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 photoshoot 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. If you also want some help generating more clients, check out our SEO For Photographers guide.

Contents

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.

OR

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.

SEO For Photographers (More Traffic…More Leads…More Revenue)

As a professional photographer, you always have to balance being an artist and being a business person.

One of those “business-y” things that are often neglected is maintaining proper SEO (“Search Engine Optimization”) on your website so people can find you when they search.

But neglecting that can be costing you dozens or even hundreds of quality leads.

SEO is the #1 driver of traffic to my website and #1 source of new bookings. So I created this guide to help you do a little better with SEO on your site. I’ll cover the basic things you need to look out for.

But if you want to really dive into SEO and level up your marketing and lead generation, you can learn all the most important stuff from an expert by enrolling in this SEO For Photographers Course by Corey Potter.

Photography Goals uses affiliate links. When you buy products through the links on our site, we may earn a commission.

But I am going to go over the basics with you here…

1. Get A Website

Yeah ok, this one goes without saying. But you might be surprised how many photographers out there just use Facebook and/or Instagram and don’t have their own website.

I highly recommend getting a WordPress website. Skip the ones like Wix and Squarespace. If you put your website on their platform, (1) you can’t easily transfer the content, (2) you are limited to the functionality that those companies offer, and (3) you’re betting that they are going to stay in business longer than you.

WordPress is used by over 1/3 of the internet at this point and there are so many supporting plugins for it and experienced web designers out there that know it that you’ll never limit yourself.

This site you’re reading is a WordPress site.

2. Pick A Specialty

The more specific you are on your website, the better chance you have of ranking high in search for that type of photography.

There are a LOT of photography businesses out there.

How many times have you visited a photographer’s website and it says we shoot “weddings, family portraits, seniors, babies, pets, headshots, corporate events, products, commercial, and the list goes on.

If you were looking for a photographer to get an epic portrait of your dachshund, then you might pass on that and look for someone that specializes in pets. In fact, you’ll probably search for “pet photographer” or even “dog photographer” instead of just “photographer.”

Those specific searches are where the best leads are found. And generalists don’t get anywhere near the top of those searches.

So, if you want to shoot dog portraits…then don’t try and brand yourself as just a photographer. You need to make sure anyone visiting your website knows that dogs are your thing.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t do the occasional cat portrait, but when it comes to your website, stay consistent and stay focused.

As a quick aside…most specialties can benefit from using in-person sales to generate more revenue, so check out this article on In-Person Sales For The Professional Photographer.

3. Get The Technical Stuff Right

This is where photographers tend to tune out.

Unfortunately, SEO can require some technical skills.

But, the good news is that the technical stuff with SEO is more about just simply following the right steps to not do something wrong.

Some technical SEO things you want to consider:

  • Make sure Google is indexing your site.
  • Avoid having two or more pages or posts going after the same keyword.
  • Keep your site loading fast (stop posting 20 MP images directly to your site!)
  • There are way too many to go into right here…this is probably the place where you’ll want to get some expert advice.

4. Set Up Google My Business

Google is by far the biggest search engine in the world. So make sure they know all about your business.

Google My Business is a MUST for any small business.

I’m not even going to say anymore, just go set it up now. Google has a pretty decent setup walkthrough to follow.

5. Create Resources Not Showcases (Blog Strategically)

This one is going to be hard for a lot of you to hear…but the Smith Family could really care less about the Jones Family’s portrait session or how much fun you had shooting them.

You need to know what your ideal customer is looking for, what their questions are, what is stopping them from booking you, and what their pain points are when hiring a photographer.

What the Smith Family really wants to know when they come to your site are things like the best local parks for family portraits, what to wear for your shoot, how to schedule their wedding day to get the best photos, where to find the best florists, what are the great shots to get at a specific wedding venue, and the list goes on depending on the type of photography you shoot.

Those are the kinds of things that people search online.

You should also mix in content that addresses things that your client should know or would want to know even if they aren’t topics that are searched for. That will make them more likely to book you.

Here’s an example from my site…

A screenshot from my Client Resources Page.

So if you are the one providing the best resources for whatever it is they are looking for, they are more likely to click on that “Contact Me” button if and when they need a photographer.

Even if they don’t need a photographer today, resources like those are very shareable and bring people back month after month and year after year.

Which leads to the next point…

6. Update Your Best Content

When you create the right kind of content (ie. not just 20 photos from your last shoot), then you need to continue to cultivate and update those resources.

There are two ways you can accomplish this.

First, simply go back to your best performing content every year and make sure all the information and links within the article is current. Then maybe add some more.

Second, use your new shoots to update the work featured on that page.

If you do these two things then you are ensuring that your audience has the best resources possible AND that they are seeing your best work when they do click on it.

7. Use A Logical Site Structure

This one may not seem that important, but it is one of the ninja tricks that can make a huge difference in how Google sees your website.

If you are going after a search term with a lot of competition…don’t avoid it. But you will need to give it some support.

What does that mean?

Let’s take an example, “New York City Wedding Photographer.”

Imagine how valuable it would be to rank #1 for that keyword…

But creating a single page with the title New York City Wedding photographer will absolutely NOT work.

You need to create supporting content that props up your main page. Write posts about NYC venues, NYC florists, NYC portrait locations, etc. and have each of them link to your main page. Then for each of those posts look for even more niched down topics. Perhaps you have a wedding shoot that made use of a particular spot in a wedding venue. Make a post about that awesome spot within the venue.

At the very bottom of this hierarchy is where you should put your posts about a specific client (if you insist on doing client-specific posts at all).

That creates a strong site structure where everything funnels into that main page and will give you the best opportunity to rank for those competitive searches while at the same time ranking for more specific searches that will drive traffic and leads.

Putting It All Together

Those are the big-picture things that have been working for me and what I think are the major factors that got me to the first page in my area for my specialty. Go search “senior portraits new jersey” and see for yourself.

Or just check out the screenshot here.

But…just so we’re clear, this is NOT a comprehensive list of everything you need to do as a photographer to maximize your SEO. Properly setting your website up to rank well in Google can be a detailed and sometimes frustrating process.

If you want to do it right, I highly recommend checking out this SEO For Photographers Course by Corey Potter. He lives and breathes this stuff and has helped many photographers (including yours truly) kill it in Google searches. That is an affiliate link so Corey gives me a commission if you buy (without it costing you any more).

But I never recommend any course that I don’t 100% believe will help your business. Following some of his strategies I have learned over the years has added $1000s of dollars in revenue to my photography business without the need for ads or any other type of paid marketing.