This is a un-sugarcoated look into what life is really like when you walk away from the steady paycheck and enter the world of being self employed. I will be sharing my experiences, thoughts, and anything else that comes my way as I navigate the waters of being a full-time photographer. I also hope to interview other full-time photographers to share their experiences with you as well. To see the rest of the articles in the series, click here.
Why You Should Sell Photo Albums
Do you remember the days your family would dig out that box full of prints, or even better, photo albums? I know I do. Actually, we still look at albums and prints at my family’s house from time to time, reliving the past, laughing and reminiscing through images. Besides our memories, which are faulty at best, and getting worse as we get older, that’s all we have to remember past vacations, birthdays, and weddings. I can honestly say that I love what digital has allowed us as photographers to provide to our clients. If you think about the average wedding or portrait session today, your clients receive hundreds of digital photos, many more than they received during the film days, but digital images are just not enough in my opinion.
I could write a book about why I think prints and albums are as important today as they were fifty years ago, but this article is not about that. I’m writing this article to hopefully convince you to offer albums to your clients, or at least, entertain the idea. I’m no business coach or guru, and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in business, and have learned from them, but there is one thing that I know can help your business and that is offering albums, to both wedding and portrait clients.
Why I Started Selling Albums
I was like so many photographers out there and didn’t offer albums for a long time. I used to think they were not worth offering because a USB or digital download of all the images from a wedding or session were good enough. It was easy, no need to design an album, just shoot, edit and deliver the final images and I was done. Then one day I woke up, I said to myself, “Why not offer albums to all my clients? Maybe they won’t purchase them, but to not even offer them seems senseless to me now.”
My change of heart was because I myself like physical prints and albums. I knew that if I were getting married or paid for a great portrait session, I would want a tangible print or album to remember those moments. So I decided it was time to change. I felt that as a full service studio, albums needed to be made available for my clients.
Tips On How To Start Selling Albums
How To Find Companies That Make Albums
If you can, go to a trade show, see and physically touch the albums offered from the many companies out there that make them. Choose a company whose albums fit your studio’s style.
Can’t make it to a tradeshow? See if any of your photographer friends offer albums. If they do, ask if you can check them out for yourself.
Designing Your First Album
Designing an album, in my opinion, is the most difficult hurdle to get over for most photographers in the beginning. Many companies offer design services for a fee, some have their own design software you can use for free, or you can buy a program like SmartAlbums or Fundy Software and be on your way in no time. Once you design a few, it will become easier and easier and you will eventually create a workflow.
What to Feature in Your Sample Albums
For a wedding sample album, you can go one of two ways. You can design an album featuring a whole wedding start to finish; This is a good choice if you have that one awesome wedding that is all portfolio material and you want to show off to prospective clients. Another way you can design a sample album would be to use a mix of images from different weddings and when showing it to a client, state that this is a sample album to give you an idea of what different weddings look like in an album. I’m currently using the second option and not one client has asked why I’m showcasing different weddings. The same holds true for family portrait albums, feature one family or different ones.
How Many Album Styles Should You Offer
This is totally up to you. I currently offer three styles, a small leather cover parent style album, a medium-sized classic leather cover album for couples, and finally, a very large acrylic image cover style album also for couples. I personally suggest at least two styles; one that is fairly basic, yet still of high quality and one awesome, large, unique, high quality style. I say this because if you want to sell the highest quality large album, you need to have one to showcase its value against the smaller album. Also, the smaller album is a great option for clients who can’t afford the best album you offer, but still want to purchase an album.
You Need To Show It To Sell It
If you’re going to sell albums, actually purchase some samples for clients to physically touch and see. No one wants to buy an album without seeing it in person first. Most album companies offer studio sample discounts on albums, which can help you afford albums to show off. If you have decided to purchase an album from a company that does not offer discounts, you are going to have to pony up the cash to buy it, or change companies.
The Benefits of Selling Albums
Think about it. You design and deliver an awesome album to your clients; that album will be shown off to anyone who goes to your client’s home or maybe they bring it into work to show people their wedding day or family portraits. Boom, instant word of mouth advertising. I guarantee people will ask, “Who did your photos?” and your client will happily drop your name, hopefully, pass along your business card, and all of a sudden, you might have a new potential client.
Stand Out In Your Market
We talk all the time about branding and having to be “unique” to stand out in the sea of photographers; albums can help you do that. As I said above, many photographers don’t offer albums, especially newer photographers. Nothing says unique like having killer albums to offer your clients. There are so many options out there for albums, from classic leather bound, to acrylic and metal covers, to big and small in size. Use those options to your advantage and offer something no one else is offering. Trust me on this one, especially you wedding photographers, most brides want an album. Be that photographer that actually offers professionally designed albums. It will help you better stand out in the crowded market place
I cannot think of any other item that can help you increase your bottom line more than albums can. A client who wants a quality professional album knows they are expensive and nine times out of ten are willing to pay for a well designed, custom made album. You can offer them in your photography packages to increase your package prices and value, or a la carte. I tend to do both. I like to offer albums at a slight discount when purchasing a package with one included and also have a la carte pricing for couples who decide they want one after the wedding. Any way you slice it, offering albums can bring a lot of value to your packages and brand, which in turn can help bring you more profit.
To help you with pricing, albums should at least be priced times three. One third for the cost to make, one third for the taxes due on the sale, and one third is your profit. Many photographers price their albums well beyond the rule of thirds, but that’s a good rule to follow if you have no clue what to charge.
If you have ever contemplated offering albums, now is the time to do it. It’s the off season for many wedding photographers and at the same time, it is booking season. Use this time to research, design, make, and market your albums vs. waiting another season to do it. I can say with all honesty, building my wedding business around albums has already helped me gain more attention in the market and is helping to define my brand. I personally believe that we as photographers need to provide an end-to-end service. Just providing the digital images and calling it a day is not providing your client with a full service experience, and you could be leaving money on the table.
Right now, MyPublisher is giving away a $250 gift card for you to design your own custom album. Enter to win here!
Till next time, keep shooting, building your business, and embrace the hustle!