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In Person Sales For The Professional Photographer

In-person sales (or IPS) is a business strategy for photographers where you set up a meeting with the client that takes place after the photo shoot and present the images to them and allow them to choose what products they would like to purchase.

This contrasts with the “shoot and burn” method of simply charging a flat fee for the shoot and the digital images.

In-person sales can be the key to significant increases in your average revenue per client.

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In-Person Sales Definition

In-person sales is a sales process where you guide the client through viewing the images and are present to help them make their selections of wall art, albums, prints, and even digital images.

You don’t even have to be physically present with the client to conduct an effective in-person sales session. You can do it over video chat and still be very effective.

IPS vs. Shoot and Burn

The main difference between IPS and shoot and burn is that IPS focuses on creating added value for the client in the form of products like wall art and albums as opposed to simply sending files. Shoot and burn stops the photographer’s involvement at the creation of the digital file while IPS allows the photographer to guide the client through the process of creating actual tangible pieces of art from the photographs.

IPS vs. All-Inclusive Photography

The difference between IPS and all-inclusive photography is that by using IPS, the photographer helps to guide the client through the selection process and helps them choose exactly the image and type of wall art or album that they want while “all-inclusive” generally means the client has preselected a package before even seeing the image.

Although both methods result in the client having tangible products, I believe that IPS, more often than not, results in higher sales and happier clients.

Why In-Person Sales Works So Well

We are going to dive into a little sales psychology here. In-person sales (when it is done right) uses three things to ensure higher sales AND happier clients…scarcity, emotion, and confidence.

By setting up a specific time frame for your clients to make decisions about the prints they want to order, you have much more control over the process and you are creating a sense of urgency on the part of your clients.

Left to their own devices and given an online gallery, clients will labor over the decision as to which photo to choose.

Who Should Use In-Person Sales

Do you sell photos to consumers? Then in-person sales is likely to have a positive impact on your bottom line.

There can be a big gap going from “shoot and burn” to in-person sales in terms of both your mindset and the type of customer you attract.

If you already are generally working with clients that value high-quality photography and the skill required to create it, then you are ready to make the jump. If not, then you may have to look back on your marketing (website, ads, social media) to ensure that your brand is consistent with IPS.

IPS is an integral part of a more luxury photography brand and positioning yourself as a luxury brand is an integral part of in-person sales. It seems to be a chicken and egg situation, but you need to be thinking about both if you want success.

IPS needs to be a part of, and fit in with, the overall customer experience (more on that below). You’ll be spending more time with each client and expecting higher sales per client so position your brand accordingly.

In-Person Sales Checklist (Step by Step)

In-person sales cannot be accomplished in a vacuum. You need to set up the entire experience to be consistent with your focus on the products that you offer and ensure that your clients are never surprised.

So here is a simple in-person sales checklist you can follow to make sure that you’re ready to maximize this approach and avoid surprising anyone.

1. The Marketing

A successful in-person sales strategy starts long before your client even discovers you. That means taking a good look at your marketing materials and evaluating how you are presenting your business to the world.

Perception IS the client’s reality here. So make sure you are being perceived the right way.

Start Before You Ever Meet Your Client

Most of your clients will come to you through referrals, your website, or your social media. Referrals can be tricky at first as those clients will be expecting what their friend told them. So be sure to spend some time educating them on your process.

But you have control over your website and social media. So before you even start offering IPS, make sure those marketing channels are consistent with it.

Start posting images of wall art galleries instead of just images themselves. I tend to use a mix of both on my website.

By establishing that you focus on wall art, you will attract clients that want that and dissuade the budget-minded shoot and burn clients from contacting you. This is the part that many photographers are afraid to take. It is a risk for sure, but one that tends to pay off quite frequently when done well.

Establish IPS As Your Process

Part of the marketing is being upfront about your (new) process. You want to shout it from every possible marketing channel.

Create blog posts that talk about the experience you offer. Walk potential clients through the process. You should even talk about the photo selection session that is included with every photo session. There are real benefits to the client from in-person sales, so be sure to focus on those benefits more so then the technicalities of the process.

You can even take photos and videos from your IPS sessions showing your clients having fun going through their photos and making their selection. One tactic I like to use is offering them a small discount if they let me shoot some video of the process.

2. The Preparation

If you set up your marketing well, then your clients should have some idea about what to expect. Now it is your turn to make sure they are educated.

Discuss What You Offer

Present your process to the client BEFORE they book. I recommend doing it at least twice. First over the phone when you initially talk to them and again in writing via email when you send them any follow-up information before they make a decision to book.

I also include a section in my contract that describes how they will be presented with the images to choose from (just to cover myself). But no one ever reads that so be sure to tell them that is how you do it.

Try to avoid presenting it as optional. Make it a set part of your process. If they decide not to book with you because that is how you do things…great! You just avoided spending time on someone that wasn’t ready to invest in quality images and wall art.

Plan Ahead

Part of doing IPS is making sure you have time set aside for the sales meetings. That means scheduling them even before the shoot itself takes place.

I also set up a “creative consult” before the shoot that takes place in person or over the phone. During that consult, we discuss the client’s creative vision for the shoot (which can vary from very simple to complex) and also talk about their thoughts on what they want to do with the images after the shoot. That accomplishes the goal of getting them in the mindset of selecting physical products and also helps me plan the shoot if I know what they want.

Shoot To The Plan

Now that your client knows all about your process, you need to do your job as a photographer and shoot to the plan. If they talked about a wide panorama of the whole family or a series of smaller metal prints from the wedding ceremony, then make sure you get those shots.

Do that and you automatically go from a person with a camera to an expert photographer that is guiding the client along the creative journey and delivering on their desires. Ok, that sounded a little over the top, but it really is true.

Delivering high-quality work tailored exactly to what your client wants is your bread and butter so don’t get lazy about it.

Complete Basic Edits Quickly

Whether it is a wedding or a family photoshoot, the emotion is the highest right afterward and declines steeply as more time goes by. That means getting them in for the sales session ASAP.

That also means getting the images edited ASAP. If you are overwhelmed and falling behind on edits, consider outsourcing your basic edits. The goal is to cull down to the best images that you want to present and having the basic edits done so that the image looks good.

What about the extensive creative work that you’re known for? Things like retouching, adding effects, or even compositing images can really make your images notable. But there’s no need to do that on every image before the IPS session.

My approach is to take 2-3 images (usually the best images from the session) and do that work only on those. I want the client to see what amazing extra work will be done to an image IF they order a large print of it. I do sell a package of all the digital images, but that doesn’t include any of this creative work or retouching.

3. The IPS Session

Don’t Give Too Many Choices

Make sure you avoid paralysis by analysis.

You’re the expert here. Cull down the images to the best. If you shot a series of different locations or looks for a portrait session, choose the best one or two from each series.

Weddings are a little different than portrait sessions of course. You’ll have a lot more images to show them. But if you are experienced with weddings, then you know which images your clients tend to order as prints. So feature them accordingly.

Guide Them…Don’t Sell To Them

Many photographers are afraid of IPS because they don’t want to be “salesy.”

I agree with their concern but if you treat IPS like a used car salesman, then you’ve already failed your client.

Use Technology

Having a good setup of tech is essential to executing an effective IPS session. I use Swift Galleries for the actual sales process and Sprout Studio for overall client management. That combination has been a big winner for me.

Swift Galleries

For my in-person sales meetings with clients, I use a software called Swift Galleries which is part of The Printmaker System.

It lets me upload all my client’s photos and create sample wall art groupings to show them.

Swift Galleries will walk your client through the photo selection process. It will play a slideshow for them to sit back and enjoy all the images and then go through a YES/NO selection process. Finally, you go to the Design module where your client can see how their images look on their own wall. You just have to upload a photo of their walk and calibrate it by measuring something on the wall (I just use a piece of printer paper).

CLICK HERE for more details about Swift Galleries.

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CLICK HERE for a FREE tutorial video to help you generate more sales AND a $100 Discount Offer.

Use Tangible Examples

Although I use the screen to display for the client how their images will look on their walls, you also want to have physical examples of the various products you offer (canvas, metal prints, albums, etc.)

There’s an old saying, “show what you want to sell” that applies quite well to IPS.

Frequently Asked Questions About IPS

Doesn’t IPS Take Up Too Much Time?

One of the most common objections to in-person sales is that it takes too much time. A photographer will say they could do another shoot in the time that they took to do an IPS session.

There are two things wrong with that mentality.

First, you’re not shooting all day every day. So you can schedule your in-person sales sessions during times when you don’t shoot. If you do outdoor portraits, it should be rare that you are out there in the middle of the day or after sunset, so use that time to do sales meetings.

Second, what if you could double your average sale amount per client. Then that extra time you spent with each client doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

Acquiring new clients costs either time or money. But if you increase the profits per client, then you don’t need to acquire as many new clients. Ultimately, you may even spend less time working overall for more income. You need to know your numbers to make sure it is working out, but more often than not, spending time to increase the value per client has a much better return over the long term than shooting more clients.

Should I Include Digitals At An IPS Session?

Yes, but include them in a way that makes sense and is profitable for you. Some photographers refuse to sell digital images. Usually it’s something about not wanting their images out in the wild for others to edit.

Except in doing that, they are potentially leaving a big chunk of cash on the table. Instead of being stubborn and alienating clients, offer them the full collection of digital images, but make the price reflective of the fact that they are getting all of the work you put into those images.

For example, if my clients want the full collection of digital images, they will be spending about the same as if they bought a 20×30 canvas. Which is fine with me. To entice them to spend more, I include the digital images in my larger packages. Almost always, they look at the options and opt for the more expensive packages because it is a better value.

I also like to use the digital images to help bump up sales. Since I’m involved in the decision-making process, I can see when a client has narrowed their choices down to two options. Almost always it is between the collection of items that they really want and a less expensive option. That’s where I’ll jump in and say something like, “I can tell you’re not sure if you want to go with that bigger collection but you really want it…and I want you to be happy, so if you get that, I’ll throw in all the digital images.”

Didn’t cost me a darn thing and I just pushed them over the edge to the bigger purchase. Being able to add value to the purchase on the fly is a HUGE benefit of in-person sales.

Pete LaGregor

Pete LaGregor

Pete is a photographer in New Jersey and specializes in portraits and commercial photography, but loves shooting landscapes and video for fun. You can check out his work on his website.