The Pro Photographer’s Guide to WPPI by Jason Aten

Headed to WPPI this week and next? Like 15,000 wedding and portrait photographers, you are headed to one of the biggest gatherings of people from our industry, that you’re ever likely to encounter. Whether you’ve been a dozen times, or are headed out for your first time, the entire experience can be a bit overwhelming (to say the least). Between the platform classes, master classes, impromptu classes, shooting experiences, mentoring, and of course – the parties – there’s a lot happening. Want to come back in one piece?

Here are my WPPI Survival Tips:

1. Don’t try to do everything. You’ll hear this a lot from many people who have been there, but seriously – DON’T try to see everything. You can’t. It’s too big, and you’ll end up robbing yourself of the benefit of what you DO take in. Be picky about where you spend your time. You’ll get the most …

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Making the Move from Second Photographer to Primary Photographer by Kelly Benvenuto

I am an earnest beginner. Just starting out. A weekend warrior. A never-been-to-art-or-journalism-school-photographer. A business owner who never imagined owning a business. As I wade more deeply into the wedding photography world, I am making the switch from second shooting to shooting weddings as a primary photographer. Along the way, I’ve focused on three things: craft, confidence, and clients.

1) Craft

I don’t know about you, but I got into this business because I wanted to make beautiful, meaningful images for couples in love. If I can’t consistently deliver those, then I have no basis for being in business. Given this belief, my first step was to build a technical and artistic foundation for my business honing the craft of photography.

Read. There are so many amazing websites and blogs (like this one) that provide considerable information for free! You can learn about lighting, posing, composition, how to make people feel comfortable in front of your camera. It’s all out there, you just need to find it. Make pictures. All that reading won’t do you any good if you don’t test those ideas for yourself, and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Try a new technique. Try to replicate something you saw, then innovate and make it your own. Challenge yourself to take a picture every day. Go to an inspiring place and make photos. Go to a completely un-inspiring place and make photos. Just make photos. Look at art that inspires you. Sure, this includes the work wedding photographers you admire, but also seek out other artists whose work makes you stop in your tracks in amazement and wonder. Maybe that means looking through high-end fashion magazines, flipping through an art coffee table book, or heading to a local gallery or museum to see the newest exhibit. Is there anything in that work that you can apply to your own? Take a workshop or class. Workshops are an awesome way to learn new skills, get out of your comfort zone, and can help you improve in leaps and bounds. Get a critique. It is impossible to impartially assess your own images. While all those likes, awesomes, and amazings on Facebook will make you feel pretty good, they won’t help you improve your artistry. Hearing from an experienced photographer what they perceive your strengths and weaknesses to be? That is priceless.

2) Confidence

Being a wedding photographer is stressful! It is doubly so if you aren’t confident in what you are doing. At some point, and only you will know when, you just have to make the leap and shoot a wedding as the primary photographer. It can be scary, but with some solid experience and preparation behind you, you’ll be ready.

Experience – The single greatest thing you can do to gain confidence shooting weddings is to shoot weddings. The more experience you have, the more challenges you’ve faced down, the more confident you will be. I can’t think of a better way to gain experience than by second shooting. Shooting with different photographers and getting to observe how they approach different situations and interact with clients will teach you a lot about how you want (and don’t want) to approach weddings. Preparation – This part is just the nuts and bolts. Talk with the wedding couple and make sure you have addresses, phone numbers, lists for group photos. Find out if there are any restrictions at the venues, review the timeline, and learn if there are any surprises planned for the guests. The more you know ahead of time, the better you’ll be able to plan for success during the day. Equipment – While I’m no gear-hound, you need to have adequate equipment and back-up equipment, and know how to use it. Bad stuff happens, it’s just a fact. Having the back-ups will give you peace of mind, and ensure that you are living up to your title of professional photographer and delivering for your clients.

3) Clients

When it comes down to it, the only thing that really separates a primary photographer from a second photographer is if the clients are yours or not. And having clients means having a business.

Getting clients – This can sometimes feel like the most mystifying part starting out (well, this and setting your prices). There’s no secret formula. Referrals from your personal network, referrals from other wedding professionals, and advertising are the three sources available to you. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – try to work with each source. Building relationships – Once you have clients, make them happy. This is one of the things I love most about being the primary photographer versus second shooting. I get to know the couples, I get to collaborate with the couples, and I get to make them and their families happy by creating images they love. If I’m taking care of my clients and making them love me, then I’m hoping they will take care of me and send more clients my way.

About Kelly Benvenuto

I grew up in the middle of nowhere NY, went to college in the middle of nowhere Maine, took my first job at a non-profit in DC, traveled all over the Middle East, and now call the Boston area home. I love: yoga, cooking, lazy days reading with a cup of tea, date nights with my husband, peanut butter, chocolate, fruit so ripe it stains your fingers and drips down your arms, pretty dresses, surprises, nerds and do-gooders, floating under blue skies, laughing til my stomach hurts, going to museums, listening to NPR, dinner with friends, time with family, getting the shot. I want: to document the intimate, joyful, silly and important moments that make up wedding days.

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4 Tips for Building Valuable Vendor Partnerships that Last by Chris Torres

Successful Wedding Take Many Vendors

A wedding is successful because of the collaboration of multiple vendors, working together for their client. When each vendor works together the event goes on beautifully. That is why we refer to each company that was a part of a wedding day not as vendors but as partners. A partner is “a friend who shares a common interest or participates in achieving a common goal.”

Face it, we could all use more business. Developing meaningful partnerships, is one way to get more business. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can provide a wonderful experience with wedding partners and build those relationship to help grow your business.

These easy tips will guarantee your business to grow with new referrals from new partners. It’s as simple as these four steps – Greeting, Writing, Giving and Meeting.

Greeting: First Contact

Since we only allow for a limited number of commissioned weddings a year, it’s important that we make the best of every opportunity and every relationship we come across. At weddings we make it a point to reach out to each partner that is present to help them place a face to our name. We go from being just another photographer to somebody that wants to see them succeed.

I recently shot a wedding at a venue I wanted to create a relationship with, I made a point to meet the catering sales manager and the venue coordinator. I went the extra mile and asked them what photographs they would like me to capture. This told them two things about me. One, that their success is important and two, that they individually are somebody to me. I also made it a point—as I do at every wedding—to tell each of them good-bye at the end of the night. Before I packed up and headed to my car, I  shook their hand or gave them a hug. I let them know it was an honor to work along side of them. It’s important to end the night on a high note and let them see my positive attitude toward a successful evening.

Writing: Following Up

“I believe the handwritten note has become a status symbol” -Julie Weiss

This is perhaps one of the most crucial steps, because if this doesn’t happen it’s highly probable that the other steps may not happen. This is easy! After the wedding, simply send the venue, florist, coordinator, and designer a note letting them know how much you value working with them.

Email, handwritten note, or Facebook message- the specific method is up to you. I prefer a handwritten note because it communicates that you have taken time to sit down and write something personal. Don’t over think it! This is a simple message letting them know how much you enjoyed working with them. You will be surprised at how much this will mean to someone.

***Free word of advice on handwritten notes: keep it short, keep it sweet, keep it 3-5 sentences. Also take your time writing it as neatly as possible. You want the receiver to be able to actually read and enjoy it!***

Giving: Free Goes a Long Way

A major mistake we see photographers make is holding onto wedding images or selling them, instead of giving them to their partners for free. This is a great way not to get any referrals from wedding partners! After all, you will be surprised at how far simply being generous with your images goes! This may be a sensitive subject for some but our studio’s policy is this: since all of the partners have had a hand in creating the wonderful event for the bride and groom, they should be entitled to the images.

Giving images to them can be a fun experience too! Just think about how much of an impact your generosity can make on your partners!

Recently I was at one of our favorite venues meeting and catching up with them. While talking with them they received a package from a photographer that recently shot an event there. It was a proof book of images that the photographer provided so that they could choose the images they wanted to purchase. Needless to say, they were not impressed by this experience and because of that they don’t bother referring this photographer to brides.

We like to give venues a box of matted prints that they can keep on hand and show every bride. We update the box with each wedding we do with them. It’s plain, simple and easy for them. Keep in mind, they are busy doing their jobs and don’t have time to decide what pictures they want from us, let alone time to purchase them. We provide them pictures, and just wait to hear them sing our praises.

Meeting: Time is Money

Part of building any friendship or relationship is investing time. When you show others that they are valued by sharing your time with them, they will show you the same in return. You can invest time building partnerships by following up after a wedding or meeting with a potential partner that you’d like to work with. Ask for a meeting with them and be respectful of their time. When requesting a meeting it’s important to be flexible within their schedule and to be clear and upfront about your intentions. If it’s someone that you have worked with before, bring the images on a disc that you are giving them or items that you have created for them to use. This is a wonderful conversation piece that can make an easy transition into conversations of working together.

Successful partnerships begin are based on positive experiences, from the first time you meet to the continued time invested in the relationship. Remember that relationships take time. Plan on investing time into your key partners- Greeting, Writing, Meeting and Giving. We have found that our most valuable relationships are those that the most time has been given to.

Written by Chris Torres

Chris and Katie Torres, of 6 of Four are documentary photographers based in Atlanta, Georgia with their little girl Rosemary. They believe that life is filled with integral stories of a family’s lifetime. Taking a refreshing and organic approach is what sets them apart. They love capturing the very essence of the family’s legacy and creating their heirlooms. They recently embarked on a new journey, Farmwood Press – Personalized Letterpress Legacies, as another creative extension of their every growing fine art.

6 of Four Weddings :: 6 of Four Portraiture :: Farmwood Press

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Creating a Schedule to Maximize Productivity by Anne Ruthmann

Maximizing Photographer Productivity by Creating a Schedule

When we work for other people, having work hours, weekly meetings, and daily tasks is practically expected.  However, when working for ourselves, it’s very easy to let time slip by if we don’t create a schedule for our productivity.  The great thing about working for ourselves is that we can create a schedule that works with our own peak productivity and distraction times.  If we know that we are most productive with post-production late at night, and we have the freedom to wake up later in the day, than we can create a schedule that allows us to focus in this way.  If we know that we’re most alert to responding to emails first thing in the morning, than we can create a schedule that works with our peak alertness.  By simply planning out when we will deal with our regular tasks for a typical week, we can quickly increase our efficiency.


1. Shooting Days and Times - Stay in control of your schedule and your time by letting clients know when you’re available, rather than asking them when they’re available.  Designating shooting times in your schedule allows you to easily provide clients with your next three available times and days.  If you’re a wedding photographer, you may not want to schedule engagement shoots on Saturdays during your peak season in case a wedding opportunity comes along at the last minute.  If you’re a portrait shooter who works outdoors with natural light and you prefer to have your weekends free, than you may only want to schedule portrait shoots during the week during your golden light hours.

2. Post-Production Times – Once you know when your possible shooting times are, then you know that you will also need to designate an appropriate amount of time after each shoot for post-production like backing up images, culling, editing, and enhancement.  Whether you do this, or you give this task to someone else, there needs to be time set aside in your week to deal with these tasks.  Once you make time for this in your schedule, it’s easier to enjoy an evening out because you know that you’ve set aside post-production time the next day to move the project forward.

3. Marketing Times – Whether it’s blogging, Facebook, Twitter, emailing vendors, or working on a newsletter, there needs to be time set aside in your schedule to help market yourself and share your work with future clients and referrals.

4. Communication Times - As tempting as it is to check your email as soon as something new comes in, you will be much more efficient if you designate time in your day when this is appropriate.  Since email can easily take more time than we’d like, it may also be helpful to set a timer in order to make sure that your time spent on email isn’t leaking over into times you need to work on other tasks.

5. Meeting Times – If you do in-person sales after a shoot, or meet your clients in advance of their shoots, you need to make sure you have room in your schedule to make these happen at a time and day that works for you.

6. To Do List Times - Inevitably there are tasks that fall outside of the above categories and will need to have time set aside in your week to be dealt with.  Perhaps it’s running to the store to get supplies, entering your financial numbers, updating software, researching your next piece of equipment, or following up with inquiries that you haven’t heard back from.  Allowing yourself a time during the week to catch up on things you’ve placed on your to do list means that your to do list will never get too long.


Below are just a couple examples of how a 9am-6pm work schedule could be broken up differently.  Obviously, you want to create a schedule that works best for you and takes advantage of your peak working, communication, and distraction times.  It’s also good to designate other productive tasks that would be appropriate in each time slot in case you don’t have post-production, shoots, or meetings during the times you’ve set aside for them.  When you know what’s coming next in your schedule, it’s harder to get distracted and lose track of time.

What does your weekly schedule look like?  Share your answers in the comments or on the Pictage Community Forums!

Sample Schedule A -  Portrait Photographer

Monday – Friday

9am – 11am Post-Production 11am – 12:30pm Communication 12:30pm – 1:30pm Lunch Break 1:30pm – 3:30pm Marketing/To Do List 3:30pm – 4:30pm Communication 4:30pm – 6:00pm Shoots/Meetings

Saturday – Sunday – Off (or premium shoots only)

Sample Schedule B – Wedding Photographer

Tuesday – Friday

9am – 11am Marketing 11am-12pm Communication 12pm – 1pm Lunch 1pm – 3pm Post-Production 3pm – 5pm To Do List/Communication 5pm – 6pm Meetings/Shoots

Saturday – Shooting Sunday – Monday – Off

Written by Anne Ruthmann

Anne Ruthmann is a philanthropist and visionary, who makes a living as an international award-winning wedding & lifestyle photographer.  She geeks out about business strategy and finding ways for artists to make a living doing what they love, which is why she feels strongly about developing community at her Boston PUG and sharing information onPhotoLovecat.  She also recently started offering the Smarter Business Workshop in order to provide hands-on help to photographers in several different cities around the US.  When she isn’t working or helping others, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband and trying foods she can’t pronounce.

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Find Your Client’s Signature Pose…and Name It by Justine Ungaro

posing couples for engagement photography sessions

When I first started out I dreaded the engagement session. In fact, I dreaded anything that meant I had to actually pose or direct my clients. It just scared me because I had no idea what to do with them. But as the years passed and I got more comfortable with the idea, I have actually grown to love shooting engagement sessions. I’ve learned that working with just the couple can be really fun and the opportunity to explore multiple locations allows for a high level of creativity.

Not only does the engagement session allow you to get to know your clients a little better, but it also gives you the opportunity to see how they photograph and to figure out how to make them look their best. Often when I’m shooting an engagement I will stumble upon a pose with a couple that just really works for them. All of a sudden they look comfortable, happy and just gorgeous and I start getting all excited and shooting a ton. I’m sure this happens to most of you as well. So when it does, I encourage you to name the pose with your clients. It can be called anything. But the point is that you want them to remember it for the wedding day because it will be an easy go-to, and you and your clients will immediately feel comfortable. They might even just do it automatically.

This particular couple named this pose “Signature Drape” during their engagement session and we used it several times on the wedding day. You can see they even got better at it from the first image to the second.

If you forget to do this during the engagement session itself, you can also use Pictage to help you figure out which images your clients love. Simply take a look at which ones they ordered. You may find that your favorites and your clients’ favorites are very different.

Just one thing to remember, look for a signature pose for each client, one that flatters them specifically. Try to avoid having the signature pose that you do with every single couple.

Written by Justine Ungaro

Justine Ungaro has been photographing weddings in her own clean, classic style since 2003. A second generation photographer, Justine grew up in the Washington DC area and moved to Los Angeles in 2006 where she expanded her business to include children’s and music industry portraiture and soon after began giving workshops and speaking at photography conventions. She currently maintains studios in Los Angeles and DC.

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Tips for Getting Started in Boudoir Photography by Christa Meola

I receive tons of emails from enthusiastic photographers who are catching boudoir fever and would love to know how to get started!  Here’s a perfect example:

“I am just starting out as a photographer and would love to do Boudoir.  There are so many things I need to do and learn, and I am working to raise the money needed for equipment, sets, and marketing. I’m not sure what to do first or how to really get started!”

Here is my best advice for a helpful approach in getting started, how to prioritize your investments, create a smoking hot portfolio, and get that first boudoir client!

KEEPING A PLAYFUL AND INTELLIGENT APPROACH As a boudoir photographer and as a woman, I live by the following three tenets: Simplify, Experiment, and Focus on Emotion. I believe these principles are conducive to creativity and success in all areas of my life, photography, and business. Keeping these …

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Character Marketing: Why do your clients hire you? by Mike Larson

character marketing for photographers

Why do clients hire you? Think about it for a minute.

Over the past 13 years as a photographer/entrepreneur, I’ve realized that the reason people hired me was not always what I assumed it was, especially in the beginning years of building my business and reputation. I would have liked to think that people hired me because they had to have me as their photographer. Looking back over my first few years though, I realized that many of the people who hired me did so not because of who I was, or what I did, but for some other lesser reason. They might have hired me because I was the most economical, because I sold them on me, because I had a show special, or because I was one of the few available for their date.  Certainly not reasons I would want to brand myself on. As far as positioning myself uniquely, I’d never want to be known as the guy in town to book because he’s underpriced, or the guy who gives away the most in his packages, or even the guy who is always available last minute. None of these reasons are very good unique positioning strategies.

None of these things give someone the reason to pay a premium for an experience based service. So what does?

In my experience, people who have been willing to pay more, have done so because of me and not the photos. It was the trust that they had in me, because of my character.

Once I realized this, I began to change my focus of exposure FROM my images and the time I spent on them, to myself. I made myself more available to those who were working closely with potential clients, mostly the venues and coordinators. I made sure that those important people knew me and my character. I made it my #1 priority to be in the place where the action was happening, where clients would most likely make the purchase decision. This was pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook. I realized that true honest to goodness face time with those who would refer me, was the #1 important thing.

Here’s the formula:

Find the “action spot,” (the point where your clients converge and are most likely to make a purchase decision). Maintain an ongoing relationship with the gatekeepers to those places. Provide more sustainable value and passion than anyone else. Define to them what your unique positioning is, (and you can’t use any term that comes up in a google search, such as “capturing your unique beauty the way nobody else can.” That may come up about 5000 times and is NOT unique).

People trust people over brands, so that means your face is more important than your logo. Why do people remember you? I recommend having a “To Be” list. At the top of my “To Be” list is who I want to be and what I want people to remember me as. This comes above my to do list, which defines what I get done. You decide what’s more important for you.

In a sea of a hungry and sometimes desperate business climate, our character shines more than anything else. People do business with those who they like and who they trust. Do people trust you? Before you answer with a quick, “Of course.”  Ask those who have hired you, why they hired you, and don’t let them tell you “it was your images”, or because they “liked you.” Everyone says that, rather, get to know exactly WHY they hired you and you’ll find out your “secret sauce.”

I believe that it’s our character that allows our business to flourish, and our business that gives our character the chance to continue to grow. By focusing our efforts on the real reason we want our clients to hire us (because of our character), we spend our time being who we want to be, rather than racing others with the price game, discount game, package matching game, or any other way.

Think of the businesses you choose to spend a premium with and I’ll bet its because of who the people are who serve you that you get the amazing experience you get. And most importantly, I bet you can tell me in 10-15 words why that business is different and far better from anyone else. Now, can your clients say the same about you? Once they do, you’ll have a team of customer evangelists telling the world simply how amazing you are, free of charge of course!

Learn more about “Character Marketing” from Mike at the 2nd annual WPPI Photographers Ignite Presentations on Thursday February 24th  from 10 am-12 pm. All are welcome to attend!

Mike will also be presenting a WPPI platform talk “Defining Your Style” Sunday Feb 20th from 3:30-5:30pm with a guest panel of speakers including Mike Colon, Jose Villa, Jesh deRox, w/ Stylist Summer Watkins, and Blogs Style Unveiled and 100LayerCake. Visit for more information.

Written by Mike Larson

Mike Larson is an international photographer who began his career traveling the globe in search of photographing exotic locations, amazing surf, and beautiful cultures. Since then, he discovered his passion for photographing people who are in love and enjoying life. Residing in Southern California when not traveling, Mike is honored to be sought after to photograph spectacular weddings around the world.

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Back to Basics, Dodging & Burning in Photoshop (Video Tutorial) by Phil Thornton

This is the first video in a series by Phil Thornton that will take a look at the basic concepts of post processing an image of a couple. There are several ways to dodge and burn but the concept is the same. With proper dodging and burning you can move the viewers eye through the photo and add depth to an image. These same techniques can be applied to any application you might use for dodging and burning.

If you would like to download a free Photoshop action that creates the dodge/burn layers automatically (as seen in the video) click here .

Written by Phil Thornton

Phil Thornton and his wife Mindy run one of the most successful wedding photography studios in the Nashville market, Phindy Studios. Before entering the photography industry, Phil was a web developer and internet marketing professional. He contributed to several international web marketing projects for clients ranging from Disney …

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Connecting With People That Matter To Your Business by Jason Aten

It’s a big world out there. Even in your market or area, there are probably more than a hundred wedding industry professionals and vendors. One of the most valuable ways to build your photography business is through the relationships you develop with these key industry professionals. It’s also one of the hardest.

Although photographers seem to be a pretty social group, I often hear from friends and peers that the idea of trying to meet planners, venues, coordinators, designers, etc, can be intimidating. Where do I even start? How do I get people to refer me business? What do I do to meet the important people?

Those are all great questions. Just as in any industry, people want to work with – and refer business to – people they know and like. People want to work with people they’ve already developed relationships with. Calling a bunch of vendors and asking to be on their “preferred” list probably isn’t going to be the best long-term strategy. On the other hand, I think that taking the time to develop real relationships can make a huge difference.

Meet One

A good place to start is this: every month, make it a priority to meet one new industry peer or vendor. It can be a planner, a venue sales director, a florist, a designer – whoever you want it to be. Make it a goal to meet just one. This is a goal anyone can meet. Finding one new person in your market or area to connect with, helps you to start building those relationships.

There are a lot of great tools you can use to connect with people – often Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are great places to start getting a sense for people – and to even introduce yourself. How you choose to introduce and meet with someone is up to you, but here are a few suggestions…

It’s about them. No one wants to build a relationship with someone who just wants to get something out of it. Think about how you would feel if someone reached out to connect and then proceeded to simply give you some sales pitch about their business and why you should refer them. You certainly wouldn’t feel like there was a relationship based on mutual respect.

If your reason for meeting someone is to get yourself business – you probably won’t have much success. Instead, focus on learning more about their business and who they are as a person. People appreciate it when they feel valued – and if you treat your industry partners like you do your clients (as the most important person in the world), you’ll find yourself with some very valuable relationships.

Be authentic. Did you ever date someone, and after a while realize that the person who they seemed on those first few dates? Probably wasn’t a fun experience right? It’s tempting to make our business seem bigger and better than it really is – especially when meeting other people in our industry. The reality is, the truth always shows up sooner or later, and people will eventually see your business for what it is.

On the other hand, people resonate with people that are authentic and honest even if their business is still growing or developing.

Touch One

In addition to making one new connection each month, every week reach out to one person who already has a relationship with your business. This can be an existing vendor or industry partner or it can be a client. The key is to reach out and touch one person each week to reconnect, and strengthen the relationship.

For me, my goal is to send one handwritten note each week to someone. Often its a thank you note to a client for their business, or a note to a vendor when I read something good about their business or see a featured wedding published that they were a part of. I only write a note when it’s authentic, genuine, and about them. I look for cool things that are happening with clients and partners, and send them encouragement when appropriate.

You can write for any reason you can think of but my only rule is this: NEVER, EVER, EVER INCLUDE YOUR BUSINESS CARD. EVER.

Think about it. If you receive a heartfelt, handwritten note, out of the blue from someone you’ve done business with in the past and after reading it you find their business card. Who is that note really about? Does it really feel quite as sincere? I know that some will argue that without some way for them to know how to contact you, how does it help your business. My thought is that if this is someone with whom you truly have an existing relationship with, chances are good that they’ll know how to get ahold of you when they need/want to.

So, it’s January.

What if you sat down right now and made a list of vendors you wanted to meet this year? What if you made a list, and started reaching out to them – one a month – as a priority for your business? What if you started a habit right now – of writing a note to someone who has added value to your business this past year?

How might your business look differently in a year from now?

Written by Jason Aten

Jason Aten is a Michigan based wedding photographer. After a career in marketing and sales management for a Fortune 100 company, Jason became relentlessly drawn to the ability to impact people’s lives through photography. So in 2001 he quit his job to start his own photography business. Jason applies his previous marketing and sales experience to his photography business and now takes the time to educate others with his “Starting Out Right”one-day intensives and resource guides. You can find more posts like this on the Starting Out Right blog.

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The Importance of a Pre-Portrait Client Consultation by Justine Ungaro

family portrait photography by justine ungaro

Whenever I walk into a store and a salesperson asks me “can I help you find anything?”, like most people my first reaction is to say “no, thank you” and shrink away as quickly as possible to go hide in a dark corner somewhere. But the truth is that at least half the time I am actually looking for something and I could use some help from an expert after all. Most people just don’t like feeling as if they are being sold to, right? I know I don’t.

But in order to be a successful professional photographer, you have to learn how to sell your work….otherwise you’re just a hobbyist. So how do we sell to clients without feeling as though we are pushing our work on them?

The answer is by preparing them to purchase from you before there is even any work to purchase. There are many ways to do this but what I feel is the best way is through an in-person consultation. You might find your own way to go about it but you need to figure out ways to educate your clients. Here are a few ways that I use the in-person consultation to enhance my portrait sales and to do most of my selling before I’ve even shot a single picture:

1. Location scout. Since I shoot almost all of my portrait sessions in or around my clients’ homes, this gives me the perfect opportunity to visit their home ahead of time to get ideas, see their home and to decide what the look of the session might be. This way I can be sure to bring the right variety of lenses and lights if I think I’m going to need them.

2. Discuss clothing. How often do your clients ruin your beautiful portraits by wearing terrible clothing? I’ve had it happen plenty of times. Discuss clothing suggestions at your consultation and remove one more barrier between you and a nice, healthy portrait order.

3. Learn about the family’s personal and decor style. Seeing what type of home your clients live in, what type of furniture they love and how they live their daily lives will give you vital clues into what types of images they might love. Don’t forget to keep this in mind as you shoot.

4. Plant ideas for products. If you visit your clients’ homes ahead of time and see big, blank walls, this is a perfect opportunity to suggest wall canvases, clusters of framed portraits or other large pieces. If you see a lack of wall space, you could gently suggest that an album might be a good fit for their lifestyle.

5. Be the expert. Remember that your clients have come to you for a reason. They want your photography, they want to buy from you. Sometimes they don’t know what they want. This is your opportunity to ask them the right questions to find out what they are looking for and then find ways to fill their needs.

Written by Justine Ungaro

Justine Ungaro has been photographing weddings in her own clean, classic style since 2003. A second generation photographer, Justine grew up in the Washington DC area and moved to Los Angeles in 2006 where she expanded her business to include children’s and music industry portraiture and soon after began giving workshops and speaking at photography conventions. She currently maintains studios in Los Angeles and DC.

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