Before I start this lengthy post, I feel like I need to preface my thoughts to ensure I don’t get any feathers ruffled or any stones thrown my way. 😉
I don’t feel like the way I choose to run my business is the best or the only way to do so. There will be several methods discussed throughout this post and I don’t want anyone thinking I am “photography shamming” (if that’s even a term) anyone else. We are ALL in this for one simple reason. Yes, we LOVE what we do, but this “love” also pays the bills. Therefore, each and every business owner is entitled to run his or her business however they please. The way I run MY business is simply the best for ME.
With that out of the way, let’s get started.
I feel like a lot of potential clients are confused by fluctuating rates between photographers when comparing solely numbers. Apart from a photographer’s obvious talent, editing style and customer service, it can be hard to really understand what is and isn’t included. I get emails asking, “But this other photographer can do my session for $X amount less.” The first thing this type of comment does is confirm this is not the client for me (SPOILER ALERT: not every inquiry is meant to be my client). This clearly tells me the person inquiring is just looking for the best rate and not the best quality. This also leads me to question if the client is ASSUMING they are getting the same things? Clients sometimes THINK they are getting the same but most of the time they’re not.
Seven years ago, when I first started my photography career, I took an online course. Like with any class we take, some things we forget and some things just stick with us. One of the lessons I took from the class is a comment made. It said something along the lines of “run your business as if you were the client”. Whaaaaatttt???? (#mindblown).
I always think about the “big picture” when searching for vendor services. I like to envision things in its entirety, even though I am a very detailed person. For example, my daughter’s birthday party is coming up. While I understand that plates, cake, location rental, food, drinks, etc. have their own individualized place in a party, when I was searching for a party place, I wanted the “big picture”. I wanted to know what ALL of it was going to cost me. I wanted to know what the entire EXPERIENCE will be. Does that make sense?
With that type of mentality, I chose to run my business in the same frame of mind: all inclusive.
You’re probably thinking… “Awesome Cary! You’ve said it. You’re all inclusive. Now, what in the world does that mean?”
Let me break it down for you. 🙂
In case you didn’t know there are multiple ways photographers “sell” their work. Let’s discuss just a few of these methods before arriving at mine, shall we?
Some photographers choose to do IPS (In Person Sales) which basically works by charging a session fee and then bringing a client in to view his or her photos at the studio and selling products sometimes at higher prices than usual retail (reasons for the higher prices are editing, profit, time spent showcasing images, etc.).
Others may include some digital files (ex. 5 or 10 or 20 digital files) with the session fee but if the client wants more, he or she has to pay for each additional digital file or a flat fee to include the rest. Let’s face it. You go and do a shoot and your kid was all sorts of adorable. Do you really think you’ll want JUST 5 images? NOPE!
Others may charge for X amount of edited photos but if the client wants more images edited, there’s a per photo charge or a flat rate for all of the unedited images.
I’m pretty sure there are plenty of other methods of running a photography business and like I said before, THERE IS NO WRONG WAY!
So, now we’re back to all inclusive. The way I run MY business is as follows…
When a client hires me for a session or an event, I’m there capturing the entire experience. Not only do I take my time, talent, expertise, customer service and professionalism into account but I am also including all of the best high-resolution digital images which are each equally edited creating a cohesive story for my client’s gallery. You may have caught one key word in the sentence before, “best”. Let’s face it, there are times moms and dads have unpleasant expressions when they are trying to cooperate with a squirming toddler, someone came out with his or her eyes closed, I may have shot something to test lighting, the newborn decided that frame was the PERFECT time to pee or poop, or there’s simply a slightly better expression in a different frame. Those are all great reasons why clients probably don’t want certain images making their way into their galleries.
So now that you know HOW I work, let me explain WHY I choose to work this way…
ALL the memories
When I book a shoot, I don’t just try to achieve that one image that will hang in a living room, but I want each and every client to travel back in time with their photos and really cherish what the entire session was like. I want them to secretly cry remembering how little their baby once was. I want them to laugh at how frustrated they were trying to achieve that pose they thought was going to be a Pinterest win. I want parents to vividly remember their failed attempts at feeding a new toddler cake as this same “baby” is getting ready to receive their high school diploma. I want dads to reminisce on their daddy/daughter dance during their daughter’s quinces before they do it again at her wedding. If I would have limited these families with only specific memories at the time of purchasing, they probably would have never remembered otherwise. Let’s face it, without photos, memories fade.
Under Promise, Over Deliver
I have never once had a family complain that they had TOO MANY photos in their gallery. I guarantee my clients a minimum number of images with each of my sessions. Based on my experience, these are the bare minimum amount of shots I know I’ll be able to capture even in the toughest of situations. However, 99.9% of the time, my clients receive many more photos in their gallery and when I tell them, nope, they are ALL yours, they are thrilled!
Want to see examples? Of course you do! When booking a studio mini with me, I guarantee a minimum of 15-20 images. You can view an entire gallery from a studio mini here. Now, when I book a full session at the studio or outdoors, I guarantee a minimum of 50 images and here is what a full gallery looks like. Of course, these are just examples. Every client’s gallery is going to be different because there is never a shoot that goes the same way as another.
I also want to make sure I dedicate valuable time into each of my sessions in the pre-session phase, during the shoot, and while giving images the final touches during the editing phase. If I had to showcase galleries in person, wait for families to select their favorites, place orders, deliver orders AND take care of my 3 monsters at the same time, there would be no way I could take on as many sessions. JUST. NO. WAY.
You’re probably reading this and thinking… wait! So, you don’t sell prints and albums? Actually, I do! I still sell prints and products like any other photography business and encourage purchasing through my professional lab but I don’t FORCE my clients because I have already built in the cost of my personal print release into their investment amount.
So, I hope you made it to the very end of this post. I know it was long and I appreciate you taking the time to really understand how I work and why I work this way. I hope to have also enlightened some about the different ways photographers work. Please make sure when you’re comparing who to do your next shoot with, you choose a photographer that suits the type of client you are and what’s valuable to you.