If you're a photographer, you've probably heard the arguments for both sides. I've been on both sides. A year ago, I was an advocate for selling prints and steering clear of giving clients CDs. I felt pretty strongly about this and would try and pull my photographer friends away from giving CDs and towards selling prints. I believed that even though most people talked about wanting a CD, they really didn't know what they wanted. They didn't know how great a professional quality print would look on their wall. They would realize what they really wanted once they got their hands on a beautiful print of their family. Pretty much all of 2011, I sold prints. With every new client, I had to educate them about this philosophy. I would talk to them over the phone and the schpeal would go like this I believe in selling prints vs. CDs because I believe in delivering a quality product. I shoot with top of the line gear, I edit with extreme care, and in the I print with one of the best printers around. I don't want all of that quality and care to be lost in the last step. I probably said that a hundred times last year.
I was running a different model of business in 2011. I was charging session fees of $60 and giving a $30 credit towards prints. It worked well. I would shoot, edit, then upload to smugmug (my proofing/printing service) and when my clients got around to it (1 week to 6 months), they would order their prints. It worked nicely. I made a good deal of money off of prints. Because nobody is just going to by three 8x10's... they want them all.
In 2012, I re-evaluated. I wanted to add value to what I was offering my clients. I wanted my work to be less like a business deal and become more personal and more valuable.
I raised my prices and decided to take the leap over to the dark side. I started giving CDs with my session fee. And what happened? my business didn't collapse. Something shocked me, my business really took a big step. I was putting my heart and soul into my product and when I mailed off a disk, it felt right. My clients were getting everything they ever wanted... their images. All of them... to keep forever.
The whole client experience changed. It wasn't just a business exchange anymore. With the CDs, I send thank you notes. This is something really enjoy. Even if it's something simple like Thank you so much for choosing me, I had a great time with you guys. Keep in touch. The experience is now personal. I'm not just a business, i'm a real person.
And surprise, I started booking more and having more return clients. And now, half of my new clients are referred to me by previous clients. Why? because i'm a real person and i'm doing what I believe in... not just what appears to be more profitable.
What 2011 looked like for my clients:
What 2012 looks like: