So this is going to be a funny one 'cause a lot of people don't believe me when I say this, but I photograph preschools and I'm actually really good at it. (laughing) Which is only funny because most people don't think this six foot two chubby kid with a ridiculous beard is gonna be good with kids but it's awesome. Preschools, though, are completely different business model process, everything is different than a school. Bidding doesn't really exist with preschools. It's not really a thing. All the preschools I get, I just meet with the person who owns it, they say, welcome aboard, that's it. There's not legal hoops that I have to jump through, there's not forms that we have to fill out, there's not grant writers that I have to hire, it's an easier process to get into a preschool. It's also an easier process to get kicked out of a preschool. One of the big ones that we work with right now, they have gone through a new provider, I'm the first one who's ever done the same job twice. Ever...
y year they pick a new school or a new photographer because their needs have never been met. Some of the issues that we heard from them was pushy in-person sales, understaffed photographers, poor images. So, the main differences you're gonna find in working with preschools is the teachers are much more involved with the kids when they're actually getting their pictures taken, the kids, at a school when you have 25 kids come in to a bay where you're shooting stuff, teachers are just kind of in the background and they deal with the photographers, right? Preschool stuff, the teachers will actually bring the kids up, we stand them there, they interact with us and the kids, so it's a much slower process but the teachers are really involved. The other difference is is that preschool photos get several poses, we don't just take one shot and move on. It's a much difference build out than a traditional underclass stuff. We shoot on proofs, we do proof sheets, so the software that we were talking about with the underclass stuff flow, we still use with this. Flow software allows us to produce proof sheets right away. Lot of things that play into this, though, for proof sheets. So what we literally would do with a preschool is different than an underclass photo. Underclass photo they turn in their order sheet, we pick the best pose, we mail home the package, it's guaranteed they don't love it, they get a reshoot. Preschool, they see the images, place an order, there are no reshoot dates. You see what you're buying before. We print an order form that says this is when stuff is due, these are the packages, the prices, and they take that, they return it, with the proofs. Does that make sense? Lot of advantages doing proof jobs compared to the prepaid stuff. Biggest advantages we see is the opportunity to sell more. It's not just one picture. I'm gonna show you guys some cap and gown stuff that we've done but we take pictures in their regular clothes, we do pictures in the cap and gown, we do multiple poses in it, we do silly faces, we walk kids through, we have a lot more to show, the more you can show, the more you can sell. We also bundle our packages differently so that it encourages people to buy more poses. We offer price breaks if you buy more digitals. We offer price breaks on more prints. All guiding them that way. So the posing, you have to be realistic when you go into it also 'cause like one of our accounts that we do, it's anywhere from six weeks to five. Can't really do a ton, like, I can't expect a five year old, a one and a half year old, to interact the same way as a five year old. Understand the limitations of kids and where they are cognitively and what you can expect from them to do for posing. The order form that you sent home with that proof sheet has to say all of the stuff that they need to know. Order by this date or there's a late fee, this is how you fill it out, we send home an order form with a proof sheet but it still sends them one of the accounts, it sends them only to order online because they don't want to deal with fee collection and holding payments for us. So we'll give them an order form that says this is our website, this is your gallery, you have to specify which pose you want, but then that way the school is hands off. Completely. One of the other ones we did, they had the option to order online but I think I only got 10% that went through that way. Everyone else wrote a check and sent back the envelope. Preschools, you're gonna get, school photography's funny 'cause you can tell when parents are really excited and proud of their babies and then when they get annoyed by their kids. So like, you'll see like kindergarten, it's like everybody orders. Kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade. Eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th grade, they might get a little spike, like maybe ninth when they go into school but there's a steep drop off in participation and then that participation drop off, I think it's just people get kind of wore out so when you get a preschool, I go into it so enthusiastic 'cause I know that I'm gonna hit 95% order. I know that I can take a good photo and I know that you are head over heels for this baby, you're gonna buy. So if I know that going into it, we shoot knowing that parents are going to spend. We go into it knowing that. Our jobs, generally we shoot with preschools, too, you're gonna have to split up your days, you can't do it like a regular school because they have kids that only go Monday, Wednesday, Friday and kids that go Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For preschools, do you have the problems of the parents stepping behind you with their iPhones or whatnot and trying to, and they're not necessarily, the kids not necessarily paying attention to you, they're paying more attention to their parents or do you block them off the same way you do with the school sports?
Okay, that's a good question. We should talk about it 'cause parent interaction is different with sports than it is with school pictures in general. The energy and, like, I feel like the expectations of what people think they can get away with is a little bit different. I have never had a parent try to take out an iPhone and take a photo during a yearbook photo, it's never happened, and I do not have signs up like we do with sports. Most of the time, with our school stuff, parents aren't there, they just aren't there. If they're coming in for retakes, this is a school day, you know what I mean? Like, they drop their kids off at school and come back later on, so it's less of an issue with that. Beyond that, the retake day, we are engaged with the parents in conversation if they're bringing the kid up for the retakes, like, we're talking to them so it'd be really weird for them to be talking to us and pull out a phone and try to take a picture. I never allow kids or parents, we don't allow them to look at the back of the camera when we do sports. We got it, move on. We don't allow kids to look at the computers during underclass photos. That's why if you've looked at that setup, the screen is towards us, it's never towards them. Now usually they'll make a smart aleck comment when they ask if they can say it, they'll go, can I see my picture right now? And I always go no, I don't have the film back yet. And I'm amazed that kids don't, like, they fall for it and they're like, oh. Oh, okay, so they'll leave but, of course, yeah, we can see it. I will let parents look at the school stuff, though, especially if it's retakes, I'll let them look. I'll let them help pick. It's just kind of a different, the whole energy's different. I feel like school photos, it's sports, it's a recreational activity, school photos it's still a place like where the kid could get in trouble, kid could get detention, parents kind of treat it differently, you know, it's their kids job, don't mess around there. So we have, our parent interaction is different and I think a lot of that also plays into the fact that we work with really, really great schools and as far as parent interaction goes for preschool stuff, we will advertise, within that we're gonna show a slide about this in a little bit but I will actually advertise, we encourage parents to come in early with their other kids, so we'll do a little mini-family photo, we'll do sibling pics, and so we want them there. Now if parents are interacting with a kid, I'm always okay with it. Say hey mom, that's great, I understand you wanna help me get this kid smiling, I appreciate the enthusiasm, but what I'm gonna have you do, though, is come and stand uncomfortably close to me. And I bring 'em lik real close because otherwise the kid like you're saying is looking off over there, it's a bad photo. And the end goal is that they're looking at the camera smiling, so what we've done with our preschool stuff too is like, we set up in a little room, there's a hallway, the class will be in the hallway, in the little room is like two kids, one or two of the teachers, and the photographers, it's me and an assistant, so six people in a little room. If I had all 18 kids in there, the energy level would be different, the distractions would be so high that we couldn't effectively get the photos we need to do. So what we do is we position 'em, we do it one, two at a time and if the parents are there, we'll bring them in, otherwise the teachers like to do that and the teachers generally, the parents, they know these kids so well, they spend 40 hours a week with these kids. So they'll know, oh, this is Perry the Tiger, you love Perry, and they'll bring Perry in and then the kids light up. It's almost like fish in a barrel, I don't wanna make light of it but like I do so little in interacting with the kids because the teachers know so much about them and they get the program that I'm like, a lot of the times I'm just kind of taking pictures but playing that, what you're also talking about the one thing I wanna cover which I didn't mention with underclass photography is when we setup our pictures that setup that I was showing you, that background, it's camera, background, kids. The kids are behind the background. So they come up, hand me the form, I can see the line, I can see the kid in the background, but they stand behind the line and that way the kid has no insecurities of everyone else watching. And then we have the one big soft box right there so they can't even look over from bay to bay 'cause the direction that they're facing is towards that main mic. So setting up your systems, kind of like how we talked about with sports, you gotta set it up in a way that makes you be more successful and it's way, way, way more than just throwing stuff in a room. Pay attention to what the negative influences are, what can be setting kids back.
For the proofing, the order form that you sent home with the proof sheet, what's your timeline or deadline on like you have, what do you give them? Seven days to order or what?
We've been at that 10 days, 10 to 14 days and that's too long. We're gonna cut it. As we're doing more of these, we're finding that that's just too much time, so I would say that seven to 10 days is more appropriate.
Okay. And then how do you schedule the preschools in comparison to the other work that you're doing throughout the year? Is it the same beginning of the school year, so, you know, your underclass thing, you're scheduling September 12th as a Tuesday, are you trying to squeeze in--
That is the national school picture day this year. That's why I reference that date, I wanna make sure you knew that.
Well, are you trying to get a preschool done that same week or are you trying to push them out a month when you're a little slower, different season?
Depends on the preschool. We had one of the accounts we acquired last year wanted to use us because the provider they had before wouldn't come out until December. So they said, we don't really like that because we want our school pictures to be like school pictures and if we're doing them in December, it doesn't feel right. We photographed them, it was like end of September, it was end of September, it was end of September, early October, I think that was what it was. Now that account, that was after we were done with all of our school stuff but it was really close to when we were done with the school stuff then we did this preschool but they have come back to us for the next year and they said we wanna go later. And they said that they don't feel like the kids are all in a good rhythm, they don't feel like, so they wanna push it back, so this next year, it's like mid October, but that's brilliant for me because mid October means I'm gonna be able to photograph them, print their orders, send it home with a wonderful flyer promoting a family session for Christmas cards at the end of October. It's perfect timing for me. So spreading it out, I mean, it's important to spread out but preschools are really like, it's not the same level of intensity. Like, if I go out and I do a school, I might hit 30 grand shooting head shots all day, we might hit 30 grand in revenue. If I go out to a preschool and I hit three grand, that's great, but it's too people that go to the preschool, not a crew. It's one camera setup, not four. It's we work from eight to 11, we don't go all day, so there are huge differences in it too, preschools are awesome, I like them 'cause we do make money off of it but also, when all of the schoolwork, all the stuff, I'm shooting it when I'm not photographing school sports in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, I'm not photographing families, I'm not photographing seniors, this is time where I'm like hanging out. I don't have anything else to shoot, so being able to go in, wake up early, and go spend four hours shooting, photographing some preschool kids, that's a way, way, way, way more profitable day than anything else, yeah.
In order to get the bigger school contracts you said you do like the comp work, candid stuff, events, you put in your 20 hours with them, are you nurturing preschools the same way? And what kind of opportunities are you even suggesting that you might cover for a preschool?
We give them two events and they get one photo booth, so it's not as big, they get two events and one photo booth, so if they have something that they want us to go and like, we're at a community thing and we want candids of this, yeah, just call me, we'll come out. If you want pictures of the kids playing on the playground 'cause you just built a new structure and you wanna show that off, yeah, call me up. They seem to be stuff that the preschools are able to get, though it seems like there's a lower redemption rate, they're less likely to use it. Which is, but all the accounts, all of the stuff that we give away to all of these guys, no one ever uses it all. I'm happy if they do, sometimes I'm kind of annoyed that they don't, but no one ever uses all the stuff we offer.