Monday, April 13, 2009

Group Events: Presell or not?

I have worked group events for several years now. I haven't tackled the 1000 pose super-events such as soccer tournaments...yet! Usually the events number between 15 and 100 families or groups, shot on one or two days. I have taken events at races, middle school graduations, church program book events, public broadcasting fund-raisers, retirement homes and dance studios. I always try to get model releases so I can use the images in promotion and blogging.

Selling Choices

After an exhausting day of shooting, I then have to focus on selling. Over the years, I have struggled with the right approach for ordering and offering products to customers. I have used three general ways to approach sales to groups:

  1. Post the images online and let them order using a website
  2. Make them pre-determine their order and pay the day of the shoot
  3. Offer them the opportunity to review proofs and order after the event
Web Presentation

For events where I will not see the subjects again, the first two choices work well. Actually, I have found that posting on a website generally yields the lowest return, as people see but are not compelled to buy. I usually do this when I am shooting spec shots, such as at running races, or when the customer has not had a chance to view the many images from a shoot and needs to view and make choices. The orders tend to come in slowly with this method. I have used a couple of professional sites in the past - and They both have their pros and cons. I have shifted to hosting my own online catalogs which has saved me lots of fees and commissions. I use Jalbum templates and a skin called Fotoplayer. There are earlier posts which describe using these tools.


Better than online posting, when I have a captive audience and I am posing each subject and speaking with them or their parents, I will try to get an order that day. Usually I'll make up a form with specific packages and collect the funds at the time of the session. I have credit card clearing services at home, and I'll run it when I get home. Or, I'll accept checks and cash. Then I'll edit, print and mail the photos. Lately I have started drop shipping orders from my lab (Richmond Camera) directly to my customers. I have yet to see how that works out...maybe in a later post I'll talk about that experience. The benefit is lower effort in packaging and reshipping, but the disadvantage is that I cannot package the images to my usual hand-delivery preferences, nor can I see the finished prints.

Proofing and Direct Sales

Overall, I have found that the best method is to offer proofing and consultation. I do this a lot with dance studio work, as I can set up "visiting hours" at the studios and work with them on editing options and package choices. I usually end up with very nice order sizes with the consultation, but it tends to break down with large groups and run into lots of editing and time consuming "sitting around".

I have found a couple of things that work for me when I do in-studio order consulting:
  • Offer the customer a la carte, small packages and a "kitchen sink" option.
  • Offer bonus items if the customer prepays a large package on the day of the shoot.
  • Demo and show the specialty products - collages, keychains and other goodies, and they will sell.

I also sell proofs at certain order levels. It drives additional revenue and recaptures the proofing cost.
I set this up so that I have captured a large sale from the customer, so I am not fearing that they will scan the images. During the review process, I don't let proofs leave the studio, unless they have purchased the kitchen sink. Then it's exclusive!

Once I receive my orders, I enter them into my sales files and print them in batches. For local delivery or drop off, I batch them all for delivery to my business address, and break them down on my own. As I edit each image, I rename them to include the customer's last name. Then I match up the order form with the prints and specialty items and put them in a nice bag.


With groups, there are appropriate times for web-based sales and prepaid ordering, particularly if you will not see your subjects again. But the best revenue potential comes when you can sit with your customers, review their proofs and sell them on your various packages and options.


  1. What printer do you use? Yours sounds easier than ours.

  2. I don't print anything locally. I have all my prints done at Richmond Camera in Richmond Virginia.