Selling your work - online or in person?

Selling your work – online or in person?

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You’ve done the session. Spent a sleepless night or two editing while the kids are sleeping (welcome to my world) and now you’re ready to share your most recent pride and joy with the clients who hired you to create them. How are you going to share those images and, most importantly, how will they purchase them?

You have two options. You can sell them online (through a proofing gallery) or in person (personal proofing sessions). In my experience and opinion, there are pros and cons to both. Over on my blog this week, I’ve posted about my preference for the in-person proofing session and why I murdered the online gallery. But taking these pros and cons into consideration will help you make up your own mind.

Online Gallery

I know there are many online gallery/shopping cart options for photographers but personally, I’ve never liked them. I’ve never liked how they treat my photos and I have never found one whose ambiance and ‘curb appeal’ has risen to my expectations. So how do I get my photos across to my clients online? I use Lightroom’s web module to create a flash gallery with image numbers and I drop that into the back end of my website via FTP uploader Filezilla. Then, I send my clients an order form and a link to an off-shoot page on my website with supplemental information and images from wall display templates to help them picture the different sizes.

{Pros}

  • Time saving
  • A considerably low pressure sale
  • Ideal if you’re in a market where the family photo session is a common and expected occurrence. For example, in most parts of America, most families consider this a normal yearly event and they expect to purchase their images afterwards. In other places, this is an emerging concept and clients need a bit more hand-holding.

{Cons}

  • Can be pricey if you’re using an online gallery/shopping cart subscription service
  • Impersonal
  • In my experience, lower sales potential
  • You don’t get to see your clients fall in love with their photos which is part of the fun for me!
  • You’re giving them the right to oogle their photos in their own home before they’ve paid for the pleasure.
  • Attention spans are low these days! I’ve found that clients get their fix looking at their photos for 30 days and move on to the next shiny thing that comes their way.

Personal proofing sessions

{Pros}

  • Personal
  • You can help clients by looking at their wall space and suggesting ways to display their images. My clients really value this aspect of my service because, afterall, putting images in their home was the point of their session!
  • Increased sales potential
  • You get to see your clients fall in love with their images.
  • You create a stronger relationship and rapport with your client and this can lead to future work

{Cons}

  • Time consuming. It’s for this reason I have hired a sales person who I know personally to do the job. This came about quite naturally and organically in that she and I think so alike and I really trust that she will represent my brand well.
  • For many type A’s (the artsy photographer) facing the business side and actually asking for the money can be difficult and intimidating. If you (like I) know that you’re not good with this, that might be another reason to hire a sales person. One of my sayings is “if you’re not good at something, hire someone who is!”
  • This can come across as a high pressure sales method. It doesn’t have to, but you have to be careful if you want to avoid this. If the clients are resistant or really want to talk in private to make their decision, I leave them with a business card that has a URL to a 24 hour gallery and advise that additional days cost $_____.

I could list pros and cons forever and ever and I bet you’ve got more I have never even thought of! Overall, making these decisions is just part of forming your business model. Try different things and see what works. In my experience, the in-person sessions are more profitable, even after paying my sales person’s commission and this means I can either make more money or just do less sessions.

How do you approach the after-session sales aspect?

{Click here} to read details about how I run my personal proofing sessions and more about why I prefer this method.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • Mark K October 4, 2011 10:28 am

    Personally I really like Elizabeth's position on hiring people to do what we cant or aren't comfortable doing; in my case sales is admittedly my weakness and I've already started at least researching different sales models that would incorporate an independent agent or rep. These articles are important in understanding these issues that others have already experienced. Thanks, good write up.

  • Genesis Delzell May 21, 2011 09:50 am

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  • Larimie November 9, 2010 01:40 am

    I don't use either of these methods. I simply give the best of the best High Resolution images to my client on a disc for a fixed rate. That way they can get as many prints as they want printed wherever they want. I am just starting out but it seems like the best(least time consuming) way to me.

  • Felix November 7, 2010 02:07 pm

    Elizabeth thank you. For some who is on the verge of taking a leap into pro-photography this post from you is invaluable. You're doing it! Successfully! And I need to. So who best to get some advice from. Love the post, the website, the blog and most of all the photos. I wish you continued success and happiness along the way and I look forward for more wisdom from you.

  • angelica joy e. alcoseba November 7, 2010 01:57 pm

    Dear Mr. Rowse:

    Good Day!

    It is really my dream to become a skilled photographer, but for now I just have it as a hobby. I couldn't provide myself with a sophisticated camera, I couldn't afford it. How I wish someone would donate me one good camera (even if it only second hand) for me to use I will be happy for it.

    Thank you.

  • Darren Rowse November 7, 2010 12:45 pm

    thanks all for your contribution. Just a reminder that we encourage different opinions on dPS - but encourage you to do it constructively and to comment with the same tone as you would if you were talking face to face with those you're talking to. hopefully through that approach we'll all come out of this better photographers.

  • Chris November 7, 2010 03:22 am

    I do a little of both. For the clients that can't or don't want to come in, I let them proof and order online. My service charges me 15% of the sale which I pass on to the customer. For those that are looking for a bit more boutique service I recommend they come in, we can discuss pictures, print options, frame options, or other products. It also gives me a chance to build a stronger relationship with my customers.

  • Lynnae November 6, 2010 11:15 am

    Thanks for a great article!! I've found that, for me, in person is the only way to go. I have the ability to set up online galleries, but I hate it! Without personal contact, I don't feel like I've done my job well. I do not have an in-home studio, so I take my computer to client's houses. I do not have a large business, so as yet this isn't a problem. I've discovered it's not actually about making more sales, but better customer service.

    We all have our own personalities and you have to figure out what works for you!

  • Henry Lee November 6, 2010 08:13 am

    Elizabeth, thanks for the article. I liked how you laid out the two options from your experiences, and what the advantages and disadvantages are for each option.

  • Mya November 6, 2010 05:51 am

    I am nowhere close to this stage yet but interesting to know that there is more than just taking pictures that are good. Nice article. Thanks for taking the time to write it

  • Matt Bristow November 6, 2010 02:54 am

    A great article I wish I could do all my viewings face to face as I have no doubt it would result is more sales, however I run portrait drop-in workshops some of these are 300 miles away and traveling back just isn't an option. I may start to do F2F for local clients and link it with an online gallery as well but make that live after the viewing.

  • tabletopdrummer November 6, 2010 01:32 am

    I find this article very helpful, so thank you Elizabeth! I am not a professional photographer. But I am serious about photography, and dps is my first rescource that I use for insite on the subject. I have NOT read every article that dps has, I try to focus on what I need to gain knowledge on. But also sometimes it is better to agree to disagree. I use the rebutled responses as a good tool to gain insite on the subject. To the people that feel there time is being wasted by this site, you should consider writing an article yourself, or finding another website. Thank you to dps and the people who give encouragement on it!

  • Karen Stuebing November 5, 2010 08:55 pm

    @caroline, thank you for understanding. I was NOT criticizing the article. Perhaps, it was not the place to complain. I should have just emailed Darren,

    Having said that, I think that it is probably the dream of every fledgling and experienced photographer to make money from their hobby. I think these articles over simplify the process of starting that business and give people false hope as to how easy it is. Worse case scenario, they quit their job, borrow money and lose everything.

    My personal opinion is that it should be approached like any start up business. You start with a business plan. You decide a time limit for when you should be making a profit and if you're not, you cut your losses.

    My take on this particular series is that it implies that you do not need to study photography, you can take photos in your own personal artistic style by convincing your client that is what is cool now. In fact, you should often force your vision onto your client. This flies against the basic business premise that the customer is always right.

    Again, just my opinion, but you need to do what your client wants and even if you think it has no artistic merit, it's boring and been done so many times, if it's a well exposed, flattering photo, just do it and walk away. Express your artistic side in other ways.

    There are many ways to get advice. Use successful photographers where you live as mentors. They will most likely be happy to help you.

    There is a lot of good advice at the Small Business Administration.

    Also, SCORE is another place to find great information and mentoring.

    The most important thing though is to become an accomplished photographer in all areas of photography. That includes studios and learning how to use lighting as well as the more modern artsy approaches. Learn post processing. There is a lot of software available for portraiture that enhances the photos with a few clicks of a mouse. You don't have to spend hours in Photoshop removing blemishes and wrinkles.

    Again, JMHO and I will refrain from posting on these articles again.

  • Caroline November 5, 2010 04:42 am

    I'm new to the forum (as of today) so I don't know for sure. But being a beginner, what I"m reading from the people critizing (as others call it) is that too many artciles deal with professional portrait and wedding photography. Not that they are necessarily finding fault with the article.
    That said, I enjoyed the article...it was well written and informative....just not what I need. Hopefully, I'm going to find things that are more 'educational' for me here as well. I'm excited to get started.

  • Gordana November 5, 2010 04:36 am

    Elizabeth, this was an honest, solid and well written article that will influence my decision. Now, off I go to check out the rest of your written and photo work. Thank you!

  • Bill Vriesema November 5, 2010 03:54 am

    Good article, thanks!
    I am not professional, but have been in a couple shows and competitions this year and have been asked for prints. I really do not want to get too much deeper into selling at this point since I do have a full time job. Being asked for prints is both affirming and rewarding, and can help pay for camera expenses and such. But, it sure does take a lot of time and effort if you are not set up with a process to complete orders for people. Pricing your work, either printing it your self (I do some) or having a source for larger prints and gallery wraps, understanding framing options, to provide limited editions or not, making sure your work is archival, shipping options, etc... All new learning areas to me.

    I'll take all the advice I can get. Thanks DPS!
    Bill

  • Brenda C. November 5, 2010 03:14 am

    This is just the sort of article I needed. Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing the pros and cons of online and in-person proofing sessions! I once allowed a couple to take my proofing album home with them to get orders from family members. They left a deposit to be returned to them upon the return of my proof album. Guess what I never saw again. SIGHHH Well, you learn from experience, and I learned not to trust my clients! lol After a few different issues with different clients, I decided that portraiture is not for me. However, I may give it another go in the future.

    On a side note, it's too bad that there are some people so self-centered that if an article doesn't apply to them, they have to complain about it. Life's too short to spend so much time finding fault!

  • St Louis Wedding Photographer November 4, 2010 01:08 pm

    We're actually big fans of posting online. I think that the higher the cost of the prints, the more important it is to sit down with a client after the session. For us, our money mainly comes from the sitting fees, and the extra print sales are just a bonus. One additional "con" though is that a lot of people's monitors show images differently. We get semi-frequent complaints about the whites in an image blending together. Then people get their proofs and see how much contrast their really is. You can't really control how people have their monitors configured, so that's a tough problem to solve.

  • Glen November 4, 2010 09:09 am

    Thanks Elizabeth for a very enlightening article. While contemplation "going pro", I've come across some of the exact situations you mention. Very Educational.

  • Shannon November 4, 2010 04:19 am

    Thanks for the article Elizabeth. I enjoy reading what you have to write and it always helps me out so much. I'm a photographer who doesn't have a studio or really even an office (because I don't think the living room can count as an office). I shoot everything on location and meet my clients at coffee houses. I'm working to having my own studio/office and I hope to in the next year. Your articles really inspire me and give me a direction to do more research when I'm stuck.

  • Andy Mills November 4, 2010 02:44 am

    Honestly. People need to realise that if they don't find an article useful, someone else will. Articles like this one are handy for people who are not yet professional and are looking to start up as a pro.

  • jakopz November 4, 2010 12:42 am

    Really wish people would stop whining about the "appropriateness" of articles presented at DPS. Obviously (if you cared to take a look at the archive), DPS caters to all levels, from beginners to pros, so please spare us the whining if one particular article isn't suitable for your needs. Just be grateful that this is a free resource that you can learn from.

  • Sly November 3, 2010 11:21 pm

    Online method is better than personal (for me).

  • Karen Stuebing November 3, 2010 08:05 pm

    @Jeff, I apologize for the rant. It really wasn't directed at this article but the fact that there are many hobbyist photographers who read DPS too. All these articles are making me feel as if I don't try to sell my photos or start booking weddings or portrait sessions then I am somehow less a photographer.

    I read with interest that you have also experienced that artsy photos sell where you are. They don't where I am. I am in the south in the US. People hire professionals for weddings. By that I mean photographers who carry lighting gear and do traditional set up shots.

    For portraits, they still go to studios even if it's Walmart or Sears.

    If you showed them an artsy photo taken from an unusual point of view where the subjects are back lit for example, they'd tell you they could take a better photograph themselves. To them, a good photograph is one where they are in focus, recognizable and one that has been retouched to make them look good.

    I'm not saying these are not legitimate photographs. Just that these articles are basically useless for me. The travel series, for example, wasn't even though I will probably never visit Africa because the tips were generic.

    As a consumer, I needed a head shot for a magazine feature. No, I don't have one.

    First I contacted an artsy photographer. He took some photos of me which were unusable for that purpose even though I specifically explained what the magazine asked for. I refused to pay him. He didn't seem to care.

    I contacted a studio where I was told it would cost $75. I laughed.

    In the end, I set up a tripod, took the photo myself, retouched it myself and everyone loves it.

    The only reason I mentioned "hard sell" was the writer says her "clients are resistant." To me, if someone is resistant then convincing them to buy photos they apparently don't want is a hard sell.

  • Dave G November 3, 2010 12:33 pm

    It really doesn't make sense to me why some people find it necessary to be critical of a well written and useful article if you are at the right point to use it. If you are not ready now, don't complain, wait until you need the advice then you will be glad to go through the archives.

    Thanks Elizabeth for another very informative and interesting article, I enjoy your pieces a lot.

  • Stephanie November 3, 2010 09:25 am

    Thank you so much. I'm researching/toying with the idea of doing a Boutique Family Photography business and your articles are always so helpful and informative on both the creative and business side of things. Love that you give some practical pros and cons to both sides of things. Mahalo.

  • Jeff November 3, 2010 08:41 am

    @Karen

    I get annoyed with just wedding and portraiture posts too, but I think you might be over generalizing a bit.

    In my neck of the woods most clients of decent means (middle class and above) tend to opt for on location family photos. Many of these clients are opting for more "artistic" shots. Maybe not high-key out of focus "artsy", but certainly selective focus, outdoor, strange crops (I can't get my head around the parents cut off at the waist to show the kids - but lots of people like it)

    I prefer an in person proofing session. I invite my clients to my home office, I give them a slideshow I've prepared and let them view. Then I let them go through lightroom and flag/rate their photos. I give them an order form and help them go over it.

    I also sell printing rights to medium res photos on DVD with my packages (medium res to me is 5x7@240ppi) so if a client wanted to, they could go home and view them and even print them themselves. Still, my orders normally end up being very profitable - even selling print rights.

    I don't have to hard sell, and I don't know why in person would be considered a "hard-sell". I hate hard sell sales tactics, but I always prefer buying in person from a professional who knows the ins and outs of what they are selling.

    Recently I've started generating test galleries with lightroom, I'll probably use that as a time-limited gallery for people who don't purchase printing rights so that I can deliver something online.

    I liked this mini-article, and really liked the linked articles in full.

    Thanks Elizabeth.

  • Caroline November 3, 2010 06:46 am

    I agree with Scott. I was expecting the "in person" portion to discuss how you can get your work "out there" for people to see in person and consider buying. Getting it hung in restaurants and coffee shops, participating in a non-curated art show, etc.

  • Catherine November 3, 2010 06:40 am

    I found this article to be both interesting and thought provoking thankyou! I will look into the subject more now.
    As for the comments, I have to say I am stunned by the level of aggression, sarcasm and self importance that is coming across. This is a post about proofing and the pros and cons of different methods available. If you sell your photos to clients after a photographic session, then this post is for you. If it doesn't apply, then I am sure there are many others that will be of help and interest to you. Please don't complain or vent here, this is not the place.

  • April November 3, 2010 06:12 am

    I started using Zenfolio recently and couldn't be happier with their product and how easy it is to use. I don't feel like I have the time or personality to sell prints in person, so this is a good venue for me.

  • Karen Stuebing November 3, 2010 06:09 am

    @Scott, my sentiments exactly. DPS states that it for photographers of all levels so these articles are for pros.

    Exactly what is a pro though? It's not just someone who does weddings or portraiture but there are also other niches where photographs sell.

    There are scenics, wildlife, street photography, cityscapes, dramatic HDR photos and on and on. And then there all some really awesome photographers who do wonderful things with light and black and white that defy categorization. They turn photos into art.

    The travel series was nice even for people who won't travel to foreign countries because most of the tips can be used at home.

    This constant barrage of wedding photography and portraiture is getting old. In fact, I wouldn't even call "artsy" shots portraiture. They're candids. There have been articles on candids such as how to shoot your children.

    I really wonder how big the market is for these pro candids given that most people I know go to a studio fora cute shot of the baby with a Xmas backdrop or something similar not some high key out of focus "artsy" photo with blown highlights.

    Okay, well that had nothing to do with the article. I just felt the need to vent when I saw yet another wedding/portraiture article.

    Most professionals I know who have studios have online galleries. They are making money without meeting each client in person. If your photos have to be a hard sell maybe they weren't good enough to begin with.

  • Wayfaring Wanderer November 3, 2010 05:57 am

    I find this mini-article very useful as I have just painstakingly completed the transactions for my very first photosession. It took us almost 2 freaking months for me to get this part of the session over and done with because the new parents, who I know have their hands full now, were dragging their feet.

    Initially, I set up an online gallery, which I thought was the best option. However, later, I found out that the Mom never actually went there to look at the photos!! haha I realized that it was a complete waste of time and that if I wanted to get a print order out of them, I would have to take a disc to the house and go through them with her one-by-one. It worked out much better that way and moved the process along quicker.

    At this point, I have no plans to do any online galleries, instead I'll do the proofing in person. This might change moving forward, but until I generate more paying clients, this works best for me and increases the amount of profit because I'm not paying fees with zenfolio.

    ~WW

    Recent post: http://www.wayfaringwanderer.com/2010/11/finding-comforts-of-home-in-rental.html

  • Elizabeth Halford November 3, 2010 05:54 am

    @Tyler: Oh yes I see. And that said, DPS will lose readers if we don't progress along with them. There's something for everyone!

  • Leanna November 3, 2010 05:53 am

    Good article for the pros and cons but Is there more information out there about what kind of sites I can do online sales on. I am new to this and i'm not into sales so right now online gallery is the best for me.

  • Tyler F November 3, 2010 05:51 am

    I think he is trying to say that this is aimed at professional photographers, rather then beginners. And that beginners are what DPS relies on.

    DPS caters for a range of visitors, and has to show articles to shoot. As someone looking to go into the pro photography market at the moment, this has helped looking at ways I can go about it. I've read this blog since I was a beginner and have slowly progressed. So though this blog does often start with beginners, many readers end up learning a lot from DPS.

  • Elizabeth Halford November 3, 2010 05:42 am

    @Scott: Hi! I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying. Can you please try to say it another way? :)

  • Scott November 3, 2010 05:26 am

    I really like Elizabeth Halford's articles, being that I've been around for awhile and certainly nothing against the writer. Yet, I also wonder how this kind of "professional sales" advice applies to the beginners that DPS relies on for membership.