How I Sell Differently than 98% of Photographers

How I Sell Differently than 98% of Photographers

Bernstein - 84404-3

I learned a long time ago that if you want to be in the top 2%, you cannot do what the other 98% are doing.  I am constantly looking for ways to refine my business....to do things just a little different.  How I approach the selling of portraits is one example.

In contrast to the majority of photographers, I do not put an emphasis on where my clients are going to place their portrait.  I very intentionally do not use any feature in the projection presentation that would show a client what their portrait would look like on a preselected wall. 

When selling a portrait, there are two schools of thought.   The first is to help a client choose a portrait for a predetermined site in their home and size the portrait accordingly.  Most photographers take this approach.   The second school of thought takes little regard to a preset location.  Instead, suggests that you should help the client choose the portrait for the portrait, not for the current open location within the home.   I adhere to the latter.

I focus on one of the most important elements a portrait can have: proper face size.  I take great care to  educate clients that faces should be 60-100% life-size to create an element of "presence" that is so important in a proper portrait.    The element of presence is needed to convey the proper impact and allow us to connect with the subjects we are viewing.   As we descend below 60% life-size, the portrait  begins to lose significant impact.

One of our sales consultants in our California location came up with the tool of the hand to simplify this concept to our clients.   It’s not perfect, but works most the time.   Simply stated, we like the faces to be the size of the hand (100% life-size) but never smaller than the size of the fist (60% life-size). With proper education, we see our clients walk up to their projected portrait, and use their hand as a reference to determining their proper face size during the selection process. 

I emphasize to my clients that decorations come and go.   Homes many times change. But, a portrait is forever, and so we strongly suggest choosing the portrait size for the portrait long-term and not the current decor.    Thus a properly educated client will pick the portrait size based on the proper rules of art rather than to fit a particular location.

I further reinforce this concept on our own studio walls.  The smallest size displayed is 24 x 30" (always a single small child), and we go up to 72” in size.   And, we never place more than one portrait per wall section to create greater impact.   

Once we win someone over to the concept of proper portrait sizing, and why size truly does matter, almost any home has at least one space where something could be moved to accommodate a portrait which is a celebration of that which they cherish most in life at the appropriate size. When wall space is absolutely unavailable, we often suggest an easel.  That latter suggestion has saved us many times in our goal to help the client pick the proper dimensions.

In a comment on my first article, one reader wrote that he doubted that clients would ever spend $600.-$800. for a wall portrait.   Yet by properly educating our clients, we have orders almost every week that exceed $10,000.  

Though I sell differently than the majority of photographers, at the same time I have never had a year go by in the last decade with anything less than two million dollars in large wall portrait sales, including every single year during the recession.   Placing the emphasis on proper portrait size rather than trying to match a predetermined location or decoration just might be a tool that significantly increases your own sales during the new year.

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About the Author:

Bradford is perhaps the most expensive portrait photographer in the United States with an impressive list of prominent clientele.  He operates studios in New York, California and on world famous Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.  He has made over 20 million dollars from selling portraits. He has taught photographers from more than 65 countries.   He currently resides in Connecticut with his wife and youngest child.


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