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 things like Amazon Prime, Uber Eats and Airbnb, customers are becoming more and more accustomed to conducting their purchase research 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 for their needs against dozens of other photographers before having even talked to any of 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.

Here are Focal’s 10 tips to help you build a photography portfolio and packages that customers want to book:

Website/Portfolio

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

I was talking recently with Naomi, one of our Focal 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 they can put up on the wall of their child. It is a carefully planned shoot where the sole purpose is to capture that perfect shot of the child in their element - being a kid. She explained to me that the problem she was running into, was that customers who were booking her for regular family sessions were expecting the quality of the Fine Art Children’s Portraits because they saw the shots on her website. This is an example of why it’s so important to segment your website, so that customers know what to expect. 

You also don’t want a customer landing on your website looking for commercial work and seeing “weddings” everywhere. You should try and segment your website in a very clear way so that customers can easily find what they are 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 categories of photography. 

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 make you unique compared to other photographers

You can’t be the photographer for everyone so it’s important that you recognize what makes you special as a photographer and you convey that to potential customers. For example, if you’re the type of wedding photographer that is a perfectionist and wants to take the time to craft grand shots, then you want a couple whose priority is getting those grand shots too. The reason being that it takes a lot of effort to get those perfect shots and the couple needs to be committed to working with you towards that. If you have a couple that would prefer a photographer that’s the fly on the wall, perhaps they would be better served by a photographer that provides a “documentary” experience. Conveying who you are as a photographer will help you connect with dream clients - the types of people that appreciate you for who you are and the experience you provide. And after all, great experiences = great photos. If you aren’t sure what your unique value is as a photographer, consider reading our “4 Steps to help you find your unique value as a photographer” post here!

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 are a good fit. Here’s a quick example. The ideal Focal Photographer is:

4. Answer as many questions as possible

The way that I think about purchasing decisions is that every customer has a set of questions that they need answered before it tips them over the point to buy. While every customer’s set of questions is unique there is still a ton of overlap. You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve spent a lot of time sending dozens of emails back and forth with a couple similar clients and noticed that they all keep asking the same questions! How much does it cost? What do I get? Do you pose? When are you available? Etc.! The key here is that if you can answer the majority of these FAQs on your website, it helps prime clients by having answered the majority of their questions before they even inquire about booking. With Focal portfolios and packages, clients can usually get 90% of the information they need before ever inquiring - which means that on average our photographers normally only have to send 2 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 a couple testimonials that tie into your unique value as a photographer. This will reinforce your unique value to dream clients and ensure them that you are the right photographer for their needs. Lastly, don’t forget to segment. You might not want your potential corporate headshot clients reading about how great you are as a family photographer because it dilutes your brand.


Packages

6. Make your “packages” into tangible products

I think one of the biggest challenges as a photographer is being able to understand the vision inside a customer’s head and then bring it to life. For example, 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 we have no idea what that is until we ask them a bunch of questions to figure it out. Some want an in-studio, shoulders up corporate headshot. Some want an on-location, shoulders up, corporate headshot. Some want a personal branding ¾ length casual environmental shot of them sitting on a bench outside of an office building. Some want a full length, casual 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. What we mean by tangible packages is that we offer packages that are based around a very specific shoot that our photographers have done before.

For example: Marlboro’s in-studio headshots session is $250, it includes 30 minutes of photography coverage, 1 final edited photo of the customer’s choice, a short consultation before the shoot and a detailed explanation of what to expect from the moment of booking to the delivery of photos. As well as cancellation, licensing, shoot extension policies etc. It also includes sample shots of in-studio headshots so that the customer knows exactly the types of photos they are going to get if they book this session. Marlboro also has a different “package” for on-location personal branding headshot sessions, which include photos from that type of session. Here’s an example: https://app.bookfocal.com/package/8ef062b4-492e-493b-891a-98629cf62e5c

By segmenting his offerings into “tangible” packages like this, it allows him to save a ton of time having to pull that vision out of customers when they inquire. Instead, customers browse his different packages and ask to book a specific one - because they know what they want. They can do this because they know exactly what they’re getting. They know how much it costs, they know exactly the type of photos they’re going to get and they know what the experience is going to be like from reading the “what to expect” section.

These “tangible” packages not only make it easier for a customer to find what they’re looking for, it also gives a photographer a competitive advantage because the package itself helps move customers towards booking. Instead of a customer having to inquire to find out what they’d be getting, they already know and can subconsciously begin considering the purchasing decision. 

7. Offer transparent pricing

I know pricing is a controversial topic in the photographer industry. Some would suggest not showing any pricing on your website. I think this puts you at a disadvantage as more and more of consumer 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.

At Focal we believe in transparent pricing but only if it creates value for you as a photographer and what you offer. What we mean by this is that you shouldn’t just throw up your Package A for $x000s and x number of photos willy nilly. Pricing is an extremely important touch point for customers, which means that it is a huge opportunity to justify the amount you charge and convey the unique value of your product. Explain what makes you special. Convey your unique approach to the shoot offered in the package. That way customers are happy because they can factor their pricing into their decision, but they can also understand the value behind it. If you’re interested in reading more about Focal’s perspective on photography pricing, you can read a post about it here!

8. Sell an experience, not just photos

I’ll give an example. One of our photographers Marlboro offers an in-studio headshots package. He used to list it as: In-Studio Headshots, 30 minutes, 1 photo, $250. But then we convinced him that he should try and convey a little bit more of the experience with the package. So we got him to tell a story about what it’s like when someone gets a headshot with him. It starts with a little email consultation about what the client is looking for, they can show him any example headshots that they like and they get to 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 appearing in real-time on his iMac. Marlboro does this to ensure that the client is happy with the direction of the shoot and can give real-time feedback. He understands that headshots are deeply personal and that’s why he makes client input such a priority. Now, instead of just taking away: 30 minutes, 1 photo, $250 - clients understand what is unique about the package that Marlboro offers. As they shop around they will wonder if other photographers will offer to let them see their shots in real-time and give feedback.

9. Be clear about your policies

When things hit the fan it’s always 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 photographers lately was shooting a TEDx event which ended up running 2 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!

10. Don’t forget a Call to Action

Don’t ever forget your call-to-actions. 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 they’re interested. For example, if I was listing a headshots package I would have a message such as “If you would like to discuss your vision for your new LinkedIn headshot, shoot me a message for a free consultation” and then a contact button! Also avoid having too many non-essential fields on your contact form, it can be annoying having to remember how you found the website.

With that being said, I hope you enjoyed Focal's 10 tips for creating a portfolio and packages that customers want to book! If you ever become too frustrated trying to build a website, consider signing up for Focal! Our software makes it super easy to setup an awesome 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!

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