With recent relaxations for quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re starting to see businesses attempt to re-open and life to get back to some form of new normal. However, the rise and fall (and recent spikes) of COVID-19 cases reminds us that we’re not out of the woods yet, and that we should look for ways to sustain our photography business regardless of social distancing guidelines.

For portrait photographers, one of the best ways to continue generating revenue while we’re unable to shoot is through print sales. Your portfolio represents a well of meaningful moments that you’ve already captured and can use to increase your income. It’s safe to assume that most of your clients would love to see their images up on their shelves or hanging on their walls, and there are great options available for print that will make the endeavor a win-win for all involved.

We’ve put together a list of tips to help you kickstart or revamp your print sales and keep your business thriving and your clients happy all at once.

Tip #1: Invite Your Clients to a Free Design Consultation

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Photographers, being the creatives they are, notoriously struggle with the business side of photography, especially when it comes to pricing and sales. Whether online or in person, it’s common to feel uncomfortable when trying to sell your services or products. However, it’s possible (and perhaps easier than you think) to set up a sales workflow that simplifies the process and removes some of the anxiety and hesitation. While I’d normally recommend taking this step within a week of the shoot (and holding the consultation in person, if possible), it can still work to rekindle your relationship with your clients and generate print sales. The process begins with reaching out to your clients via email.

Your initial email should serve as more of an invite to your clients to schedule a free virtual consultation. In the email, keep your tone casual and reflective of the way you’d typically interact with your clients. The goal here is to keep your messaging short and get your clients excited about their photos again! Include a link to review their gallery of images (through Fundy Designer, Shootproof, or a similar service) and let them know you’d like to share some amazing new print options that you have available. Ask your clients to select their favorite images so that you can put together a virtual presentation.

You can find an email template here to serve as an example. Feel free to use or edit the content as you see fit.

Tip #2: Prepare for the Virtual Consultation

generate revenue print sales free consultation zoom

The consultation is what sets you apart from the big box stores that you’re competing with to sell prints. Quality prints alone won’t cut it, as most clients can’t discern between quality and low-budget products. The experience you provide via the consultation, however, can have a significant impact on your client’s outlook for purchasing prints.

Once you’ve heard back from a client who’s interested in scheduling a consultation, decide on a means to meet (Zoom, Skype, etc.), mark the date and time on your calendar, and begin preparing for the meeting. Here’s a quick overview of the materials you’ll need to have ready:

  • Slideshow: Choose 20-30 images (based on the favorites that your clients have selected)
  • Wall Art Mockups: Create 4-5 mockups featuring different environments (bedroom, living room, etc.) and wall art installations (clusters, splits, individual pieces, etc.)
  • Photo Album Mockup: Design 4-5 spreads using some images from the slideshow as well as others

If you don’t already have software available for creating these assets, I recommend taking a look at Fundy Designer. In addition to simplifying the design process with easy to use templates and mockups, Fundy also makes it easy to order your prints directly from professional print labs like Bay Photo. You can also use Fundy Designer to share your galleries with your clients if you don’t already have a means to do this.

Depending on which products you want to feature during the consultation, your approach (and the assets you need to prepare) will vary. We’ve outlined the basics above (slideshows, wall art, and photo albums). Regardless of the products you feature, however, be sure to focus on storytelling. Choose wide, medium, and tight shots that establish the scene and highlight important moments and people in the images. Even single, epic wall art installations can tell a moving story depending on the scene, lighting, pose, and moment featured. You can learn more about designing with storytelling in mind here.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of storytelling. It plays a crucial role in helping you accomplish the next tip, which is conveying why print is important.

[Related Reading: Professional Vs. Consumer Prints]

Tip #3: Share WHY Print Is Important

During your consultation, your main focus should be understanding which photos the clients value most and then conveying to your clients why print is so important. Ideally, you would’ve asked your clients before the shoot which prints they would like to see up on the walls of their home so that the shoot would reflect their interests. If you didn’t do that, however, you can still work with what you’ve got.

In addition to enhancing their home with beautiful imagery, prints keep important moments in your clients’ lives top of mind. This is something that is lost in the digital realm. Rather than appearing once on a social media feed before slipping into a void of cyberspace, quality prints can serve as heirlooms to be admired daily and ultimately passed down across generations.

It might be tempting to jump right into pricing packages, but the value you’re trying to convey is not monetary, at least not yet. Once clients know the power of print to preserve memories, they’ll want to know their printing options.

Tip #4: Offer a Range of Professional Print Products

Professional print labs offer a sizable selection of products that you can sell to your clients, featuring everything from photo albums to wall art. Of these options, however, custom wall art installations represent one of the best solutions for both you and your clients. They’re fashionable, relatively easy to install, and you can order wall art in a variety of formats, including the following:

  • Splits: a single image that is split into a multi-piece collage, perfect for adding interest into an image as a singular piece of art vs. just a regular image hung up on a wall.
  • Clusters: a multi-image collage, perfect for telling a story within a single scene in a shoot. Each image in a cluster should be cohesive and tell a different piece of the story.

Within the realm of wall art, metal prints offer unique, germ-resistant, hygienic properties that can prove helpful in regards to the pandemic. Bay Photo Lab, in particular, offers metal prints with crosslinked surfaces. With a crosslinked surface, there are no open or closed pores, which makes it easy to thoroughly clean them using a variety of cleaners and disinfecting chemicals. Beyond that, metal prints offer a modern alternative with uniquely rich colors. They also come in a range of finishes, from glossy to matte. If you’ve never seen a metal print in person, they’re nothing short of impressive.

[Related Reading: 7 Ways for Photographers to Sell More Wall Art & Photo Albums]

Tip #5: Give an Incentive to Order Sooner than Later

Finally, after sharing the importance of print and looking at various print options, you can discuss pricing packages with an emphasis on short term deals. Open ended deals present less urgency and are arguably less likely to convert (there are, of course, exceptions).

You can find various tools online to help you figure out pricing (mostly dealing with determining your cost of doing business). Chances are your clients will have a range of budgets, so you’ll want to include a variety of options. First determine what you need to make to be profitable, and then put together packages that steer your clients to the package or product you want to sell.

Conclusion – Recap

Here’s a quick recap of the tips we covered to help you generate revenue with print sales during downtime:

  1. Reach Out to Your Clients with a Special Offer
  2. Schedule a Virtual Consultation
  3. Share WHY Print Is Important
  4. Offer a Range of Professional Print Products
  5. Give an Incentive to Order Sooner than Later

Again, the purpose of reaching out to your clients and offering a free consultation is to boost your wall art and album sales. The personal interaction (whether virtual or in-person) gives you an opportunity to set yourself apart from your competition, which includes the low-priced big box stores that offer lower quality prints at dirt cheap rates. You can adapt the above points to personalize each consultation and focus on the value and emotion connected to the personalized artwork you’re presenting.

Eventually, you can automate your process using a site and service that provides business solutions like automated emails, gallery links, direct ordering from professional printers, and more. While you put that together (if you haven’t already done so), however, this process should help you boost your income without having to spend time and money marketing to new clients with limited opportunities to shoot.