Dorie is a published photographer who serves the Washington DC metropolitan area. She loves serving her clients in all genres, but specializes in corporate headshots and personal branding sessions. As well as running her photography business, she has also become a top photography mentor to other photographers. Her previous experience in the corporate world, working in small professional offices, taking care of everything from payroll, employee management, customer service, and sales, to running her own photography business. She has worked with tens of thousands of photographers worldwide and loves seeing their businesses grow.
Dorie is actually sharing a step-by-step process on exactly how, and exactly how to add products to your photography business. She also shared a very specific tip to make product sales without an in-person meeting before the session, as well as the big costly mistake that she says photographers make when adding images of samples to their online galleries. Plus, she is giving you a script for exactly what to say to offer your products if you’re doing IPS or online galleries.
What to expect in this article:
- Meet Dorie + the importance of offering product/s on top of digital files
- How to add products in your photography business in a simple 5-step process
- Tips to enhance customer experience
The Importance of Offering Product/s on Top of Digital Files
Tavia: Dorie Howell, welcome to From Better Half to Boss. I am pumped to have you talk about a topic that I know can feel overwhelming for photographers, but also exciting. So welcome to the show.
Dorie: Thank you so much, Tavia. I am so excited to be here. I know that we’ve tried to do this for a while and it’s so nice to have the day here to talk about products in a way that isn’t overwhelming. And hopefully if people are listening and they’ve wanted to start offering products in their studio, they can find that it doesn’t have to be like this big, long, huge, complicated process.
Tavia: Dorie is the master to talk about this. If you want somebody to talk about in-person sales and all of these things, Dorie is definitely the person for that. Before we get into all of the juicy stuff that you have to share with us today, I want to know how you used IPS in your own photography business?
Dorie: I think for me, it really did start back 15 years ago when I started my business and I started my business as a newborn and family photographer. That’s what I was known for 13 years, right? I always had the idea of – digital files, to me, didn’t seem like a finished product. Probably it goes back to my wedding experience and the fact when I got married – oh, this is going to make me sound really old – I got married at a time where digital cameras were just coming out. My husband and I went to our honeymoon to Tahiti with a 1.3 megapixels Canon digital camera and we thought we were the bomb.
But my wedding pictures were shot on film. So, it was one of those things where I never even had a second thought of, I want to print these pictures.
I want a physical representation of these pictures. And that’s how photography had always been. You never hired a photographer just to get the negatives.
And that’s more like what digital files are. They’re like your negatives. Yes, they can be retouched and they can be shared and all that type of thing, but they really are the negatives to the product that you are providing for your client.
And I just always wanted those physical representations, I wanted those prints in the frames. And that’s really what it was at that point in time, 20 years ago. Prints in frames. We were getting 4×6’s and 5×7’s and if it was a really big print, it was an 8×10, that was it. So, to see how far the technology side of photography has come in such a short period of time is incredible.
When I started my business 15 years ago, I really wanted to provide people with a physical representation of the work that I was doing for them and that was in the form of prints. And at that point in time, digital photography was coming up in popularity and it never sat right with me just to give someone a download of or a CD, back then, of files, because I felt like, especially as a new mom, I was giving them something for their to-do list. It wasn’t a finished product.
And I don’t know, we probably have a lot of moms who are listening, and new moms, the last thing you want is a new thing for your to-do list. And I felt like I was doing a disservice, especially for my newborn clients.
So, back then there was online forums. We didn’t have Facebook groups. It was the same idea, online forum. And I heard this thing – it wasn’t called IPS at the time because that was just a term coined later to make it so everyone understood. But they said if you go to your client’s house and you look at the images with them and they order prints from you, you will make more money. Sold. If I’m going to do all this work, I want to make more money.
So, I was still charging a session fee. I didn’t include any digitals with it. They could purchase digitals because I considered those a product in my business. And then I offered very basic print options and the very first client that I went to, I tripled my sales from just a session retainer into products. Tripled my sale from $300 to $900.
The next client I went to, it was $1,800 or something similar. I don’t remember the exact amount, but the amounts kept going up in correlation with the amount of service that I was providing and also the beautiful products that I was offering them. And you really didn’t need to sell me on it. It just was like, “Yeah, this is what I need to do. This is what I need to do for my clients.”
I am one of those types of people that if I don’t have it all figured out right away, I will figure it out along the way. And that’s really what I did. I figured it out along the way. There weren’t courses and memberships and I wasn’t teaching at that point in time. I didn’t know what was going on. I just really wanted to sell products to my clients and I wanted to make more money in the process, and I wanted to run a business that was going to be around for a long time.
So that’s really the origin story of how I decided that this really was in my best interest and also in my client’s best interest to do this.
Tavia: I love that so much. Also in my client’s best interest because I love that simple reframe for us of not delivering an unfinished product. Because you really are giving your clients work. Of course they want to post it on social media, but what a what a disappointment it would be if all they ever did was posted the photos on social media and flipped through them every once in a while.
So, when you have your mindset on literal service for your clients, what is actually best for them, and then in turn it also makes you more money, like you said, you’re sold. It’s a no brainer.
Dorie: It’s a win-win. So many of my clients would say, “Oh, I love these so much. I need to remember to get these printed. I need to remember to do this. I need to remember to do that.” And when you’re busy, life is busy. And it just didn’t sit well with me that I wasn’t providing something that they could just immediately enjoy in their home or give to grandma and grandpa. It was more work.
And I think all of us who’ve planned photo sessions, had photo sessions with our family, or even for ourselves, we understand going through all the different files and choosing them and wanting to send them to print and not knowing if they’re going to print correctly and all those types of things. And I was taking out all that guesswork from my clients and my clients really appreciated that.
Add Products in Your Photography Business with 5 Simple Steps
Tavia: So, if somebody is listening to this and they’re thinking like, “Okay, I see the benefit, but I just feel like this is going to be so much work? Isn’t this going to take a lot of time?” Those are all things that I hear my students telling me. What do you say to that?
Dorie: First of all, I say it’s only as complicated as you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be complicated. And I know so many things come out from photography educators of 20-step process of multiple client meetings and all this type of stuff. I don’t have time for that! I don’t know a lot of people who do have time for that.
And if I heard that I had to meet with a client five times for their portrait session just to get them an album at the end of the day, I’m not too sure I would be real like excited about doing that either. I love my clients, I love hanging out with them and everything, but that’s a lot of time.
So, what I’ve done is I’ve come up with a four or five-step process that makes it really easy for someone to get started. This is not like the ultimate IPS workflow, but it gets you started. So, if you’re sitting there thinking, “I really wish I would do that for my clients. I’d love the idea of not giving them an unfinished product, but the whole idea of this seems overwhelming,” Hold on, because I got you. We can make this a lot easier.
Step 1: Choose what you want to offer
And I say always when you’re just tiptoeing into this and you have some of those reservations, choose just one simple thing. In the handout, it talks about us going through an album. So that’s the example that I use. But say you’re like, “No, I want to offer a 16 x 20 canvas wall print.” Okay, make it easy, easy, easy. Or I want to offer a 10 x 10 20-page album. Great. But choose one thing.
I wouldn’t necessarily start with prints because prints are kind of an easy sell, especially if you’re going to be offering digitals in connection with this. So go for something that they can’t get someplace else. Choose what you want to offer.
Whoever your preferred vendor is, choose an album, a wall portrait, or something like that you want to sell to your clients or offer to your clients that you really love.
And that’s a key component right there, is that you need to really love what you offer your clients.
Because when you talk about it, then that’s just going to come through your excitement, your enthusiasm for this. They’re going to want to be a part of it.
Tavia: Would you say a specific size? Cause I heard you say 16 x 20. Or are you saying ‘canvas in multiple sizes,’ or are you saying ‘canvas in one size’?
Dorie: When you’re first starting out, maybe it’s just for one client, I would keep it as simple and basic as possible and offer one size. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell them another size if they say, “Oh, we really want this here, but we want it bigger,” sell it to them bigger, that’s totally fine. But for marketing materials, for samples, and that kind of thing, just keep it simple.
You do not need to offer everything that your lab offers. I would poke my eyes out if I thought I had to do that. I say a 10 x 10 album, because, for me, that’s the most popular size that I sell. That’s just, that’s what clients gravitate to. And the reason why I sell that size album is because I like that size album, and that’s what I show them that size album and that’s what I talk about. And we’re going to go into that a little bit more about how you can talk about these products so people get excited about having them.
So yeah, so choose your one product, keep it really easy. You’ve only offered digitals before, so now you’re going to offer one thing…
Tavia: …that you love, and I think that’s so important. Something that you love. If you’re like, “Dorie said I should do a 16 x 20 canvas, so I’m going to do a 16 x 20 canvas, but I actually hate Canvas because I like framed prints,” then dude, don’t do a canvas. Do a framed print, something that you personally like, and talk about with your clients easily, and that will be infectious and they will be excited about it as a result.
Dorie: Or maybe you don’t like rectangle, maybe you like square. Okay, offer 20 x 20. There’s a lot of different options. The best thing you can do is offer something that no one else offers because the square prints, maybe they can’t get those readily where you are. Or these beautiful albums, maybe they can’t find those readily. Maybe there’s no one else in the area that offers those things. That’s the gold mine right there because you have just become the go-to for whatever they seek. So, it doesn’t have to be anything, even that I say today on this podcast, if you have a product that you love to display in your home and you can be excited about it, start there.
Tavia: Can I say one thing about that albums in particular? I’ve had clients, and they love me and they love my photos of course, but I think they returned to me because they want that same album for all of their kids. So, it’s like they come to me for their first newborn session and they get this certain kind of album and then they did a six-month session and “Oh, we got to have the album match.” And then in the 12-month session, “We got to have the album match.”
Then they get pregnant again with another baby, and they’re like, “Guess we got to do all that again because we’ve already done it for the first baby.” They want to have the same thing and they will literally be like, “We just want it exactly like last time with the photo and the cover and this size and all of that.”
And so that doesn’t happen as often with digital files, right? They might return to you because they like you as a photographer.
But when you’re offering products like this, it’s just another way to stand out. Another way to differentiate yourself in what everyone always says is a saturated market.
You’re the one who does these beautiful albums. You’re the one who does these wall displays. I just had to interject that. because that’s been true to in my own business.
Dorie: Yeah. So important. And especially when you’re dealing with families, they’re going to have multiple kids. Nobody wants to show preference and not do it for one kid and then do it for another kid. It all comes into play.
Step 2: Showcase your samples
Dorie: Whatever it is you choose to get, order a sample from your preferred lab and then share it on social media, in your newsletter – everything that you do, share that sample.
Here’s just a couple quick tips that are in the handout that you can get from the show notes page:
- Film a video unboxing your sample.
- Take images of your sample. This is key: get a friend with nice hands. I have like bear claw hands, so I don’t put my hands in videos. But I have some friends with nice hands and they’ll let me film over their shoulder of them looking, browsing through the album. Take images, sprinkle them on your website, create social media posts, videos, carousels, reels, stories – all the things for social media.
- Schedule the posts out so you don’t want to just dump everything all at one time. Schedule these different things out over a three-month period of time. Not only does it help your content creation because you have something to share, but it also keeps it top of mind with your clients.
You’re not necessarily promoting it, but it is showing what you offer.
Step 3: Price Your Product
Dorie: There are a lot of things that you can do to price products in your business: you can run your cost of doing business, you can run your cost of goods, all those different things. And a lot of that to someone creative like me, I’m not great at the numbers. I don’t like digging into all those things. I can and I do when I have done it.
But when you’re first starting, if that’s a big hurdle for you saying, “I don’t know how to price this,” this is what I suggest you do, but I only suggest this for maybe the first 2-3 clients into this process because you’re going to have to do some of those numbers eventually.
And the way that I say for your first couple times, just use a multiplier, 2 or 4 times the cost of that item. This is not, I repeat, this is not a long-term strategy for success for offering products. It’s enough to get you in the door. It’s enough to get a couple items sold, and for you to get comfortable with this process. Because it’s really important.
Our business is expensive – we have cameras, we have computers, we have insurance, we have taxes – we have all those things that we need to account for in our pricing that most photographers, at least that I work with in my coaching business, don’t always charge enough to cover all those things and make a livable wage at the end of the day.
So, this is very short term, but it’s something that’s very doable while you get your feet wet in this process. Once you have that product, and if you do packages, add it in to your mid-level and highest priced package. Don’t offer that beautiful product in your low packages. Put it in the higher-priced packages. And then adjust those prices accordingly.
And be brave. See what happens. This is the scariest part I think of the whole thing. Whenever we’re talking about money and pricing and raising prices and that type of thing, be brave and try it. You don’t have to do it this way forever. Try it on your next 2 to 3 clients. See what happens.
Most of my clients that I run through this process are very happily surprised when they realize they wanted that album and that wasn’t a problem getting the highest-priced package. Just see what happens.
The only way you really know something’s going to work in your business is if you test it. And the only way you can test it is put it out there. See what happens.
Step 4: Present Your Product
Dorie: Your clients aren’t going to know that you sell it unless you present it. And I always tell people, clients hire you to spend money with you. It’s not a surprise that they are going to be putting in a credit card some place along the line. If not two or three times in the process of this transaction, right?
We are in business to make money. We are in business to be profitable, to make our lives better for ourselves and our family. And the only way that really can happen is to the freedom of having money in the bank. So, you need to present this to your client.
So how do you do this?
Again, we go back to step number two, where you show your sample. You have it all laid out, goes back to step one where we talk enthusiastically and positively about the product that we’ve chosen because if you love it, your clients will, that will rub off on your clients. Show your product at the session. So, if you’re in a situation where you’re doing all-inclusive and you don’t meet your client until the day of the session, take your sample with you and show them that sample at the session. I have shown samples in the back of my car after a session while I give the kids some goldfish or a little parent-approved snack.
And I tell the parents, “Hey, I just want to show you something really quick before you get your gallery or we meet.” Because I truly believe, especially if it is a larger item that requires a more significant investment, most people aren’t going to say yes to that spur the moment whenever they’re presented with their images, whether you’re doing IPS or whether you’re doing gallery.
They need a little time to envision themselves on the pages of that album, to envision that album sitting on their coffee table, to think about how they’re going to use it and enjoy it in the future. The best way to be able to do that is to show them a sample. And then what I do is I do a technique called priming, and it’s very popular in the marketing world, is that when I’m shooting the session, I say things like, “Oh, this is going to look so great hanging. This image is going to look so great hanging in the nursery,” or, “Oh, I’m doing this layout now with fingers and toes and ears and lips, and it’s going to look so great on the pages of an album.”
Just by dropping some of those touchpoints in, all you’re doing is letting your client think about the possibility of what they can do with those images. It’s not selling them. In my mind, just open their eyes about the possibilities of what is available to them.
So, you do that, you show them a sample at the end of the session, and then if you are all-inclusive and you’re used to gallery sales, then what you do is you add images of the sample album to the gallery, so they can see them.
Don’t just leave them on a price list, actually put images of it in the gallery.
And if you’re really great, you can do an album mockup so they could actually see what it would look like as they flip through pages. Or you can do a room view, that’s what they call it, where you superimpose the picture of their family or whatever in a stockroom of a room. You can get those in a lot of different places. And you can drop it in Photoshop so that they actually see it on the wall. They can actually visualize it in their space of what it’s going to look like.
Those two things are really going to be what helps sell your product. They have to be able to, as a part of their life, like I always say, “Oh, this is the album that you’re going to put out when your daughter gets married or when your daughter has children, or for her grandchildren, she’s going to be able to tell the story of when she was born.” Things like that.
You’re not selling the features of it – 20 thick-paged album with a leather cover and embossed name on the front – that’s just a feature. Anyone can sell features. You need to be able to speak to how they’re going to use it and dive into, I hate using the word, emotions, but dive into that a little bit because you know they’re going to enjoy it so much and some people just need a little bit of help envisioning that.
And I don’t feel sneaky or salesy when I’m doing it because I truly believe in the products that I sell. And I know how I use them in my family. My daughter pulls out vacation albums and that type of thing, and we look at them together, so I know that they’re used and I know that they’re well-loved and I want that for my clients.
Tavia: And also I think that, especially new families, which is who a lot of my audience works with, especially if it’s their first baby, I don’t know that they really know what we know when we have older kids, which is they do pull them out and look at them. When you leave them out, they get to look back and remember things and point out things, you get to look at them together.
And when you’re in throes of having a newborn and being a new mom, you’re not really thinking ahead 10 years when you get to sit down with your child and look at them. And so I think it’s a huge service to even just paint that picture for them. If you have older kids, just say, “My daughter has an album like this, and she literally pulls it out every year on her birthday, and we look at it together.”
Little things like that, if it’s true, share that with them so that they have the opportunity, like Dorie said, to envision what that could be like for them and their family. And that’s not salesy. That’s literally just sharing your experience with this product that you love.
Dorie: New moms can barely get a clean shirt on. They’re not thinking 10 years ahead. By being able to help them, because I promise that 10 years from now, when you’re still in business, they’re coming back to you for their holiday cards or something, you’re going to get comments saying, I’m so glad I got that album. I’m so glad that my kids can look back on our family during that time. I’m so glad I can look back during that time because it was all such a big blur.
And anyone who’s done that experience understands really you’re in such a cloud for a period of time, and it goes back to giving them something to put on their to-do list or you giving them something that they can enjoy.
And you can do this whether it is through IPS, where you’re sitting down with them and doing the whole thing, but you can be just as successful doing this with galleries.
Step 5: Offer Your Product
Dorie: Basically it can be simple as a statement saying,
“Hey, here’s your gallery. This is what’s included with your session. I added some pictures of the album in there. I love it so much. I think it would be a great addition to your family legacy. If you have any questions, let me know, but it’s included in the gallery, so you can see what that would look like.”
Or if you’re in an IPS session, you just say,
“Hey, here’s a sample of the album that we talked about earlier. Is this something you would like to add to your order?”
That’s one sentence. That’s all it is. It’s not sleazy, it’s not gross. They’ve had all the information for weeks. They’ve been looking at you build this. All you have to do is offer it in a heartfelt way. And then they either say yes or they say no.
It’s not a push. It’s not uncomfortable. It’s a simple question that requires a yes or no answer. And if they say no, it’s nothing personal. It’s not that they don’t like your work. Maybe budget doesn’t allow for it. Maybe that’s something they’re not interested in, that type of thing.
But if they say yes, you say, “Great! All we need to do now is pick the cover.” If you want to give them a choice of color options, I usually pick, for babies, gray, light blue, light pink, and then maybe a black option or a white option. Usually black, but only four or five options.
And I have certain cover things that are just automatic, like they’re going to get it embossed, they’re going to get the date on it – it just is what it is. I don’t go through all the different options that are available in the album. I sell it in a very easy way. And then, “How would you like to pay for this? I’ll send you the invoice,” and they pay.
It’s very easy. It’s a very fluid process. It’s not awkward, it’s not pushy. And the thing that I keep coming back to is that we’re in business to make money and we’re in business to not just provide unfinished products to our clients. And once you can make that shift in your thinking, then this becomes a lot easier.
- It’s only one thing, you’re not going through albums, wall art, prints, triplexes, mini albums, accompaniment albums, framed pictures, canvases – you’re not doing all that. It’s just one simple thing.
- If you set yourself apart as someone who offers a beautiful product, that helps you be looked at in a more professional way in our marketplace as well. It makes you look like a more competent business person that you’re actually doing this versus just sending off a gallery of prints.
Tavia: Right because that’s what everyone’s doing, right? That’s what everyone’s doing is they’re sending digital galleries or digital images or Dropbox downloads, and this is a hundred percent a way that you can stand out because not a lot of photographers are doing it. They really aren’t. There are more and more photographers who are doing in-person sales, but generally speaking, most, as far as I can tell at least in my market, are still not doing it. And so it’s a really great way to stand out and add that extra level of service.
Tips to Enhance Customer Experience
Tip #1: Design albums for free!
Some of the questions that come up when you offer a product – How do you design an album, right? If you’re choosing an album, how do you design an album? You can do that very easily through most labs’ software now. They offer free resources for you to be able to do that.
nPhoto has a lab design software, I believe H&H has one, I’m pretty sure Miller’s does – so you can do that. Or if you want a little bit more control over your album, you can get a program like Fundy or that type of thing, and I have a discount code for Fundy that you can get in this download.
Don’t give your clients an option to approve the proof of the album.
Tip #2: Skip proofing for quicker processing
But here’s also a way to make it really easy: don’t give your clients an option to approve the proof of the album. I know that’s shocking and a lot of people are like, “What? They’re spending all this money. You’re not going to let them approve it?”
Here’s what I say in my conversations with clients about this. I say, “Do you trust my creative eye in being able to design this album to your satisfaction?” Every single client says, “Yeah, of course, you’re the professional. You know how this should be designed. I don’t know anything about designing an album.” I have them sign off on that on the receipt that on the album that I am going to design it and there will be no proofs.
Tip #3: Know the images they don’t want to get published
This is another thing I do too, instead of having them pick all the images that they want in the album, I say, “Are they any image in your gallery that you do not want in the album?” That’s a much easier shift. Say for example, you’re doing an album or a book, because it could be a book as well for a birth, there might be some images that mom wants digital representations to, but doesn’t necessarily want sitting on her coffee table, right? We all know what I’m talking about.
So, by going through and they just saying, “You know what? I don’t want this one or this one,” and then we agree that I will design the album based on the remaining images and we’re not going to go back and forth with proofs, that eliminates so much work and back and forth emails with your clients, and every email usually is at least like a 24-48 hour delay in getting that response.
I’ve never had a problem with that. I just don’t even give proofing as an option to people and just because someone down the road does it, that’s great for them. This isn’t what works for me. Because I want a quick turnaround. I want my clients to go through the process quickly, get their products quickly, and me get paid quickly right there. So, we go through those few little logistical things and like I said, it’s all lined out in the handout.
Tip #4: Under-promise, over-deliver
Tip #3: Don’t over-promise delivery times on your product. Don’t say, “Oh, it’s going to be here in two weeks.” This is a custom handmade item. It should at least take a month, if not six weeks. So, then what happens if you get it back in two weeks? Under-promise, over-deliver – they’re super, super excited because they got it so much more quickly than they thought, and that’s what I go for. Managing those expectations is really key.
Connect with Dorie
Tavia: I love that. So good. I know that this is going to be so valuable for people. This was literally like a mini workshop. Thank you so much.
If people want to get that checklist, where can they go?
Dorie: They can either go to your show notes page or they can go to my coaching page, which is harmonyhangout.com/addingproducts.
Tavia: You guys should absolutely go download that. It’s totally free and I know that it’s going to be a great supplement to this episode and I love that. It’s just a simple way not to overthink, not to be overwhelmed, but just to see, “Okay, how can I take that first baby step to adding products to my business without it being like this whole production?”
Thank you so much, Dorie. Where can everybody connect with you?
Dorie: Sure. The best place to connect with me is on my IG @thedoriehowell
Tavia: Perfect, and we’ll link that in the show notes as well. Thank you so much, Dorie.
Dorie: Thank you so much, Tavia.
Links to Check Out from This Episode:
Follow Dorie Howell on Instagram
Want to get a checklist and more of what we discussed in this episode? Download the Adding Products the Easy Way guide here!
Let’s continue this conversation in our free community with over 5K baby and birth photographers all over the world!
I love how simple she made this entire process for us, and one thing to remember is if you make a switch over to something like IPS or you just do what Dorie outlined here, it doesn’t have to be a big, involved process. It doesn’t have to involve some big announcement on your social media pages. It can be as simple as taking the clients you already have booked and adding it in with her process and see how it goes for two or three sales to decide if you want to make the jump into full blown IPS.
Make sure and download the checklist that she mentioned in this episode so that you can get a full picture of everything she described and connect with her on Instagram @thedoriehowell.
Also, if you have more questions, if this episode prompted something new, you still want to talk about it, head over to our free Facebook group and let’s continue the conversation there.
And my friend, remember, if you have a passion, it’s not an accident. Not everyone loves the thing that you love. So, whether it’s birth photography, whether it’s adding prints to your existing photography packages, not everyone loves that thing, right? So, whatever your passion is, I hope that you will get out there and make it happen, because that passion’s there for a reason.
Have a great rest of your week.