Today’s question is from Jenny who asks:
I’m In the newborns and family portrait space, When i look at other photographers, It’s depressing as they are so much better than me. Currently I have about 2 clients a month, which is not enough if i want to make this a proper business.
I recently dropped my prices in a hope to get more customers, but this resulted in the wrong clientele and they just wanted everything for cheap.
Most families want the digital files not many want products.
What am i doing wrong? How do I get out of this rut?
We discuss the topics –
- Set goals for yourself
- Learn to edit better
– Youtube and CreativeLive are excellent sources for free videos on photography
- Improve your photography technique
- Put yourself out of your comfort zone
- Don’t drop your prices, add value instead
- Offer and Sell products before digital files
- In person sales can help your sales
- Talk to other photographers and network
Learn to get your exposure during a portrait shoot
What should I charge for my photography
Let me just assure you that you’re not the only one that goes through this.
I go through this on a regular basis, especially if I’m photographing in places that I haven’t done before. I’ve looked at photos online to get ideas, and I just get what, you know? Love the way they have posed and edited the photos. I really hope that I’ve got the same conditions on the day.
It just comes down to experience. If you’re not as experienced as some of the photographers that you’re looking at, then, you’re going to think, “Oh, wow. Their stuff is amazing.” If you’ve got the same experience, I bet you could achieve the same, if not, better photos, okay? Don’t. be too down on yourself, Jenny.
What is it that you like about the photos?
Now, let’s just think about how we can get out of this rut, as you’ve put it.
I think first things first is setting yourself goals. If what you see from other photographers and what you like about them is things like their editing or the way how they’re carrying themselves on social media or doing their blog posts or how they’re doing their sales, well then I think you need to put some goals in place to keep yourself on track.
Now, I don’t think you should be always looking at other photographers, because you’re just going to drive yourself nuts. It’s great to get inspiration. What I recommend is you try to run your own race, Try to basically better yourself every time you do a session.
Don’t worry too much about other people. It’s okay to check in every now and again to see how other people are going, but more importantly, if you shoot a session this week, next, next week when you shoot another session, make it better than the previous week. It’s as simple as that.
You’ve just got to just have that mindset that, “I’m going to be better than I did the previous week. If I keep on doing that, it will just compound. I’ll get better and better and better,” and you will, okay?
What is it you’re liking about these photos that you see online? Is it the editing? Well then, you know, you’ve got to learn to edit better.
Get better at your photography
Going to places like YouTube and CreativeLive.
YouTube is free and so is CreativeLive if you watch it live as they’re recording it. I find that with CreativeLive, because I’m in the southern hemisphere, I’m in Australia, it’s a little bit difficult to see the live sessions sometimes. I don’t know if they’ve got replays, but I tend to actually like to purchase the courses.
The courses are there for three days, and for me, that’s simple because it’s start to finish. I can just sit there in my own time and do it. The same thing applies with YouTube, you know? I just have to just search a little bit more.
It just comes down to how you learn, you know? I find that sometimes, when I look for stuff on YouTube, I got a bit of a tangent. You know, I don’t end up looking at cat photos or anything like. It’s just more the fact that if I’m looking for a new editing technique, I end up finding just other videos and photography and losing track. That’s just me.
You know, that’s just my aspect. It’s learning how to edit better. Getting a good photo to begin with is important too. Learning proper photography technique, learning to compose, learning to expose a photo, learning to read light. You know, those are very, very important. If you have a crap photo to begin with, then all the editing you do to it is not really going to make it that much better. Well, it will make it better, but it’s not going to be phenomenal, okay? I’ll put it that way.
If you have a photo that you can … The highlights aren’t over-exposed, and the whole photo is not under-exposed, but it’s in that medium and it’s almost perfect when it comes to exposure, all you got to do is just tweak. You know, maybe work the sky a little bit more. Maybe work the skin. Just brighten up the photo a light bit and just make it pop, you know? That’s what, I guess, sells a lot of photos. It’s the photos that are pleasing to the eye.
Starting with a good photo is important. If you don’t photograph everyday, you’re not learning. If anytime that you’re photographing is at the particular session that you’re at, you’re limiting yourself. I would suggest, even if you don’t have your main camera that you use, even if it’s just a mobile phone, go out. Photograph everyday, you know? Put yourself out of your comfort zone in maybe photography genres that you don’t normally photograph.
This will help you get exposed to a lot of different situations that on the actual shoot itself, if something comes up, bang. Just like that, you can just change what you’re doing without too much fuss and just keep on going. That way, it will give you a lot of confidence in yourself and in your photography. Now, that’s all the beginning part about editing photos and taking the photos.
Don’t drop your prices, it will lead to the wrong client
Next is the business side. You mentioned that you dropped your prices. Look, dropping prices is one of those things where you are right. As you’ve discussed, you came across people that just wanted stuff for cheap.
If you sell a cheap product, you’ve got to work on volume. A lot of people do mini sessions and what they do, they’re giving 15, 20 minutes of their time for a small fee, but they’re not actually giving a lot of products. Well, they’re giving enough products for that price, and that’s the right way to do it. You see, where people go wrong is that they see mini sessions, and they go, “Oh, wow. I’ve just got to lower my price to come close to that, and I’m still offering the same thing.” No, that’s wrong because you’re losing profit for yourself and even your cost of goods.
You may not even be covering your cost of goods, but if you look at people that are doing mini sessions, they’re working on volumes.
In one day, they could be doing 10, 15, 20 sessions, right from the beginning of the day to the end, right?
They’re offering one print, two prints, maybe one or two digital files. They’re also offering to upgrade their passages, you know?
Doing a bit of an upsell with them after. That could be in the form of an in-person sales which I’ll talk a little bit later in the second. That’s not a bad way of doing it. You’re offering a cheaper price, but you’re also not giving them the same as what you normally would, okay? That makes sense, right? The other thing is to offer products before you sell the digital files.
Sell more than just the digital files
Now, you said that most families want digital files and not many people want products.
Well, what have you got on your website? Are you saying, like your pricing, if you have any pricing, are you saying digital files as the package that’s just by itself? People are saying, “Oh, hey. I want that,” because people see value in digital files. They just want the digital files, so they can do what they want with them.
Now, what about if you were to say offer digital files only if they were to purchase a product? I do this. If they want the digital files, they need to purchase prints and not just 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 or 8 x 10.
They’ve got to purchase a framed print or a canvas print before they can get digital files. I will offer them, if they’re in a collection for five large frames, prints or canvases, I will offer a very small version of a digital file of their print.
This version is not really supposed to be printed from. I have seen some clients do it. It looks meh. That’s the way to put it, really. It’s not nice, and I do them purpose.
If they want digital files, they have to pay for that. That’s okay, because you’re going to lose customers doing this, but you’re getting a certain type of clientele, right?
You’re getting clientele that values the photography. You’re getting clients that, well they think, “Hey, you can do the product better than me. You’re the professional. I want you to do it.” They’re the people that you want.
You know, you’ve got to have good products to offer them. Just going down to a local discount store. We’ve got stores called Big W and Kmart and places like that, Harvey Norman.
These stores offer little prints for 15 cents. We all can print that off, but if you offer, say, a print that has a nice mat with a nice frame, well then, that’s probably something they probably can’t get from these stores. They have to go print it off. They have to go find the frame. Maybe if they have to get it professionally framed. In the end, they would have spent a lot amount of their time trying to achieve that.
That’s when you as a professional photographer come and offer nice products. that’s my thinking when it comes to offering digital files. I mean if your packages, say, are offering digital files but nothing else, then that’s what people are going to be drawn to.
See, the thing is about in-person sales. They go hand-in-hand with selling physical products because they can touch them. When you show them an album of this is what their family’s going to look like, people can look at it and go, “Yes, I like the feel of the cover. I like the pages. I like the way it’s set out. It tells a story.” You know, it’s easy for you to sell.
You know, putting photos up on the gallery is one thing, but by getting to be in-person like physically with you either in their house or your house, and you’re saying, “Okay, we’re here.” You tell them, obviously, beforehand, “We’re here to select photos that you’d like to have printed or framed or in an album,” and you go from there.
You basically are whittling down from 20, 30 photos that you may start with to a group of photos that they are going to purchase to be made into products. Your return is going to be so much greater than $150 or $250 for digital files I see some people selling online.
I’m not saying that you sell them that cheap, Jenny, but that’s generally what I see online. Now, it’s one of those things that it will take time. It’s not an overnight thing, you know? You’ve got to practice your editing. You’ve got to practice your photography technique, You’ve got to offer value. Why are they coming to you?
They could just go to someone else. They could hire, I don’t know, a photographer that, you know. You said people put ads up in these Facebook groups that say, “Oh, I’m looking for a student that can give me some top quality photos.” Well, I’m sure there are students that can do that, but what they’re really after is, “I don’t want to pay much. I’m hoping I’m going to get a student that wants a little bit of cash.” That’s all they’re after.
If we can differentiate ourselves from those type of people and give quality products, and when you meet with them, you show them a beautiful frame, beautiful books and other products that you can sell. They’re going to go, “yes, all right. I can see why you’re charging more. I will pay for that because they are gorgeous.”
Network with other photographers
Just lastly, talk to other photographers. Network with them. See what their pain points are. See what they’re doing in their business. You know, I’m not saying for you to go out there and say, “Hey, how much do you sell a 20 by 30 framed print,” or “How much do you sell your albums?”
You know, it’s basically to just talk to them and realise for yourself that not everyone, it’s not all about unicorns and rainbows, you know? Being in a photography business is not easy.
There’s a bit of a hustle you got to do. You got to constantly get customers unless you’re getting a good flow of referrals. It will happen. You get enough customers through the door at a certain price point. They will tell their friends. It will snowball from there.
Jenny, just to finish off, I’ve put some links to other podcasts and articles that I’ve written that will help you just to know that it’s not an easy thing. What you’re experiencing, well, happens to all of us, okay? I think you’re being a little bit too hard on yourself, Jenny. Just take it one step at a time. Set some goals, and I bet that your photography will improve. You’ll be a lot happier with everything.