Options. We think we like them. We actually hate them.

There’s a hamburger chain out in my neck of the woods called In-N-Out. Many of you have probably heard of them, if not had a hamburger from there at one point. They have a bit of a cult following, with consistent lines out the door at all of their locations. They’re focused on fresh (never frozen) burgers that taste delicious.

To appeal to so many people, you’d think they’d have lots of options on their menu. Lots of people = lots of different wants and needs = lots of options. Wrong. In-N-Out has three options: a hamburger, a cheeseburger, and a double cheeseburger. That’s it.

I have a rant I do when I present on this topic, and it generally addresses an area where I see photographers offer WAY to many options: ALBUMS. Think about all of the CHOICES you give your client when you sell them an album?

• What size album would you like? (8×8, 10×10, etc)
• How many pages would you like? (30, 40, etc)
• How many images would you like? (60, 75, etc)
• What kind of cover would you like? (Leather, Cloth, Wood, etc)
• What color of cover would you like? (Brown, Black, Pink, etc)
• Would you like a cover photo?
• What size of cover photo would you like? (4×6, 5×7, etc)
• Would you like imprinting?
• What would like the imprinting to say?
• What color would you like the imprinting?
• All caps? All lowercase?
• Name and Date? Just name? Just Date?
• First and Last Name? Just first Names?

It’s overwhelming just reading this list! And you wonder why it takes them years to finalize their album?

In-N-Out has it right. They know that 80 percent of you just want a hamburger, or a cheeseburger, or a double cheeseburger. And, if you want something more than that, well, you’ll ask. That’s why they have a “Secret Menu.” Animal Style, Whole Grilled, Protein, etc. Yes, you can have it any way you want it, but In-N-Out knows that if you want it special, you’ll probably ask! Why confuse 80 percent of people with tons of options that only a few want?

Here’s the real point: think about how many clients might NOT be ordering an album because of all the options. Maybe instead of empowering them with choices, you’re paralyzing them? Instead of thinking about the ONE client that might possibly need a pink wood cover, think about how many clients might NOT be booking you because you overwhelm them with too many options.

If you’re interested in chatting more about why options stink, or learning about how to price your photography services more effectively, check out Jared’s newsletter, created specifically to guide professional photographers.

Written by Jared Bauman

Professional Photographer Jared Bauman

Jared is the Founder and President of ShootDotEdit, the First Choice Post Processing partner for the Wedding Pro. The company has grown to service more than 6,000 photographers in over 45 countries. Together with his team, he has helped to proliferate industry advancing concepts such as Fast is Best, which speaks to ShootDotEdit’s 48 hour turnaround time.With a background in Business, Jared provides the photography community with business resources and education. He is an expert in Photographer Pricing, and has toured the country speaking about how to maximize profits through a clear and simple Pricing structure.  His Pricing Consulting sessions are regarded as instrumental in creating effective pricing for individual photographers.  Jared has a series of Business DVDs available, designed to provide the photographer with a full range of resources to build a successful business.

He also built a photography studio in Southern California, Bauman Photographers, that photographs over 75 weddings and 1,500 corporate headshots annually. In business for 12 years, Bauman Photographers is an excellent example of a customer-focused associate model in the photography industry.

In his free time, Jared loves to travel and backpack, photographing God’s creating with his panoramic camera.


  • David Bock says:

    “Oh my. I’ll never go back to Burger King. It was too confusing with all those options,” said no one, ever.

    In-And-Out works because they manage client expectations correctly. The whole idea is “In and Out”. Simple. Easy. We just do burgers. Nothing else. Burger King does great too and their marketing is “Have it Your Way.” Focus on custom and option. Both are perfectly fine sales models if they are marketed to their target client correctly.

    Personally I don’t like In-And-Out. I find their burgers to be tasteless, bland, uninspiring and poorly put together because they go too fast and don’t care about my product. I prefer Meatheads. I like people to take their time and make it right. Big bold flavors with a simple (but option packed) menu.

    What’s important is how seamlessly these processes work together and the simplicity in making an order. Removing all the options is not a platform for success if it isn’t backed up with a brand, expectation and marketing platform to support it. Imagine if Burger King dropped everything but the Whopper and said cheese or no cheese and 3 pop options, but kept their marketing the same. It’d tank. Imagine if McDonald’s decided to only offer the Big Mac.

    I can promise you that there isn’t a single bride out there who doesn’t purchase an album because it’s oh so tough to choose between cover sizes and leather. No. I don’t buy it. In fact I find that rather insulting. They don’t buy from that photographer because it hasn’t been sold to them correctly, because no one has mentioned it, because it’s not priced right, because it looks cheap, because they are on a budget, because the ordering process is overcomplicated and difficult (options not being what I’m talking about here).

    Brides take forever to finalize because half the time they aren’t given a timeline, because their photographers don’t manage their expectations correctly, because they don’t walk them through the process, because they don’t have a good album proofing service like Album Exposure, etc etc. I give a TON of options to our clients, sell albums to 80% of them, and often they have approved their album within 4 weeks of their wedding.

    Less does not equal simple or successful. Unfortunately businesses make that mistake a lot.

    So while I agree that In-and-Out has an excellent business model, to me it’s not because of their lack of options, it’s because of how well those lack of options are marketed, packaged and sold.

  • Dan Speicher says:

    I think David and Jared are both right.

    For someone starting out, the In and Out model could be great for someone looking to simplify. It is the model that I use. I do size, color, and number of pages, then I advise on number of images for the book.

    However, a number of friends offer everything under the sun, and it works for them. They are a modern styled brand, where as I prefer to keep it simple. Is one wrong? Nope. And if a client has their mind set on an album style, I will work with them, but for me, I love simplicity that is timeless and classic. So that is why I offer that.

    Its like a bar only offering light beer, dark beer, and water. Sometimes you want a larger selection, but for 50+% those three selections would be fine.

  • Jared Bauman says:

    David, perhaps you cater to the 20% I mentioned above. There is most certainly a market for those clients who like to peruse, deliberate, consider, and buy. No doubt about it.

    For example: Android platform = more choices. iOS platform = less choices. Both are very successful 🙂

    However, it has been shown that the general mass of our population prefers less choice, not more choice. This was an article on the psychology of the way humans make decisions, and how that pertains to our pricing as photographers.

    I would recommend reading some of the books on Behavioral Economics that have been published recently, if you’re interested in the subject. Most notably, my favorite author and expert on the subject is Dan Ariely. His 2008 TED talk has some fantastic examples of the different studies that show how damaging options are to making a decision:

    Most important, though, is that it seems you’ve found a model that works well for you. Selling albums to 80% of your couples is certainly something you should be very proud of. Congrats!

    PS – Its always good to keep in mind that, in our example above, In-N-Out doesn’t restrict the way you have your hamburger…. they simply remove options from the menu 🙂 You can have it any way you like it 🙂

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