How do you earn £1000+ from a single family portrait session?

I wish that when prospects called my business the phone calls went like this:

Prospect:  “Hi Dan, we love your work so much – how much is a gigantic framed canvas of our family”.

Me: “£1199”.

Prospect: Awesome – let’s do this thing”.

Sadly it doesn’t work like that. My photographs don’t sell themselves.

So, how do I earn £1000+ from a single family portrait session…?

…despite living in Peterborough in the UK, a low income city…

…and despite working from home.

Well, it’s a step by step process.

Most people don’t invest a lot of money without giving it some thought. It’s a big decision and most people don’t make big decisions all in one go.

A big decision is made up of lots of smaller decisions.

It’s all about subtly educating your clients using logic mixed with emotion.

On the one hand you explain how your service is different (logic).

However family portraits are a highly emotional product and people don’t base their decision on logic alone. So you use emotional questions and language to help them FEEL how your service will result in photographs that are more special.

Before I get into the meat of the subject I want to clarify something. We’re in business because we want to earn a decent living for our family and for ourselves. We all deserve that. Photographers deserve a pension, holidays, a decent car and meals out, just as a builder or an engineer does.

Most photographers charge way too little for their work because:

  • They’ve never calculated how much time goes into their work
  • They’re worried that people will complain about their prices
  • They feel they have to charge a similar amount to everyone else in their neighbourhood
  • They can’t get over the mental hurdle that photographic paper and digital files don’t cost much, so it can’t be worth much. Not true – you’ve invested a huge amount of time, talent and emotion to create beautiful images that your clients will treasure more than almost any other possession. Your service is VERY valuable. Never forget that.

OK, here are the basic steps behind how I help my clients value my photography more and ultimately invest more than they’d planned (while still making them happy they chose me!).

Step 1: I don’t put my prices on my website

If I did then people would simply compare my prices to other photographers and never fully understand why my prices are so much higher. Net result – they wouldn’t call me. Ever since I removed prices from my website I receive many more calls because people want to find out what they are. Last year I got 250 enquiries from my website traffic alone.

Step 2: Get email enquiries onto the phone

If they email me to ask for prices I use a series of carefully planned emails that encourage the prospect to call me. I don’t give out prices over email because that’s no better than putting them on your website. I want to get them onto the phone because the phone allows me to ask questions and build rapport and emotion more effectively that email.

Step 3: Get telephone enquiries to meet me

When they’re on the phone my goal is to get them to meet with me – not to book me. Remember, we’re taking them through lots of little steps – none of which are too scary for the prospect.

I ask lots of questions about their family and what’s important to them about the photographs. This helps them think emotionally about the photographs rather than focusing on prices, print sizes etc. It also shows you care about what they want and that they won’t be treated like they’re on a production line.

Although we want to stay away from price the telephone is the time to give a ballpark figure. After all, we don’t want to waste everyone’s time by meeting them if we’re not going to be right for each other. And we definitely don’t want clients to be angry that they weren’t aware of your prices before they booked you. That will ruin your reputation.

I personally say “most people invest between x and y and get one or two larger portraits and a few smaller ones, does that fit within your budget”.

My ‘x’ is around half of my average order value and ‘y’ is my average order. This gives some wiggle room and I know that once people hire me and get further through my system they’ll end up investing more than they’d anticipated anyway.

After I’ve built rapport and handled any price objections I get them to take the next little step, which is to meet me. I stress there’s no charge for this and no obligation to go ahead.

Step 4: The design consultation

You’re now going to meet the prospect. Now your goal is to get them to book you. Just like on the phone you’re going to be asking questions, building rapport and sharing ideas.

You’re going to show them stunning samples of your work at decent sizes (30×20 inches and above) and beautifully framed.

This gets them excited about what you can do and sets an expectation that wall portraits are what you specialise in.

Wall portraits are inherently perceived as more valuable than prints or digital files. Therefore people are prepared to invest much more in them, so that’s what we’re going to keep focused on.

This is also where you get more specific about prices. You point to different sizes and tell them the price.

I go through my portfolio with them and ask them to tell me what they do and don’t like.

We also talk about any locations that are meaningful to them that might be good for doing the photography. That way the location becomes like an extra character in the photograph and makes it even more meaningful.

I also give them advice on the best clothing to wear for photography. All this is positioning me as a professional who cares about offering a fantastic, tailored service.

Step 5: Prepare for the session

There’s no point being great at booking people if you don’t provide a great photography experience. Here’s what I prepare:

  • I scout the location to find the best locations
  • I create a little portfolio of ideas on my mobile so I can refer to it during the session
  • I prepare what I’m going to say during the session to entertain my clients. I want them to enjoy the session and I know I’ll get better expressions and better photographs if I help my clients forget they’re being photographed.

Step 6: Show the client their photographs in person

This is THE most important step. In fact, the way you present your photographs is the most important decision of your photography career.

Online sales or simply giving clients all the digital files will completely undermine all your hard work. If you’re going to do that then forget all the steps I’ve just shared. You need to decide if you’re going to compete on service or price. Do you want to be the equivalent of a Michelin Star chef, or fast food?

I use an overhead projector and I even have some special software that enables me to ‘virtually’ show clients their photographs on the walls of their home, to scale, and with my supplier’s frames around them!

The software subtly shows them that in most cases their walls need a decent sized portrait, rather than the 8×10 they may have been considering previously.

How to get great orders from the in-person sales process could be an entire seminar on its own. There are too many tips and mistakes to avoid for me to cover in a single blog post.

These are the very basic steps you need to follow, but each step has layer-upon-layer of nuance. That’s why we’ve created ‘The Four Figure Family Photography Formula Funnel’.

Not only does it go into far greater detail of all these steps (and more), but it also includes 10 marketing tactics that I use to bring in great clients. It’s 13 videos and over 4 hours of content. Nowhere else on the internet is there a complete system like this that shows you everything from beginning to end. From finding great clients through to booking, ordering and delivery.

It costs less than a meal for two and, if you don’t love it you get your money back anyway! Check it out now.