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What This Senior Photographer Learned By Selling My Own Work

Do you have what it takes to sell your photography? Many photographers choose not to handle the selling of their work. Many leave it to professional sales people or a spouse. I’ll be honest, selling your own stuff is tough. I’ve been a professional photographer for the past 13 years and even today I get anxious when presenting and selling my work.

There is just something about dealing in the world of personal art, the process of seeing an image before it’s created and then attempting to interpret that art into a portrait and then asking for money for the interpretation, that can rattle the best of us. I bit the bullet this year and committed to selling at least 50% of the images I shot.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Shooting then Selling is Trial By Fire.

I’ve been both guys for years.  The photographer and the salesperson.12 years in photography, 10 years in Sales.                 I know what it’s like to handle a model/senior and with work him/her to put together a desirable selection of portraits. I also know what it’s like to sell the work of another photographer. It’s far easier to be the salesperson only. There is no attachment, nothing personal. I present the work, practicing proven sales strategies, then create a package. All along the way taking absolutely no offense to the client disliking or not appreciating particular images. In the sales room it’s common practice in my role to let those negative opinions roll off quickly so as to get to the good stuff that gets a big sale. But As the photographer shooting the portraits then selling, what a whole different sensation!  Now when they don’t like a pose I want to scream

‘Why?!? Look at that again! That’s gorgeous stuff!’

I don’t, but I learn from it. I will tell any photographer who has not sold their own images for awhile: Commit to selling some of your own work once a week or so. This will do more for your technique, in-studio personality, and pose/scene decisions than anything else you could ever do. Hearing first hand what clients like, hate, or approach indifferently is humbling, but terribly helpful.

Art is in the Eye of the Checkbook Holder

You can play with sun flare, obscure poses, artistic interpretations all that you want, but if you want to sell portraits for high profits you better damn well listen to what your paying customers have to say when you are in that studio. There is no amount of convincing on this planet that can sell a mom who just doesn’t ‘get it’. If she doesn’t like the leading lines that define the image, or she thinks that too much background distracts from her daughter, than you have artistically created an image that will never be seen again. Your art is great, I’m sure, but if dad doesn’t like it and the senior isn’t sold, then it’s just a waste of your time. This does not mean to stop trying new things. This means, listen and learn and approach new looks as a means for improvement to your skill and your ‘go-to-poses.’ Don’t get huffy when they don’t buy it.The same image is seen two very different ways:  You see your art, She only sees her kid. She will buy what she thinks is best for her kid and not what’s likely to impress at the state convention.

In Studio Attitude, Service, and Demeanor Mean A LOT

How you handle the model and his or her handlers (in my case the mom or dad of the senior) will go a long way in the salesroom. Let’s face it, half of what they want is a GREAT experience. I hate to say this, because I refuse to accept it as Law, but a great personality on a photographer can sometimes make up for not-so-great photography. If the senior feels that she was treated like a model/celebrity and all along the session you (photographer) are going out of your way to service and portraits but because they want their ‘new friend’ to feel appreciated for your work.  So rather than seeing this is an excuse to get lazy and treat the client better, just keep up the great work and treat the client better for even bigger numbers!

It always comes down to great photography, great service-based approach, and the photographer’s attitude. Master the concept of creating a wonderful session experience and you can assure that your sales average will be where you want it to be.

Kevin Redford is a speaker on the subjects of Photography, Generation Y, Social Media, Sales, and Marketing.Educational DVDs on the subjects of Senior Portrait Marketing, Senior Portrait Sales, and Social Media for Senior Photography are available by contacting Kevin at me@KevinRedford.com. Please add comment  or Subscribe today!

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One comment on “What This Senior Photographer Learned By Selling My Own Work

  1. I have to be honest… most people can learn how to take photos that they can profit off of; it is the ability to market and sell the photos that separates the career oriented photographers from the hobbyists.

    Most of what you are talking about here has to do with portrait sales, and you are the go-to in that department. Nice read.

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