I’ve been away visiting family and celebrating my sisters wedding, but I was still working with students from the photography workshop I mentored for. Different business models came up during one of the video calls and I promised them a post here on the blog. Photography not your jam? Don’t worry, I have some holiday posts coming up soon.
Shoot and burn, shoot and share, and only selling digitals are the same thing. The other side is only selling prints, wall art, albums, etc. It’s often called “In Person Sales” or IPS for short. I have the benefit of knowing the pros and cons of each business model because I’ve done both. There are a lot more pros and cons than I have listed, but I’m going to keep this post as short as possible. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.
Shoot and Burn
Lower overhead/CODB (cost of doing business)
Minimal client interaction
Lack of quality control
More work/Less income (I’ll explain)
Typically shoot and burn business models rely on a single meeting with a client… the photography session. Sometimes there will be a phone call or questionnaire, but generally interaction is limited to just the session and a few emails. This frees up a lot of time, which means you’re able to shoot and deliver quickly (usually).
When I did digital only sales, my turnaround was about 3-4 days. With IPS, I still fully edit the images within 48 hours, but the ordering session is held 7-10 days after the session because I print proofs through my lab.
More work/less income…?
Generally, shoot and burn photographers have a low price, high volume business model. This means you have to shoot more sessions in order to make your desired income. If you’re shooting more sessions, you’re editing more sessions.
I know of several high end shoot and burn photographers that are very successful and charge appropriately, but I know 10x as many new photographers that charge nearly nothing. The key is to calculate your CODB and evaluate the quality of your work before setting your prices.
Why I switched to IPS?
I was spending so much time at my desk, that my then almost four year old made a comment on how I never played with her because I worked too much. I took a year away from the business to figure out what I could do to make my business better for me, my family and my clients.
In Person Sales
Risk of low sales
What I really lacked in my digital only business model was amazing customer service and building a relationship with my clients. I was always polite, prompt in my email responses, delivered images quickly and even became close friends with several clients, but there was something missing.
I now ask all my clients to meet with me at my studio so we can really get to know each other before the session. If they live far away, we’ll Skype or I’ll give them a call. We are able to discuss outfits, their session, expectations and I can show them the professional quality products I have available. This meeting is free for potential clients and doesn’t always result in a booking. That’s okay and I don’t take it personally. It’s just business.
Since I dedicate so much more time to each client and offer quality products, I’ve had to recalculate my CODB. In order for each client to receive the same one on one experience, I’ve had to significantly cut down how many clients I take. If I’m stretched too thin, both my family and clients with suffer. I’ve found that my clients prefer an amazing customized experience catered to their specific needs over impersonal bargain sessions.
Higher overhead and CODB
Most photographers that do sales have samples of products for their clients, a lot more printed marketing materials and dedicate significantly more face time with their clients. I typically meet my clients a total of four times for a single session (consultation, session, ordering session and delivering products). That’s at least four hours and doesn’t even include the time it takes me to travel, edit, prepare images for products, packaging, etc.
Selling product also means that you need to factor in cost of goods and often times very expensive software for the ordering session. I also have expenses related to my studio. All these extra expenses mean I need the help from studio management software and an accountant at the end of the year.
I also tell my clients that they are not required to buy anything. I do have a small retainer that covers my time to shoot and edit the images, but that’s it. Some business models have a minimum sales requirement, but I don’t like that approach. My job is to take pictures that my clients cannot live without and to provide them with great service. If they walk away without any portraits, I haven’t done my job. I could potentially dedicate all that time and come out without a sale.
I could go on and on, but this post would be a novel. If you have any questions for me, please leave them in the comments below.