parties than you do for weddings or is it just a different kind of crowd? I also wonder if watermarks are not a big deal for doing screenshots and then posting them on social networks or keeping on your computer for viewing? And I think in light of this discussion keeping the gallery up for 30 days only makes a lot of sense!
  7. Ekaterina, In the past I have shot the triathlons and parties for free. I make sure to get my contact info on their websites, plus print up lots of flyers that I post at the event. And of course, I hand out lots of business cards. Any money earned is from sales of the prints. I also network at the events, but I don't recall anyone ever calling for a wedding or family beach shoot and telling me that they remembered me from the past event, but have sold a few prints of my photo art from people that were looking at the event photos.
    Tough thing about shooting events for free and hoping that people order prints is... many people have a cell phone camera or a small P&S now-a-days.
    If you look at my Family Beach Portraits sample gallery you will see that the watermarks are pretty obvious. I guess if they did a screen shot, I would at least get some free advertising:)
  8. John, beautiful work, and the watermarks are pretty obvious, I agree...
  9. AND I am loosing time waiting for parents to log on and look at the pictures, which is also a huge problem, as I don't have that much time to begin with.​
    I don't understand what you mean. There is no time impact on you once the photos are on the gallery. The onus is on the parents to get on the computer, click on that link you provided and either Add to Cart or not. This whole process could happen while you are having dinner or at the grocery store. So I don't see what time issue you have apart from the waiting.
    We do some school shoot every year. It's not our main service (mainly portraits) but every so often some schools like our work and wants us to shoot for them. Our approach is to make sure the school and its parents are a right fit for our photography. If they are, then we work together to promote it. Our sample photos are put up ahead of time to give an idea of what to expect by the parents. They get excited. School distributes pre-order forms. We only shoot those that PAID upfront prior to the photoshoot. Works well for our overall workflow. No waits, no proofs, no online. They get the very best pick from us. Our pre-order rate is around 80-100%.
    Some parents will ask to see if they are more photos of their child. We work through that on a case by case basis.
    School shoot is not our primary focus, so we want to keep it simple and proceed along efficiently.
  10. Alwin, what a great approach to school shoots! Thanks for sharing, I have a lot to learn. I do about 3-4 schools twice a year, and I've been extremely inefficient. I make my profit, but it's very time-consuming. I don't own a pro account, because I am way too small for anything but a basic at this point, AND most parents I've worked with don't even know how to navigate through a web-site, really. When I do portraits, families and events, most people want a gallery for viewing, a CD and/or album, not prints. I tried only shooting those who signed up in advance at schools, but it just did not work. Two families signed up, and when I said it'd go ahead and do it anyway, I had 10 orders at the end of the day (it was a small preschool). So when I say I waist my time, it means I am sitting there while my projects pile up on me... I am sorting through great advice like this to implement a new system though, learn something new every day!
  11. "Clearly, my problem is that my session fee is way too low, but raising it now will make some of my regular clients angry."
    Ekaterina, I just wanna throw out that you could raise your prices to everyone else, but keep your regular clients happy with the prices they're used to. We always keep our regulars lower, such as a friend of mine who comes to me every year. Or for some I will give them extras instead, when they pay the current prices. My regulars usually get a free upgrade to high-res discs, too. Just a thought. Good luck! :)

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