THIS IS A GUEST POST COURTESY OF ALLIE CLINE OF ALLIE CLINE PHOTOGRAPHY
You’re probably reading the title, wondering what the heck IPS is, or you’ve been around the business to have heard the term. Maybe you have already been following IPS or have decided against it. Perhaps COVID has altered your way of doing things, so you’re looking for a new way to adapt. Maybe you have been winging it but would like a better understanding of the topic. If any of these apply to you, you’re in the right place!
IPS stands for in-person sales, and non-IPS simply means you do not conduct your sales in person. However, many photographers in the business refer to in describing these models as either a high-end, in-person selling session or an all-inclusive digital sale. You may never meet with your client any time outside of the session itself. Some may see IPS photographers as overpriced and believe you need to charge a lot to do IPS, whereas some may see non-IPS as cheap and devaluing the industry. The truth is that both models should bring the necessary revenue to your photography business when implemented correctly, and no one has the right to tell you which one is what youshould do. Furthermore, there is no one way to operate either model; I find the best to be a combination of the two. This article will cover what each model is, what the advantages and disadvantages of each model are, and how to utilize attributes of both and avoid pitfalls so that youcan make the best decision for your business.
Now that you’ve gathered what IPS stands for let’s discuss what it really is. This model is structured to make sales on products to clients. Photographers who use this model get together with their clients to review the client’s images from the session, show sample products, and place orders for the items they love. Products here may be collections, al la carte, and digital images. How pricing is structured for these items, and what is sold will vary greatly from photographer to photographer, but the selling is still the same. With the IPS model, photographers receive most of their earnings from the sales on products rather than their session fee. This means the session fee should be high enough to pay for your expenses invested if you do not make a sale, but I know you will sell and sell a lot!
The advantages of this method are that the sky is the limit when it comes to selling. You have the potential to earn a lot of money. You will have offerings strategically priced that clients get to view, and many times those items sell themselves. This method is also extremely personalized to your client and offers a perceived value to them as you are spending time with them building connections. You also have complete control of the client’s experience with how they view their images either with printed proofs or digital viewing, and you will not have to worry about clients taking screenshots of images. With this model, you will need far fewer bookings per month and can take your time building lasting relationships with your clients.
The downside to using the IPS model is that you devote a lot more time to these clients than you would normally. You have to be willing to sell people items, which can be uncomfortable for a lot of photographers. The upfront costs are also challenging, as you need to have samples to show clients. If clients are not prepared or aware of the sales session, they may not be prepared to purchase anything, so IPS photographers have to spend more time guiding their clients. You may also not have a space dedicated to selling, which may mean you’re traveling with samples, which can become exhausting and risk damage.
Some ways to avoid the pitfalls of those disadvantages are to get your client on the phone and talk to them about what they want photos for and what having those photos will mean to them. This will let you know if they are the right client for you. Make sure they are aware of your pricing and what to expect and the end of your conversation, which prevents you from scaring them away before they feel emotionally invested—only order samples of things you really love and really want to sell. Selling will be more comfortable if you love the items you sell. Build rapport with your clients; getting to know them will make selling much less stressful. If you don’t have a studio, you can still make those large sales. Look for a co-op studio in your area, a hotel lobby, or my personal favorite – My client’s home.
Client sends inquiry. I phone over to the client and get to know them, and they decide they would like to book with me. I get them scheduled for a pre-session consultation, where I discuss them, their session ideas, and allow them to view any products firsthand. I offer a discount for any items purchased ahead of time, which helps me know exactly what I’m shooting for at the session. I also schedule their consultation for two weeks after the session. They are required to pay their session fee to book their session at the consultation. I reveal a 30-40 image gallery of completely edited images placed in a slideshow at the ordering session. I let them look through each image and save their favorites, and then we talk business. Once ordered, I receive all items and inspect, then repackage them in branded bags and hand-deliver.
Not every scenario has to work like this. You do what works for your business, but I will tell you, the more personalized you can get, the clients will really appreciate it.
Does IPS still seem intimidating after reading that? That is perfectly fine if it does not suit you because you can still be successful without it. There are a couple of methods for the non-IPS model –shoot and burn and all-inclusive. The difference between the two is that “shoot and burn” photographers typically include digitals in their session fee, giving full control of printing and products to their clients. In contrast, “all-inclusive” photographers build in products to their pricing, which includes their session fee, which results in physical products for the client. The session fee tends to be higher for these because they include products.
The advantages of this model are that you get to skip the scary sales part. You have your prices set with packages and do not have to meet with your clients after the session. Digital images can be delivered via an online platform and drop-ship products straight to your client. You can book more clients a month because you spend less time with each client. Additionally, you can gain more word-of-mouth and social marketing due to the frequency and number of clients you book.
The downside to this model is you limit yourself to earning beyond your packages because clients are not likely to purchase additional products. There is little loyalty from clients because the price is their primary concern. Clients can be difficult when communicating through digital means and take too long to select images they love for products. Some clients are also likely to screenshot pictures without your consent, especially if you have a purchase more option. Photographers can also burn out quickly, being overworked and undervalued with the fast pace of this model. Additionally, you may be getting taxed on your services because they are included in your products.
Ways to avoid this model’s pitfalls are to set your prices so that it reflects your offerings and covers all your expenses. Separate your session fee from your package prices and digitals so that if you live in an area that does not have to pay taxes on services, you keep more of your money. Pick up the phone and call your clients to handle any disputes or concerns. Make your clients aware of other products you offer by creating sales videos. This allows you to show them the products without having to do so in person, increasing your sales. Finally, make sure you offer something hard to get from anywhere else so that your clients remain loyal, which could be products or your services.
Client sends inquiry. I respond to them through the method they requested/contacted me. I chat with them about their session, set up an inspiration board, and have them pay their deposit. They pay the remaining fee at the session. After the session, I deliver their images with instructions on downloading, and I recommend where to order their prints. If they ordered any products, I ship them to the address they provided. I keep in contact with them throughout the year to maintain that relationship, so they want to return.
Not every method is as simple as this, as, with IPS, the more personal you get, the more the client appreciates it.
Best of Both Worlds
With either model, a faulty pricing system will not allow you to garner many profits. I am a firm believer that you should separate your session from your products. Offering a print credit with your session fee can allow clients to select something beyond just your digitals. Or, you can offer social-media sized images for every print or digital purchased. Treat your digitals as your item of the most value. In our industry, clients often look at digitals with little value that they will update online every other week; they just are not tangible items. If you assign a higher cost for your packages of digital prints, you are helping set that expectation that these are more valuable items. Try to meet all clients in-person for at least a consultation; this will allow great rapport but does not have the pressure of a sales session. Record videos showcasing your products and build the value in them to push your clients to buy them. By combining skills from both types, you can work around things you don’t like about each model.
Best for You
Only you can decide which model is the best one for you. You need to figure out if you like working at a faster pace or taking your time with each client. If you do not feel comfortable connecting with people, IPS might not be for you. If you do a lot of high-volume shoots like events and sports, IPS might not be for. You also need to determine if IPS is right for your clients. Some clients might not be comfortable with meeting or have time to. Some clients prefer making their own decisions without guidance.
On the other hand, you may know precisely that you want to do IPS but do not have the money to invest in samples yet, or you are not sure about how to best communicate in person. It is okay to hold off until you are ready. Just because you utilize one model now does not mean you can’t change in the future. You can always try the other model to see if it works better for you and the clients in your area; if not, go right back. As long as you make a sustainable profit, you can earn however you want to, and no one should tell you otherwise. Go on, honey, no permission needed, you do you!