Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Hey photographers! If you aren’t currently offering print sales for your portrait session or wedding photography galleries, you’re almost definitely leaving money on the table every single month! A lot of photographers hear “print sales” and think about scary in-person sales techniques, but what if we told you there was a way to make a little extra money every month from print sales with almost NO extra work? Well, that’s what today’s blog post is all about!
If you’re anything like most photographers we know, when you hear “print sales”, you might think of meeting your clients at a coffee shop or in a photo studio, and showing them their wedding or portrait gallery for the very first time, one image at a time, so that they can select their favorite images with you, and then you order those prints on their behalf.
In the photography world, this business model is call “In-Person Sales”, or “IPS” Photography. And it’s one way to run a photography business, whether you shoot headshots, family sessions, or weddings! The key to the IPS business model is that your clients never get access to their digital images, since your #1 goal is to sell them prints and other tangible products like wall art or albums after the session.
And while IPS is a great way to run a photography business, especially if you feel like you’re a strong salesperson and enjoy meeting with people in-person, it isn’t how we run our business, and it isn’t how most photographers we know run their business either!
In contrast to the IPS model, most digital photographers set up their photography business in a different way, often called “Shoot and Share”. This is when you get paid a larger session fee up front, in exchange for photographing a portrait session or wedding day, then share a large gallery of retouched, digital images with your clients.
While Shoot and Share photographers don’t have the same potential for large up-sells after the wedding/session like IPS photographers do, they also do all of the “sales” up front by selling themselves to their clients, and then once they’ve booked the job, they don’t have to worry about “making the sale” after the fact. If Shoot and Share sounds like how you currently run your business, or how you want to run your photography business, then what we call our “Bonus Print Sales” method will almost definitely apply to you!
Because Shoot and Share photographers make their money up front, they don’t depend on print sales in the way that an IPS photographer might. Plus, since their clients have all of the digital images, they’re able to print their own images online or at their local grocery store. However, just because you won’t be upselling hundreds or thousands of dollars on every single session doesn’t mean that you can’t make ANY money off of prints! So here’s how we make a little extra money each month with print sales…
We call this method the “Bonus Print Sales” Method, since we don’t make a sale on every single wedding or portrait session we shoot. In fact, fewer than 50% of our clients purchase prints from us! But since we set our up-front pricing exactly how we want it, any time we do make a print sale, it feels like bonus cash! ???? It’s like someone just walked up to us on the street and handed us $20 or $50 or $100!
Since the system we set up is almost completely automated, we don’t actually do anything in order to make the print sale. We set it up once, a few years ago, and just get emails a few times a month telling us that we made some bonus cash! Wohoo!
When we first got started in our photography business, we were delivering our photos via Google Drive. So if we wanted to make a print sale, we had to send our clients a separate price sheet over email: 4×6″ prints cost this much, 5×7″ prints cost this much, 8×10″ prints cost this much — you get the idea.
Then, if they wanted to buy prints, they would have to email us back: “Okay, we want 2 copies of image #352 in 4×6″, then we want images #254 and #13 and #85 in 5×7”, etc. etc. We’d then have to put together an invoice for the specific number and size of prints they wanted, and receive payment along with their shipping address. THEN, we’d need to find those images on our computer, upload them to our preferred printing company, and ship them to our clients. Honestly, it was a TON of work to make just a few extra dollars here and there.
However, a year or two into our business, we discovered Pixieset! [As you may already know, we have an entire post/video all about why Pixieset is a better way to deliver your final image galleries when compared to Dropbox or some other generic file-sharing service, but we barely even mentioned print sales in that video!] And while there are of course many other gallery delivery services, we only use Pixieset, so we can’t help you set up your print store with any other service. But it’s probably a pretty similar process.
When it comes to Pixieset, beginning to sell prints takes just two easy steps, and you can probably knock them both out in less than an hour. The first step is to decide which products you’ll sell, and for how much. Keep in mind that you don’t actually do anything once the store is set up. Pixieset is going to accept the order, charge your clients, accept the payment, print and ship the images, and send you the profit. So all you’re deciding right now is which options you want your clients to have if they want to order prints or wall art.
For us, we don’t want to overwhelm our clients with too many options, so we only offer standard prints, canvases, metal prints, and cards like holiday cards or graduation announcements. But if we wanted to offer more options, Pixieset literally has dozens of different product categories that you can offer your clients!
We also can dictate what sizes we sell. Although Pixieset can print in almost 2-dozen sizes, we just offer the standard sizes: wallet, 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, 8×12 and 11×14. Basically, if you can’t buy a frame in that size at Target, we just don’t offer it.
You can also set custom prices for each type and size of print or wall art that you offer, but they have a default starting price, and you can just stick with those prices to start!
The second step for setting up your print store is connecting the store to either a Stripe or PayPal account, so they can send you the net profit. Once you do that, you’re DONE! And keep in mind: you set all of this up ONCE and basically never touch it again, unless you want to raise your prices (which you should probably do over time). You’re now able to make a sale on every gallery you deliver!
We set up our print store with Pixieset more than 5 years ago and have barely touched it since then. We just get a few emails every time a sale is made, letting us know what the total sale was for, and how much Pixieset took to cover the cost of the prints themselves. The difference between those two numbers – the profit from the sale – then automatically and instantly shows up in our PayPal account.
Although your margins on prints will have to be relatively small in order to make sales at first, as your shooting fee goes up, so will your print sales. You might only make $20 here and there on many of your print sales, but over time it will increase. We’ve had two separate occasions where someone has placed an order of more than $1,000 without any extra work on our part!
And keep in mind, since your business is set up as the “Shoot and Share” method, not every client will buy prints, and you shouldn’t bank on print sales. We’d encourage you to think of it more as icing on a cake — it definitely makes the job a bit sweeter, but you won’t be brokenhearted without it!
The first year we offered prints, we probably only sold a couple of hundred dollars across the entire year. Compare that to last year, when we made about $6,000 on our print sales, which was almost the equivalent of getting paid for one additional wedding. And in a year where we shot 40 weddings, getting paid for one more without any extra work was pretty nice!
Now, here’s a few tips to increase your print sales, without having to do any in-person sales tactics. After all, your clients get the digital rights to their photos, so why would they ever order prints from you? Can’t they get them cheaper from Costco or Shutterfly?
Yes, they could get them for cheaper! But cheaper doesn’t always mean better. And in fact, when using a professional printing company, you’ll almost definitely get better results! That’s why the most important part of this process is building steps into your workflow where you educate your clients on the difference between a grocery store print and a print made by a professional printing company.
We mention this during our sales meeting with potential wedding couples, and also have a few pages in our wedding planning guide, which we send to couples who book their weddings with us, that talks all about why prints that come from us are better than ones they’ll get at Costco, and therefore why it’s worth spending a little extra!
And speaking of workflow, build reminders of your print store into your workflow! When we deliver our engagement session or wedding galleries, in that delivery email we specifically mention how they can purchase prints, with a brief reminder of why they might purchase from us instead of elsewhere.
Since much of our client communication happens over email, and a lot of our emails are send directly from templates that we only write once, we’re automatically educating our clients through our workflows. And these emails sell prints week in and week out!
Another tip is that is never hurts to get creative with sales, like around the holidays or even when you delivery the galleries. We’ve tried things like 20% off orders of $50 or more within 30 days of your engagement session. And we’ve had some decent success with things like that!
However, gift cards do NOT work as a method of driving additional sales. We briefly experimented with delivering a gift card for $50 worth of prints to ALL of our clients after their weddings. We assumed that the gift card would get them into the process of picking out prints, and they’d end up ordering $100 or $200 worth of prints!
But, as it turns out, everyone got as much as they could for free and never spent any money. So after we saw a bunch of $49.89 print sales, we stopped giving away those prints for free, even though our cost on those sales was only a few dollars
At the end of the day, getting creative with print sales and educating your clients as to why they should buy from you are the best ways to bring in those bonus sales, even as a shoot and share photographer.
If you’re interested in learning more from us personally, and joining a community of other photographers also striving to grow their businesses, click here to join our Facebook Community, Mastering the Wedding Photography Biz with Hunter and Sarah!