A pre-session consultation is a good idea. It serves to answer any fears your clients may have about having their portrait taken. It also gives them an opportunity to get your opinion about what is best to wear. Tips on makeup and hair can be helpful. A brief description of their available wardrobe will give you an idea of what to suggest for the session. Of course, plaids and wild designs are to be avoided. Naturally, you must compliment them on their chosen outfit.
Secondly, confirm your appointments the day before. A gentle reminder while ‘touching base’ with your client is usually sufficient to ensure their arrival at the studio the next day. Any last minute changes in clothing can be discussed and a reminder that the parents may be included in some of the pictures of their children is wise. If something comes up that will prevent their making the appointment, it is best that you know ahead of time so that you can rearrange your schedule.
The samples on your studio walls should reflect the finest you can produce and instill in your clients a desire to own a similar portrait of themselves or of their family. Display only a variety of large sizes on your walls. A minimum size of sixteen by twenty and a maximum of thirty by forty inches will give the right impression. Eleven by fourteens and eight by tens look much too small on a wall. The profit margin is much greater in proportion to the increasing size of the portrait. A small area near the selling desk can be put aside for samples of these small sizes. I recommend that four by sixes be made unavailable and wallets not be displayed at all. Make sure that the eight by ten and five by seven samples are of a group portrait so that the head sizes are small in the photograph. The larger wall sizes look best when depicting five to seven people. Fewer heads will appear too large and more figures than seven in the sample portrait will seem lost and hard to see.
One key to larger orders is to present a variety of poses to the client. A normal set of head shots is not conducive to large orders. On the other hand, when each pose shows a different side of the sitter’s personality, the parent can not resist ordering at least one of the different poses. First, ensure the regular poses by photographing the sitter from different sides and using different expressions. Since ninety percent of pose decisions are made on facial expression, it is important to get all the different smiles and pleasant looks that you can. When you are satisfied with the head and shoulder portraits, design a seated pose for more interest. A book may be held or a favorite pet in their lap. These middle shots are a natural for larger portrait sizes. Teens and young children often can strike cute full length poses showing off their new Gap togs. Sport equipment, games or accessory clothing give hands something to do. A few super close ups in serious expressions will add spice to the poses and are great for wallet sales.
Word of mouth is traditionally the best form of advertising, but every avenue of spreading the word is to be taken advantage of. Wallet size photos with your name and telephone on the back make great reminders to future clients. It also makes it convenient for relatives to reorder additional and larger sizes. Most digital orders can be placed on the day of the session, but there are many interested family members at home who would order their own preferences if they could see all the poses. An inkjet printer can make a copy of the parent’s favorite poses in a few minutes for them to take home. The draft copy is fine for choosing their favorite expressions but too poor to be copied on a home scanner. I believe normal retouching should be included as a free service with the session fee but extensive time consuming retouching be charged by the hour.
The summer doldrums can be somewhat alleviated with a beautiful child contest. Other variations are the model search or a pet and child contest . A free session for each child is quite attractive to the parents. A requisite that the parents come in with the children ensures that you are afforded the opportunity to photograph the whole family. Grandchildren group portraits are popular as gifts, but are poor profit makers by themselves. You must insist that the studio be able to photograph each individual family while they are in the studio with the grandchildren. This may involve four or five families, so be sure to allot enough time to accommodate everyone. Since orders from this type of portrait session can run very high, it may be wise to waive the session fees for the individual families.
Finally, a word about break downs is in order. When photographing a family, you can suggest some fun pictures with different combinations of family members. Grandma would love to have a picture of herself with the grandchildren, Dad would be interested in a shot of he and his two boys. Mom and her little girl helper make a cherished portrait and a picture of just the two boys and a separate shot of the three girls is an irresistible photograph. Any resistance can usually be jollied along with a request for the Grandma to “Help me out a little”. A little coaxing and good natured joshing will get them over their shyness. Don’t forget to photograph the grandparents together and individually. These portraits may become very valuable in the future. The family pet make a wonderful action portrait with the family as well as with the children. Even a pet portrait can boost your orders.
Retired portrait photographer. Comments welcome, please.
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