The photo-shoot is done and you have downloaded and edited all your images to perfection! Now it’s time to get paid for all your hard work! After all, you booked the client, met for a consultation, spent time scouting the location and planning clothing, the when and the where… all attributing to the success of your beautiful images. Now it’s time to see some fruit from all your labor!
We use the Lightroom and Photoshop cloud based suite for most of our portrait clients. If you are using an ancient version of either of these indispensable tools, follow this link and get yourself up to date! For $10 a month, you can have the latest versions. I have never used Apple’s Aperture (even though I’m a mac user) but I hear it’s also great so if you have that software, fine too. Just make sure your stuff looks FANTASTIC! That means the little things like straight horizon lines, good exposure & vibrant but not overly saturated color. Crop only where needed,and don’t overcrop! Remember people may want to print from your images. Give them the best resolution possible. My rule is to never crop more than 20% of the image, even if you love it, better to not give it to the client than have them choose that one to do a 30×40 metal of!
Be a pro, and deliver pro images. Less is more here. Better to have 25 rockin great images, than 45; some great and some mediocre. Remember in art/photography, you are only as good as your weakest image!
The Preview Session
This is what I have always called it, dating way back years ago, into my film days with my portrait and wedding business. We used to show the client 4×5 proofs and use a paper crop tool that showed them what the image would look like in 5×7 vs 8×10. Now of course we can do all that with software and so much more! We can show them just how it will look in b&w, sepia, cropped or full frame. The digital age does have some perks!
Equipment needed for the Sale
You will need to bring a laptop computer, and if your screen is the average 13-15 inches, you will want to bring a monitor for impact! We use a 24” like this one here: 24″ External Monitor for Sales! Make sure you have all cables to connect computer to monitor, and settings saved so you can “Extend to Monitor” fast and easy like you have done it 100’s of times (even if you have not). It’s handy to have a CD burner, incase you want to give them CD of their order in low res files. More on that below….Make sure you have CD’s, and your sales book with prices and some order-forms (you will make all these things on your computer).
The Sales Book
Once you have chosen your offerings & products you want to sell, you need a way to present that to the customer. Enter… the sales book!
We have created many sales books throughout our photography careers. I have always liked the menu style. Simply create a print price sheet, album price sheet (if you are offering albums) and specialty print price sheet. We used clear plastic sleeves and a nice vinyl notebook and created our sales book. In it we also had our order forms designed using Excel and then printed as duplicates in a notepad style- check with your local printer. You can put your logo and contact info right on top, write out their order and give them a copy right there. You can also burn a low rez set of what they ordered on a CD for them to oogle over and share on social media (Have these prepared ahead and make sure they are watermarked!). They will love this touch!
Organizing your Sale
You need to have your photos organized so it’s easier for the client to digest it all. Don’t just show them a pile of 50-75 images! They will be overwhelmed and not know what to buy… then they won’t buy anything!
The most important thing is to group your images from the shoot into folders, kind of like using paragraphs in a story or article. It breaks up the thoughts and info into digestible bites! We break up the images as follows: ground portraits, horse/rider show style (riders performing dressage or jumping in show clothes), horse/rider casual (a change into street or casual riding clothes), horse turn out; horse ripping around without a rider, blowing off steam!
If there is more than one horse, we do a folder for each horse and each section, and if there is additional family or dogs that joined in the ground portraits, we break that up into another folder as well.
Software to sell with…
Lightroom or Aperture is great for non-destructive editing and I love using my LR to finish out images. I have my own presets that I created for a look and feel that all my portrait images will have, creating a style that is my own.
That being said, I don’t like using Lightroom as a sales tool. I like to keep it simple and don’t want to wait for images to load etc… I want something fast and simple where my images look great and I can organize them for easy client viewing.
We talk alot about the software ACDSee Get ACDSee Ultimate Studio Pro here! for selling and showing images at shows. You can definitely use this program to sell your portrait images! You can easily make your folders and show your work in bites. You can also use Apple’s iPhoto software that comes with your laptop or iMac. It is simple and easy to use!
The Sales Process
We have done this for years, and I began doing this long long ago when you shot film and showed proofs. It’s really a soft sell, no need to be pushy. The premise hasn’t really changed after all these years. Your goal; show the client the images and have them choose their favorites, and then place their order.
Sounds simple right?
Well, it is if you show the images in a way that promotes a sale and decision, not confusion, overwhelmingness and indecision!
The How to Sell….
You will have to tweak this method to fit your personality and style, but this is how my husband and I sell and it has worked for 25+ years. Here goes!
First off, we like the in person sales appointment vs online. This is how we do it. Very important to start, avoid sending the client the WHOLE price sheet/sales book before your sales appointment – AKA “Preview Session”. If they inquire about pricing before your sales appointment, give them some info like…”prices range from $__lowest item to $$$__highest item”. Or… “People spend an average of $__ to $$$__ on their images”. Maybe throw in the price of an 8×10 so they have a starting point! 9/10 times, this is enough info for most clients. They have likely already seen samples of your work, or their friends used you… they have an idea of what they are going to be spending.. It won’t be a shock.
If you are doing your preview session at their home, when you begin the slideshow of the first folder, make sure there is no TV on or loud music playing. You can set this up before you get there when you are making the appointment. “We need a quiet place that I can go over your images with you and show you all your options”. Will your husband be joining us? Find out who is coming and discourage “friends” that are not part of the shoot or family. Other people can be very distracting at the sales session and can REALLY jam you up, taking the focus away from the photos!
The more clear you are about what you need to do this appointment, the more they will accommodate you.
The client may tell your right out of the gate that he or she will not be able to possibly choose their order today! I have heard that a million times and they are always wrong! They will choose the same images whether you show them one time, or ten times. A favorite is a favorite is a favorite. Don’t argue… just ease their mind, and tell them at first, you are just going to run through all the folders once, and for them just to enjoy the images. Tell them not to stress about what ones they liked or didn’t like. Your job is to watch and see when their face lights up. You can keep a notepad and make some notes or you can use a flag or other marker in your software to mark the images that they really love.
You go through the images more quickly on the first run, kind of like a slideshow.
Now it’s time to pick the FAVORITES. Again, stress that they are not ordering, just marking the favorites of all the images. IF you did well, you will have them choose over 50% of all the images as favorites on the second go through! As they love each image, you drag it or copy it into a folder you set up called “Favorites”.
Now we go through the favorites folder and thin it out a bit. If they have chosen similar poses, toggle between each of those images and say “do you like this one or this one?’ and make them choose between similars. Now you have about 25% of your image total as favorites.
Ok, time to make your order. Show the first favorite image and ask them, what would you like to do with this image… give them suggestions, 8×10 or 5×7 for Grandma? Write it down. Ok, how about this one…you may make another suggestion “this one would look great as a large print on canvas or metal.. How about this one.. “I think this is best as a smaller image”. Be reasonable and true in your suggestions. Soon you have gone through and you have written down their order. Add it up and give them the total. Have a policy on deposits. Have a timeline and build in some buffer. Remember the ole “Underpromise and Over deliver”. This is best as you never know when the mail will be slow, the lab will be busy.. Give yourself time to do it right!
The customer may have chosen too much, you need to be prepared to cut down the order or make it easy for them to have it all. “Well I would hate to see you not get all that you wanted… we can do four payments if that works better for you”. Or…”we give a 15% discount on orders over $300, let’s see what that comes to”, etc. Maybe they will or maybe they won’t need to cut the order, just work with them best you can. Many of your clients won’t even blink and will just write you a check. All clients are valuable so be grateful for any and all orders!
I had a portrait studio for years when I lived and worked in Seattle as a portrait and wedding photographer. The studio was great as I could have everything setup just how I wanted it, creating the best possible sales environment for my preview sessions. But doing horse photography and having clients all over the west in 5 states, it was not possible to have a studio to serve all those clients. So…the home appointment would be the next best thing right?
The best possible scenario for you to show & sell your horse portrait images will be somewhere that you have the opportunity to book your next client! If you can’t have a quiet, clean focussed selling environment, then why not take advantage of chaos and have the preview session at the horse barn where the client boards their horse and where you probably did their photo-shoot!!! Find a little room near the action, maybe next to the tack room or barn office, and get permission to set up there ***Read how to turn a small show into a horse trough full of money”>>>>>LINK coming soon!>
Now, while you are showing the images, others are walking by, peaking in, oohing and awing over your work and how great their fellow horse woman or man looks! They go on and on about your client’s images, then… they grab one of your cards…you follow up and book an equine photo-session with them for the next week. And it all starts again!
Deposits and payments
We highly recommend some sort of POS system, we love Paypal Here as there is no monthly fee, you use it when you need it and they take their percentage and the rest is yours. Goes right to your bank account. Cash is still king, but if the customer doesn’t have it, credit assures you can make the sale.
We do 50% down on orders over $500, and the balance due on delivery of the prints. This eases most people’s mind. Our lab has dropshipping which goes straight to the client… but we only use this for out of town customers. The “Print Delivery” is another appointment where you can drop by the barn or riding arena and the client excitedly opens the packages. The other riders will come over to see how her portraits turned out… they will want your card! *ALWAYS have CARDS!!!
The Pro Photo LAB- your best friend!
We have a prolab we have used for 12 + years. In my wedding days I had a lab I used for over 15 years, and the only reason I quit using them is because they closed 🙁
A good lab and your relationship with them is so important! If you can’t count on the lab sending high quality prints out everytime, get a new one! You need to know if you do dropship an order like at a horse show, (goes right to the client from the lab and you don’t get to see it first…) that it’s going to be rocking great when the client receives it!
When giving your delivery dates and quotes, leave room! Our prolab often will take those three day weekends just like the bank! When the work comes in before you promised, you can make that call… “hey your prints came in early, when would you like to meet!”
Nickel and Diming!
When you are creating your prices, think about all the time spent preparing for the shoot, the creative time during the shoot and the post processing time… also account for creative time in there. Don’t just figure out how much the lab charges for an 8×10 and mark it up. Work in buying the client a coffee for the planning appointment, the water bottles and hairbrushes you will bring to the shoot, the time it takes to upload the orders to the lab and the shipping costs.
I personally hate being nickel and dimed. $2.00 extra for this, a $10 charge for that…annoying! I like prices to be inclusive so that I know what I’m spending and there are no surprises. So we include hangers and mounts necessary for metal and canvas prints. We charge flat rate shipping for anywhere in the US, using a percentage of the order. Say the order was $500, we charge 2% so the shipping comes to $10 for the customer, we pay whatever goes over that. Or you can make a flat rate… orders under $___ this much , orders over $$___ this much. Just some ideas for simplicity. Include what the customer needs in the price and don’t nickel and dime!
Policies, Records and Disclaimers
In a perfect world, we would have all happy customers, and biggest packages sold! But…sadly this isn’t always the way. In our years of doing equine portraits, we had exactly one unhappy customer. And it wasn’t that she didn’t love her images, it was that she didn’t order for YEARS and then demanded a package that she didn’t buy. We luckily had her initial order still- that we took from her but she paid a deposit and not the balance. When we emailed her proof, she went away and still didn’t pay.
It is MOST IMPORTANT to keep records of all your transactions. Photograph your handwritten orders with your phone and store them in a folder. Be sure and give a client a welcome email with your policy on refunds, re-shoots (when you will and won’t) and everything you can think of and get their reply. I have documents saved that I just copy and paste to each new client. A welcome document, a portrait planning doc and a sales appointment doc. This way I am not writing the same thing over and over and I can just paste it in email and ask for them to reply. That is a legal agreement when they do.
Clarity is a good thing!
Taxes need to be collected and reported if you make more than $600 (last time I checked) in your equine photography business. *keep in mind sometimes horse barns and ranches are in lower tax rate areas. Do your research! You can get an account online from whatever state you are working in .GOV and pay quarterly. I just take a flat percentage out every month and put it in a tax account. Then paying quarterly is the way to go, it helps with the temptation to borrow from the tax money account!
So to summarize, the preview session is the fruit of your labor! Be prepared and you will have great sales and most likely a referral to your next equine portrait session! Best of luck and enjoy the process from start to finish!