Profitable Workflow!

I think that if you gave a Mc Donald’s Franchise to the average photographer, he or she could find a way to take the most successful, most systematized business money machine model in the world and they would to take the profit out of it!  Back in the days of film, there were many things that worked very well and some things that didn’t. The two problems with film capture was the cost involved in the film, processing and getting proofs of some kind to show the client. The second problem was the amount of time between the session day and when clients would see their images.  Kodak and other companies came out with these huge digital preview systems that used a beam splitter and a simple/primitive digital camera to capture the same image as the film camera at the same time.  This system did away with proofing cost, but more importantly it allowed us for the first time to have immediate viewing.  We could finally use people’s excitement during the session to our benefit to create client excitement in the ordering process.

When digital capture finally became a workable system, it gave us the ultimate sales tool, the ability to walk the client from the studio area to the viewing room so they buy more because of the excitement and when they leave your studio on session day, you have a check or credit card slip in your hand.  Ever hear of a little thing called cash flow?  I was excited, I could get rid of the huge viewing system and shoot with a 35mm style camera and have instant viewing after the session.  This made the fact I had to spend $100,000 to put in my own lab and learn to shoot digitally seem worth it!

While I was excited about the opportunities to make my business more profitable, I started hearing photographers at conventions and seminars saying things that were idiotic from a business perspective.  They were talking about shooting hundreds of images and then taking the images home to “edit them down”.  I don’t understand this process, you shoot way too many images them give up your free time to bring the number back down to a number a client can view.  This seems almost counter-productive, doesn’t it? Just remember one thing, just because someone is up on a stage, doesn’t make them smart or right and when they suggest something that doesn’t make sense from a profitability stand point (since we are all in business to make money right?) be nice and think to yourself, “everyone is entitled to their opinion and yours opinion is obviously wrong!”.

To defend their lack of impulse control, these photographers explained that unlike film, shooting digital was “FREE” and it is, if you don’t value your time, your family and your ability to have a normal life!  First rule of Profitable work flow, design your session to fit your packages. Set the number of background/scene choices you do with each session you offer to fill the product you sell.  We photograph seniors so our sessions work around the number of 8, which is the most images that any product we offer has. We offer 4 backgrounds/scenes done both full length and close up giving us a total of 8 different images ideas.  This sounds like there is a plan here, a purpose for what we do.  Since I know what I am doing, I create the image in my mind before I ever pick-up the camera and I know that taking 4 images smiling and two images not smiling is just as effective in the sales of portraits as taking 40 images and edited back down to 6!

In the studio, I have every main light the same brand, output size and change the flash tubes at the same time to keep my color temperatures consistent.  All I need to do is white balance my camera for one area and it is the same as every other area in my studio.  This keeps all the images from all the different shooting areas exactly the same.  Outdoors, I use white balance when working with natural light and most of the time use feathered, reflected sunlight to produce the main light source outdoors to insure a consistent coloration in all of my outdoor portraits.  DOWNLOAD A SAMPLE OF MY OUTDOOR PORTRAIT DVD AND SEE HOW TO CREATE EASY BEAUTIFUL AND CONSISTENT OUTDOOR PORTRAITS!

Learning photography back in the day of film, I learned to use corrective lighting and posing to hide the flaws of paying client and make sure all I need from my lab was negative retouching for the acne/wrinkling.  This led to me writing the book, Corrective Lighting and Posing, which will show you how to create image in the camera that just need retouching with little or no enhancement. You can not do corrective enhancement consistently in every session and profit in this business, unless you are at the top of the pricing structure. If you don’t know how to pose and light people to make them beautiful “in camera”, LEARN! Photoshop isn’t the cure for lack of knowledge, reading a book is!

The next bone-headed idea to take the additional profit that digital offered us away, was the thinking that you not only captured hundreds of images to edit them down to 50 to 60 for viewing,,,,, to take up even more time,  some photographer that obviously hated his wife and children and never wanted to spend one second with them, came up with the idea of pre-touching every image a client would see in their viewing.  Clients for 60 to 80 years have been placing large orders from professional photographers that knew what they were doing, produce a salable portrait in the camera, with the client only having to visualize the portrait being retouched, (so minus a few wrinkles or zits).  I sell very large orders every day showing un-retouched images, it simply isn’t necessary if you explain what the client is viewing and how it will look in the final portraits.  I have never, ever had a client not be able to visualize what the final portrait will look like from viewing un-retouched images on the viewing screen, NEVER!

To use up even more time, as photographers seem to enjoy doing, another photographer that never wanted to leave his computer decided that after he over shot and edited down and pre-touched every image the client would be viewing, he or she would then put it into a side-show making sure that each image pops up to the beat of the music.  Now this would be a great idea if you were selling slide shows, but you are not, you are selling portraits.  Selling principle number one, the first thing a client see it what will have a lasting impression, so if you show a slide show first, you will be trying to sell portraits and the client will keep come back to the slide show.  You show a 30×40 first, and the client will keep coming back to that 30×40, which do you make more money on for the time invested?

Once you learn and get into the habit of creating work that is viewable right of the camera and do away with all the boneheaded ways to take up more of your time, you come up with a profitable, workable system of getting your images from the camera to the client’s walls, with the fewest possible steps.  The first time any of my staff touches an image in Photoshop is when they are preparing the final order for the client.  FOR THE EDITING STEPS WE USE GO TO OUR YouTube Video.

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on August 26, 2010.

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