Last summer on one of those hot nights where all you can think about is ice cream I walked into one of those fancy ice cream places.. You know the ones, they have the rhyme-y names and the super cute logo with a cone that dances around on two legs? Yeah, one of those. And when I went in, I was assaulted by 10 different flavors of soft serve ice cream and a wall of cookie and candy related bits that made me dizzy. The options…were endless and overwhelming. Looking at the board overhead I tried to decipher what I should be doing. The store was crowded with parents with their little kids and the line was long, so I tried to make my decision quickly but I was paralyzed by making the WRONG decision. Chastising myself for being such a loser, I asked the teenaged worker “What would you suggest?” She stared at me for a second and said “I dunno, put one of those flavors in your cup and then you know, just add the toppings that you want”
I left with a cup of vanilla with M&M’s sprinkled on top. I don’t even really like M&M’s, but it seemed like a safe choice.
The next time I went in a few days ago and a different worker noticing my reticence came over and asked if they could help. I said yes, and she said ” Really quick, first answer that comes to mind, what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” Quickly I answered “Coffee”. This ice cream goddess then made me a fantastic concoction of coffee ice cream, crushed Heath bars, pecans and caramel syrup.
It was everything that I didn’t even know I wanted.
I used to do something similar to my clients. After their wedding, I’d send them a gallery of 600+ images and say ” Hey, pick 75 of your favorites and let me know what they are and I’ll make you a delicious album!” I’d shoot a portrait session and proof it online and tell my client to pick all their favorites and buy buy buy!
Armed with overwhelming choices of photos, they chose the safe choices. They let everyone they knew weigh in on what they “should have” and “had to have”, and ultimately chose those. I was designing albums with some of the most boring photos of the day and I hated the design, but yannowwhatcouldIdo? I was making my clients HAPPY. I wasn’t selling wall portraits because an 8×10 was big enough for them.
And then came the day that a client posted a review about me that said that she loved her photos and working with me but that I took over a year to get her album to her. The fact was, it took her nearly 7 months to choose the photos, and another 3 months to approve the first design, another 2 months to approve the second, and another 3 months while she dithered about paying for extra spreads and upgrades on the cover. But online, it looked like it was my fault. It wasn’t my fault!!
Or was it?
When I contacted the client to clear things up she said “I loved everything about working with you except the album process”.
I realized that by giving clients that much control, I was doing them a disservice. I’ve designed hundreds of wedding albums in my career, they’ve only even every seen a handful of wedding albums in person. So I took away (most) of the control. Here’s the steps for albums in my studio now
- From the very first point of contact, I sell myself as the expert in the design process. I talk about the albums, but in really general terms. Remember that they are likely seeing other photographers and by the time you get around to album design time it can be a year or more in the future. If they ask specifics I always answer them but I let them know that I will be guiding them through the process and will make sure that they get an heirloom that they are going to love passing down to their children. I talk more about the feeling of their album than the process.
- During the wedding as I am shooting I plant the seed for how certain scenes are going to look great in their wedding album. “These sunset photos are going to look killer as a panoramic page in your album”. (You can do the same thing during portrait sessions “This series of all three kids tickling each other would make a fantastic wall grouping to remember how silly they were at this age”)
- After the wedding, they come in to view their photos in a slideshow format and I mock up a few pages of their wedding album with some key impact images. Seeing their photos displayed on a page always makes them gasp because it’s everything they didn’t even know they wanted.
- I send them home with a link to their photos online that includes a special folder called “Photographers Favorites”. I tell them “If I were making a sample album to show people your wedding, just like the ones you see here in the studio, these would be the photos I would choose to show the story of your wedding day photographically. You are welcome to go in and take out as many photos as you like and replace them with your favorites. I’ll make a design that I am sure you will love, but if you want to swap any of the photos out, that’s not a problem”
Since I started doing this 4 key things have happened
1. 80% of the photos I chose are used.
2. My album up-sells (more spreads, upgrades to covers, etc) have increased $300 per album since 2012.
3. 70% of my clients approve the album with no changes at all. The others have minor swapping of photos that take me minutes to do.
4. My clients have their albums in their hands in as little as 2 months after the wedding. A few dilly-dally a bit more, but I also now have a clause in my contract that says if they don’t choose the photos within a year of the wedding I choose for them and send the album to fulfill the terms of the contract.
Sometimes less is more. Sometimes, it’s even MORE BETTER.
Stay SANE, make your clients HAPPY and be more PROFITABLE.