For every 100 photographers working full time, who offer wall art products, only around 4% sell it on regular basis.
We don’t know how, we lack confidence, it’s not our thing…
We question why would anyone pay the mark up we have, if they could get it printed cheaper on the high street. We then sheepishly enter the IPS world and offer a couple of wall art choices, usually the more affordable ones our supplier has on offer, to maybe “get lucky” one day and “shift a couple”. Our mark up is non existent, as we still cannot get our head around the fact clients would pay for those. to hang in their homes
We offer some basic frames or collages to one or two clients (“I do canvases too.. they are very expensive.. you could get it cheaper at..” <– this actually happens, I know photographers who do say those words regularly). We fail to upsell to a couple of potential buyers and we lose all confidence and start adding full size products to the digital offerings. This is our only hope of seeing the finished product / image as something bigger than a 6″ by 4″ print.
Customers choose our top packages with the cheap wall art included and we are over the moon. We don’t really want to do the math as it would work out we made no money on the said product, we are just happy to have the opportunity to order one. “Clients buy my art, I am now a real photographer.”
Sue Bryce is an amazing sales and marketing person, if you have some time to commit to learn from the ground up. She goes through all aspects of sales in her Sue Bryce Education. There is a lot of focus on self worth, which is always the basis where most of us fail. Selling wall art is an extension of selling yourself. How good were you at dating, when you were younger? Most likely if you were not that fabulous at that, sales don’t come easily to you either. It’s ok if you realise it. Knowing it is the first step to fixing the problem.
I had it fairly easy as I stopped being shy and started believing I can be who I want to be at the age of 18. Many factors contributed, but before that age I was a bullied little thing, never good enough for the “it” crowd. This is how I know you are not destined to fail, even if you started off as a shy pumpkin. You can change that. Be your own most important project, treat yourself like a one year plan and improve little things each week. Get out of your comfort zone. Ask for what you are owed. I am not going to write a 9000 words post on self worth, as it’s been done better by others. If you are feeling as though this is where you are failing, commit 1 hour and 30 minutes to watching this keynote and it will change your life.
Sue talks a lot about the “stinking” attitude and how we are being received when our desperation seeps out. Going back to the dating, as it is a good comparison: how did you react when potential suitor kept calling and texting? It puts you off. This is exactly what happens when clients sense you are desperate. And rightly so. You should never be desperate. They came to see you because in their eyes you are good enough professional to take their photos. If you are indeed good enough, you will have enough orders not to fight for theirs. If not, then they were wrong about you. Clients don’t like to be wrong. Desperation stinks. It’s easier said than done, but you are always going to come across more desperate if you have not had enough business through the door and suddenly you rely on that one client that’s about to come for their viewing. Get those people through the door, you will shoot more, but your average sale will go up too.
IPS v Galleries
If you want to sell wall art, galleries won’t work. It’s that simple.
A lot of us skip this part or go through it swiftly. Some of us can read people quickly, we learn a lot from the way our clients dress and carry themselves. We can assume a lot, but why assume if you can talk about what it is that they want? How they would like to be photographed? What poses make them feel like themselves and comfortable? How does their house look like? Is it modern / rustic / opulent / minimalistic.. What elements do they have in there, are there any leading colours? Are there any colours they absolutely hate?
I once had a lovely client who told me everything I needed to know just by saying they have Philippe Starck furniture. We shot clean lines. The client loved it.
Where would the images be displayed? Have they got any existing images on their walls?
I find most of my clients’ newborn photographs are displayed in their living rooms or baby’s nurseries. I always suggest colours that go with both as those images tend to rotate and are often moved from the living room into the nursery when clients come back for their sitter session when they get more wall art that is more current to their baby’s age.
If they go for a specific product after the newborn session, like a round acrylic, we can choose more round acrylics of a different size for their sitter images. This builds a beautiful legacy wall for the child, or what I call a “bubble wall”, which looks sleek and modern, and as a whole can be as big or as small as your client would like.
Ask your client about the colours in their space, as those can work really well with the frame you decide to use, or it can clash without you even knowing.
Talk about the size of the space on their wall and the viewing distance. There is no point getting a 40″ acrylic for the stairs if they won’t be able to step back and enjoy it. Go for a group of images instead, that will tell a story.
Is your client after an image for their living room and the viewing point (sofa, chairs, dining table) are a significant distance away? Advise a large image. If they can only stretch to a certain amount, but you know a small, framed image just won’t work, tell them. Break it into monthly payments if you must. Don’t panic that you will lose this sale and advise against your client’s best interest. It’s a slippery slope. If the image will look just as good unframed (it does happen sometimes, albeit rarely), and it will cost the same price if they order it larger but unframed, suggest that option.
Also, even though we talk a lot about pricing here, remember to understand your client’s triggers and motivation, as it is not always the price. Photography is a luxury business and clients who committed to come and see you, value their memories already and they usually want them displayed beautifully. Don’t assume they only want the cheapest option and only want digital images. Seeing the photographs up on our walls is the ultimate aim. This is what we create them for.
If your clients would rather not have a 60″ framed face of themselves as the first thing they see when drinking their morning coffee, how about suggesting an album or a folio with beautifully mounted images?
In person sales are a great opportunity to talk through the options and actually advise. I hate the word “selling”.
Something worth mentioning is always how the image will impact on the space it will be displayed in.
I shoot a lot of dark images but every gallery will also have bright and airy photographs. This brings a lovely variation to the gallery, but more importantly, when it comes to choosing a piece for your wall, those bright images are perfect to display in darker parts of your home, that needs a bit of light. If you choose a dark image for a dark corner of the house, well.. it will make it.. dark. It’s not a rocket science. You can use images to manipulate light around the house.
Is there a window near where the image is going to be displayed? If so, go for non reflective glass if you give your clients the choice. I prefer to supply this as standard, as it not only make the image appear clearer, but also protects from UV damage and keeps your colours fresh.
Think about the type of session you are shooting, before choosing the colour schemes. Are you booked for a cake smash? Parents will most likely say their living room is of a certain colour and they would like this to be incorporated in the session. This is the first thing that comes to mind. When you dig deeper, you soon realise that not many clients would ever hang a cake smash image in their living room. It’s quirky and fun, but if your baby is covered in icing, would it not look amazing in the kitchen? YES. Great, in that case what colour is your kitchen?
The splash part of a cake smash session is quite often done with bubbles, a towel in sight, would it not look fab in the bathroom? See where I am going with this?
If the client has been for a newborn session and a sitter session already, they most likely have their living room walls covered. They most likely have a large wall art piece already and are a bit reluctant to buy another 40″x 60″ to match the one they got a couple of weeks after their baby’s birth. Think on your toes and suggest wall art that will compliment the spaces they may have that they did not even consider: corridors and bedrooms. Those don’t have to be massive, but they will create a beautiful flow around the house.
Look at the images chosen and advise on framing. Some photographs will look amazing with a large, heavy frame. Some will be overpowered by it. Don’t just go for a large framing because your commission depends on it. This image will be with them for years. Get your needs off the table and look clearly and selflessly at your clients needs. That’s when you stop “selling” and start “providing professional service”.
Displays and samples
I will not buy something costing me more than a pair of Choos if I cannot see it and touch it. If I do, congratulations, you may just be a great sales person.
Some people will have a good idea how things look, if you show them something similar and tell them the product they are ordering is 3 times bigger and the frame is more brown and floating. Most of us, however, like to see things as they are supposed to be delivered. If the majority of society had an amazing imagination, no estate agents would ever require you to clean your house before they send over their photographer or a potential client: “they can just imagine it clean, with the walls repainted, right?” Wrong. Make your client’s life simple, make choices and the order process simple but also make their need to visualise things limited. Have it then and there for them to see. If you ask your client to imagine things, you are leaving room for error. “Oh I thought this frame would be bigger”.
Use software simulating how images would look on your model’s walls. It’s a great tool.
Have various sizes and finishes samples available. If you have a studio, have a centre piece image that makes people stop and stare. Don’t order ten 20″x 30″ samples. Get various sizing options up for them to see. Make sure all of them have different frames. Show your clients the options.
Warning: never show the sizes you don’t want to sell.
I only show products from 16″ x 24″ onwards. I don’t display small wall art, 16″ by 24″ is small enough for me.
If you only shoot limited types of sessions, upsell using the image space and samples.
I offer maternity, newborn and baby sessions. Most of my clients come for a newborn shoot. They already bought this service, I do not need to convince them how awesome it is and sell it any further. They are here with their one week old. The question now is will they come back? I’d like to think that your rapport is so fabulous, that during the newborn session you will tell them all about your timeless sitter sessions and the fun that cake smashes are. If you are not very talkative, get those ages on your biggest samples! The sessions will sell themselves.
Wall art should always be sourced from professional suppliers only. Clients expect you to provide them with the best quality. If you consider yourself a professional photographer, don’t let them down by providing non museum-grade framing and prints. You expect them to pay your prices because you are amazing, so don’t try to then supply them with cheap, second best wall art. YOU ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. Your clients are worth the best.