Thursday, October 24, 2013

Make the Leap from Shoot and Burn to Product Sales!

Every once in a while, people drop notes asking how to handle various situations. I received this one today from a photographer in a Facebook group. Is this a letter that you could have written?
Hi! I just saw a post on a Facebook photo group about charging $100 for a disk of images versus just offering prints and products I am assuming? She said that you had helped her convert... Well I am one of those photographers that offers sessions for $125 and they get to choose 10 poses for edit and receive a disk of the finished product... it works, but I am leaning more and more towards not offering digital images anymore. I guess the main thing holding be back is the fear of losing clients or not staying busy enough... I am still trying to get my name out there and grow my business and I wish I was busier the way it is... I feel like if I didn't offer a disk then I would slow way down as most of my clients come to me because they want a photographer that offers this. Do you have any words of expertise for me?! I would love to hear what you have to say. Thanks for your time.
- Scared to Switch
Dear Scared -

Thanks for your note and being brave enough to reach out. It's really difficult to make the leap, but the biggest obstacle is how WE think, not how our clients think.

Will you lose some clients by switching to a product-based model? Of course. There are people out there who want cheap. If you raise your prices and still give them the files, odds are they would leave you anyway in search of another $125 photographer. We simply have to get over the fact that these are our "starter clients".

With properly priced product, you WILL make more money. It's a fact. There are a number of photographers in the group who worked a shoot-and-burn model initially, then realized they were putting in hours of their time and talent and not reaping the benefits, emotionally or financially. Ask them; they simply won't go back.

Your fears are identical to theirs. They worried that they would lose clients. They worried that they would slow down. And yes, those things happened.

But then, a funny thing also happened. These same photographers began getting BETTER CLIENTS. Clients who valued the product the photographer produced, not simply the low price these people were charging. Suddenly, they became a good value in a high grade of clientele.

So, the decision is yours. Do the same thing and get the same results, or take the risk to change your model - and believe in it - and start making a decent living in this business.

It's not an overnight thing. You need to plan your pricing and prepare answers for why you're not $125 any longer. You can still offer files, but they need to be priced SIGNIFICANTLY higher.

Is it scary? You're darn right it is.

What's scarier is working as hard as you do for little or nothing.

- David

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Tiger Doesn’t Lose Sleep Over The Opinion Of Sheep

While winding down my evening, I actually found intelligent life on Facebook (or at least someone with the good sense to post this quote.)

"A Tiger Doesn’t Lose Sleep Over The Opinion Of Sheep."
You're thinking "What's so great about that?" Let me tell you why this is something photographers everywhere should embrace.

It seems that almost daily there are new photographers popping up everywhere. The photographers who are already in business often cringe and then make a comment about "mommies with cameras" or "wannabees" or something along that line. In many cases, they feel their own business is being threatened by someone who has moved into the area, purchased a DSLR and a copy of Elements or maybe even Lightroom, and is not telling people they're professional and undercutting the market with their pricing.
These new photographers often have minimal training or feel that since they've watch a class online, they now know what they need to do. Some are offended at the thought of raising their pricing to a decent level, championing the "I want photography to be affordable for everyone" cause, even though it will ultimately cost them their business.

The funny thing is, many of those who are complaining the loudest are the ones who were the most recent newcomers before this batch came along. "OMG, this new person is selling a DVD of images for $100!" (even though they themselves have just been educated to the point where they have stopped selling files and now sell product.)
You can almost watch the herds wander one way and then another, often following each other blindly. None of the "sheep" really know where they are headed, but there's always one who will garner enough attention to get everyone to follow them for a short period.

Now, notice how those who are established in business react. The experienced professionals go about their business in a steady manner, keeping a watchful eye on those around them. Because the tiger has his foothold in the jungle, he isn't concerned with the antics of those around him (unless it's another tiger.)
Jump into any Facebook photography group where this very thing is being discussed almost daily. The responses are nearly identical and come in chorus-like fashion.

"I can't compete with that!"
"Don't they know they're losing money?"
"Should I lower my prices to match theirs?"

Then someone with experience and the voice of reason will pop in and drop a pearl. 
"People make decisions based on quality as well as price. When you put these two things together, it's called 'value'. That's what good clients really want."

Set yourself apart from the sheep of the industry. Be the tiger and take care of your business first.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Selling Only a Disk of Images is a Disservice to Your Clients - Part 2 of 2

So . . . why do photographers say that selling only a disk of images is a disservice to your clients?

As long as we're on the subject of selling a disk of digital images, let me tell you a true story.

A funny thing happened to me last December . . .

I had a colleague from another FB group hand me a session he couldn't cover because he was going to be out of town. He'd told the client that he'd photograph her family and "give her the files" for $300.

During the session, I mentioned to her that I could honor his original agreement, or I could walk her through the ordering process the way I normally do.

Her first question was "What do I do once you give me the disk of files?"

This wasn't a dumb woman; this was a woman who is a corporate executive. However, she doesn't have access to the labs we do, she doesn't know about mounting or finishing. She just wanted a nice family portrait on the wall.

She and her husband returned to the studio to view the images. We went through the view and order process together . . . and $1200 (yes, twelve hundred) later I had an order. A framed wall portrait, some smaller gift prints and a boatload of greeting cards later, she walked out with a huge smile and I had a happy client.
The truth is, many people simply don't know what to do! We - as professionals - are doing them a HUGE disservice to hand over a folder of files. "Edited" or not . . . they have no clue!

It would be like going to a restaurant and having the server thump a raw piece of meat and some uncooked vegetables in front of you, demanding the price of the finished meal in the process.

Operating a service-oriented professional photography business does not mean shoot and burn! It means helping your client place the order and getting them the product they really want.

If you're not willing to help them with this process, who will? If it's too much work for us to do, how will someone who does NOT have the software and knowledge be able to figure it out?

Take the time to work with your clients and help them get to their ultimate goal . . . printed photographic products they can enjoy and display for years to come! 

- David Grupa 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Selling Only a Disk of Images is a Disservice to Your Clients - Part 1 of 2

Photographers everywhere say that selling only a disk of images is a disservice to your clients.
It's a daily debate in the professional world. Do I print photographs, or do I sell images on a disk?

Personally, I feel that any photographer who only sells digital files is doing their clients a huge disservice.

People will tell you they want the digital files "so they can save them." The fact is, they remain packed away or in this case, held captive on a hard drive . . . never to be seen by anyone.

My mom died last September. In the process of cleaning out her house, we found thousands of color slides and black and white negatives. Boxes and boxes were stuffed onto shelves . . . and what did we look at? The photographs that were already printed. Why? Because they were easier to view! We didn't have to pull out a projector for the slides or try and view the negatives on a light table.

Most insurance agents will tell you that the one loss people lament the most after a fire or flood is that of their photo albums. It simply robs them of their irreplaceable memories.

So . . . think about it for a minute. How many people do you know personally (not just the ones you read about online or see on the evening news) who have lost everything due to a disaster such as this? Maybe one? None?

Now, think about all the people you know personally whose hard drives have crashed. I'm willing to bet you can think of 3-4 right off the top of your head.

When I do a bridal fair, I bring along a crashed hard drive to illustrate this point. It sits on the table with a little tent sign saying "I'm going to put these images on my hard drive so I'll have them forever." I also have a 5 1/4" floppy disk (remember those?) with a little sticker that says "What if this was the only way for you to view your parents' wedding photographs or your childhood memories?" CDs and DVDs are on their way out as well . . . they'll be history within a few years. Apple isn't even putting DVD drives in their new computers.

The point is . . . whether they are snapshots or professional portraits, your images deserve to be printed and viewed, not stuck somewhere in limbo waiting for you decide if you want to do something with them later.

Print photographs! 

- David Grupa 

Monday, February 25, 2013

On Your Blog: How Many Images is Enough?

Recently, a question was asked in a Facebook group ; how many images should someone put on a single blog post?

This is one of those areas where I think many people go overboard. Some blog posts have so many images and so much repetition, I'm clicking out before they even load. Really . . they don't need to be so big, and there certainly don't need to be 15-20.

If you feel the need to show more than a few, my suggestion is to build a collage that has multiple images, then upload it as a single file. It's more efficient use of your time and your blog space.

You have to think of it from the perspective of the viewer; if you were to interview them after having read your blog, would they remember a specific image, or did the impact get watered down by overwhelming them with tons of images?

You want them to remember you for something awesome. Show them 3 awesome images, and they'll remember. Show them 20 average images and they won't remember anything.

The problem is that we as photographers and artists fall in love with our own images. We had the experience of the session and become attached to these images. Our clients do the same.

However, random viewers on our blog look at this proliferation of images to which they have no emotional attachment and think "yeah, they're nice . . . <yawn> . . . this is the same one, only in black and white . . . <yawn> . . . why are there 5 of almost the same pose? . . . <CLICK!> . . . I'm outta here."

Pare it down to a number that's reasonable. You don't have to show 20 and you definitely don't have to show an image in both BW and color. You're the artist; you make that call.

That's why the collage idea works well . . . you can put a half-dozen images together and display them; boom.

It's about keeping the viewer engaged, not trying to show them every image from the session.

- David Grupa

More articles on this subject - Are Your Blogging and Facebook Habits Sabotaging Your Efforts?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Print Competition - or Print Education?

It's that time of year when photographers everywhere are preparing images for Print Competition. It's really a lot less about "competing" with others, however. It is a lot more about the inner challenges you make with yourself and the educational value it holds for you in your photographic career.

When I entered my first competition nearly 30 years ago, I picked my 4 best selling images from that year, made 4 16x20 prints and sent them off to PPA. I even included the extra fee so they would send me the critique; I wanted to hear how good I was.

When I received the case back from them some months later, I was shocked to learn that my highest scoring print was a 68. 68!?!? (Remember, you're shooting for 80 and above; anything below 70 gets put back in the case and doesn't even get displayed!)

I wasn't very happy. I popped the tape into the player to hear the critique and the judge's voice said something about "I'm not sure how much experience you have in this . . . while these are probably images the clients enjoyed, they're not at all what we are looking for in professional competition."

I was PISSED. "Screw them. The first ribbons I want are green ones with dead presidents on them. Who cares about print comp, anyway."

Fast forward to a year from then. A friend of mine drops by the studio because he had invited me to go along to the meeting of the local PPA Affilliate. "Oh, and it's print competition; bring some prints!" he says (as he's pulling prints out of frames on my wall.)

So . . . I go along to watch this. As I'm watching, one of the judges says to the others "If we're just handing out ribbons, we're doing ok, but if we're trying to help the makers prepare for PPA competition, we're not helping anyone by being lenient with our scoring."

Guess whose prints came up next? Yup - mine. 73, 71, 70. I listened to the comments, but knew I was done entering. Forever. This print comp thing sucked.

The next day I'm putting my prints back on the wall and the judges' remarks are still going through my head.

"The lighting is too flat and broad."
"Her hand looks like a claw."
"Cropping on this is too tight."

I had a session that afternoon, so I loaded a 220 roll instead of a 120. (For those of you who never shot film, that means I used a 2g card instead of a 1g. )

I used the first 10 frames to do the session the way I normally would have and the second 10 frames to do what the judges said (mostly just to prove those bastards wrong.) When the film came back from the lab later that week, I looked through the images and was stunned . . . the second set looked so remarkably different, I never even showed the client any of the first 10.

It completely changed how I handled every session. My old "style" was no longer . . . it just didn't have the same impact. Images I would have shown the client in the past were now ending up in the reject pile . . .their only purpose was to show me what I'd done wrong and how to correct it.

Take the time to look at the work of others who have been successful in print competition. The link below will take you to a few galleries of various makers' work that did well in competition.

As Travis Gugelman says "If you want to be fat, eat what fat people eat. If you want to be successful, do what successful people do."

Good luck!

(BTW - I lied when I said I was done entering . . . I received my Master of Photography Degree in 1998.)

- David Grupa

Friday, February 8, 2013

PPA Charities Celebration of Smiles Day

Now is the time to start planning your Spring studio promotions. If you haven't yet explored PPA Charities' Celebration of Smiles Day event, you really owe it to yourself to do just that.

For just a $25 donation, you get a complete Marketing Guide along with all the templates, text and instructions you need for mailing pieces, Facebook posts, Twitter updates, press releases . . . whew! The promotion kit makes the entire project a turn-key event for your studio.

Best of all, you're helping save a child's smile with each portrait session you photograph. Each 10 sessions you photograph with a $24 donation to PPA Charities will repair the cleft lip or palate of one child through the efforts of our charitable partner, Operation Smile.

This promotion can open the door as a way to gain new clients or simply give existing ones a reason to come back to your studio.

Besides, charitable marketing is an excellent way to contribute to a great cause and offer your clients the same opportunity.

Check out all the details at If you're a PPA member, you can sign up right now! If you're not a PPA Member yet, this may be a great excuse to join the world's oldest, strongest and best organization of professional photographers.

(Don't forget to follow @PPACharities on Twitter and use the hashtag #CelebrationofSmilesDay to find out more about this exciting promotion!)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Imaging USA 2013 Was A Huge Success!

Imaging USA 2013This past week, Kirsten and I were in Atlanta for the annual Imaging USA Conference. The event is sponsored by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). As you can tell from many of the posts, I am a huge believer in professional organizations and what they do for their members.

Just what do they do? Imaging USA is all about education. Every day was packed with classes on a variety of subjects. From portraiture and weddings, business and studio management, to keeping life balanced and prioritized between work and family, Imaging USA offers something for everyone. Photographers from all over the US attend, as well as photographers from other countries across the globe. PPA truly is an organization with International scope!

Imaging USA - PPA CharitiesHowever, it's not all about work. Saturday evening opened Imaging USA with the PPA Charities Celebration Event. This "opening night party" brought people together for a common cause - supporting PPA Charities and their work with charitable partner Operation Smile. The evening featured a silent auction with photographers bidding on great items donated by generous vendors and sponsors. There were also giveaways and other ways for people to help out.

I'm especially proud of this evening and its success because as one of the co-chairs of the event, I had a personal investment. It takes a lot of hard work and cooperation from a great group of people to make an event like this happen. You can see that we had an amazing crew to make sure the evening ran smoothly!

Of course, there's a huge trade show with aisles and aisles of vendors. There's probably as much education available in the trade show as there is in the actual programming itself. Being able to actually see new products in person helps us make decisions about what we will offer in the studio. They look so much different in your hand than they do on a website! It's also great to be able to speak directly with the vendors and ask all the questions pertaining to their products.

Imaging USA - PPA CharitiesTuesday morning, I had the honor of participating in a panel on "The Power of Charitable Marketing". We spoke about how doing good for others in our own businesses makes things a win-win for everyone. (Watch for the "Celebration of Smiles Day" promotion coming in April!) It was a humbling experience to share the platform with so many talented individuals.

The fellowship and networking at events such as Imaging USA is incredible. I have always teased about it being my annual "family reunion" with photographer friends from across the country. Every year we meet new friends as well. It's a chance to connect an actual person to the Facebook name and picture you see daily. Photographers are such a warm group of people and we truly enjoy spending the time together.

Granted, it wasn't as much of a pleasure to return home to the sub-zero temps, but Imaging USA sends us back to the studio with a renewed sense of energy and some great ideas. 2013 is going to be a great year!

- David

Friday, January 18, 2013

ImagingUSA - One of My Favorites Times of the Year

It's January and that means it's time for ImagingUSA - One of My Favorites Times of the Year.

In just a few hours I'll be leavin' on a mid-day plane to Georgia. Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola, the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and this year, host to ImagingUSA.

Just what is ImagingUSA? According the the website it is "the largest annual convention and expo organized by pro photographers, for pro photographers! Thousands attend from around the world for a level of learning and networking you just can't find elsewhere."

I love it! This year's IUSA is on track to break all attendance records as over 10,000 photographers descend on "the home of the Braves" to learn new techniques and ideas, brush up on their marketing and network with their colleagues from across the country on a level that can not be attained by sitting at your computer in a Facebook group. For me, it's my opportunity to pick up some new ideas for the studio, stay involved with my associations and catch up with my friends and colleagues from across the world. Yes, it's a lot like a big family reunion!

The classes are outstanding. Unlike other conventions where you have to register and pay separately for your actual educational events, ImagingUSA has an all-inclusive registration that gives you access to a number of options each day. While there are also special pre-convention classes that do carry an additional fee, the daily programming is included in your registration.

This year I also have the honor of sitting on a panel discussing "The Power of Charitable Marketing". We will talk about how doing something good for others can give you greater recognition in your community and benefit your clients, a third party charity and your studio. If you're attending ImagingUSA, I do hope you'll join us on Tuesday morning at 8am.

And then there's the trade show. Acres of toys that make photographers oooohh and aaaaahh like little kids at Christmas. Vendors from across the world are set up to show you their latest and greatest. Need gear? It's there. Backgrounds, props, sets and accessories? Oh yeah, those are there too. Want to meet your lab's personnel face-to-face, or actually see all the different products you've been looking at online? They're there as well.

But don't think it's just all about the stuff. A trip through the trade show is an educational event in itself. Many vendors have classes in the trade show area as well. This gives them an opportunity to talk about how they use a specific product of go in-depth about how that particular vendor helps their business be more successful. (And being more successful is why we are there!)

There will be awards ceremonies honoring the accomplishments of the best from this past year. If there's one thing that ImagingUSA does well, it's put on a ceremony that's short, sweet and classy. No long dinner banquets with endless speeches . . . this is an Academy Awards styled affair that you will be proud to take part in.

Oh, and there are some parties as well. Good food, something to drink and time to unwind are necessary as well!

You will get new ideas, put new spins on old ideas and return to your studio with so much going through your head, you won't even know where to begin.

That's what makes ImagingUSA one of my favorite times of the year.

If you'll be in Atlanta, keep an eye open for me . . . I'll be . . . well . . . in all of these places!

- David Grupa

Monday, January 7, 2013

Are You Getting All of Your Facebook Messages?

There's always someone who says "I sent you a message on Facebook" even though you swear you never received anything from that person. This completely makes you wonder: are you getting all of your Facebook messages?
However, they may not be wrong . . . you just never saw the message because it ended up in a different place.

When you click your Facebook Messages icon from your personal page, it will drop down a menu of your most recent messages. If you click the "See All Messages" link at the bottom, a new window will open.

At the top left, it will say "Messages (xxx) Other (xx)". Click the "Other" link to see all the messages from people who are not your friends. Apparently Facebook has a "spam filter" . . . and some messages may end up here.
The worst part is that you have to go in and check it yourself; the notifications don't show up for the messages which land in the "Other" box.
But wait, there's more!
On your Business page, there is a new messages feature on the upper right side of the Admin panel. Click "show" to reveal the panel and your recent activity. Your Business page messages appear here. Simply click on them to reply as your business!
Go check it out and see for yourself . . . are you getting all of your Facebook messages?

- David Grupa