You’ve heard that you need to sell packages in order to make money, but you’re not sure where to start. There are so many products to include! You can print on all kinds of materials with an infinite number of sizes to offer. You have 50 different combinations of albums and folio boxes to sell. And do you offer different products for boudoir, families, seniors, and weddings? This article will tell you how to set up your menu and how to choose what to offer.
There is no perfect answer to this question, but there are good places to start. Your menu will change over time, so don’t worry about getting it right the first time. If there’s a product that no one buys, you can get rid of it. If something new comes out that is wildly popular, add it to the menu and try it out.
There are a few key items that should be no brainers. You have to sell prints. Small ones and large ones. Offering a 4×6, 5×7, and 8×10, you can cover the small, shareable sizes. Don’t be afraid to offer prints that are larger than you would buy. Also consider your aspect ratio! Your images come out of the camera at a 3:2 ratio. Offering 16×24, 20×30, 24×36, and 30×45 means you won’t have to crop the photos to print them. So what they see is what they will get.
What kind of materials will you offer? Consider your brand. I don’t sell canvases because it doesn’t fit my photographic style. Metal prints and Thin Wraps are a better fit for me. You can also print on acrylic or wood. Find options that fit your brand. Having 3 choices of materials is ideal. It’s a good variety without being overwhelming. Having every option available will overwhelm your client and they won’t spend money.
Offer albums and/or folio boxes. I don’t shoot weddings and I still sell a lot of albums. This must be a staple for any studio. If your client really loves all of their photos and can’t narrow it down, let them buy an album and get them all!
This is one of the most controversial topics in our industry. Clients want digital images to share online. We want clients to buy prints so they have something tangible to display in their homes and to pass down to younger generations. So… offer digital images if they purchase prints. I only give digital copies of the images they’ve printed. Head shots and commercial photos are the exception. This article is focusing on what you offer to portrait clients.
There are different ways to present digital images:
Ok, so you’re probably wondering how to actually structure your packages. There’s a lot of behavioral science that goes into this. I guarantee that once I point out these principles to you, you’ll start to see them everywhere.
3 is the magic number. Our brains naturally find odd numbers to be more aesthetic. We also want to provide our clients with enough of a choice to allow them to feel empowered by choosing the right package. If we only give them two choices, they will feel like they don’t have enough options and will be settling for something. If we give them too many choices, let’s say 5, they will be overwhelmed by the number and are less likely to even make a decision. The differences in the packages won’t be enough to make it an easy decision, so they won’t feel as confident in their choice. The correct number is 3.
Start with your base package and price it according to what you need to make in 1 day of work to justify taking on the client. Let’s say that is $1000. I live in Silicon Valley, so your number is likely going to be different. My package #1 is $1000. I will include a large print, some small prints, and the low res digital copies of those photos.
For package #2, I will include 1 additional item of value, and a few more small prints. This new item is called a pull-through item. This is the incentive you give to your client to buy this more expensive package. In my studio, it’s a collage. It is really important to keep everything from package #1 and only add to it. Do not remove any items. Customers need to feel like they are gaining value, not swapping out items. When you price the second package, if the difference is too great your clients won’t buy it. They won’t believe the value to be in line with the new price. But if you don’t price high enough, they won’t believe that the pull-through item is worth the jump. They have to feel like it’s a valuable item that isn’t over priced. From $1000, going to $1300 isn’t enough, and going to $3000 is too much. Find somewhere in between. You’ll know over time how clients purchase your products.
For package #3, add another pull-through item. This could be a deluxe album or a collage or any number of big items. The same principles apply. Add more value and price it accordingly. Not adding enough value, or pricing it too high will discourage your clients from buying it. And we certainly don’t want that! Make it irresistible. You want to sell your top package.
In business, this is called the Cost of Goods Sold. If we take the total price of the package and subtract the cost of printing the items, we are left with our profit. This number has to meet your minimum requirement for income/client. My $1000 package costs me about $70 to print. My profit is $930. That is my preset minimum amount of profit for taking on a new client. My shoots are very time-consuming and I have to make this much to maintain a profitable business. As you go to package #2, your costs will go up because of the pull-through item. Your profit should also increase because you will be spending more time to edit those photos and design that collage (or whatever your pull-through is). Package #3 is the same. You will make more profit, but you will put more time in. I don’t mind working as long as I’m being paid for it.
Aside from offering various sizes and materials for prints, albums, folio boxes, and collages, what other special items should we offer? This depends on your client. This is one more chance to get crafty. Here are some options:
On your a la carte menu, list the price of each item individually. It’s very straight forward. On your packages menu, it’s important to list the price of the package and the price of the items in the package if purchased individually. Packages are discounted compared to the a la carte menu to reward the client for buying more.
Package 1 $1000 ($1400 value)
Package 2 $1600 ($2300 value)
Package 3 $2200 ($3600 value)
We can’t leave it up to them to connect the dots. It’s up to us to show them the value. Show them how much of a discount they will get if they buy more.
This is another way to encourage your clients to buy packages. I only offer digital images with packages. They can not get them a la carte. And they only get the digital images that they also print. I also offer the Animoto slideshow as part of my packages that they can not get a la carte. These are pull-through items to bump them up from a la carte to packages.
List your top package first and move down in price. Consumers can handle the large price if they are then given a lower option and then another lower option. However, if you give them the lower option first, they will not want to climb in price. They will likely reject the middle package, and will certainly reject the top package.
I list on the bottom of my packages page that the collections can not be altered. This is important to uphold. If you let one swap happen, you open yourself up to them wanting more and more changes. It’s not a road you want to go down.
The only modification I allow is the upgrading of a large print in a package. If the package has a 16×24 and they want a 24×36 I will absolutely allow it. I add on the difference in price from the a la carte menu to the package for a new total. For example:
16×24 – $400
24×36 – $600
Package + $200 = new price with larger print
I wanted to add this in because this is one lesson that no one should have to learn the hard way. Make sure your clients know your pricing before they ever book you. Obviously we can not force them to read everything, but I send my pricing sheets to every client after they come over to my office for their consultation. Then I tell them to let me know if they have any questions about the guide. It has a lot of other great info in there too. It’s not just a price list.
The last thing you want is to surprise your client with your prices during the viewing session, only to scare them off. They will leave feeling awkward and embarrassed, with no photos. And not only will you not get paid, but you will leave an unhappy customer with no photos. That’s bad for everyone.
As I said in the beginning, your price sheets will change. I’ve raised and lowered my prices a few times over the years with mixed results. A few things to keep in mind: price yourself so you can make a healthy profit and stay in business. Having higher prices will bring in higher quality clients who will give you fewer problems. You just need to provide a higher level service.
To read more about how to price yourself, check out this article about pricing for what you’re worth.
And as always, keep shooting, and strive to be a better photographer.
Mike is the Tim Burton of photography. He tells powerful, imaginative stories with cinematic photography. He specializes in dramatic, film-noir style boudoir and epic cinematic portraits. He's also the creative force behind Photogs Unite! which focuses on learning from professionals outside the photography industry to learn marketing, sales, branding, and everything else you need to know to build a thriving photography business. And burritos are the key to his happiness.