Now comes one of the most challenging tasks for photographers who offer products to clients: The Product Menu. In short, the product menu contains tangible items to showcase the beautiful art you are creating for your clients. These items can include loose prints, mounted prints, canvases, metal prints, wooden prints, standout prints, framed prints, gallery wraps, lay flat albums, customized USBs, folios, and so much more! There are dozens and dozens of mediums available for you to use in your product menu. Confused yet? Just wait. The even bigger challenge is figuring out which lab to use for each product. It is a daunting and overwhelming task to decide which products will appeal to your clients and also bring in a profit for your business. That’s why my best advice is to use the KISS method - Keep It Simple, Sister/Sir.
When I started sketching out ideas on how I wanted my business to look nearly two years ago, offering printed products to my clients was a no brainer because I love seeing photographs of the people who matter most to me in our home. What I didn’t know (and quickly realized) were two important things: One, there are so many labs to choose from it would be nearly impossible to research and vet all of them. Two, getting samples of each product was not financially feasible. In the beginning, I used word of mouth as a starting point. There were several photographers in Pretty Presets (and other groups) whom I admired greatly and had developed friendships with who were not only supportive of me going into business, but also generously shared their resources with me.
Based on numerous recommendations, I signed up for accounts with two labs who offered free sample prints, sent files off, and then anxiously awaited my samples by the mailbox. Getting those samples in my hands felt a little bit like Christmas morning and once each package arrived, I was excited to see how my work looked when printed by a high quality lab. I compared each print to my laptop, then looked at price structures of each company and compared the paper samples they provided. Both Millers and WHCC sent out great information and samples. I knew both would do an excellent job with any orders I placed but WHCC was a closer match to my laptop and they became my first vendor.
As I perused the website and ROES system, I ran across terms I didn’t recognize such as “standout” or “images cubes.” Truly, it was a whole new world just learning the vernacular of the photo lab industry! I figured if I was confused, then my clients would be confused too, so after looking carefully at options I chose three types of products to offer clients from the beginning of my business - prints, canvas, and metal. My reasoning follows:
Prints - Printed photographs are probably the most popular media for digital images and they are versatile in terms of size and framing. It’s also a cost efficient way for clients to purchase images and for you to make a profit.
Canvas - Canvases are a traditional and popular way to display a single or grouping of images together on a wall. They can be framed or unframed which makes them versatile for a wide variety of decorating styles.
Metal - Metal prints are new (well, new to me) and have a sleek and modern feeling to them. For clients who have a contemporary approach to displaying images and home decor, this is a great alternative to the traditional canvas. Also, they are unique and I was looking for something to help set myself apart from the rest of the pack.
Three different types of products sourced from one lab suddenly doesn’t look as overwhelming as it did when looking at all options available from a multitude of labs, now does it?
Take a breath. You can do this! Grab a piece of paper and write down three to five types of products you think your ideal client would want to purchase from you. And when I say three to five, I definitely mean no more than five. We are keeping it simple, remember?
Now that you’ve narrowed down your product offerings, it’s time to write down the sizes you plan to offer on your Product Menu. Again, keep things simple and offer standard sizes of prints.
In the IPS world, the term Gift Prints is used to denote the prints one would traditionally gift to a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or family friend. My Gift Prints are 5x7 and 8x10. Wall Prints are sizes that are too large to be displayed on a table top, desk or bookcase and need to be hung on the wall. My smallest wall print is an 11x14 and also include 16x24, 20x30, and 24x36. My canvas and metal wall art collections mirror these sizes to keep it simple. On the advice of a colleague, I am now offering 16x20, 24x30 and 30x40.
More sizing options means more pricing options, right? Not necessarily. When running COGS (cost of goods sold) I realized 5x7s and 8x10s weren’t that far apart on the price from the lab. Therefore, they are the same price because I want my clients to purchase what they need rather than haggle over a few bucks. The same is true for 16x20 and 16x24 as well as 24x30 and 24x36. They are very close in price from the lab, so on my menu they are priced the same. Again, just trying to keep it as simple as possible.
A quick note about pricing. Figuring out how to appropriately price your goods and services is a loaded question with more than one right answer. What’s right for my business model might not work for your business model. However, there are great resources online to help you run your numbers and figure out prices.
Okay. You’ve narrowed down three to five products and also listed sizes you want to offer. Now it’s time to get a few samples. The saying “show what you want to sell” is very true and for that reason, I sampled images that I loved and knew I could use at home once they had fulfilled their purpose as a sample. Do yourself and your confidence a big favor and print something in at least 16x24. A mounted print that size isn’t huge (or very expensive) but it’s probably bigger than anything you’ve printed to date and when you see your gloriously beautiful image in that size, I promise you will be excited! If you can swing it, try and have one sample per product offering so you can show your clients the quality you are offering them. When I went to my first reveal and ordering appointment, I had my 16x24 mounted print with me along with a 10x20 metal print I had ordered as a gift. My clients fell in love with the metal and ordered a 16x24 for their home. Over the past year and a half, I have added samples bit by bit.
But what about albums? For many who shoot seniors and weddings, the album option is the bread and butter of their product line. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed by choices and intimidated by the album making process but have finally gotten the hang of it and am adding a session album to my product line this spring. There are many software programs you can use to design an album including the Book Module of Lightroom. On the suggestion of a Pretty friend, I purchased AlbumStomp and have been very pleased with how easy it is to use and how beautiful the albums look. This gives me four different mediums to offer my clients and I am researching options for matted proofs as a fifth choice.
By keeping things simple you will avoid overwhelming your clients with too many options and can also showcase the products you are truly excited to show. KISS your product menu and you'll be surprised at how things fall into place!