For two-and-a-half years, I have been a shoot-and-share photographer. That model just worked for me. I had a full-time day job, and I didn't think I had the time to do multiple consultations with clients in addition to the actual photo session. Truth be told, I was pretty happy during those first few months just to get an extra $100 on the weekend for doing something I enjoyed.
But like I said, that was two-and-a-half years ago. I'm at a place where I want to turn my side-hustle into a legitimate money-maker for my family. I'm engrossed enough in the world of professional photography that it's time to follow the model of the photographers who make a living making photos. For portrait photographers, it seems that the most efficient way to make a living is with in-person sales (IPS).
I've liked being a shoot-and-share photographer. The transaction is always pretty easy. I book a client, collect a reservation fee, do the photo session, edit the photos, and move on. From receiving the first email to delivering the gallery, I average four hours per client. For a while now I've averaged about $300 per session, so $75/hour always felt pretty great. But then I started to think about taxes and business expenses.
A simplified way to think about things is that one-third of your wage is taxes, one-third is expenses, and one-third is cash in the bank. Suddenly I'm at $25/hour for each session. So I'd make $100 cash per week for a luxury service that takes up every extra minute I have? How is that worth my effort and expertise? More importantly, how is that going to help contribute to my family?
Something else pushed me towards IPS. Well, lots of things did, but this one particular chat I had with a repeat client has stuck with me. I've photographed this client three times now, and at our latest session the mother said, "I still haven't even printed anything from our first session." Crazy, right? She paid me a few hundred dollars three-times-over to have photos she could share on social media and then ignore on her hard drive?
(But then I thought, "Wait, that's what I do with my photos." I rarely print anything. So here's hoping that IPS pushes me to print more since I'll see all of the amazing prints my clients are getting.)
I began to research in-person sales, asking my fellow Photographers' Cooperative friends what direction I should head in for IPS software and research. One resource was mentioned again and again: Fundy Designer.
I reached out to Fundy, and they graciously provided a license for their full software suite. (Thank you, Fundy!)
Within about eight minutes of installing the software, I had designed my first album. Fundy Designer is intuitive and easy to use. In fact, designing an album was just plain fun.
Designing an Album
Fundy Designer boasts about its automated design features. As someone who wants to be in control of everything, I was skeptical. How could this software design something I'd actually like? I imported photos from an old session, selected a bunch for an album, and click "Auto Design." A second or so later, I had a twenty page album that had variety and interest. While the album wasn't perfect, I was impressed.
Here's the thing: the album wasn't perfect because I didn't take advantage of Fundy Designer's photo category features. With each session you upload to the program, you can designate photos as "main" or "panorama," or you can "group" photos together. When you designate a "main" photo, that photo will be largest on a spread. A "panorama" will spread across two adjoining pages. Easy enough, right?
The "group" feature is really where the software takes work out of your hands. You can "lock" a few images together so that they all end up on the same spread. Say you have six detail shots of a wedding table. You can group those six shots together to ensure that they are auto-designed to the same page. Trust me, this is a real design stress-reliever.
You don't even have to tag all photos in a session for these features to be helpful. Tag a few "main" photos, a few "panorama," and do a few groupings. With even a little categorization, the auto-designer will create an amazing layout.
Like I said, from upload to categorization to an auto-design that's ready for proofing, my first test run took about eight minutes. Talk about impressive and efficient.
In the screenshot below, you'll notice several of the features I love about the album designer. You'll see that I've marked the featured photo as a "panorama" (the menu on the right contains the panorama selection in blue). With that designation, the selected photo will cover a two-page spread on its own. Look at the filmstrip at the bottom, and you'll notice several photos grouped together with an interlocking-chain icon. Those images will appear together on a spread, which makes the process of storytelling so much easier.
Creating an album is nothing without a streamlined proofing process. The Design Proofing "Professional Enhancement" makes proofing a client's album so easy that it makes me wonder how an IPS photographer could live without it.
From uploading album spreads, to setting background music for the client during review, to making changes and sending new drafts, the process is easy, plain and simple.
The interface for clients is beautiful. Digital pages turn elegantly. Clients can easily approve spreads or enter comments for changes. The entire process can occur online, back-and-forth. I can see how easy it might be to sell additional spreads. With beautiful designs and an easy proofing process, clients will undoubtedly feel a strong connection to each spread.
For instance, below you'll see the spread of the grouped photos I mentioned in the previous section. Who wouldn't want to keep these pages?
Have I mentioned that Fundy Designer is easy and streamlined? The blog collages are yet another feature to drool over. For the longest time, I have uploaded individual images to my blog posts. Not anymore.
With Fundy Designer, I can create blog collages of 10-15 images which the program then turns into a single image to upload to my blog. Now instead of individual images loading over and over, my blog posts will load only one or two collages, each only around 1MB in file size. Talk about time and storage savings.
When it comes to the blog collage feature, there is a sweet spot for the number of images. The maximum is a little too much for one collage. Some of the images become a little tiny. Somewhere around 8-10 images seems to be a good balance between number of images and size of each image. When you want to share more than 10 images, just create two collages. (I did that in this post.)
Just like the album designer, the collage templates themselves are unique and eye-catching. I'll say this: with each feature I use, I become more and more impressed with Fundy Designer's user-friendly interface and valuable features. I continue to think, "How did I run a photography business without this software?"
Wall Art and Galleries
The wall art designer is yet another beautiful, fun-to-use feature that, if used well, will surely bring more higher sales to any IPS photographer. With the wall art design feature, you can show your clients exactly how large prints, canvases, and metal wall art will look on a wall. While you can certainly use the stock rooms provided in the software, I love being able to use a photo of my client's actual living room and showing them what their wall art could look like.
Below is an example of a set of metal prints I sent for review to a client. The image is their actual staircase. I just had to have a measurement (I used a length of the wall decoration), and Fundy Designer will scale the pieces accordingly.
While sending screenshots of a custom wall art design has been great, I really want to dive into Fundy Designer's ability to project the wall art at actual size onto a client's wall. With the built-in calibration tool, you can use a projector hooked to your computer to show a client exactly what their wall art will look like. You won't need to convince a client that an 8x10 is too small for their living room: the wall art projection will speak for itself.
I am impressed and excited by Fundy Designer, and it seems that I haven't even scratched the surface. My initial take here hasn't touched several of Fundy Designer's important features. I haven't talked about slideshows, sales, watermarking, branding, and more. I haven't done a session with a projector yet. I haven't drawn on experience doing a sale in person. There's lots more to talk about when it comes to Fundy Designer.
I also haven't talked about another huge topic when it comes to In-Person Sales: pricing. Let me say this: I thought I knew what I was doing when it came to pricing and getting clients. As I started to read just a little bit, I realized that I had absolutely no clue. With the potential success I can see with Fundy Designer, I have excitedly learned the basics about pricing for growth and sustainability.
My journey into IPS has just begun, so I'll soon get to the rest of Fundy Designer and how to price yourself.
As of this writing, I've only done one sales session, and it was a remote session over the Internet. But with Fundy Designer, I am more than ready for my first in-person sales session. In fact, I know I will enjoy the process thanks to Fundy Designer's intuitive design process.
Follow along with me on my IPS journey with Fundy Designer. I'll be sharing my experience with sales sessions, wall art, pricing, and more. Stay tuned!
Aaron Taylor is a stay-at-home-dad and professional portrait and product photographer. Aaron is forever blessed to be in love and married to his best friend and partner in parenting. Most of his time is spent chasing his curious, energetic kids, a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. Aaron lives in Columbus, Ohio. Before moving to Columbus in the summer of 2016, Aaron was a high school English and Drama teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland. He spent ten years in the classroom and earned National Board Certification in English Language Arts. Give him his family, a good cup of coffee, and a homemade cookie or three, and all is right in Aaron’s world.