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Jewel Images

It’s the photography industry argument. Everyone fights over it, and everyone seems to have the right answer. Mention one model to the other and it’s blasphemy. Canon or Nikon, anyone? It’s the same ‘ol, same ‘ol Super Bowl pissing match.

Digital Files or Printed Art?
USB Drive Or Tangible Art?

Really? Come on. It doesn’t matter. A lot of professionals probably want to strangle me for saying that. The Shoot n Burner’s think the IPS-ers are snobby, hoity-toity folk who make their lives miserable. And the IPS-ers think the Shoot ’N Burners are ruining the industry and coaxing their clients away from them with cheap prices and DIY.  It’s all just a bunch of BS. As long as your business model fits you, it’s doesn’t matter. As long as your pricing is profitable, you have business insurance and you pay your taxes….it doesn’t matter.  IPS or shoot ’n burn? Do what you like!

For those photographers who are struggling with which model to go with – there are a few pros and cons though to each model, so I thought I’d outline them here. 

In-Person Sales (IPS)

The basic premise of IPS is that you sell your work in-person to the client at an ordering appointment that takes place after the session, and you offer tangible products they can display in their home. 

  • You have to develop and price a product line.
  • You must have samples of your products.
  • You must conduct a pre-consultation and guide the sales process more.
  • Sales are inevitably higher.
  • There is no ceiling to what a client can spend.
  • Your work is printed and displayed where others can see it.
  • You are a luxury/service oriented business.
  • You can control how your  images are printed.
  • You get the satisfaction of seeing your clients reaction to images.
  • You get to communicate and “sell” to your client in the appt.
  • You must prep and order products from a lab.
  • Product delivery is more involved.

Shoot ‘N Burn 

This model is all about ease, efficiency of workflow and saving time and money. You shoot the session, edit the files and deliver to the client via online gallery/download. 

  • Production time for photographer is greatly reduced. Shoot-edit-deliver.
  • One set fee. No chance for higher sales or upgrades.
  • Lower average sales.
  • Your work may not be printed at all.
  • You are a volume based/oriented business. You need more clients to make the same money.
  • Client must DYI to get a printed piece.
  • No need to “sell” to client.
  • Others do not see your work. Fewer referrals.
  • You have no control over how your images are printed.
  • Client is left hanging with what to do with files.
  • Client may go to other photographer to get prints.
  • No need for fancy product line or samples.
  • No need for space to meet with client.
  • Easy delivery to client.

So it comes down to what can you live with? What are your circumstances? Most beginning photographers start out with Shoot N Burn. Why? It’s easy to get started. It doesn’t require a big product/sample budget. You don’t need a meeting space and you can start making income right away. 

Then, as you get a little bit profitable in your business, you realize you are doing your clients a disservice. They aren’t printing. You learn that other photographers are printing YOUR work for your client because you didn’t offer the service (yes, it happens at least half a dozen times a year in my studio. A client comes to me with another photographers shoot ’n burn work and asks me to print them an album. Yep, I make money off YOUR files). You want your clients to have something tangible, something beautiful in their home. 

So, you switch to IPS. But here’s the thing. Now you have to market to a whole new segment of ideal clients who want art instead of files. And the switch is a tough one. If you had just started IPS in the beginning, you’d be on a lot easier path. So before you start, think. Think through what you want your business to look like 10 years from now? And plan/start for that. Even if it means taking things slow in the beginning.

And the same goes for IPS-ers who are thinking of going back to Shoot ’N Burn. Don’t change unless you’re willing to absolutely commit. Are you willing to give up the benefits of IPS? You’ve worked so hard to and invested so much to create the IPS model, do you really want to give up the joy of seeing your client’s expressions when they see the images? Or give up providing a beautiful art piece for your client’s home? It’s tempting to want to switch, thinking that you’ll book more clients if you offer Shoot N Burn. Let me tell you, it’s not true. Cheaper prices and the Shoot ’N Burn model attract a very different client than you’re used to. Is it bad? No, not at all. It’s just different, and you haven’t marketed to that crowd yet. You’ll be in for some surprises. Yet, sometimes that easier model where time is saved and resources are limited can be a Godsend. Family crisis, personal issues -this model can really help those who need to make a living, but don’t have the resources to do full-fledge IPS.

All in all, as long as you are profitable, any model works. Each has their ups and downs. Each has their pros and cons. But most importantly pick the model that suits your personality and your LONG-TERM goals. Pick the model that attracts the type of client YOU want to work with. It may be harder in the beginning. But you’ll be so glad you did when you’re established. 


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