Selling: It's More Than Taking Pretty Pictures

Selling: It's More Than Taking Pretty Pictures

To make a living as a photographer, you have to do more than take great pictures. You have to be a photographer, a supply-chain management expert, an entrepreneur, and, perhaps most importantly, you have to be great at selling — selling both yourself and selling your product. 

This series of videos from Trevor Sherwin at Provocateur Images, sponsored by GTA Imaging, is designed to help you be better at selling your product.

Each video is styled as a casual conversation between Sherwin and his photographer friends about how to increase your bottom line by selling more product. Sherwin talks with:

1. Wedding photographers Diego & Liza Moura

2. Christina Sacco of Boy Girl Photography Studio

3. Francine Bishun of Francine b Photography

These videos are designed to help photographers who are selling their photography direct to customers; think wedding, maternity, boudoir, and family photographers. 

Before I get into a quick summary of the videos, it's important to note that the videos are designed to help you sell. In each case, selling isn’t looked at through the lens of Glengarry Glen Ross, but as a service that is truly useful to your clients.

So, what are the key points?

Client Education of Available Services

The goal of every introductory meeting should be to help your clients understand just what you can do for them as a pro. The meetings should be crafted to help them understand that you can provide seamless service about concepts and goals at the initial meetings all the way through to beautiful wall art or family heirloom like photo albums.

In the end, you should be showing your clients that it would be valuable to follow up their investment in you, as a pro, with an investment in a final product that will show off the work you’ve put in together.

Selling While You Shoot

You should talk to your clients about what their dream final product would look like before shooting. Then, once in the shoot, each photographer reinforces the idea of purchasing finished product by commenting on how certain shots would look good on a wall or as part of a details collage in an album. One of my favorites sales techniques was to use your knowledge of the client’s ultimate wants to not only shoot images that would satisfy them, but to explain how a particular shot could be transformed into a physical manifestation of their wants. For example: "Wow, this shot would look great above the mantle!" Or "Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up to this photo on your bedroom wall every morning?"

If You Don’t Show It, You Probably Won’t Sell It

Let clients touch and marvel and you'll likely sell more.

Each photographer also talks about the importance of having samples. If we’re trying to move beyond digital sales because we believe in the tactile nature of photography over a thumb drive lost in a drawer, have something for your clients to touch. If you want to educate your clients, then you can’t expect them to take the leap beyond a screen shot to an expensive album without letting them touch it.

Keep It Simple

In preparing a product list, each photographer discusses the need to keep it simple. The goal would be to provide a small variety of options to create a bespoke-type feel, not to overwhelm your clients and create decision fatigue.

Stop Selling Digital Images Only

Perhaps the most repeated sentiment among the photographers is the idea that as a pro photographer, you shouldn’t just be selling digital images. When I left law to become a photographer, one of the aspects of photography that spoke to me was the idea of actually creating something, of positing something. No more purchase and sales agreements that would spend their lives in backrooms only to be digitized and then forgotten. I wanted to create images that could be shared with family and friends.

Clients like to see what you want them to buy.

From that perspective, the idea of creating a tangible end product is important to both the client, who will cherish the images, and the photographer, who will have helped to create something that will be cherished.

Are their any sales techniques that you would pass on?

Images provided by Provocateur Images and GTA Imaging

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LA M's picture


I learned that the hard way starting out with weddings 10 years ago. I tried giving away a large print of the engagement sessions to give the client an idea of how the images could look on a wall etc...and it definitely helped sell the albums. It's one thing to have an iPad full of your images...its another to have beautiful representations around your home/family/ etc.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Giving away a print with the likelihood of selling albums is a good technique. In the end, I really do think that a pro's job is in large part to educate the client about potential.
Thanks for sharing!

David Pavlich's picture

A good print is the proper finish for a good image.

Kirk Darling's picture

I have gone into a sales session for family portraits with a 20x30 or 30x40 image already produced--one that I would use for my own display purposes--and more often than not, the mother will not allow me to leave with it. If she doesn't insist on buying it then and there, she will at least chose another image for that size, once she has seen her babies at that scale.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Being able to take great pics is one thing, being good at business is something else entirele.
I have seen plenty of mediocre photographers making good money because they were really good at networking, at doing their marketing, at doing business.
I have also seen some remarkable talents who sucked at the business site and so made really little money.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Couldn't agree more! One of the key differences between a sustainable living (pro) and a life long hobbyist: being good at selling yourself.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Agreed. The market gets tighter and tighter. Being good at what you do and being able to show it off in a straightforward way is key!

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

I 100% agree that a studio / showroom / office will help you get ahead in weddings (and commercial). There are some markets however where space is so expensive that having space isn't (strictly speaking) necessary to being successful.
I shot weddings in Toronto and was reasonably successful for a time without a space. I wasn't wildly successful, but, I'd list other factors that I had control over for that. Hopefully I've grown a bit as a businessman.
I completely agree with albums though. You have to be able to show your version of a finished product.
Which city, area, do you shoot out of?

Kirk Darling's picture

For a pure wedding photographer, a showroom is very good--a studio, not so necessary. PPA has volumes of statistics on profitable business practices, and a pure wedding photographer won't do much better with a full studio than with a smallish storefront showroom.

Now, as a portrait photographer, the first question I'm asked is, "Do you have a studio?" And that's even if the client doesn't even want a studio portrait. That's just their means of separating the wheat from the chaff. I do most of my work now from a studio, though, and I've slanted my portfolio in that direction.