“We don’t approach a portrait shoot with just an arty-farty mentality”, explained Brian Chapman. “This is a business that is here to make a profit, so we have developed a formula for how we shoot that ensures a good average sale, a happy customer and a profitable studio. We may love being photographers, but without a good business strategy behind it, we wouldn’t be able to keep the doors open for very long.”
There are three photographers at Family Image and all are trained with the same objective: to develop a series of different portrait images that will be used to create layouts as wall portraits or album pages. “We are always thinking about what we know sells consistently well.”
Too often, photographers limit themselves to one angle or one group. They might take 50 great shots, but from the client’s perspective, they are all the same. The client will just pick the best one and the photographer is left wondering why they didn’t like the rest of them enough to make more purchases.
Brian says the solution is to shoot with your end products in mind, based on the client’s family.Two Children Family
If there are two children in the family, Brian will shoot each child four different ways. This allows him to sell a set of at least three photos for each child.
“Of course, each shot has to be different enough for the client to justify buying more than one, and if the photos are presented as part of a group, they need to sit well together. So, if they buy three photographs, we have tripled our sale. If they have two children, and they buy three photographs of each child, that’s six times the sale. We don’t discount because they are buying a series of three. There is no need to. If it looks good, our clients are happy to pay for the three prints”
Brian emphasises that if the photographs are too similar, the client uses a process of elimination to choose their favourite one. So how does he ensure the photographs are different?
“When posing a child, for instance, we might have one shot with them standing and leaning against a fence, another squatting and a third sitting. All photos are taken in different locations with different poses, and we shoot front on as well as some with the subject looking off to the side. This allows us to create a layout with some photographs having the subject looking ‘into’ rather than ‘out of’ the frame.”
When photographing individual children, you need variety. While all three sets above include great photos, Brian finds only the top one sells because each portrait is different. The photos in the bottom two rows are too similar to each other and clients generally just buy one of them.
“Our best-selling combination is a horizontal 16x24 inch print with three smaller prints underneath in a frame, so the fourth horizontal image has to be very good and different. I also have to make sure that the colours and tones of the three smaller photos will tie in with the large one.”
Three Children Family
Families with three children are more difficult to sell to because, instead of taking a set of three images for each child, they just take a single set with one photo of each child.
Brian’s solution is to shoot for and create packages with a large 8x12” horizontal photo in the middle and two smaller 6x8” verticals on the sides, one set for each child. For the client to change this arrangement from three sets into a single set doesn’t work because one of the children will be so much larger than the other two (being the centre image). The better solution is to purchase a set of three for each child!
However, this approach only works if you capture great photographs that are also significantly different. And, of course, the client can still purchase just one photo of each child if they wish – Brian is just doing his best to encourage them to buy more because the product is better.
Arranging two verticals and one horizontal like this makes it hard for the parents of a three child family to buy only one set: which child is up big?
“A little trick we have found is that when you are displaying them in ProSelect (www.timeexposure.com) for the client to see, make sure the more photogenic child is the first series that comes up in the layouts. If they like that one, they are going to also buy the series of the other children to keep it fair, even if the images aren’t quite as good.”Family Group Shot
Brian shoots the family together in four or five different backgrounds, ranging from a slightly formal arrangement, sitting on a bench, leaning on a fence or walking along a path. He will also shoot each location with the family looking at the camera, and then looking at each other. Finally, he will take a very informal shot, perhaps a group hug or everyone squatting.
An example of 5 different shots of the whole family group. This gives the opportunity to sell, say, 2 of them as wall size portraits, and the others as smaller shelf sized prints and gifts for Grandparents. The Bottom arrangement is Brian’s Number 1 biggest selling grouping. Notice how the colour tones are tied together to make this arrangement work.
“I need to have at least four strong shots which look different enough so the clients are willing to buy more than one family portrait for different parts of their home or as a gift for grandparents.”Extending The Options
There are lots of other ways to create variety and variety allows clients to purchase more prints. In addition to photographing the children individually and the family together, Brian has these suggestions:
Photograph the children together (without their parents) in at least two different backgrounds, with two different poses, both looking at the camera and looking at each other;
Photograph mum and dad together, again with two different backgrounds and different posings (looking to camera and looking at each other etc.);
A good seller is a photograph of the father with his children. “Mums love seeing photos of their husbands interacting with the children – it makes them feel good!”
And in a similar way, a photograph of the mother with her children. Brian suggests photographing one as a portrait and another as a landscape, allowing you to present an arrangement of two photos, for example a horizontal as a 12x 18” with a vertical 8x12” full length portrait sitting next to it;
The photograph of the mother and kids is more feminine, more cuddly, perhaps with flowers; while the photo of dad will be more masculine, standing next to an old truck or by a fence.
Photographs of dad and kids and mum and kids can work together as an arrangement.
Whether shooting the children together or the parents together, take multiple shots with different backgrounds and different posings to improve your sales.Clothing
Added Brian, “We send our clients an information pack when they make a booking. It’s a printed document posted by mail and it includes suggestions for outfits and clothing.
“The main things we try to avoid are big logos and patterns on shirts that date. We also like to avoid green because we have a lot of green in our backgrounds. And we prefer to avoid black because our images are more fun and relaxed, rather than being urban and grungy. Black doesn’t sit well against a garden background.
“We suggest they dress smart casual, but we love it when they wear something even more fashionable. Of course, some people just wear everyday clothing, but if that’s who they are and they are spending, I’m quite okay with that!”Locations
“Sometimes you have to push yourself to find different backgrounds, but if you photograph in a decent size park, you should be okay. It’s important to give your clients enough variety so when they are choosing their photographs, it’s not a process of elimination, rather selecting what they love.
“I see a lot of studios providing close-up shots of the kids, but the only variety they are offering is different expressions. This wouldn’t work in our studio – our clients would just choose the best expression and purchase one print.
“However, because we have different locations and poses, because we have lots of variety, they aren’t choosing just the best one or two, they are selecting a series of images they love.”
Brian and Kaylene Chapman have run several photography businesses successfully for over a decade, including Family Image Photography in Northwest Sydney. The two experienced studio owners have a passion for teaching and hold business intensive workshops that are targeted at studio owners turning over, between 30K-250K and need help taking it to the next level. See www.thebusinessofphotography.com.au for more details.