A Boudoir photography session is one of the most amazing experiences a woman can have in her lifetime. She gets primped, pampered and styled to perfection and then coached during her photo shoot to look (and feel) like the most desirable woman alive! To top it off, she even gets photos to serve as a memory of this! That’s quite a service, wouldn’t you agree? Yet photographers don’t seem to think that is quite enough.
One of the biggest mistakes I see boudoir photographers make time and time again is adding value for clients that just isn’t profitable for the photographers business. We’ve all heard the horror stories of photographers giving away digital files (gasp!) but too often we are way too worried about gifting clients or offering things that cost us too much time or money, that what we really end up running is nothing more than a popularity contest or charity, and not an actual business.
I gave away too much time (and money) in my first year of business
My pricing was set correctly to industry standards from the get-go, but I was offering a free slideshow of 10 fully retouched images to every client who booked with me. You may be thinking 10 images doesn’t sound too bad. But, I was also over-retouching my first year, which took way too much time for that part alone. Add to that the time I spent creating the actual slideshow in iPhoto (before I wised up to Animoto). I needed to put a stop to the madness but fear of not booking clients kept getting the best of me. Toward the end of my first year, I was completely burning myself out. I knew things needed to change, but it took stumbling across a little statistic to finally force me to take my business more seriously.
That statistic was “The average photographer only makes $10 per hour.”
I knew the second I heard that little tidbit that I definitely did not want to be that photographer. After all, I had worked HARD to get to where I was. I wanted a successful business, not the measly hourly pay a teenager makes at a part-time job. Don’t get me wrong: I want my clients to have the most amazing experience possible, but not at my own demise. Little things add up and before you know it, you have little to show for all of the hard work you put into your business.
So, I finally made some pretty big changes
I took my time more seriously.
I began using an app called RescueTime to track how I really was spending my time while working. And I found out I was actually spending a LOT more time on each client than I thought I was. I also saw that I was spending too much time on social media, usually socializing with other photographers who aren’t helping me pay my bills. Oops.
I changed my retouching process.
I began cracking down harder on perfecting my images in camera, instead of relying as much on retouching. And instead of fully retouching every single image that would go into a clients gallery, I created a batch retouch action that would lightly smooth the skin while making the images pop. (Perfectly suitable for a first-time viewing.) The best part about a batch action is you can work on other things while your images are being retouched. Winning! Then, after the client sales session, I would do a final retouch on purchased images, if they needed it. HUGE time-saver right there!
I stopped giving away a slideshow began investigating other ways of adding value without sacrificing myself or my business.
I began looking for ways to surprise them, instead of gifting them during their sessions. By asking the right questions in my pre-session form that I have each client fill out, I am able to discover things that truly delight them. This helps me to bring certain items (that I usually have on-hand at home) to their sessions that are personal to them, that they aren’t expecting and that will encourage additional image sales. For instance, I had a client mention in her questionnaire that she still enjoys reading a good old fashioned paper newspaper, as opposed to reading the news online. So, I showed up with that day’s paper to use as a prop for her session. She was beyond thrilled over the simplest of gestures. I have also done this with masks (like the kitten one featured in this post), flowers, balloons, cupcakes and more.
One of the most profitable ways I learned to add value was by incorporating video into my sessions. More about in my next post!