Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday Is Portrait Day: The Consultation - Part 1

Good Morning Everybody,
We met some very nice people in Tucson last night - what am I saying - they were all nice people - a few familiar faces had attended my pre-con wedding shootout at Photoshop World. It was certainly nice to visit with them again.

As we were tearing down at the end of the evening, I was asked, "How do you get people to come to the door?" He was explaining that all potential clients based their buying decision was on price. It sounded to me, as he further explained, that in today's business climate it's cheapest price wins. I know that kind of thinking is going on among a lot of potential customers. It also raises the question for me as to how we combat that kind of thinking these days.

Cheapest price is certainly not a business model that has served many business well, except maybe Wal-Mart. I for one do not want to be a Wal-Mart photographer. The Wal-Mart model only works in terms of large scale retailing, not necessarily for the small studio trying to serve it's community. So what can be done to deter this "Wal-Mart" thinking among our potential customers?

I know I'm going to give it some thought over the next several miles of driving. I'll work some of my thoughts into upcoming posts here at DPT. Maybe our readers have some thoughts on the matter, too. Please feel free to "chime in" in the comments section and let's see what solutions, marketing strategies we come up with. With the diversity of the DPT readership, there should be a solution or two out there amongst the team.

I'm at this keyboard way too early this morning. We wrapped about midnight last night and had an early wake up call this morning. Seems El Paso is about 5 hours away. Add to that the time change, (which we forgot about) we will landing later than usual this afternoon. No complaints though, I understand that the drive is nice and the scenery is beautiful. I'm looking forward to seeing some of it on the way. Hopefully, I'll get a shot or two to post here at DPT.

But, before we hit the road, let's get to today's episode of Portrait Day Wednesday - so here we go...

Portrait Day: The Consultation- Part 1
I know what many of you may be thinking, "What's he mean - a portrait consultation?" Well folks, I'm serous. You know we go to all the effort to have our brides come in and visit with us, determine a schedule, discuss plans and events of the celebration...... We sit with them, plan their wedding day with them so that we can capture the most exciting, sensitive, romantic and story telling photographs for them.

So what makes a portrait so much different? Isn't a family portrait a big step for a lot of families? The kids are home from collage over the holidays. Or, maybe they are preparing to move away to collage or job transfer. It takes much time and preparation to schedule around business trips, soccer games, piano lessons, boy scout meetings, basketball practice, swim team, gymnastics...... Then there is what to wear! Anyway, a family portrait is sometimes a very big deal for people calling and definitely something we should not also apply some time and effort into the preparations.

Hit the "Read More..." link below for the rest of the story.

To many photogs just take the call, book the appointment, and go out and shoot it on the scheduled day - no big deal. And, unfortunately no big order. Why, because no planning, preparation, or "expectation building" was built into the booking process. Hey, you get what you plan for - plan for nothing special and that's exactly what you will end up with - nothing special. But, plan for something truly unique and special and something special usually happens.

That's why we need the clients to come into the studio and create a plan for the portrait session. We can offer them so many insights about what it takes to create a beautiful portrait. Where would they like the photograph taken - in their home or at a park? Is it going to be formal, casual, or playful? Where are they going to hang the portrait in their home? The answers to these and similar questions begins to put into perspective how nice an experience and how beautiful this portrait can be.

Working with your clients in this way shows that they are important to you and that what they have envisioned for their finished portrait is an important goal for you as well. With the client in your studio, you get a chance to show them what something beautiful - a wall portrait - looks like. A client's expectation of a large print is usually an 11x14. Folks, an 11x14 image is only slightly large table portrait. We show up to 30x40 inch framed portraits hanging in my studio. It simply tells the client that, yes, they do come that size - it builds the expectation.

Someone a long time ago told me, You have to show big to sell big. As the professional, the expert you have an obligation to educate the client as to what is possible. In doing just that, you build expectations for what they might want for their own home. That's why the appointment is so important. You have a wonderful opportunity, a captured audience, where you can showcase what you can do for them. And if you have your sales area set up properly, there are all kinds of possibilities you can ofter your client.

In our next segment, I'll walk you through some of the steps of showcasing your work and building the client's excitement and expectations as the portrait planning session progresses. But for the time being, just know that you want to change the way you are doing things if you are not inviting your client to your studio to plan the portrait. More next week...

Hey gang, that's it for me today. We have a very long haul to El Paso so we are out the door a little earlier that usual. Come on down to El Paso, you will have your best chance of the tour to win some of the great door prises we are giving away tonight;~) I wonder if Marty Robbins will be coming by?

See you in El Paso tonight, -David


  1. I'm more of a consumer than a photographer since I don't make money with my photography (yet). However, from a consumer standpoint, the cheapest price might win for many but it's not the rule by a long shot. For me, if the price is TOO cheap, then I start to get suspicious. Why is it so cheap? Am I getting ripped off? Is the quality going to suffer? It's like buying speaker cables. Will I splurge on Monster cables that cost hundreds of dollars? No. But when I see the same cable for $10 online, I start to wonder just what's wrong with it...

    The economy sucks right now and everyone is looking for a bargain. That is true. But when it comes to getting quality portraits or wedding photos, I still think that cost is just part of what gets people in the door and there are plenty of people out there willing to pay more (even if it's just a little bit more) to get that extra level of service and quality.

    Just my $0.02...

  2. I believe that it is necessary to convince your clients that the service you provide is the one that they are looking for! If you show them your portfolio and the kind words other clients have spoken about your services then you will get the work because you do your very best to ensure that the customer is more that satisfied with the end product. I know that some customers will go for the cheapest price but more often than not they are disappointed by the end product.
    The photographer has to work hard at being a sales person and those that do this will get the work!

  3. Great, most of use can use these kind of tips. I look forward to the rest of the series... Gav

  4. I know some people might end up disapointed with second-tier wedding pictures, but many more will not notice or recognize the difference and will be thrilled with the "bargain" they got and brag about having the CD with all their images. They might not be the right market for some photographers.

  5. David, take your time, El Paso is in the Mountain Time Zone.

  6. Thanks for the great seminar in Tucson David. I learned some really cool new tricks. As David shares in his seminar, it really is about selling... convincing your potential client that you will be providing top quality images and products through professional, reliable and friendly customer service. You need to find a way to express that you're willing to go the extra mile in customer service. I frequently will tell potential clients that, "I'm probably not the cheapest guy in town, but I am committed to quality professional service." This lets them know that you know that there are others out there who will do it cheaper. But the best part is that you will stand out as a confident professional.

  7. Hi David,
    Really enjoyed your seminar in Tucson, lots of great information. I only wish we could have had a whole day with you to learn, seemed like to much information in only 4 hours. In looking through the tour book at the Lightroom keyboard short cuts I have one you missed. I frequently will tab to hide the panels, use L to turn off the lights so only the photo is showing and here is another shortcut. Use the right or left Carat key (shift + the comma and or period)this will bring up the commands or menu choices then use the + or - keys to make the changes in that feature. Works great and it really gives you a better sense of the changes in your photos in my experience.
    Edgeton Photography
    Tucson, AZ

  8. David,
    I think doing a family shoot, seniors, babies, whatever without doing a consultation is unprofessional. You need to meet with the folks discuss their needs..I even go to their homes so I can see their walls and make recommendations.

    And this is where you can determine if you and the client are a good fit. Remember, your style might not be their thing..sometimes it's OK to pass.. and I bet your reputation will NOT suffer because of it.

    And this is coming from a photographer with no studio - so there is NO excuse!