Would You Like a 16×20 With That?

“You sell a lot of 16x20s.” The Manager says with a bit of surprise.

“Get me a 20×24 sample to point at.” I say with a shrug. “And I’ll sell a lot of 20x24s, too.”

This is a tad facetious on my part, as I don’t really think I have the inside track to selling larger portraits.  But I do have the habit of offering the larger portraits to everyone who walks in.

The key to portrait Passing is to maximize the sales, because you will always have too many Nonbuyers to get by on smaller sales.  You really need a handful of larger orders-which often include larger portraits-to have a good day.

The general attitude in Assembly Line Portraiture is that no one actually wants to buy portraits-they want The Freebie and we have to talk them into buying the same way that a car salesman talks a tire kicker into buying.  The same way a TV Commercial makes you want to buy a Sham Wow.  The same way an Internet Marketer makes you want to buy that Get Rich Blogging Course.  I don’t think I’ll ever really be that guy, but I don’t think I need to be him, either.

The key to success is being at a Good Shoot and having enough names on the Appointment List.  It’s always depressing to be at a Good Shoot where every sale is three hundred dollars-and only three people show up.  Of course, it’s more depressing to be at a Bad Shoot where thirty people show up and none of them buy anything.

Taking good portraits and offering all your products doesn’t hurt either.  The Old Company tried a lot of things before they shuttered their doors forever, many of those ideas didn’t work, but a few did.  One of the things that really surprised me was the success of custom made Composites.  The Company had a collection of about ten different three opening digital ‘mats’ that the Passer could insert portraits into.  The Subject would then have the option to pick the mat, pick the poses that go in it, and decide if they wanted it in color, sepia tone, or black and white.  Like many other ideas The Company had tired, I expected this one to fail as well.  But it didn’t, it was huge success and soon accounted for a good percentage of our sales.

Success in selling Composites is the involvement of the Subject.  They need to feel that their input is important in creating the finished product.  Having the Subject make a few more choices does take a bit more time-and offering too many options would lead to decision paralysis.    In Assembly Line Portraits we also have the issue of time-there’s almost always someone else waiting for their appointment.  Of course, if the person in front of me is spending $500, I can always give them a few more minutes.

Wall Groupings are another portrait option has become popular over the past few years.  When a portrait collection is printed on Gallery Wraps and five or six or more portraits are mounted on a wall in a pleasing pattern.  They are wonderful for showing off-and they can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.  Not everyone is going to want a Wall Grouping, but if they do, it can make for a good sale.

When I first starting taking portraits, I was less than impressed with the images that we were trained to take.  The poses were boring, the lighting was flat, and the backgrounds were just terrible.  I had the idea that if only I could learn a few new poses, use a better background light and some colored gels, and change up the lighting ratios once in a while-then I would be on to something.  So I read books, I made light modifiers, and I practiced my new poses and lighting.  And. . .it made no real difference at all. The people that were going to buy, bought-and the people who were not going to buy, didn’t.

I now find myself in the same position on the Passing side of the table.  I have this idea that if I had this or that item to sell, than I would make more money and the Subjects would get more of what they want.  But I’m not at all sure about it.  When The Old Company introduced the Composites, they sold a lot of them, but it didn’t substantially raise the overall Sales Average.  The Plan was that people would buy a Composite in addition to their normal portrait order, but what happened was they bought Composites instead of their normal portrait orders.

We have a number of options already; different finishes, sizes, and sepia and black and white.  As a fan of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, I’m used to the virtually infinite number of choices that modern software allows for tweaking an image.  But I don’t have the time or patience to try and wade through hundreds of tones, digital mats, and cropping options with a regular Subject.  But I’m still thinking about trying a few things.

I may never get far past the thinking stage as the whole Shot-N-Show thing is taking a lot out of me.  There are few breaks on a busy day-which is a shock to my Photographer’s system.  I’m used to working about five minutes with each Subject, now I have to work the whole time they are in the Studio.  But if I can curb my grumpy tendencies and put together a few sales sheets, maybe I can add a few dollars to my paycheck.


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