The Price of Prints: Part 3: 14 Ways to Increase Photo Print Sales

The Price of Prints: Part 3: 14 Ways to Increase Photo Print Sales

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How can photographers sell more prints? For Part 3 in my 4-part series called “The Price of Prints,” I asked a panel of photographers who have proven to be successful at selling prints. From their responses I was able to make a list of their top suggestions.

My panel of photographers includes:

MARTIN DIGGS
A photojournalistic portrait and fine art architecture photographer based in the Kansas City area. The bulk of his business comes via word of mouth, and his use of Facebook makes the personal referral process much easier.

TODD BISSONETTE
A full-time independent photographer for the past 7 years, he specializes in sports, weddings, portraits, and commercial work for smaller-sized companies. He has found that there is a potential for print sales from almost any assignment.

KRYSTLE MARCELLUS
After working as a photojournalist in Philadelphia for about 6 years, she moved her business to Maui, Hawaii, specializing mainly in freelance commercial work, documentary, portraiture, and sports. Since moving to Hawaii, she has branched out into other types of assignments, while bringing a photojournalist style to everything she shoots.

PATRICK McDERMOTT
A professional photographer based in Los Angeles, California. For the past 4 years, he has been balancing assignment work while pursuing a degree in photojournalism. He specializes in sports and wedding photography, but his true passion is in documentary photography that focuses on the environment. Currently, he is spending four months in Asia working on self-assigned projects.

ROBERT FALCETTI
A working professional photographer for the past 23 years, starting with a daily newspaper in Florida when he was a senior in high school. Today, he’s based in Connecticut, halfway between New York City and Boston. His work mainly consists of both editorial and advertising assignments.

ERIC WILHOIT
A photographer based in Greenville, Tennessee, a small town about an hour east of Knoxville. He has been working as a photographer for almost 20 years, specializing in a wide array of subjects, including weddings, engagements, babies & children, sports, family portraits, dance, church directory photography and even pets.

PETER CARROLL
A photographer based in Alice Springs, Central Australia, has been working for 3 years as a photographer. He classifies himself as a “generalist” photographer, with an interest in landscape, concerts, festivals, documentary, and photojournalism. However, he doesn’t do weddings. :-)

JILL GATELY
A photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland, who has been running her own business for the past 5 years. She spends most of her time shooting weddings, families, children, corporate events, on-location lifestyle sessions and some studio work. 

DEAN OROS
A photographer based in Toronto, Canada who left a 17-year career in TV/film to pursue photography. His business is split 70/30 on consumer photography (fine art weddings, children and family portraits) and business photography.

STEVE McLAUGHLIN

A photographer based in Middletown, Connecticut, who accepts assignments and clients from all over New England and New York. He shoots about 80% sports (all levels), K-Pro, and works freelance for several newspapers, but most of his clients are colleges and universities.

KEN CHARNOCK

A freelance photographer based outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The print sales portion of his business comes primarily from sports – both teams and action photography, including youth, middle school and high school sports.

MATT CASHORE

A photographer based in South Bend, Indiana. He is primarily employed as the University Photographer at Notre Dame but also does some freelancing.

MIRANDA PARKER
A wedding and portrait photographer based in Alma, Michigan, “which is right in the middle of the mitten.” She is a self-taught photographer who got her first dSLR in October 2008. She starting studying online, scouring the internet for as much information as she could find, and has been in business since July 2009.

BENJAMIN COOK

A photographer based in South Carolina; has been in business since 1997. He has worked as a staff photographer at a studio, as a wedding photographer, and as a freelance photographer, and now humbly considers himself “a hobbyist that is lucky enough to sell a few photos.”

JON van WOERDEN

A photographer based in Fort Lauderdale  Florida; has been working as a professional since 1972. He specializes in commercial studio product photography, travel, and sports (primarily motorsports and international soccer) and motorsports event photography (shooting car club rallies, concours & track driving events.)

The Top 14 Ways to Increase Photo Print Sales

14) Enjoy your work.
If you enjoy working with people, they’ll enjoy working with you. If you want your clients to love your work, you need to love it first. Enthusiasm and positive energy are contagious – put these things into your job on each day and you’ll be surprised how much your clients will appreciate it.

Love your work. Love your clients. It’ll help you to understand the value of your work.
– Dean Oros

Most of all, enjoy what you do.
– Ken Charnock


13) Understand the effects of expiring galleries on your long-term revenue.
There is a theory that in order to encourage people to buy prints, you need to set a very public expiration date on the images, after which they won’t be available for sale. There is also the opposite theory that says leaving images permanently accessible is a better long-term strategy. Don’t automatically assume that either is best — try them both and see which works best for you.

Some people differ in opinion with this one – this is not an ad for PhotoShelter – but I find that since I have plenty of online storage on PhotoShelter, I keep the images posted for over a year (sometimes more). I often get sales from images over a year old. I know some people say to put a deadline on the images to prompt people to buy now. I have several customers that wait to the end of a season or even a school year to order prints. I takes organization of the images, but is worth it to me.
– Ken Charnock

When you post a gallery hoping for print sales, leave it up as long as you can. I’ll still get orders every now and again for events that have been posted for a couple of years! Plus people will keep going back to look for them driving traffic to your site.
– Todd Bissonette


12) Your images won’t sell if they can’t be seen.
Your images won’t do you any good if nobody can see them. Think of each picture as if it were a salesperson working for you, and you want as many salespeople as possible out there. Look for ways to get them in front of your target audience(s). The more people who see them, the more chance you have to make a sale. Don’t assume that your website is the only venue to display your work.

As for fine art, the biggest thing for me is continuing to show my work, whether online or in restaurants. I even have pics up at my chiropractor’s office. It is advertising for me and my art and helps get them to my site. They may not buy for months, but you have to keep your images following through the Internet and the real outside world.
– Martin Diggs

The biggest thing we did to improve print sales was simply showing people pictures. The built-in demand took care of the rest.
– Matt Cashore


11) Be smart about offering digital downloads for those who prefer them.
Customers are increasingly computer savvy, and many of them would rather pay for an image download and not a print. Can prints and digital downloads live in harmony on the same photographer website? People who want to buy a digital download are usually willing to pay more for it than they would for a print. In addition, selling a “personal use download” doesn’t involve the added expense of printing and shipping. Experiment with both and try to strike the right balance.

Not everyone will buy a print. Some subjects, especially if you shoot them for an editorial job, kind of think they should just be sent the file. I’m always polite and just say, “I’m sorry. I’m not allowed to do that. But I can send you a link to the gallery if you’re interested in purchasing a print or file download.” That usually works. I don’t generally tell them that my wife and accountant are the ones usually restricting me from sending them the file, though!
– Robert Falcetti

Offer low-res and high-res files…for a substantial price. For those who want the files, they probably wouldn’t purchase prints anyway. For the high-res files, I offer them as “digital negatives,” straight out of the camera, but the images I show in the selects gallery, or on Facebook or my blog, are always re-touched and stylized. Even if someone wants to print it themselves, when they find out it will never look like yours, they will still come back and get prints from you.
– Todd Bissonette

Don’t automatically give away high-res digital negatives. You’ll never sell prints this way, and you completely devalue your imagery. This applies to consumers and business clients. For example, if a biz client wants images for web use only, they don’t require high-res. Just because digital imagery has become more accessible to the public does not mean YOUR digital files are also easily accessible.
– Dean Oros


10) Make sure your website, and the buying process, is easy to use.
This one is obvious, right? But you may be surprised. Put yourself in the shoes of your typical customer, and see how easy your website is to use. Call your customers, and ask what could be better, easier, more clear. The easier it is to use, the better.

Website must be ready and look and feel trustworthy and professional. I am terrible at site building. Part of my Generalist nature. This has really hit home hard since the Uluru shots in August. The site went from a trickle to a flood and I realized the importance of having a site that truly represents your business. I find Photoshelter offers the tools but you have to use them effectively and that is my downfall to date and what I will be working hard on in 2011.
– Peter Carroll

Go through the gallery as a client, and the process of ordering a print. No matter how easy it seems to us, there will be clients that can’t figure it out. You need to know what they are experiencing so you can walk them through it.
– Todd Bissonette

Making your site as easy as possible to use will definitely allow for a wider audience.
– Krystle Marcellus

Once I was able to offer printing, actually very painless, no fuss, direct from the web printing that freed my clients of the burden of having to deal with the requests for pictures they readily agreed. It has been a slow but steady transition but print sales are increasing. We keep the galleries hidden so privacy is protected. They help us market the prints because they will send an e-mail blast or post links to the galleries on their various sites.
– Robert Falcetti


9) Educate your clients.
You’ve heard the saying that “an educated consumer is your best customer,” right? Well, it’s true. Take the time to explain why your images/prints/services are worth the price. Teach your clients that they are getting a much better product through you than if they were to try and print/shoot something for themselves. If you charge more for very high quality museum quality prints – explain what makes the quality so good, and why it’s worth the price. Don’t assume that your client knows the technical aspects of printing (and the value of a high quality print) like you do.

Educate yourself and your clients about the differences in printing. Explain the differences in photographic papers, framing etc. Clients want to make educated buying decisions.
– Dean Oros

Since my client ordering is all done online, I show my products to the clients after our photo session so they are aware of what their options are (gallery wraps, stand-outs, different finishes, etc.). In my experience, you can offer every product under the sun, but if they haven’t seen for themselves what it looks like, they aren’t going to buy it.
– Miranda Parker

Marketing and ease of use have been the most important element in my sales. They need to have the information to get to the site and then be able to view the images on their own computer and, finally, use a credit card to purchase those images. These things may seem simple, but I have had many challenges with the basics and had to go back and redo some approaches. I am currently working on an instruction sheet with basic instructions on how to login, how to look through photos in a slideshow, how to download Firefox, and how to use PayPal.
– Krystle Marcellus

Try to use print sales as a value added service for your clients if you think they could use it. This may take a bit of educating them on the idea. I know from working with the same type of clients for many years, in this case my clients in the education field, that they are extremely busy individuals and don’t have much time or energy for added tasks like trying to get prints made. For me to offer to handle any photo print requests was actually a service and burden lifter for them.
– Robert Falcetti

8) Speed is king.
Strike while the iron is hot. The best time to sell photos from an event is when people are still talking about the event. If you wait too long, you won’t be able to tap into a customer’s natural excitement. Timeliness is also important when it comes to customer service. Returning phone calls and answering emails right away improves the overall customer experience – which, in turn, helps sales too.

The faster I answer a client’s questions, the faster they finish a sale. Another simple, but very important point. This can sometimes be a challenge when you are a one-man team, as I am, but I work hard to make sure this happens, so that my customers know that they have the support of a human being and are not just dealing with a computer.
– Krystle Marcellus

The most important advice and lesson I have learned as a wedding photographer is the faster you get a clients photographs posted after a wedding, the higher chance you will have large sales to the extended family and close friends. People are excited and they want to see the photographs. The longer you wait, this excitement goes away, and so do your extended sales.
– Patrick McDermott

Another thing that I think helps with them purchasing pictures online is the fact that most shoots are online for them to view within 48 to 72 hours after the shoot is taken. This way, once the images they saw in their head during the shoot start to fade I send them all of them to look at. This way they don’t lose interest.
– Eric Wilhoit

Be prompt. Be prompt uploading your images after the event (I typically upload the same day as the event), and be prompt fulfilling the orders (I typically fulfill the order the day the order was made.)
– Ken Charnock


7) Be realistic and fair when setting your prices.
When I say “realistic and fair,” I mean fair to YOU, the photographer. Make sure you’re aware of your costs, and make sure you’re making money. Otherwise, you won’t be in business for long.

Be realistic about your pricing. High-priced art usually is so because of something OTHER than the art. And remember that 10 prints at $10 = the same as one print at $100.
– Benjamin Cook

Pricing is very important. How much do you want to sell? I know photographers that sell 4x6s size prints for $25 dollars each after charging a sitting fee and whatnot. I just don’t understand that. I would rather price so I sell, and so they buy.
– Martin Diggs

Pricing is something that took me a long time to figure out, but now I make sure to price my prints and my wedding rates based off what is competitive in the market. I also am extremely honest with myself on how much I should be charging, even if it is less than what I would one day hope to charge.
– Patrick McDermott

I don’t want to undercut any of my peers as far as print pricing goes. I look at lots of sites to try and gauge what a print from my archive should cost. Mostly though, my sales come from assignments, so my pricing is all over the board. Some of it depends on what my clients prefer. I do have some standard print pricing that I use for just general print sales from assignments – those start at $35 for an 8×10. I expect my offerings other than standard prints will grow and change now that I will be able to use a variety of lab services to have all kinds of printing options available via my PhotoShelter archive.
– Robert Falcetti


6) Understand what actually sells, then create images, and products, accordingly.
Do you know what your customers are looking for? What will they actually buy? You may be surprised. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they want, and pay close attention to the things that are selling. As a photographer, you will naturally feel that people will want to buy the best possible picture. But your clients will generally respond most to images that are the best possible picture *for them.* There is a difference!

Do not believe that you have to shoot the best teams and players. I sell prints of kids who never play.
– Ken Charnock

Offer a few versions of the prints that sell. B&W, desaturated, a different crop, etc. A slight difference might be the thing that motivates a customer to buy.
– Benjamin Cook

I really think the most important part of selling prints is getting shots that people want to buy. I can pull every trick out of the book for marketing, pricing and whatnot, but if I dont have the product the customers want, why would they buy?
– Martin Diggs

Over the past three years, I have found that there is no correct amount of photographs to give a client from a wedding. It all depends on the wedding. I have a rough amount I aim for, but sometimes I post 50 to 75 more or less. If the wedding is crazy and a ton of fun to be at, the edit is large because there are more amazing unique photographs to pick from. Just don’t be repetitive in the edit.
– Patrick McDermott

5) Understand how to use social media sites like Facebookto generate print sales.
Social media sites are fertile ground for the marketing and sales of prints. Never before has it been so easy to get the word out in such a targeted way. It helps turns your subjects (and their friends and families) into little word-of-mouth machines. Just make sure the path to your e-commerce enabled website is clear and obvious, and incentives are in place before you start promoting via social media.

I used my Facebook fan page along with coupons on the last go around when offering prints from a recent education job I shot. I just did it as an experiment to see if it would work. The deal was that if someone went and became a fan, they could send me an e-mail and I would send them a coupon code for 10% off any prints they ordered from that series of images. If they were already a fan of my FB fan page, then I sent them a 25% discount. I really feel this helped to drive my print sales crazy and gained me a few more eyeballs looking at my work. My FB page is a mix of all kinds of work, so I’m not totally sure if this is a good thing or bad thing yet, but I think it’s a place where we can be a bit more free to share different kinds of work that we may not show across your normal brand. Not every person took advantage of the offer, which could be because they didn’t want to be a fan or maybe they didn’t have Facebook, I’m not sure. From the six people (out of 18) who took advantage of purchasing prints and using the coupons we sold almost $900 in prints. This from a job that I was already being paid to shoot and expected to not sell much of anything and had no expectation that I would. I think my experiment was a success in this case. Maybe even a few of the other people will order some, maybe not, but at least this has the wheels turning for future ideas.
– Robert Falcetti

Marketing: Facebook is the best-kept secret.
– Patrick McDermott

Facebook for me is still the number one place for me to help sell prints. I put them up… with a price and see what the demand is like. I have offered discounts in the past as not only just a way to sell the prints, but to once again get people to see my work. I just keep posting my wares. I want to make sure if someone is at work and says they want to find a print for their wife, that one of my FB buddies chimes in and points them in the direction of my work. Set a minimum purchase price to activate the discount.
– Martin Diggs

If the event has a Facebook page, make sure to post the link and some sample images ASAP. Post on Facebook and tag those you know, or have your event contact go through and tag them for you.
– Todd Bissonette

Social networking. I am a novice, but I know it works. Simply having a presence – not too much – but it is another point of contact and massive free marketing to a world wide audiance. Marketing and self-promotion and word of mouth are key.
– Peter Carroll


4) Don’t skimp on quality. It’s what sets you apart from the crowd.
If you’re an event photographer, quality is your best friend, because the parent in the stands with a dSLR won’t (or at least *shouldn’t*) be able to match your quality. Everything applies here: from lens selection, treatment of light, moment, angle, to the final quality of the print.

It goes without saying: Your photography should be spot on. Each year it is getting more and more difficult for print sales due to parents and coaches bringing their cameras. I try to take professional images that the coach and mom or dad cannot typically get (backgrounds, angles, depth of field choices). Also, my first point here plays an important role. I often sell images to parents that do have a camera but they do not have the shot I have or the “commemorative” print option. I try to work with parents/coaches with cameras instead of working against them.
– Ken Charnock

Shoot and deliver quality images that others can’t. Print sales should increase.
– Steve McLaughlin

I explain to the customers that I can only guarantee print quality when ordering through me. Having the cd is only as good as the paper and the calibration of another lab they may choose to use. I guarantee quality with my printing.
– Jill Gately

Lesson learned, don’t ever post a soft image for sale. I’ve had to tell customers that an image they’ve selected can’t be delivered because it’s not sharp. I don’t want poor quality images out there with my name on them.
– Steve McLaughlin

Part of the [reason] personal contact is important – [It is] as much for me as it is the customer. I must be 100% satisfied that the customer is receiving the best that I can give. My feeling is if I spend more on quality from the beginning it will pay dividends down the track.
– Peter Carroll

For indoor sporting events, I typically use strobes (when possible). It takes longer and is more difficult but the image quality is far superior – no parent or coach can get what I get with the strobes. In a weird sort of way, it sets me apart from others at the same event. I often here people say (as I shoot the event) – he is a professional.
– Ken Charnock


3) A little personal contact can make a big difference.
It helps to make the rounds, introduce yourself, talk to people, and be known as a likable person instead of just a faceless website. Make the time to approach people directly, let them know what you’re shooting, and where they can find it.

What I have found to be beneficial is to personalise the experience of buying the print. I do this by contacting them soon after I receive an order say hello and explain the process of what happens now.
– Peter Carroll

My print sales increase when I have an advocate. It could be a parent, coach or a player. Once the images are in front of a customer, they sell themselves.
– Steve McLaughlin

Try to have direct contact with all of the potential buyers. At a wedding, make sure you let everyone know the photos will be available for sale and give them a card. I have even set up galleries beforehand and then printed cards with the link.
– Todd Bissonette

I do have sample prints, banners, flyers that I take to some larger events. If I took the time and was better promoting my services at the event – I’m sure I could increase my sales. I do have some assistants help with some larger events as well.
– Ken Charnock

Make sure you identify and engage all the possible customers. I’ve shot sporting events were I’ve worked for both teams and two newspapers, submitting different images of course. I’ve then sold prints to parents and digital images to the conference offices of the different schools.
– Steve McLaughlin

Shoot local as much as possible, you’ll get to know the players, coaches, parents – this helps with print sales if they already know you.
– Ken Charnock


2) Offer discounts as a way to add incentive for buyers to complete the process.
Everyone loves a deal, yourself included! Offering a limited-time discount, or a special coupon, can both inspire people to buy and create a word of mouth effect around your photography.

To get the quick sales, offer a limited time discount, and include your older galleries in it as well. Then people will go revisit those galleries and perhaps purchase more because of the discount.
– Todd Bissonette

When I first started photographing weddings, I tried using discounts/prints specials to help with prints sales. Over time I noticed that these specials did not increase my sales. A few clients also told me that it actually bothered them when they received them. But that is just my personal experience. I have friends that say sending the discounts works great for them.
– Patrick McDermott

USE THE COUPONS – I should have been doing this since day 1! Wow. I can’t believe how effective this has been. People (clients or consumers) LOVE getting stuff at a discount or,  better yet, free. OK, before people start throwing stuff at me about “free,” just think about how photographers act at tradeshows or seminars (See, I told you so). I rolled out the coupons just a few weeks ago for an education job I shot. Portraits. I wasn’t expecting much. Wow, was I wrong. I have had a tremendous response and I think my sales were great because of the thought about getting a discount. I will most definitely be looking at using the coupons that are offered on an ongoing basis. I don’t know exactly for what yet, but throwing someone a coupon code creates a perception of handing them found money.
– Robert Falcetti

For portrait sessions, and sometimes for weddings, I will give them a credit as part of the session fee. Make it a limited time to encourage them to make their purchases in a timely manner.
– Todd Bissonette

Coupons have generated me a ton of sales when my clients are sitting on their images and haven’t ordered in a few weeks or a month. To accomplish this it has been a business requirement of mine to get everyone’s email address that I take pictures for. This way of communication allows me to not only send them info about how to order but also gives me a direct line to them when I want them to order.
– Eric Wilhoit

I discount prices on multiple prints of the same pose (for my desk prints, 8×10 and under). For example, my 5×7 print is $15 – however, they can purchase 2 of the same pose for $25. This gets the clients ordering more prints and receiving a discount for themselves in the process.
– Miranda Parker


1) In addition to being a photographer, you also need to be a salesperson.
You are a photographer, but you’re also a business person. Running a business means you need to sell yourself and your products. Constantly. Photography is no different. Pick up the phone and make some phone calls. Email people directly and encourage them to email others. Strike a deal with event organizers and get them to email everyone on their list. Don’t assume people will automatically find your images – get out there and promote, promote, promote.

You have to remind the customers that there are holidays and things of the like coming up. I don’t know a grandmother in the world who wouldn’t want a print of their grandbabies.
– Martin Diggs

Not exactly print sales related, but it leads to print sales: Instead of waiting for jobs, I suggest jobs. If I see an event scheduled I’ll contact the organizer and suggest photo coverage and possible advantages of having still images available for purchase.
– Steve McLaughlin

Making calls to local businesses to enquire if they need wall art can also leads to sales not only to them but also their clents.
– Peter Carroll

Try to get email addresses to send the link to everyone, and let them know it’s OK to share it with others.
– Todd Bissonette

Gathering email addresses of potential customers and sending gallery invites via PhotoShelter generates interest and, if the product is high quality and unique, increases print sales.
– Steve McLaughlin

I have always found it best to be the “official” photographer for the event, game, or championship. It not only sets you apart from the crowd, it allows for “commemorative” print sales. I create a simple border and offer a customize “commemorative” print option (higher profit margin) for the same size prints.
– Ken Charnock

As an event photographer, the one thing I recently learned (and wish I would have long ago), is how powerful of a marketing tool the Internet presence of the club or organization for which I am shooting is. Having the club place a link to my PhotoShelter galleries on their constantly updated events page, and the ability of that organization to send out a bulk e-mail announcement of the posting of the gallery(s), is such a great asset. Although the clubs allow me access to the e-mail list of attendees, I believe a bulk mailing from the club is more likely to be read than one generated by the photographer. I allow the club to select a few images for their website and or newsletter usage as a courtesy for there help in promoting my sales.
– Jon van Woerden

Do you have any suggestions on how to increase print sales? If so, please add to this story by contributing your tips using the comment area below.

“The Price of Prints” Series:
The Price of Prints: Part 1: Pricing Practices & Motivating Buyers

The Price of Prints: Part 2: How To Avoid Pricing Yourself Out Of Business

The Price of Prints: Part 3: 14 Ways To Increase Print Sales

The Price of Prints: Part 4: Advice From Expert Printers



PhotoShelter recently launched the new Print Vendor Network. Now PhotoShelter photographers may sell prints and products via their websites while handling fulfillment through any participating print vendor, anywhere in the world (in addition to our 4 large fully automated print vendors.) It’s free for printers to join the network too, so photographers may invite their favorite printer anytime.       


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