Archive for professional
As a business person, I am constantly aware of other business’ branding, packaging, special offers, and marketing messages. What better way to learn and apply the same techniques to my own business. I am going to challenge you to start doing the same.
A couple of days ago, I received my membership kit in the mail from a world renowned horse trainer, Clinton Anderson. And what I unpacked truly reflected the saying “under promise and over deliver”.
I knew I was going to get a T-shirt because the website asked me what size I wanted. I knew I would be receiving a DVD or a really thick printed magazine each month. (Everything this guy does is done top notch.) What surprised and thrilled me was all of the extra high quality items that came as well. What extra items he sent isn’t exactly the point. Not everyone would be impressed with a mouse pad with Clinton’s photo on it, a branded baseball cap, a sturdy branded tote bag, two extra DVDs, and a celebration magazine of the first five years of his membership club. The point is I was wowed with all of the surprises. The unexpected. The gifts.
Keep in mind that these extras where not cheap little toss ins either. These were very well branded and nice quality items packed neatly in a useful, clever tote. An ink pen and post it notes with a company logo on it would not have the same effect!
So, what can we learn from this package on my doorstep? To look for ways to surprise and delight our customers. Do something unexpected that will be remarkable. Wow them so much that they can not help but tell others what they have experienced.
I can not tell you at this time that I have the answer on exactly what to do. I am still exploring this myself. I suppose this is one of those constantly evolving projects. What I am hoping to encourage you to do is to start looking for ways to delight your clients and put it into practice.
Look how excited I was about my membership package that I shared it with all of you! And if any of you are horse people, look how much mileage Clinton Anderson got with his impressive membership kit through me so far!
© 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach
The main light-
Raise your light to a 45-degree angle for more flattering light. Placing the light at the subject’s eye level and too close to the camera makes for flat lighting equivalent to a passport.
Use a reflector for a fill instead of a fill flash. A large silver reflector will do a nicer job and not leave a second, unnatural catch light in the eye or over expose the shadows.
Use a hair light, or kicker light, for separation between the hair and the background. Make sure this is not brighter than your main light. A stop less (depending on hair color) is a good place to start.
Behind the subject-
A background light is a must to create depth in the image. A quality background will come to life with a light a stop less than your main. If you don’t have room directly behind your subject for a flash unit, pump it in from the side. It still looks good.
The right lens-
Use a portrait lens instead of a normal or wide angle for nice compression. I like to shoot between 150mm to 200mm.
Not too sharp-
Use a shallower f-stop to keep the emphasis on the subject’s eyes. Too much background in focus, especially outdoor scenes, detracts from the image being a portrait. I like to use f5.6 or wider.
Meter it right-
Record the correct exposure at the time of capture. Do not rely on “fixing it in post”. This is not only unprofessional but time consuming and detrimental to the file’s quality.
Correct color temperature is critical for printing images with pleasing tones. This is especially critical for portraits.
Depending on your camera, you may still need to do a little tweaking in your imaging software like Photoshop. If you have done all of the above, you shouldn’t need to spend too much time in front of the computer. I find, however, my files need a little contrast and deepening of the blacks.
We photographers tend to forget that our subjects very often are nervous at their portrait session. We have so much experience that the process is natural and easy for us. We might even tend to rush them without thinking about things from their perspective anymore.
A relaxing massage or spa treatment is out of the question, so what can you do?
If you think your client is nervous, go ahead and ask them. Sometimes just acknowledging the fact helps a lot. Do not down play the fact that they are nervous by saying, “don’t be nervous.” This does nothing to remedy the fact.
A better response is something reassuring like, “I understand. You are not alone, many people start out nervous.”
At the start of a portrait session remind your subjects that you are very good at posing and will totally help them. Assure them that they can not do anything wrong and that you will always tweak everything so they look fantastic.
Be a good host.
Make sure that your clients are comfortable with their surroundings. Nice mood music, a tidy studio, and a well stocked dressing room are a must. Provide bottled water or other refreshments. A welcome gift bag of treats is also a welcome surprise.
Keep your attention on your client. Do not answer the phone, text message, or even glance at your cell phone. This sends a strong message that your subject is not number one. Being interrupted during a photo session can kill the momentum and creative line of thinking. Keep the phone out of the camera room.
Start the portrait session with the easy, basic head and shoulders yearbook looking poses first. This will get you and your subjects warmed up to get more creative as the session progresses.
One Sneak Peek.
Early in the session, show your client one image on the back of the camera. This goes a long way in building some confidence. They have no idea that they can look so good with proper lighting and posing. All they see is all of the lights, light stands, cords, etc.
Remember to assure your portrait subject that they are doing a great job. Build up their confidence by telling them how great they look and how much fun they are to photograph.
A relaxed portrait subject is key to getting a natural photograph they will want to purchase and share with their friends and family. Master the art of relating with people and watch your sales soar.
There are more choices for finding a photographer these days so help your callers out. Help them get through the uncomfortable moments of opening a conversation they may not know how to do.
Last week I shared an experience I had as being a new customer myself that helped me understand what it must be like for a new person calling a studio for the first time. You can read that here:
Even though they may start with the question of how much you charge, it is not necessarily the question they are really asking.
The salesman in the horse feed booth at the fair could have helped me out by asking some fact finding questions to get me talking. Since I did not know how to start shopping for new horse feed, I needed some help but I was unable to verbalize that at the time.
The salesman could have asked me questions like:
- What kind of horses do you have?
- How many do you have?
- Are they varied in ages and jobs that they do? As there are different feeds based on the amount of physical energy they exert.
- What are you currently feeding them and how is that working?
All of these conversation starters would have been more helpful to me.
So as a photographer your conversation starter questions for a new prospect can be very similar. But first, ask permission not to answer their question right away with a statement like: “I would be happy to answer that question [about pricing] for you. Before I do, may I ask you a few questions first to get an idea of what you are looking for?”
- How many people are in your family?
- What are the ages of your children?
- Do you have a family hobby? Something that we could use to tell a story about you as a group?
- Do you have a location or style in mind?
- Where are you going to display your portrait? (This question also sets you up for planting seeds of a wall portrait sale.)
All of this discussion delays the “how much is it” question. You have time to build some rapport and get to know your prospects needs without focusing on the cost first. They will quickly find out how much you care about them too. You will also get the information you need to more accurately answer their pricing question, which, as you are discovering, really isn’t the real question anyway.
In order to get the prospect to move from a being caller to an actual booking, I offer a consultation in the studio. This is a low pressure invitation for more information so they may discover that I am indeed the photographer for them. At the consultation we look at images, discuss clothing options, and pricing. Personally, if someone does not want to invest an hour of their time to take this step, they are not a good customer for me and I let them go.
© 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach | Gordon Photography & Gallery, Inc.
It can be very difficult to see our business from the customer’s perspective. After all, we know our business so well we take so much for granted. Or maybe, you are new to business and are still struggling with some of the common problems.
This past weekend I had an experience that might help you see your customers from their perspective. And once you see your customers from a fresh perspective, your frustrations with challenges can melt away.
This particular challenge is how do your first time callers feel and what might we do better to convert them into a customer?
Here’s a recent experience I had that might be a good example for you to get an idea how a prospect might feel. I was at a large horse fair trying to learn more about what feed to use for my horses. (I have only had horses three years and still find feeding them properly is complicated.)
I stopped at a booth that I thought would be the answer. I found myself tongue tied at how to start the conversation. (This is where a good salesperson or representative could have been a great help.) I was so unsure what to ask first that I almost left the booth.
Tip one: some prospects will not try very hard to get information.
The real question in my heart that I could not verbalize was, “How do I find out about horse feeding options and more importantly, is this the right feed for my horses?”
That is when it hit me! So that’s how our prospects might feel when they call our studios! They do not know how to say, “how do I select a photographer and are you the right photographer for me?”
So naturally our prospects start with “how much does it cost?” This question right out of the shoot makes most of us cringe. Most of us are unprepared on how to handle this smoothly.
We all know that cost is really irreverent when it is a product we want or need (within reason of course). Look at all the money you spend on your hobby. Answering the question of cost does not have to be the first topic addressed.
Tip two: help your prospect get the information they really need.
I was not going to start the process of learning about horse feed by asking the price first. Not only is that not my mindset, it would not tell me what I really needed to know. Your customers could be the same way.
So I, the introvert, struggled and felt weird until the other man in the booth, the nutritionist, took over the conversation from the untrained salesman who did not know how to interact with new people.
Tip three: learn how to interact with new people especially if they are more introverted and need a little help expressing themselves. Be careful who you put on the phone when new prospects call for information. An untrained person can loose many sales for you.
Once the nutritionist was helping me, things went great. He was friendly, an expert, and only looked at me while he talked. He did not try to get to the next person in the booth until he felt that I was completely done and understood on his product.
Tip four: pay attention to your prospect and listen carefully. You will have plenty of time to make suggestions and influence the sale later.
It made more sense for me to purchase feed in my local area. The nutritionist made sure I knew where to go and what type of feed I needed to get. He gave me his card in case I had any additional questions.
Tip five: be helpful and invite them to continue the conversation later if necessary.
So, next we need to talk about how you specifically apply this experience to your studio. We’ll talk about that next week, come join me. Meanwhile, I encourage you to pay closer attention to interactions you have while you shop and see what you can learn.
(c) 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach
You are if you are not selling frames in your portrait studio.
I have heard countless stories from people who have never gotten around to actually framing their portraits that they purchased from a photographer. Not only are photographers letting thousands of dollars walk out their door, think about all of the artwork just sitting around, unframed, and not hung in people’s homes.
I used to work at a studio that sent out 8×10 images in an envelope. Larger portraits were simply wrapped in paper and leaned up against the wall. It felt so cheap. Our best sales attempt was, “Do you want a frame with that?” People just took their photographs home this way, who knows how long these went unframed. Or worse yet, if the images were framed properly.
I frame at least 95% percent of my portraits that are 11×14 and larger.
I have a plan for making sales and therefore I can make sales. A last minute, “oh by the way, do you want a frame for that?” has not ever been very effective.
- Make sure you have great looking framed samples on the walls. Your clients will want what they can see so hang your favorite frames up.
- Point out your frame displays at key points of working with clients. Have a plan when you will plant the seeds for a sale. Mentioning your framing service more than once builds awareness.
- Suggest the frame that will look good on their final portrait. I like to pick out one or two combinations of frames and mats before my client arrives.
I feel it is our job as photographers to help our customers go home with a portrait ready to hang on their wall and enjoy. Who is better than you, the artist, to help your customers? Do you really want someone less skilled picking out the final presentation for your photography?
It is easy to have a small selection of frame corners to show, a few simple tools, and a sturdy surface to work on. It can also be easy to sell frames without sounding salesy if you have a process for planting the seeds for that sale. Don’t let all of those sales walk out your door.
© 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach