“How far behind schedule are they?” A man demands as he walks in the door.
“They seem to be pretty much on time.” The little old lady signing people in for us say.
“Good. Than I’m next because my appoint is 6 o’clock and it’s 6 o’clock now.” The man pointedly ignores the two family waiting in line ahead of him and expects to be photographed next.
“These people are ahead of you, Sir.” I say as I step out of the camera room and call the next family. “It will just be a few minutes.”
“This is ridiculous. Why do I have an appointment if your not going to go by the appointments?”
I smile and lead the family into the camera room where I will spend the next five minutes giving them my full attention.
The most sittings I’ve shot in one day is 103. These were sittings with four main poses, two poses on a different background, two poses of the parents, and two poses of the kids. On an average day I usually shoot between 25 and 50 sittings. Not all of these are families, there are always a few little old ladies and couples, with the occasional single man. I have six hours a day to shoot these sittings.
Assembly Line Portraits is all about the numbers. The more you shoot, the better the odds are that you get Buyers and not Non-Buyers. There are always a certain percentage that is just there for the Freebie, but you can never tell when someone who tells you they just want the Free One will like something else and buy it as well. So you have to shoot a full sitting on everyone that walks in the door.
This can be a problem. I’ve had people sit down, let me take one picture, and get up and walk out. Others refuse to wait the fifteen minutes to see their pictures and storm out yelling about how unprofessional it is that they have to wait.
One of the first things you learn as an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer is that you are in charge-and if you don’t take too long-people will let you take a full set of photos without grousing too much about it. It is still an everyday occurrence to hear someone ask Why are you taking all these pictures? So you will buy them, of course, what do you think?
At my current job I am paid on Total Daily Sales-so if I have an average of $75 dollars and a total of $3000 in sales, that’s a pretty good day. Other companies pay on Percentage, which makes every Non-Buyer a minus mark in my paycheck. I’m glad I don’t work there anymore. Of course, The Company still wants Averages of over a hundred dollars-and so do I-but it just doesn’t happen as often as I would like.
So, that’s why you’ll find rows of chairs filled with people waiting to have their portraits taken, and then waiting again to view them. The Money is in the Numbers.
But you won’t find a lot of lines where I am shooting. I hate waiting, so I like to get my side of the line down as quickly as I can. I tend to give everyone the same set of portraits, if they want anything else it only takes a couple of minutes to do that as well.
My only real problem is that sometimes people feel a bit rushed-Would You Rather Wait A While Longer?
Sittings are spaced out at five to ten minute intervals, with the usual occurrence being someone five minutes late and someone else five minutes early so that you end up with three groups standing around demanding that they be next. I always preferred First Come, First Served-but it just doesn’t work with directories. No one would ever come on their own. They need the false structure of an appointment to make them think They Have To Be There at a certain time.
If it’s too packed, some people Walk Out-either before or after their Portraits have been taken. For the most part that doesn’t really matter, if they don’t want to wait, the odds are good they didn’t want to spend any money either. Of course, they are always the ones that yell the loudest they were going to buy a lot of portraits, but not now. Which is why it’s common to overbook, it helps to weed out the Non-Buyers.
Assembly Line Portraits is all about making as much money as possible, as cheaply and easily as possible.
If you have a little patience, you might even get some portraits that you like. Or you can piss off the photographer and guarantee you’ll portraits you don’t like.