College graduates wearing regalia and looking at each other, photographed by Marlboro Wang Photo for bookfocal.com

10 tips for creating a photography portfolio and packages that customers want to book

March 11, 2020

Your website and “packages” are one of the most important touchstones for customers in their photography booking journey.

With services like Amazon Prime, Uber Eats, and Airbnb, customers are becoming ever-more comfortable shopping — and researching their options — online. What this means for photographers is that your online presence carries a lot of weight. Customers are browsing through Instagram or Google, landing on your website, and then trying to determine your value and fit against dozens of other photographers before having even talked to you.

That’s why at Focal, we believe passionately that a photographer’s website and their “packages” are the two most important opportunities to show customers what makes you special as a photographer. With that in mind, we've outlined 10 tips to help you build a photography portfolio and packages that customers want to book:

Rock your website/portfolio

1. Clearly segment your website or have multiple websites / brands

I was talking recently with Naomi, one of our partnered photographers, who offers a very unique “Fine Art Children’s Portrait” package. The package is designed for parents that are looking for that “one” shot of their child they can put up on the wall. It's a carefully-planned shoot, with the sole purpose of capturing that perfect shot of the child in their element — being a kid.

Two children hold sparklers in the night. Photograph by Naomi Maya Photography.
Credit: Naomi Maya Photography

But she was running into a problem: customers booking her regular family sessions were expecting the quality of her Fine Art Children's Portraits — despite the sessions' demands being very different. They were confused because they saw the shots on her website.

This is why it's so important to segment your website: so customers know what to expect.

Read more: 7 Tips for Growing Your Photography Business

You also don’t want a customer who's looking for commercial work to land on your website and only see wedding shots. Try and segment your website in a clear, organized way so that customers can easily find what they're looking for. Either make clear navigation bar links for each of the categories you offer, or perhaps consider separating your website into multiple websites and brands to house each of your major photography categories (like, say, one for weddings, and another for commercial work).

Customers have a much higher chance of bouncing if they land on a page and don’t immediately see information relevant to what they are looking for. The more difficult it is for them to find what they need, the higher chance they bounce and look somewhere else.

2. Explain what makes you unique compared to other photographers

You can’t be the photographer for everyone, but you can be the photographer to the right audience. It's important to find what makes you special as a photographer and convey that to potential customers.

A bride and groom embrace outside of Hatley Castle in Victoria, BC. Photograph by Marlboro Wang Photo for bookfocal.com.
Credit: Marlboro Wang Photo

If you're the type of wedding photographer that wants to craft grand, cinematic shots, you'll want a couple whose priority is getting those grand shots too. It takes time to get those perfect shots, and you'll want a couple who's on board — not just bored. Same if you're a fly-on-the-wall photographer: you'll want a couple who's happy for you to hang in the background.

Read more: 4 steps to help you find your unique value as a photographer

Conveying who you are as a photographer will help get you those dream clients — the kind of people that appreciate you for who you are and the experience you provide. And after all, great experiences equal great photos.

3. Define your ideal customer

Every photographer wishes they could work with their dream clients for every shoot. I wish the same thing for you too. Which is why I believe that you should be totally transparent about who your dream clients are.

Try writing out a list of characteristics that your past favourite clients had. (Have you ever seen a TV ad where you could really relate to the person in the commercial? That’s what we’re trying to do here.)

We want your potential customers to read about your dream client — and if they fit the bill, they’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling inside because they know they're a good fit. Here’s a quick example. The ideal photographer for our Focal platform:

4. Answer as many questions as possible

Every customer has a set of questions they need answered before they're ready to buy. Those questions will differ for each customer, but there's plenty of overlap. You've probably experienced this before if you've ever emailed back-and-forth with prospective clients. Ever notice how their questions are the same? ("How much does it cost? What do I get? When are you available?")

A young girl looks at the belly of her pregnant mother. Photograph by Ooh Ooh Darling Photography for bookfocal.com
Credit: Ooh Ooh Darling Photography

If you can answer these FAQs on your website, it saves you the back-and-forth emails. It also primes potential clients to choose you, because they've got the answers they need. We designed our portfolios and packages with this in mind, and we've found clients can usually get 90% of the information they need before ever inquiring — which means, on average, photographers normally only have to send two emails after the customer inquires to book them.

5. Show your credibility

Clients want to know that you have a proven track record of happy customers. Be proud of your Google or Facebook reviews and display them on your website! Also, consider posting customer testimonials that tie into your unique value as a photographer. This will pay dividends in attracting more dream clients and ensuring them that you're the right photographer for their needs.

(Remember that tip about segmenting from before? That comes into play here, too. You want your potential corporate headshot clients reading about how great you are at headshots, and your family photography clients reading reviews about your family photography.)

Create winning packages

6. Make your “packages” into tangible products

One of the biggest challenges photographers face is being able to understand the vision inside a client’s head and bring it to life.

At Focal, we see this all the time with headshots. We get tons of inquiries for headshots, but every customer has their own idea of what they're looking for — and it takes a bunch of questions on our part until we're able to get that vision clear. Some want the classic corporate look: in-studio, shoulders up. Some want an on-location shoot to add a personal touch. Some want a personal branding ¾ length shot of them sitting on a bench outside of an office building. Some want a full-length shot of them strolling down the beach.

Everyone has their own idea, and it’s a lot of work trying to dig that out of their brain. 

At Focal, our solution to this is creating “tangible” packages. Each one is based around a very specific shoot that our partner photographers have done before. Here's an example:

Marlboro Wang offers an in-studio headshot session. It's $599, includes 30 minutes of photography coverage, a short consultation before the shoot, and one final edited photo of the customer's choice. His package offers a detailed explanation of what to expect from the moment of booking until the photos are delivered. It also includes details on cancellations, licensing, shoot extension policies, and so on. If you look at his package, you'll find sample headshots from previous in-studio shoots — that way, the customer knows exactly what type of photos they'll get if they book the session.

Marlboro Wang's in-studio corporate headshot package on bookfocal.com

By segmenting his offerings into tangible packages like this, it Marlboro saves a ton of time from having to pull that vision out of potential clients. Instead, customers browse through his different packages and pick the one they want. They can do this because they know exactly what they're getting. They know how much it costs, what type of photos they will get, and what the experience will be like.

These tangible packages not only make it easier for customers to find what they're looking for, they also give you — the photographer — a competitive advantage. The package itself helps move potential clients towards booking. Instead of a customer having to inquire to find out what they'd be getting, they already know. They can start to imagine what it will be like to shoot with you.

7. Offer transparent pricing

Pricing is a controversial topic in the photographer industry. I've heard it before. Some would suggest not showing any pricing on your website.

I think this puts you at a disadvantage as more and more of customers' purchasing decisions are determined through their own personal research. If you don’t show any pricing, you are by default turning customers away who may have been dream clients.

Read more: How your photography pricing is losing you dream clients

At Focal, we believe in transparent pricing — but only if it creates value for you as a photographer and what you offer. You shouldn't just throw up your Package A for $500 and 10 photos. Pricing is an extremely important touchpoint for customers, which makes it an opportunity to justify the amount you charge and convey the unique value of your product.

What makes your photoshoots unique? Convey that in your session descriptions. That way, customers are happy because they can factor their pricing into their decision, but they can also understand the value behind it.

8. Sell an experience, not just photos

Let's go back to Marlboro again for a moment. Remember that "Package A for $500 and 10 photos"? That used to be him. Marlboro would list his in-studio headshots, 30 minutes, 1 photo, $250. But it wasn't capturing any part of what makes him so popular with his clients.

It's the experience that was missing.

A woman smiles for a corporate headshot photo. Photograph by Marlboro Wang Photo for bookfocal.com
Credit: Marlboro Wang Photo

We got him to tell a story about what it's like when someone books a headshot session with him. It starts with an email consultation about what the client is looking for, where they can show him any example headshots they like and choose a backdrop colour. Then when they come into the studio, he gets them comfortable and begins shooting. The client gets to see all the photos in real-time, because Marlboro links his camera to his iMac screen.

He does this to ensure the client is happy with the direction of the shoot and can give feedback. He understands that headshots are deeply personal, and that's why he makes client input such a priority. Now, instead of potential clients seeing Marlboro and reducing his work to a price tag, they understand what makes him unique. If they shop around, they'll wonder if other photographers will offer to let them see their shots in real-time like Marlboro.

9. Be clear about your policies

When things hit the fan, it’s good to have safeguards in place to make sure you are covered. That’s why we have things like shoot contracts and insurance. But I know that for smaller shoots, it can be far too tedious to write up a contract every time. That’s why at Focal, we believe in attaching some default policies to each package. These policies will cover things like weather, cancellations, extending the shoot, or additional costs.

One of our partner photographers was shooting a TEDx event which ended up running two hours long. They told us that as it went longer and longer, they started to worry about all the extra time they were putting in. But at the end of the shoot, the event coordinator came up to them and said, “Hey, I know we owe you an extra $600, we’ll send it right away.” The customer had read the extension policy and knew what they had agreed to. Problem solved!

10. Don’t forget a call-to-action

If you have a package page on your website, always include a call-to-action that will move the customer forward in the buying process. If you were listing a headshots package, for instance, you might have a message something like this:

"If you would like to discuss your vision for your new LinkedIn headshot, shoot me a message for a free consultation."

And here's the key: have a contact button following your message. Make it simple and clear. You want to help your customer along — think of your call-to-action like a road sign: "Turn here!"

You also want to avoid having too many non-essential fields on your contact form. Again, make it simple for your customers wherever you can.

If you ever become too frustrated trying to build a website, consider signing up for Focal. Our software makes it super easy to set up a stunning portfolio and list packages on our marketplace. We even have e-commerce tools for easily booking customers, so all you need to worry about is being behind the camera — the way it should be.

Join Focal

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