Preschool Photography ...

KavikaKavika Registered Users Posts: 42 Big grins
edited July 22, 2014 in Mind Your Own Business
I shoot preschoolers, ages 2-5, and sell via Smugmug galleries, but sales decline every year ... not that the portraits aren't gorgeous! I'm looking for ways to boost sales, or else give up this end of the business.

My goal in the past was to make it very easy for the parents, no packages to purchase, all a la carte. But being the nice guy today is not a lucrative path.

Some here recommend requiring pre-pay, with images unseen. How in the world does that work? As a parent myself, I wouldn't play that game!

One solution would be to print contact sheets for the schools, but Smugmug doesn't offer them!

Do any of you have a good system in place that avoids shooting hundreds or thousands of images that never get sold?


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    AceCo55AceCo55 Registered Users Posts: 950 Major grins
    edited July 11, 2014
    The photographer that comes to our school (Australia) uses prepaid model. Envelopes with package details are given to every child to take home.
    The deal is, if you receive the photos and don't like them, they return the photos and get their money back.

    So on the day that he and his assistant arrives, he does the whole class shot (minus any students who don't have parent permission to have photos taken. Don't ask ... nanny state where everyone has to cover themselves). The ONLY the students with packages involving individual photos get those taken. So he takes a whole class of say 25 students and then maybe 15 individuals who have prepaid. Part of his package includes "family" photos - so all the brothers and sisters from one family. These are usually taken at lunch time when all the students are available.

    He is VERY organised - the software he has keeps a track of everything. The envelopes have bar codes and the assistant does the scanning.
    PM me if you would like to get in touch with him directly.
    My opinion does not necessarily make it true. What you do with my opinion is entirely up to you.
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    johngjohng Registered Users Posts: 1,658 Major grins
    edited July 11, 2014
    Why do you believe smugmug must be involved? Either work with a company that does contact sheets or simply create them in photoshop and print out as 8x10. People don't go online to buy photos. THey forget. And, of course, they don't like paying shipping charges. Tried and true methods still work - contact sheet to parents, have them return their order and you deliver all packages to school for distribution. Take smugmug out of the equation entirely.
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    jpcjpc Registered Users Posts: 840 Major grins
    edited July 11, 2014
    ^^ What johng said.
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    GlortGlort Registered Users Posts: 1,015 Major grins
    edited July 22, 2014
    Dunno if the OP has left the building but anyway.....
    Kavika wrote: »
    I shoot preschoolers, ages 2-5, and sell via Smugmug galleries, but sales decline every year ... not that the portraits aren't gorgeous! I'm looking for ways to boost sales, or else give up this end of the business.

    Your sales may be declining simply due to the fact that online sales becomes a poorer and poorer business model every day let alone year. It was once fashionable and trendy, now it's old, boring and a great way for clients to get images for nothing.

    Online now is pretty much amateur Hour. If you want to make any real or decent money you have to move with the times and think like a serious business person, not look for the easy and most inefficent way out.

    My goal in the past was to make it very easy for the parents, no packages to purchase, all a la carte. But being the nice guy today is not a lucrative path.
    Oh yeah, online is easy all right. Easy to avoid making the purchase, easy to steal the images, easy to access the pics anywhere the person is by going to the gallery and the pics being there.... easy for about everything for the customer and impossible for you to make a worthwhile buck.

    Your nice guy comment needs some thinking through.
    Why is doing online and not selling packages being " Nice"? Because you are giving them an out not to buy what you are selling? Do you feel embarrased or guilty that you are trying to get people to spend their money but compensating by giving them a way not to?
    Frankly, I think your mentality needs some consideration here. If that's the way you feel then I would say I think it's definately best you give this away because it seems to be causing you personal moral conflicts.

    Given you appear to be a young parent, you haven't got as far down the track of hindsight as I have.
    My son turned 19 on monday and my daughter will soon be 18. Have you any idea how much I treasure each and every one of the Thousands of pics I have of them as kids that I can NEVER do again? Even shots that are photographicaly terrible where I was using them to to test a new cam or lens in the back yard with crap in the back ground and poor lighting and everything else that would send the forum high roaders into a coronarly are precious....Because my kids will never be like that again and those pictures are all I'll ( and they) will ever get of that time of life forever.

    Now anyone that has ever read my drivel and rantings will know i'm in this game for the money ( and geez dosen't that upset a few people that I'm not as brainwashed about " They art" as they are!) but as a parent of 1 adult and soon to be another, my biggest motivation is I know what the real value of these pics will be, even if the parents don't....YET!

    IF you think you are being nice by giving them plenty of opportunity NOT to spend their money, IMHOP you are making a BIG mistake that you and they will come to realise later on. Unfortunately, like me, You'll probably really have the penny drop when it's almost too late. Time speeds by, you think you have a million pics of your kids then one day you go to put together a slide show for their birthdays or something and you realise there is NEVER enough pics and as a parent, NO shot of them is ever bad or should be culled.

    And trust me, I'm not a particularly doting father or was besotted by my children. I have worried a lot over the years why I wasn't as obsessed and my life revolved around my children and nothing else but where pics are concerned, I realise they hold what I can never get back of them.

    IF you really want to do the parents and the kids a favour they will thank you for in 10 years wholeheartedly, sell them everything you can. They won't remember the price but they sure as hell will remember and treasure those pics.

    Some here recommend requiring pre-pay, with images unseen. How in the world does that work? As a parent myself, I wouldn't play that game!
    It works very well, thank you!
    You wouldn't play that game? Really? I'm not so sure about that. If it was the only way to get pics, I bet you'd take the chance with your fears and concerns. I'm from the same part of the world as ace and I have never seen anything done in schools from preschool to university done any different.
    It does work, all the photocompanies ( here at least) do it and use it as far as I'm aware as their single business model. If your not going to play that game, It seems you'll never have a school pic of your kid for their entire lives. Probably not a T&I sports pic either because everything I have seen here and from the states shows it's all prepaid packages.

    The other thing is again it seems like you are thinking like a customer not a business person. I have never been to a strip club or with a hooker but millions of people have and those businesses make LOADS of money. Don't presume everyone thinks like you, especially when the facts show that a huge amount of people don't. I would suggest you have a serious re think about your proclivities on that one and also do some research to look into how other similar businesses work very successfully.
    One solution would be to print contact sheets for the schools, but Smugmug doesn't offer them!
    Yeah well when I read that my thoughts were exactly the same as johng's. Why are you so brainwashed into thinking that you have to put them on smugmud when your sales show it's becoming an increasinly ineffective way to sell your work? Online has every draw back and very few if any at all positives that make the whole concept a dead loss for 99% of photosales.

    I have never and would never used these type of sites and have always been buggered as to why people do. I have put pics online ( selling them is another story, mainly a failed one) but with the low cost of having your own site and the excellent free software out there, I'm stuffed if I know why people bother with these things in the first place. Probably mistakenly or lazily thinking easy = worthwhile or effective.

    I wouldn't reccomend Contact sheets BUT they would be a hell of a lot better than online, no question about that!
    Go buy $100 printer and some Cheap aftermarket ink (NO, it won't ruin your printer like the printer companies want to scare you into believeing!) and get some decent but cheap photo paper and print your own. Most every photosoftware has the ability to do this so it's bloody easy. You can also put image numbers and all sorts of other info on the images or the footers and headers of the page such as kids name, class or whatever else may help you down the trackof fulfilment.

    IF this were me, I'd be doing packages and pre printing them and sending them home with the parents for a week on approval. Yes, some will be unsold, yes, some parents will not pay and not give them back and YES, at the end of the exercise your profits will have taken a huge leap skyward.
    You will find a lot of people having the pics in their hands won't be able to give them back and will pay where they would not have ( as you have seen first hand) had they had to go online.
    M ake sure you have a CC facility set up and have that payment opetion on your remittance form.

    I do this where I can with event work. It's hard for me to manage shooting and printing any more than 1000 kids a week but you aren't dealing with anything like those numbers so it's a doddle especially if you are sending them out. There are labs that specialise in this work and do the printing cheap as for the preset packages. Myself I use a bank of 6 and up to 12 printers pooled together with a print server. If I can get my wife to help me with the image selection and editing, we can punch out prints as fast as my daughter can literally put the packages in plastic sleeves and unbox the paper and keep the printers fed. Due to the Bulk ink systems I have on the machines, I only have to refil the printers once a day or about 600+ a4 sheets. For what you are doing, You could knock everything over in a day with 1 machine although 3 is a lot easier and more productive. You Should be able to produce a copmplete 3 sheet package in about 90 sec or less with 3 machines.

    Price your work properly rather than stupidly low like shooters have a compulsion to do for some facepalming reason and give yourself a bit of credibility and professionalism as a shooter.
    I have a package of 3 sheets of A4 I use for a bunch of on spec work. I have the action pre programmed into all my computers so it's a matter of select a pic, crop if need be, press a single Function key and the printers spit out the package. all the levels and tweaking is done not that they need much because I set up properly in the first place so the pics are close to spot on already... just like I did in the flim days before photostuffing for 5 to 30 minutes an image was defended by people who didn't know what they are doing and have to rescue the images they don't know how to set up right in the first place.

    When I show the 3 sheets, I generally price them at 1 sheet ( whichever one they want) for $25, 2 for 30 and 3 for 35. IF people only want 1 or 2 sheets and I confirm that, I offer the full set for $30. You would be amazed how often I get that extra $5 which covers the printing of that pack and the next 9 as well. Tha's of course on top of the $25 I was getting anyway which they commited to.
    That won't be available to you however the point I'm making is when you show the pics and the people can have them in their hot sweaty hands, it's hard for them to give them back.

    In my early days I worked as a shooter in a shopping center portrait studio. They had packages that would put Corprate CEO's in debt for a year but the way the parents carried on about what was going to happen to the pics they DIDN"T buy was amazing. You would have thought it was a matter of their actual child being taken away and put out in the rubbish not some pics they didn't buy.
    That was a good lesson.

    I reccomend just pre printing a 3 sheet package ( and I myself would probably throw in something like a mag cover to get the averages up) but the pre orders are a world away better than online as well.
    For this i'd do the 4 package options plus throw in some extras... Mag cover, calendar are huge sellers with this sort of thing, maybe a personalised border print ( to Granny love from Katy) and of course you'll have the class pic or can make that a combo print.

    You can go for extra sales with the orders with the extras that wyou would have to be very careful with and know your market to do with the pre print. Also with the pre order, make package 4 a killer.
    Make it like $75 and throw in a bunch of pics, the mag cover, calendar etc. Don't be brainwashed by this mentality that no one has money and people can't afford things or whatever thinking you have about being a nice guy. I have a couple of friends that aren't rich ( well one is getting there pretty quick) but their wives and they when confronted with options ALWAYS automaticaly buy the biggest, most expensive thing on offer.

    Shooters are always looking for the big sale but few every actually give their clients the opportunity to make one. They think they have to make everything as cheap as possible or they will loose sales but for some mind numbing reason don't realise how much they are losing by trying to make everything give away prices.
    It's moronic.

    With packages you can have a price point to suit everyone, the people with no money and the cashed up ones. The first 2 will be your best sellers so make them worthwhile for yourself but the top package will account for a significant amount of your PROFITS even though they will not be sold in very high numbers. It's the average sales value you want to focus on. That way you know when you get to the next gig that you can pretty much say x kids time average sale is going to net you this amount of money. It also give you a target to shoot for to improve things and when you test market new products and concepts you can measure if they worked or not and then fine tune your product offerings to what works best for you.

    Whatever you do, anything is going to be better than online sales, there is no 2 ways about that.
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