Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday: How Do You Present Your Work – Cafeteria style or Fine Dining Style?

Good Morning Everybody,
Day 4 in the Smokies and I'm still locked to the computer. LaDawn is dragging me out today for a little fresh air and a little sight seeing - I think I could use it today.

On a different note, I was up early this morning trying out the video capabilities of my 5D Mk II. Here is what I'm thinking - this camera would be great for creating some upcoming Technique Tuesday episodes.

The camera captures in Quicktime/MOV format which my latest version of Camtasia 6 will now accept. That means the edit should be quick and easy. My first tests were really encouraging. I'm going to give it a try for next week's Technique Tuesday so stay tuned. Anyway, how about we get on with Business Day Thursday - it's a really good one today.

How Do You Present Your Work – Cafeteria style or Fine Dining Style?
Two weeks ago, as you know, LaDawn and I spent a week in Mexico with our friends Kent and Sarah Smith. It was about midweek at the end of the day when Kent and I got ourselves a glass of red wine and headed outside onto the back patio to watch the stars and discuss business in general.

Whenever we get together we are always talking about our businesses and how to fine tune both the production and selling aspects of them. This particular evening we got talking about sales, and how his staff prepares for a sales session at his studio. The gist of that conversation is what I want to share with you today.

Most photographers go out shoot to photograph high school seniors, family portraits, wedding photographs, babies, executives or whatever. Once those images are out of the camera and onto the computer, the photographer has to decide what kind of presentation he's going to make to his client of those images.

For many photographers, it's simply getting them posted online, letting the client make their choices, place their order, and then deliver the finished images. By the way, two week's ago, in my post, “Are You Doing Your Customers A Disservice and Cheating Yourself As Well?" I discussed that this was probably not the best way to maximize the impact of your images or your sales with your client.

Some photographers may present the images in some kind of a proof presentation. But, as I said last week, unless we are proactively involved with our clients in the sales process, expect the sales to go nowhere.

The main reason for this lack of sales, both in the Internet proofing and what has been called the proof pass for a number of years, is the fact that the client really has no way of knowing what all the different image possibilities are and in what various means they could enjoy their photographs – they are only picking out pictures, but never any product!

Anyway, as Kent and I were talking, he says, "You know, it's not the time it takes to photograph the subject that takes up most of our time at my studio. Most of our time is spent editing the images and then creating our list suggestions for how the client might use and enjoy the photographs."

It was that remark that struck me. What did he mean creating suggestions for his clients? What kind of suggestions was he making to his clients? How can making these suggestions anyway enhance the final sale?

If you think about it folks, many photographers just shoot the photographs and get them in front of the client eyes without much ado about how to sizzle the photographs and their presentation. This is what I call the cafeteria approach to image presentation. And you know when you shop for food in the cafeteria, it's not about the food presentation, it's not too appetizing, it's fast, and it's usually less expensive then available at other fine dining restaurants.

Kent and I discussed how his staff not only does a tight edit on those images but, it's also the photographer’s responsibility to shoot their images keeping in mind many of the products that his studio offers. For instance, if they've photographed an entire family, additional photographs would be captured of the children individually, the children together, mom and dad together, and any other combination that they feel really gives a good coverage for the family portrait session.
During a senior session the photographer may purposely move to a softer background and softer lighting that better enhances the painterly effect they often create for their clients.

Now, what to do with all these photographs? Several are converted to B&W, some are shown in a painterly fine art presentation, and many are shown in various product templates featuring many of the studio’s best products for this particular shoot.

You get the idea here, I hope. What Kent’s studio does is prepare and then show each of those “best of the best” images from the shoot in their best light and best product possibilities before the client even walks through the door to view the images. So, two things are happening here. First, he's not making a cafeteria style presentation of his images. Secondly, he's found a way via software -- in this case Pro-Select -- to show these images in his studio product line that he feels his clients will love. And most importantly, his staff is proactively involved in the sales process beginning with the photographers during the actual shoot planting seeds of expectation and then showing the full range of product ideas the studio has to offer as they move through the sales appointment with the client.

What's the bottom line? The bottom line is that if we really want to be successful in this business, we really have to give a first-class presentation of our best images and also present the full range of products we sell. We really need to be the fine dining photography studio if we really want to experience our best in sales.

Does this work for my friend Kent Smith? Well, in the course of that conversation he shared with me that for the first time in his photographic career, that his studio will break $1 million in sales for 2008. In these economic times as studio after studio continue to close their doors, I think success speaks for itself.

Food for thought.
Hey gang message for me today. Remember don't be a cafeteria style photographer. Work with the ingredients -- your images – and your product line, and experience a nice up-swing in your sales. I'll plan to see everybody again tomorrow for another edition of Gear Bag Friday – The Case For The Room Light.

Everybody have a great one – David

Related Link:
Are You Doing Your Customers A Disservice and Cheating Yourself As Well?


  1. Cashiers is in the Blue Ridge Mountains, not the Smokies.


  2. David - These are excellent ideas for someone who has studio or office space and can bring their clients in for presentation. I am just starting out and am working from my home office and I don't know any better presentation ideas than just putting them in online galleries. Are there any suggestions for people like me or better online presentation solutions?

  3. I am with Stacy on this one. All I have is my garage for a make shift studio and with a wife, kids, and dogs in the house, a more proper showing isn't really an option. Putting them online appears to be the best option...any thoughts?

  4. David's point isn't about the medium for presentation (online or offline) but about the quality of the presentation, about creating and making the best ones for a focussed presentation -which could be online- rather than a shotgun, here-they-all-are, so-many-I-didn't-get-to-enhance-them-yet style. Right David?

  5. Many years ago as my former husband was starting his wedding business we too had 3 young children, a dog, pet rabbits.... His business became a family priority that the kids learned to embrace. As my former husband would meet with the clients I would take the kids into our bedroom with special snacks, puzzles or a Disney movie that we could all crawl up on mom and dad's bed to hide-out for some times up to 3-4 hours of the presentation. Other times we would head to the library or a park with a special picnic and then sneak back into the house to hide-out if Dad still needed additional time. I agree it was not a ideal situation - but not surprisingly we all survived.

    My kids are all grown-up now, 25-30 years old, but still recall fondly to our hide-out times in mom and dad's bedroom. It was certainly a challenge to keep everyone quiet and disagreements to a minimum, but they learned that this was Dad's special time and we all needed to help Dad.

    You will definitely need to plan ahead, be prepared but know that everyone doesn't start with the luxury of a commercial studio location. Sacrifices at some level are necessary in every business. Eventually, and many years later my former husband moved his business to a commercial location. Stop putting up road blocks and figure out a solution, a way to make it work within your own confinements. It will definately be worth it.

  6. I love it. It's so inspiring! It's things like this that get me thinking outside the box. I too have a home office but I can think of tons of ways to improve my presentation. It may not be to the tune of 1 Mil in yearly sales, but baby steps to make my presentation better, one creative piece at a time, are always a good thing.

  7. Another option, and one that I'm looking at pursuing in 2009 (as I'm too without a dedicated presentation room, is take the show to them. Portable projectors are cheap enough now that it can be feasible. Also, it can help you, help the client find what wall portraits will best fit in their home.

  8. David, I would love it if you made a tutorial on creating these "Suggested Idea" pages or slides. Ror example, how are the framed-print images created? And then, are the customers handed a printed idea sheet or do they view those ideas as part of a ProSelect Slide Show?
    By the way, I love your blog. I'm learning a lot. PLEASE come back to Birmingham Alabama when you give your tour. We can give you a great audience, but few such tours ever stop here.

    Kelly Newport