How to Rock Your First In-Person Sales Portrait Session

How to Rock Your First In-Person Sales Portrait Session

Clients these days prefer to stare at your work on their phones rather than a framed work of art to pass on for generations. This is where the art of selling prints comes in to play. In just five simple steps learn how to take your print sales to the next level and see why once you start selling prints, you'll never look back.

After a photo shoot these days, most people will give their clients a full digital gallery of hundreds of images and call it a day. This emphasizes quantity over quality, and decreases the value of your work. If you're in a rut of clients knocking on your door, the best way to turn those margins around is by increasing your initial sale on the shoot. Learn how on my first in-person sales portrait session, I made the biggest sale of my life and picked up a handful of tips and tricks to share with you. 

Step 1: The Pre-Consultation

What sets you apart from the thousands of other photographers people can chose? Is it your style? Is it your professionalism? Is it your personality? It’s actually all of the above. You never get a second chance at a first impression. Blow your clients away from the instant they walk in the door. This is your chance to shine. One of the first things that should be in your sales pitch “I sell art that will last for generations, not photos that will sit on a disk and never be seen again.” People will invest big money for art, so sell them on that.

When the client asks to see your work, make sure to purchase samples of your photos, and present all the products you have to offer. This way the client can see what it feels and look like in real time. If you want to sell big prints, show them big prints. Showing the client the samples that they could feel and touch will show show them that the 8x10-inch print they want to get at Walgreens will not compare to the art that you're offering. When the client walks out, they should have a feeling for your work and what you do.

Step 2: The Shoot

Fast forward two weeks. The contract is signed and the shoot is booked. When the client arrives on set, dress professionally, get a good night sleep, and be ready to impress. The most important thing to keep on mind when on set is to make the client as comfortable as possible and to have fun. Cater the shoot to them and capture their excitement. Shoot for what the client wants, but also keep in the back of your mind which shots would make epic prints. Think with the end in mind. On the shoot take time to go through the images with them and have them rate their favorite photos. This will come in handy for the sales session.

Step 3: Preparing the Images

In the two weeks from the shoot until the next time the client sees the finished pictures is one of the most crucial parts to the sale. During this time after you’re done editing the images from the session, be sure not to send previews or post anything online for the clients to see. This will make them lose their excitement when you reveal them.

When the album is all edited, refer back to the images from the shoot that they rated and go ahead and make an investment. When selling prints, there could be a loss, but also has potential to have massive gain. Invest your time and money into something a client values. Go out and buy the biggest prints you have on your price sheet. Invest in a fully ready piece that your client could walk away with and hang on their wall. For my highest selling shoot, I spent $800 on one 30x40-inch canvas and a fully matted and framed 30x40-inch portrait. This was my selling point to my highest package.

Lastly, put together a slideshow of the best images from the shoot. Put an emotional soundtrack behind them and a short message at the end and you’re good to go. Place the best photos (the ones you already printed) at the beginning and end so the client starts to connect with the work on an emotional level and therefore is willing to invest more.

Step 4: The Sales Session

When the client arrives two weeks later having not seen the final images yet, they have a feeling of excitement and are ready to purchase their products. This is the perfect time for you to blow their minds. Before they arrive, ask them their favorite food or drink so that when they show up you have their favorite snack sitting there. Make them feel like kings. As they're munching on their favorite snacks, roll the emotional slideshow. Get those tears rolling and those chants of excitement going. It does not matter how much your prices are; if you play the cards right, and make your clients fall in love with your photos, the price will be second nature. Structure your session in a way that puts your clients in front of their photos for as long as possible, and get them emotionally involved. Emotional attachment comes first, then prices.

When the slideshow is finished, bring out those prints you put all your time and money into and surprise them. It's an emotional high for them. Use those prints as a selling point to your biggest package. The next step is to run through your price sheet and album layouts (my price sheet can be seen below).

When designing your collections, it’s crucial to show the clients what their prints will look like on their walls and show them what sizes work and what sizes don’t. Work with them to create a custom collection. For this I used ProSelect. ProSelect allows you to design collection on the client's actual walls and really helps sell those bigger prints. After seeing what an 8x10-inch print looks like on their wall, clients will always jump to the bigger sizes.

One thing to keep in mind is to be confident. On a sale where you want someone to make an investment in your product, it could be nerve racking, but if you’re confident with your prices and your product, the client will feel it and trust you. If you're mumbling your words, or get nervous talking about money, the client will never invest in you. Be confident when showing them your work. Be confident when designing the layouts with them. Be confident when answering any and every question the client throws your way.

After the selections and layouts are made, and the hard part is out of the way, go off to the print shop and bring your client's photos to life.

Step 5: The Reveal Session

Another two weeks have passed and the clients are eagerly awaiting their stunning prints. When I print my shots, I use my local printer and framer, however there are dozens of websites out there that print your work like Millers, BayPhoto, or AdoramaPix to name a few. When preparing your images for the reveal session, be sure to make them look pristine, elegant, and worth the clients investment. This means printing the photos on the right paper that best presents your work and picking the right color frame. When the client arrives to see their final images, make them feel like a million bucks. Have the prints wrapped up and elegantly presented. You want the client walking away with memories that will last a lifetime. This is where you leave them with their last impression of excitement and use that to drive more customers to your door.

I hope this article opened up your eyes to a new realm of photography, and hopefully inspires you to go out and push your business to new heights.

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Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Sorry to hear you didn't understand it. Is there anything I can clarify?

Thanks for the tips. Very practical article.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Appreciate the kind words and feedback. Thanks!

I need to find a higher class of clientele! :-)

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Ha ha I hear that! However these methods still work for average paying clients. Just sell them on digitals from your ala carte menu and you're good to know. But yes the higher class clientele definitely helps :)

Kirk Darling's picture

Depends on what you mean by "higher class." The important thing is how much they value their family images.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Good note. Yes. I meant that it works with anyone. You just need to convince the client that this should be something they value. If the client values what you offfer, rich or middle class, they will buy it.

No matter how much they value those images, for a lot of people, those prices are just out of reach. The people for whom that's not the case, for the sake of this conversation, are "higher class". That's not to confer any kind of judgement but just a reflection of reality, using simple terms. I couldn't afford something like that!

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

The same principals apply to any market :) No matter what you're prices are.

Absolutely. At different price points, I've dealt with the same issues. In fact, it always surprises me how much people are willing to pay, relative to their income.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Yep! Like i said, if they value it, they will save up for it. Never underestimate what someone is willing to pay. You never know. Especially if you sell it right. On my biggest session I made 400$ on session fees, and 10,000$ on prints and products by using the tips i shared in the article .

Kirk Darling's picture

There are some ethnic group differences involved as well, in my experience.

I find my own ethnic group quite difficult to convince of the value of legacy portraits. Even those who are well to do and will pay much more money for pictures of people they don't know and places they've never been yet balk at paying similar prices for high-quality, archival portraits of their own children.

I've done business with people of limited means from some other ethnic groups that value images of their important life and family events so much that, yes, they save for it, they borrow from relatives for it, they donate to relatives for it. If I give them a four-month payment plan, they will pay with perfect faithfulness.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Yeo! precisely! You just have to reach that kind of clientele.