Your Images Are Not Your Product | Jewel Images | Photography & Education By Julia Kelleher

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Your Images Are Not Your Product

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So, are you fed up with the $50 shoot and burn girl down the street? 

The one who is just starting out and thinks a family session with 20 images at $50 is what will get her put on the “portrait photographers in your community” map? 

She thinks, and I apologize in advance if this is you my friend, if she charges only a little, then word will spread and her business will grow. For the love of carbs, is she wrong! Those of in business for any length of time know how butt backwards that is. We’re talking “you’re killing me smalls” kind of backwards. But, if you step back and look at the big picture, photographers who charge that little are suffering from something much greater. Lack of confidence. They think the images they shoot are what will define them as a business. And deep down, even though they love photography, they think their images suck.

So many photographers are worried about one thing: is my work good enough? 

They obsess about their competitors and compare their photography to everyone else. It’s mostly a problem for the absolute beginner, but even experienced photographers constantly question their work, which in turn, forces them to question their business. Clients don’t inquire? They think their work isn’t good enough. A sales session that tanked? They think their work isn’t good enough. The doubt creeps in about our art, even when you’ve been in the game for a long time. It’s a natural reaction. Why? Your heart and soul are inside every single one of those images. 

We work our booties off and invest emotionally every time we click the shutter. So, when you ask a client to pay for them, you’re asking her to pay for your heart. Whoa…..Jules that’s heavy. Yep, as heavy as Elle Woods chastising a congresswoman for wearing Raspberry Macaroon #156 lipgloss at the expense of her dog Bruiser, and animal rights everywhere? Can you say Courtroom drama? 

Yeah, that lipstick doubt of doubt is smeared all over the inside of your head, isn’t it?

But, I want to challenge you with a rather contradictory idea. 

What if, just what if: your images were NOT your product? 

Wait. Wha???!!! I know what you’re thinking. Julia has gone off the deep end. She legit cray, cray – Anthony Hopkins – Hannibal Lector cray cray. “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Really though, I’m not. Well, may a little, but hear me out. 

Your images simply represent your product. What you’re selling is ….. a feeling. Your client feels emotions during the entire process of working with you, and those emotions are what she goes back to EVERY time she looks at the images. And while the quality of your work is important – you can’t exactly get away with snapshots – the experience, service, tangible product and status symbol she attains is way more valuable to her subconscious than whether or not you backlit her family or yanked out the battery pack and strobe. 

Let’s break each one of these down one by one, so you get what I’m saying:

First off, The experience of working with you as a photographer does a lot to create an opinion of your work. 

Clients form opinions of you and your business simply by how you treat them, serve them and through your client process from beginning to end. So what are you doing to create an incredible experience? Let’s think about that for a minute. You and your client arrive on-location for a family portrait session. How do you greet them? How do you address their kids? Are you hesitant and awkward at first? Or are you warm, friendly and comforting? 

Remember, being in front of a camera is an unnerving experience for most people. What are you doing to disarm, charm and make your clients completely ok with that discomfort? And then there’s the shoot itself. What’s it like? Is it fun and engaging? Do your clients forget about the camera? Do they enjoy each other’s company and make memories during the shoot? Is there a sense of togetherness during their interactions? Or is it formal, posed, stiff and awkward? 

Now, not every client is a piece of cake to work with in this department. It’s your people skills, communication tactics and the ability you have to get them to laugh and have fun together. And some clients you have to work a whole lot harder at this with than others. The experience your client has during the session can often make or break how she feels about he images, and whether or not she buys them.

But, before you go learning the latest cheesy dad jokes, don’t think about the experience of being just during the session. While that’s important, it also means the experience of working with you before and after the session as well. How is your client communication? Are you being thorough in how you prepare them? Are you showing them the possibilities of what can be done with their images? Are you helping them design a place in their home for a family portrait? Are you walking them through outfit selection and location information? What can you do to layer in MORE experience for her?

And then there’s the sales process. 

The images are shot, enhanced and ready for her to view. What’s that experience like in your studio and how can you make it better? Put yourself in her shoes and imagine what would make that experience over the top? A glass of wine and cheese plate? Snacks, crafts and entertainment for her kids while she chooses? A movie theatre-like experience to view the images with low lights, music and a to-die for slideshow that makes her swoon? Intimate engagement with your sample products that help her envision her own family displayed with pride on her mantel?

So, take out a piece of paper, or save this episode to your must-do list. 

I want you to write down the entire step-by-step experience a client has with you. And I want you to take stock of how a client MIGHT feel during each of these steps. Then, in a column next to it, not how you might improve the experience to create a more positive emotion about with your client.

That brings us to number two: her status symbol. 

Why do clients WANT family portraits? Yes, it’s to mark their family’s growth and change over time, but what FEELINGS does it give her? it’s personifies her sense of pride and love for her family. A great family portrait gives your ideal client a “status symbol” to show off. And by status symbol, I don’t mean that with a negative connotation. It’s simply a way for her to feel good when she or others see her family’s image. It gives her a sense of connectedness with her family, and other’s admiration for it makes her feel proud, belonging and content. How do you feel when you look at your family pictures? It creates nostalgia, affection, beautiful longing for the past and love. And deep within you a sense of pride for raising your kids – for doing it all and getting through it.

Number 3: the tangible art piece itself. 

When you sell physical products to a client, what happens? Visual delight. University studies have shown there is a 65% higher emotional reaction to holding a tangible picture in your hand versus swiping on an electronic device. Your clients feel MORE when they touch paper. It’s as simple as that. So, by offering these and selling these products to your clients you are deepening the emotions they have to the process of working with you. You are capitalizing – in a positive way- on what you sell – EMOTION. Combine this with an incredible experience of working with you and you have upped the level of your brand to the stratosphere. Visual delight – every time she looks at or touches your art? You can’t create that with a certain lens, the right exposure or the perfect aperture setting. It only comes from HOW you do business and what you create in her heart. So, start researching beautiful products, and noting how they illicit an emotional response in your own head. Unique, commanding, tactile products bring forth the greatest feelings. Still having trouble? 

Well, we’ve got a special event headed your way that may help you out. Our 5 Days To A Perfected Product Line Challenge is coming up November 2-7. Will you join us? It’s absolutely free and will partially take place in my Facebook group. I’ll help you discover the products that make your business stand out, and add that wow factor to your images.

This leads to number 4 – Service. 

This goes along with ‘the experience’ with some key differences. Service is how you go out of your way to do the things that are pleasantly unexpected. It’s how you treat your clients differently than all the other business owners out there. So, how are you serving her? Are you sending an unexpected gift when she books? Asking her about personal events in her life? Noting birthdays and anniversaries with a card? Referencing her move to a new house and sending a house warming gift? Helping her install her wall portrait when she calls you with a mishap – after the fact? Replacing her frame at your expense even though she accidentally dropped it? 

Make clients feel positive emotion with the way you treat them – not only when things are going right but especially when things go wrong. 

So, grab that paper again and start brainstorming the ways you can make the unexpected happen. Keep a journal with you as you go places and note when a business owner went above and beyond for you. How can you incorporate or tweak their service to work in your own business? It can be as simple as remembering names and making a welcome sign. Or just knowing what you need in advance and making it happen without having to ask.

Finally there’s #5: the style of your images. 

This is where I circle back to your worries about your work. Am I good enough, you ask? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s not necessarily how GOOD your work is, it’s about how consistent and “styled” it is. Yes, you need to be able to shoot in any lighting situation. To be a pro, you need to know your camera better than your husband, kids and the back of your hand. It needs to be automatic. So ask yourself, can I go into any lighting situation, and get consistent images under pressure? If you can’t then it’s time to get back on the education train and learn more about your craft. It’s time to practice relentlessly. Practice the stuff you don’t like doing! But once you’ve nailed that down, the it’s about your visual aesthetic as an artist, and how that makes a potential client feel. The style of your photography has a certain look and feel that’s “you.” It comes with making visual choices that appeal to your artist’s brain. Do you love backlighting? Are neutral colors what you’re drawn to ? Or vivid brights? Do you gravitate to a certain composition in your images? Is outdoor-moody your jam, or high key studio strobes – your peanut butter? 

The choices you make daily in your images create a certain “look” over time. And that look attracts your ideal client. Why? 

Because remember, you are selling FEELINGS:

An Experience. – Joy, Nostalgia, Togetherness

A Status Symbol – Pride, (their family is amazing) – Ego

A Tangible Art Piece – Visual delight.

Service – Cared For, Content.

Your style of your work attracts her visual aesthetic. It makes her feel good and connected because you fit her visually. She will be attracted to you and inspired by you, which will ultimately lead her to knock on your door. 

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