Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

 

Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

 

Lesson Info

Sales

So I know this is a big question for people, and many, it's like, we're photographers because we love what we do, most of us, you know, that's why we get into it, and then the sales part and the business part seems to, it's just part of it, right? So what I'm selling with my work is the, my experience. You know, what goes into what I'm selling is my level of experience, my time, which is huge, my expertise, my creative support, so my ideas when we're on, at the shoot, my decisions in the process along the way, and afterwards, I'm selling the support to guide them in the process of making decisions for what they want to do with the images after we take them. So I'm creating something meaningful for clients, so that is what I sell, right? It's not just a piece of paper. It's not an eight by 10, it's not five by seven. It's like, this is a, this is kind of a bigger piece, and I need to understand that about myself and about what I do before I can have my clients understand that, right? So...

as you're thinking about your pricing, think about the bigger picture stuff. Try not to get focused on that detail, even though you need to figure, you know, you need to figure out your price for an eight by 10, by try to think about it in that regard, is what are you really selling? What is it that you offer? And what you offer might be different than what I offer in terms of experience, in terms of imagery, you know, style. Like, you're going to offer something different 'cause you're a different person. You're gonna have a different business. So, but my pricing and your pricing needs to match what that experience is, in my opinion. It needs to be aligned with it. So, you know, whatever that experience looks like. And we talked about that earlier, about the type of volume that you're doing, the type of experience you're offering with your, you know, you're offering your clients. How much interaction do you have with them? What type of, how do you respond to them? You know, are you quick to respond? Are you kind of at their beck and call? Are you hand-delivering their orders? You know, what are you doing for that client, and is your pricing supportive and aligned with that? So money's not my favorite part about business, but it's definitely, it's a part of it, so I've gotta kind of think about it that way. And what's really helped me, because it's, you know, we are our businesses. As photographers, it feels very personal to us. It's not, you know, it's not just a job, right? This is a big, it's important to us on an emotional level. We put ourselves into it. There's a lot that goes into it. So what helps me and what has helped me in the past is to think about my business as a separate entity. So instead of saying, you know, I need this, I need that, it's like, my business needs this to sustain itself. My business will, you know, thrive if I make these decisions. This is kind of a decision I'm making for my business as a separate, kind of a separate unit. Does that make sense? That seems to help, you know, am I worth this? You know, is that, it's like, maybe it's not all about that part. It could also be about, like, what do I need? What can I do to maintain my business? You know, decisions that I make. How long am I gonna keep a web gallery up because it doesn't work for me to have somebody lingering on a job for three months. You know, if I don't close the sale in three months, like, that's not, I'm no getting paid, you know? So I need to support, make those decisions to be, you know, to make my business sustainable. One thing about me, I do not require a... I'm gonna kind of give you little bits about my business. I don't require a minimum purchase, so that's something that, you know, some photographers choose to do that and some don't. I feel like sometimes if you're starting out, that can be an option for you in terms of, you know, making sure that you get what you need for your, per client, on a per client basis, you could have a kind of a minimum purchase there. For my business, I'm at the point where I'm saying, you know, I feel like it's eliminating a risk for my clients to say, you know, I want you to like and love, I want you to love what I do for you, and I want you to love, I want you to want these images. I don't want you to feel obligated to spend a certain amount of money. Now, is that risky on some level for me? Sure. Like, I've had some pretty lame orders where, you know, didn't fulfill my expectations, but I've also had kind of the opposite experience. So I feel like it's worth it as, to risk that. Yes, ma'am. In terms of actually setting a minimum, do you ever feel like clients might feel like that's really what, like, is gonna stop them, that that's, they're gonna kinda hit that minimum and not really do much more 'cause they're not sure how much they wanna buy and that kinda thing? Do you think that that's maybe something that might happen for people that do set that minimum? That they wouldn't surpass that? Yeah, I mean, it could be kind of a limiting, like, I've fulfilled my order and now I'm done, yeah. I mean, that could be kind of a psychological component, for sure, yeah. 'Cause when I have packages that have, for example, a credit for print, once they fulfill that credit, it's kind of, that's kind of the finish line for that credit moment. Some of them go past it, but there is that, I'm sure that psychological component there, so good point. More questions? Hi. Do you actually charge a sitting fee at, like, upfront, and when contracts come into play, do you take a deposit, like, when you're taking, or saving the date... Yes. ...or booking appointment? Yes. Oh, absolutely. I do, I charge a sitting fee, and my sitting fee in my market is considered higher, you know, and so, than some of the other photographers in town, and for me, that came about from, hey, if somebody didn't order anything from my session, for whatever reason, I mean, hopefully I would re-, you know, I would definitely reshoot if they weren't happy on my level, if there's something I contributed to it, but worst case scenario, if I did this session and I interacted with them and they didn't buy anything, what number would I be okay with on a financial level, on an emotional level, and what would I be okay with? In terms of deposits, I get deposits before I, to hold the date, and I get that right away, and that goes with, you know, a policy form that tells them kind of in really nice wording about, you know, late, like, cancellations and things like that that I've, I've molded that over the years from learning experiences, you know, to kind of guide them and support them in the process and making it really work for both of us. The deposit will, you know, will hold that date for them, and I get that before I go to their house, because unless they say, "I'd really like to meet you before I work with you," which I will absolutely do. I'm not, you know, I'm totally up for a meet and greet if somebody needs that in order to make their decision, I will do that. But for the most part, that's what gets me to spend the time with the pre-consult, 'cause the pre-consult appointment is a value that I offer my clients as part of their session, right? So it's not just the session that I'm selling. I'm selling my, you know, the pre-consult time. I'm selling the session time. I'm selling, I include the value of the ordering appointment. I mean, I present that as a value, because I'm giving my time and my expertise, so it's not just the, you know, the session, right? So when people ask me how much do I charge, I tell them here's what's included, you know? There's, 'cause they don't think about that as part of, you know, as part of the time. 'Cause my, I could have an ordering appointment and they could order nothing, and, you know, I've gotta build that into my process. So that answer deposit questions? Yeah. Do we have another question? So just to confirm again, Sunshine5350 says, okay, so you do have a sitting fee... Yeah. ...as well? And then is that session fee the same if you're photographing just a pet alone or a pet with a family, or if you... So my session... Good, sorry to interrupt. No, no, it was just like, and if you have multiple pets, charge more? Yeah. Like, how do your session fees work? Yeah, so the biggest thing for me about pricing that I've learned is it's gotta be simple. Simple, simple. And so my session fee includes the session and includes three subjects, 'cause I felt like that would cover a couple with a dog or a family with a child. Now, anybody addition to that, in addition to that in terms of subjects, if it's a dog or a cat or a child or a grandparent, is just considered an additional subject and I charge a per subject fee. So that seems to work in general. And, you know, sometimes if I do the shoot and maybe grandpa wasn't in a lot of images, you know, I'm not, I waive that fee and I let them know, hey, I waived that fee for you. So that brings, I think, an added value to the clients, and they appreciate that. So I do that wherever possible. So it's important for me to give my clients all the information upfront. So I make sure that I go over it with them on the phone. I try to give it to them when they're just inquiring. So if it comes up and they're asking me about pricing, I go over it with them. I will send it to everybody in an email, and then when I do an in-person meeting, I actually bring printed materials and sit down with them and not as a, you know, hard sell, but just like, hey, these are your options and this is what I offer. Do you have any questions? And, you know, just to make sure that everything's clear up front about what I order, what I have to offer. The, some clients really surprise me. So something I've learned in sales is, like, I make these decisions about, oh, what's gonna be a big sale or what's not gonna be a big sale, and I have been surprised so many times by people. And doesn't mean because they drive a fancy car that they're gonna spend the most money. It really comes down to what their priorities are and what their values are and what their needs are. So there are no, I would encourage you to, you know, try to be really open-minded about who your next client is and the potential of, you know, of what your sales could be, too. So be open-minded. And I try to treat everybody the same way no matter what I think that they're, you know, that my sales opportunity is, but in my mind, you know, I have sometimes thought, oh, I don't think this is gonna be a big sale, but it is, and that's great, you know? And I shoot every shoot as though it's gonna be a big sale, you know? I don't, I've had people that say, "Oh, I just want a couple of prints," and they spend a couple thousand dollars, you know? And it's like, if I would've just pulled back on the shoot, can you imagine? I mean, like, I would never have known, you know? I would've been like, oh. There's no way for me to know that, so I'm gonna do what I can and, for everybody. So you take your deposit at booking. When do you take the rest of the non-sales money? For the session? Yeah. I take the balance is due at the session itself. So that seems to work for everybody. And, you know, I mean, there's a level of trust there, right? 'Cause I've done the job, I haven't given them anything, you know, and I have their money. But I have a reputation and I care about my work, and so I haven't had a problem with people in that regard. With commercial clients, it's a little bit different, so typically I'll take a deposit, and then when the job is completed, I'll collect the balance. But with commissioned portraits, that's how I flow with that. So I do my sales in person. It's a huge value to do your sales in person. I think it, when I started doing it, I think I just saw a dramatic increase in what my sales looked like. So I mentioned earlier, a lot of people send emails and want orders to be placed online. Yeah, that saves time, and there are websites that you can put up online that people can place orders. I feel like that can work really well for events, but, to get residual income from, like, maybe weddings, but, you know, or parties and things like that. But when it comes to family work, I think it's asking too much. People are busy, you know? And asking them to remember and remind them to place orders is just, I think, is not time well spent, and your sales'll be lower for, as a result, too. So I used to rent a sales room and, outside of my house, you know, like an office, and I had clients come there. It was really nice to have that, but it was additional overhead. And I think I shared it with a couple of other businesswomen that weren't photographers, and it was a really nice setup, and so it was really nice, but there was additional, you know, it cost me money to have that space, so there was a consideration there. Having a sales room kind of streamlined the process for me, so I've created this space in my home. I've taken over the house. And I think you can create what, for you, you can create a space that doesn't have to look like, I mean, it can be anything, and you can even do this, you can bring yourself to the clients and do your sales in person with your clients, as well, and that can be an added value there. But I bring people to me, and it tends to work pretty well. Having that ordering appointment, that physical connection with people, is a call to action. So it's like, this is when the order is going to be placed, and it's not, it doesn't leave it out, you know, out for when they feel like it or when you feel like getting to it. So it's a real call to action. Even still, I have to remind people of that. So I've had people show up to the ordering appointments like, oh, I haven't made a dec-, you know, haven't looked at it, or I didn't bring my husband, or something like that. So I'm always having stuff that comes up like that. And I've developed materials around that to encourage people to bring the decision-makers and, you know, and encouraging them to get excited about the process, right? I mean, this is part of what you're paying me for, is helping you enjoy these images. So, you know, let's do this together and be creative about it and have some fun. And one thing that helps me do that, and this will not be a seminar on ProSelect, but I am a huge fan of ProSelect. So I don't know if you've heard about it before. But Julia Keller is a queen of ProSelect amongst many other things. But I took a seminar with her in Oregon years ago and learned about it. I used to take orders, I don't know, I think I made a piece of paper in, like, Word or something, and I would check off the boxes, eight by 10, five by seven. And once I switched to using this program, I, my sales completely increased. So I'm a huge supporter of this program, and I just wanna show you a few things about it, unless you guys have questions beforehand. But, while I set this up, maybe if you have any... Yes? I was actually gonna run through a couple of problems I'm having with this. You mentioned a couple already, namely, I'm not really, like, set on where I'm doing this. I don't have a space or feel like my home is the place to do this. Right. And when I go to someone's home, I feel like I'm bringing, like, my samples. Do I bring, like, the watermarked samples, you're suggesting that sorta thing, and, yes, I've also run into that, like, problem of, like, the pers-, I get there, and I thought they were gonna be ready to order, and they decide they're not ready. So I've got, I feel like I've been to, like, this same thing, and even this one person was, like, two months ago, she's still going round in the same circle of, I still don't know what to order, and she's changing stuff up on me. And I know they're gonna order because they've ordered from me before and I've done, like, shoots for them since they've, she did maternity shoots with me, like, animal shoots with me. Right, you're just having a hard time getting... Yeah, and... To seal the deal. Exactly, and... Yeah, that's part of it. And, but there are, I feel like I'm running through these same problems over and over again, and I don't have the space. Yeah. You know? It's just... Yeah. I hear you. Yeah. So you're gonna run up against wall after wall, and after you knock down a wall or jump over it, there's gonna be another one. So I think you've gotta work with the scenario that you're in. I've been, I took samples to people's homes before and did sales meetings there, and no, it wasn't ideal. I did feel kind of like a traveling salesman a little bit. But I worked through that and got, you know, kind of just stuck with it for a while until I had the opportunity to do something else. And I think it's kind of in your, you know, make it kind of in your way of approaching it with your clients, it's like, hey, like, let's allocate an hour and a half for this, or let's, you know, let's make this fun. Like, how can you kind of switch the mindset about it and make it something that's a little bit more fun and interactive instead of just a task, a thing to do, you know? So I would suggest continuing to go to people's houses. I feel like even if you feel a little bit awkward about it, being there in person is a huge thing. You might not be able to set up a projector screen at somebody's house, but you can show them on their laptop and have a cup of tea with them and go through your order. One of the things I've done recently, I've really struggled with getting people to commit to their orders over the years, and it's like, what can I do, what can I do? I don't wanna threaten people, because I feel like that doesn't align with who I am and what I want to port-, you know, to convey with my interactions. And so one thing you might consider to do is offer some kind of an incentive. So rather than kind of penalize people for not making decisions, really incentivize them to make decisions. So what I've chosen to do is I offer my clients a thank you credit. So if they place their order within the initially scheduled ordering appointment, I will give them a credit of $100. And so has that worked to my advantage? Absolutely. And has it kind of gotten me a couple of times in terms of, like, a lower order minus $100? Yes, it has. But overall I feel like it has really helped me. Sometimes it didn't matter to people and they were gonna make the decision anyway. You know, they were ready to place the order. So it kind of levels out over time. But I've found this thank you credit is kind of like, here's my gift to you as an appreciation for you coming prepared to the meeting, being ready to make decisions. I will thank you for that. And people are like, wow, that's awesome. Thank you, you know? And those are the people that are gonna tell their friends about me, and they don't have buyer's remorse at all. They feel appreciated and honored. And so that's something that's helped me, so something you could consider. Yeah? So let me clean this up a little bit. So when I do these in-person sales meetings, I use ProSelect. This program is pretty amazing, and I don't, I'm not an expert on ProSelect, but you don't have to be, either, to get started with it. There's tons of ways to learn about it. But I will just tell you how I use it. So I bring into the program, and basically it becomes an album of images. So these are the same images that the client saw online in their online gallery. And I go through the images. Typically there's a slide show option here. So when they sit down, we chat a little bit, and I go through, I play all of the images on a slide, on a large screen, a projection screen, to music. So it's a few minutes where nobody's saying anything, no decisions are being made, and we're just looking at the images on a big scale. That kind of gets them warmed up to the images and allows them to see them larger, because they were seeing them smaller on their own screen before. So there's lots of different modules, and one of the things I've, so it helps me help them make decisions. So we go through them either individually, depending on what would work best for them. I tell them, hey, I can toggle through these images on an individual level and you can pick the ones, so I've got them in the happy face here, just kind of a sorting system, but it really helps to make decisions. So I can do it on an individual level and we can do it in a way of, through a series of rounds. So I can say, first round, let's just say yes or no, kind of move through if they feel like they're able to make quick decisions. Like, no, yes, no. Some of them have made lists from their time spent with the online gallery, and some have not. But I go through each image and we toggle them over. So maybe that's a maybe, that's a maybe, this one's a no, that one's a yes, we'll keep that one. You know, so I can quickly go yes, no, maybe, and toggle through that way. If they're not sure, they might keep it in the maybe pile and I can compare those later. And so my idea is to get it down to about 35, depending on how many images were in there in the first place and what their goals are, I'll try to narrow down the group. So this is a great opportunity to work with my clients who say, oh, I really love these two images, but I'm probably not gonna order both of them. Oh, okay. Really, it's helpful to see them side by side. Now I really know, once I see them side by side, I love that one on the left. That's it. Let's drop the other one, you know? Or maybe I will keep that one for digital, like, maybe I'm ordering a digital package and I'll keep the one on the right for digital and the print will be the one on the left. So it's a great way to get them to, you know, help support them in making these decisions. So the comparison module is something I love. Another value that this program has for me, amongst many other things, is the ability to show cropping. If you place orders with clients over email, for example, you don't have the opportunity to really show them cropping unless you're sending them JPEGs, right? So, screenshots. This has the option of showing different cropping and saying, hey, how would this image look like, look as an eight by 10? Okay, let me show you. And I can bring it in here, and what do you think? And sometimes they have opinions about cropping and sometimes they don't. So then I get to show them. So that's a really high-value thing for me. We can do some previews in black and white and color. I can make notes. So, for example, if they say, oh, can you crop this a certain way, or retouch this part of the collar out, I can make a note in here and say, really easily, just say, retouch the collar. So that'll save that note. So I love this program. And it, the other thing that I love about it, so you can do layouts. You know, if somebody's ordering multiple prints in a package, you can pull those in really easily, as well as Christmas cards and stuff like that. So this has saved me so much time with holiday cards. Now, I don't use this computer a lot for this, but, so I have, if you buy templates online, you can plug, some of them have ProSelect-ready files. So awesome. And you can plug them right into these programs. And there's an old template. And I can pull 'em in like that. And the client, oh wow, I love that, you know? You can make some of these beforehand. Oh, what if that picture was there? You know, it's like, this isn't the final product, but there are ways, if you finalize your images and pull them and link them in ProSelect, you can just export right from here and have a print-ready file. So there, and I work with ProSelect for this, in this way. So you don't have to even ever open up Photoshop. It opens up Photoshop, it opens up your files, you have this little tiny perfect package at the end. It's amazing. The other big thing I enjoy about, in terms of sales for this program is the room view option. This is one of the, kind of the built-in rooms. But every time I go to a client's home for the scouting or even before the session, I take pictures of their room with a piece of paper on the wall. I say, anywhere that you're thinking about putting pictures. They might not know. I say, are you thinking about wall prints? Yes. Okay, what rooms, where are you thinking? Oh, I'm not really sure yet, but this is a possibility and that's a possibility. I say, no commitment. Let's just take a picture just with my phone of this piece of paper. It helps me calibrate it so I can pull it into my program later, and you can take the guesswork completely out of it, and I can show you later what a 16 by 20 will look like right in that spot. It is gold. I mean, it really is. And so if you don't think about yourself as a sales-y person, like, this helps you, you know, I know I sound like a commercial for ProSelect, but I'm so excited about it. It helps you sell, you know? So it, I mean, sure you've gotta do the other work, but when you're in the appointment, you can, it becomes creative and it allows, for me, it allows me to get creative and say, oh, let's try this. I don't know. Because my goal isn't to sell them the biggest print possible for their wall. It's to sell the most appropriate size for their wall and what will look good. And so playing around with layouts is fun. I will typically set some ideas out before I meet with the client to say here's what I was thinking and here's what I worked with, and a lotta the time they like the ideas that I put out there. So, you know, it helps with, it's just, it's really fun, and it gets them engaged, and I think this program's a really good investment. So you also have the ability to design books in here. So it saves you time. And you can import your pricing structure in here and you can place things directly into a shopping cart. So you can see here, I can place an image in there. It'll give me the description, the image number, the size, and the type of print and the quantity, and then it'll add everything up, and when I print it out later, it'll have a thumbnail of each image that was ordered and the description next to it and the price, so it's very, very clear. There's never a discrepancy over what they ordered. You could have them sign it if you want to. And you get a deposit, and that's kind of the end of kind of the order placement process. But having the shopping cart, it's amazing, and something that I think is a really big help. So it does a lot of other things, as well, but those are kind of the high-level value elements. Yes, ma'am. Are you printing yourself or having a lab fulfill them? No, I print my own, I print, I don't print my own work. I prepare it and then I have a lab fulfill the prints. So, yeah. All right, we have, we do have a number of ProSelect questions that are coming in. Ruh-roh. So I'll try to just make sure. A number of people are saying, what's the name of the software? Okay. And so it's ProSelect made by TimeExposure, right, is the company? Yeah. So timeexposure.com is where you can find out more about ProSelect. So ProSelect is something that you are using, again, in person, that's separate from the site that you use to have people preview the images... Correct. ...from their home. Correct. Which is, go ahead. The online gallery that I place, it's, I use it through my, I have a, the ability to make an online gallery through my blog, through WordPress, and so that was just my solution to how to share images on a password-protected image gallery. So you can search, there's lots of options for that. So if you search, like, password-protected client image gallery, you'll see lots of different options, but that is a separate program from what I'm using for the sales with the ProSelect. So that's just basically a preview option for my clients. Quick question for, since you do keep that gallery up for, online gallery up for one week. Janet had asked, what happens if clients come back six months later and say, oh, you know, whatever, can I get access to that gallery now? Is it easy to do? Do you do that? So that's a tricky one. It's like, you kind of, the reality is, I'm gonna try to keep images as long as I can. If I'm happy with the session and, you know, I keep them for my archives, for lots of different purposes, and so that's my goal. And what I do tell clients is, and I'm not gonna lie to them. I don't feel, again, kind of stressing that import-, that alignment for me with how I'm interacting with my clients and how it fits with who I am and what I want my brand to be is that I'm not gonna say, I'm gonna ditch your images after a year. And I'm not, if you do that, that's fine. That's your way. But for me, I say, look, I will do my best to keep your images as long as I can. However, for liability purposes, I do not guarantee it. And so that leaves enough of a con-, 'cause I want them to have a call to action to order. I don't want them to put it off. I don't want, 'cause once they walk out the door from the sales meeting, it's really hard to get them back. Life is so busy, and even if they love the images, sometimes it can be hard for them to come back and make those decisions. And so I've encouraged people, like, this is the time that we've allocated to make this order. It's totally up to you if you need to wait. I will do my best to keep the images up. The gallery is getting pulled down. I can, I think I do charge to repost it. Most of the time I waive that fee just because I feel like it's nice to let people know that it's something you would normally charge for and that I can charge for, because it is my time to repost the gallery. I'll have to find the images in an archive and pull them back up and reupload them. So it does take some time. But, yeah, I try to keep the images for a longer period of time if I can.

Class Description

This course is fantastic. Norah is incredibly open and so easy to listen to and understand. The course is comprehensive from start to finish covering all aspects of a pet photography business. I especially loved watching the live shoots. Getting to see her process on location was priceless.
-Jo Wilkens

Pets play a large part of every household, be it the best friend or first “child.”  Yet capturing their personalities is often more difficult than just a click of the shutter.  Instructor Norah Levine’s photographs are often defined by her clean compositions and authentic moments shared by people and their pets.  Now you can join Norah as she shows you the basics of pet behavior and how to get animals comfortable with the camera.  After this class, you’ll be able to capture great images of pets AND learn how to to incorporate them into your family photography.   


In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to incorporate pets into your family photography.

  • Gain an understanding of animal behavior and key body language cues.

  • Build a business model that allows you to appeal to commercial, private and nonprofit markets.