by Ron Pybus Published 01/10/2008
He knew exactly what he wanted, and having spent time discussing his requirements I was able to meet his aspirations. The first few minutes of any appointment are essential to the success of a sitting. It is often difficult to find out what some people want and even the best attempts can end up with the wrong information and the wrong pictures. The more you get right, the more you will sell. You need to keep probing, even if they say they just want some pictures you need to try to find out what they are likely to do with them.
It could mean the difference between selling a small, reasonably priced album or some framed pictures when they get to the viewing. The common statement is that 'information is power' and it is so true that the information elicited from a customer prior to the actual sitting can be used both in the camera room and in the post-sitting sales pitch.
There are no hard and fast rules for finding out, and to some extent it comes with experience. The main thing is that you have to talk to your customers. It can often be a fairly general conversation that will result in some detail which will help you decide what to take or what to offer them in your subsequent sales pitch. Quite often, especially with new babies, the parents just want photographs of the baby and have not given any consideration to the potential need for additional prints for grand parents or relatives, nor have they considered how they plan to display, long term, the pictures of the baby as it grows up.
A little bit of effort can sell albums that hold all the photos you are taking now and all the ones that will be taken (by you!) by the time the child is five years old, or you can sell a triple frame to hold one picture of the child at four, eight, and twelve months. Sell the frame at the first sitting and mount up three images, with the ability to change two of the pictures next time and one when the child attends for its 12-month sitting and not only have you sold a frame but almost committed the parents to two further sittings.
Having elicited what the customers want, you need to show them exactly what you can do to meet those needs. I have pictures on display around the studio, showing a variety of images and I have a book of images which demonstrates exactly what I can do. It starts with various poses of a baby on its own and works through various ages, then multiple children and then family groups and even some teenage model pictures. I talk them through each of the images that I think are suitable, starting with a three-month-old single child, running through to three children and a full family grouping. No matter what age or grouping is present for the sitting I carry on through the book, showing images taken at the next stages. In this way, not only do they know what they are likely to get from this sitting, but what can be achieved when the baby is older. It works the same with model shoots. When I get an enquiry I find out why the girl or boy want the portfolio and then show them appropriate images and watch their reactions.
I am well known in the area for using a plant pot and also a large hippo (even the kids know where he 'sleeps') and following a revamp of the studio I kept them out of the way, planning to shoot only images without any props. The first sitting worked well, no props used, but by the end of the second sitting I had both the pot and the hippo back in the studio, as this was the style the customer wanted. They have been hidden again, and do not come out as often, but it has meant changing all the images in my display book and on the projection system.
When you have gathered information you must use it, both to shoot what they want and to market your services. There is no point in gathering information if you do not use it. The public's ideas are often triggered by what they see around them, so you should have a range of pictures on display in the camera room or wherever you are discussing their requirements. Some people are better at getting people to talk than others and each individual is different. Some of you will find it easy, others will struggle a little. The one key fact is to let them do the talking with only a few prompts from you.
Why wait for the next article to find out more tricks of the trade?
One-to-One courses, specifically designed to meet your requirements are organised by Ron on all aspects of studio photography, from business aspects to studio design, lighting, posing, etc. Courses are run from Ron's studio and training complex in Wiltshire and cost£195 for two days.
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