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Thread started 06 Mar 2017 (Monday) 07:21
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Surreptitious requests for free pictures

 
Ralpho
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Mar 06, 2017 07:21 |  #1

Since 2005 I have sold college sports action pictures to parents of players on a web site called Rod Cannon Photography and wonder if some of you other photo business owners get surreptitious requests for free pictures as I do.

First one I can remember was from Mary, a former college basketball player. She contacted me several years after she graduated, said a former teammate had died and she told family she would see about acquiring pictures of her late former teammate in action. I searched my archives, found a few pictures of Mary's former teammate, put them on my site (with a reasonable price), told Mary about it, and she ordered nothing. I could only assume she had been angling for free pictures all along.

A few weeks ago a college employee and Facebook friend asked via Facebook message if I had pictures of the former football coach there, who died two years ago. I had just finished building a gallery of coach pictures and sent her a link to ten of the coach she was interested in. She wrote back asking for a discount. I declined to provide one. And she bought nothing. As it happens, she was asking on behalf of the coach's widow, who wanted to make a collage with pictures of her late husband to hang in the football locker room. She said the widow cried, but I'm not sure if it was after seeing the pictures, or after I declined to give a discount. Anyway, no one ordered anything.

Then yesterday I received a message from another Facebook friend, this one a former high school basketball player I photographed more than ten years ago. She wanted to know if I still have pictures of her. She may yet respond and offer to pay for them, but I doubt it.

This is all the more frustrating because sales have tanked in last two years even though quality of my pictures improved quite a bit this last season after I started using Lightroom instead of iPhoto. Are there any similar stories out there? Has anyone found a way to deal with these people and still make a sale?




  
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Firebot
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Mar 06, 2017 16:52 |  #2

Either your prices are too high, or they were never planning to buy anything to begin with and were thinking you would just give them the photos.

There are people who think that even wedding photos should be free, they are not customers.

Now the one issue I see with your approach, is the 2nd person who asked for a discount. The fact that she mentioned this means she was interest in buying, but not at your price. Could you not have done a discount for a package (i.e. if you buy 10 photos, I will give you a 20% discount)? A bigger sale at 20% off is better than no sale. You definitely lost out on a sale.

If your sales have tanked, you are likely doing something wrong of late or have not adapted to the current market. I took a look at the website, and your pricing seems out of wack (your digital copies are at a similar price as your small prints which I think is counter productive). Do you sell the digital files more, or the prints? This will likely tell you something. 2 years is a very long time in the photography world nowadays, and things change.




  
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Ralpho
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Mar 07, 2017 06:57 as a reply to  @ Firebot's post |  #3

You may be right that I lost a sale by not offering a discount when asked for one. Here's where my anger sometimes hurts me, as I have a problem with people asking for discounts. Maybe next time that happens I'll offer a token 5 percent discount.

I started pushing "digital negatives" (a.k.a. jpeg files) this season because there's no shipping charge, and with small digital negatives my customers get instant downloads. (Large digital negatives take longer because I have to upload them.) I also figure that more and more folks don't think of pictures as something they can hold in their hands but something that exists on their phones and computers.

I also believe that procrastination has cost me a lot of sales, not just recently but over the years. People look at my pictures and say to themselves, "These are good. And I'm going to buy some. But not today." Then many of them just continue putting off their purchase until they forget about it.

To fight procrastination, I made another change this season. Digital negatives and prints from current season are one dollar cheaper than photos of past seasons. For the just finished basketball season, I'm raising prices on March 15 and told every potential customer I have an email address for about it a week ago. Tomorrow I'll email them again to say they have one week left to take advantage of current-season prices. And I'll do that again two days before the deadline.

By the way, I did offer a 20 percent discount to a man whose daughter finished playing two years ago. He bought nothing while his daughter was playing but told me in February that he planned to make an order this winter. So I fixed him up with a 20 percent discount on an order over $50. He took advantage of it yesterday, spending $300 on 54 large jpeg files.




  
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Scott ­ Spellman
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Mar 07, 2017 07:35 |  #4

For event photographers with extensive online photo galleries, I would simply charge upfront for a "Custom Search" of your archive and include 5 digital downloads- perhaps $50. This is the only way I see to separate freebies from customers.




  
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travisvwright
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Mar 07, 2017 08:12 |  #5

Ralpho wrote in post #18294121 (external link)


I also believe that procrastination has cost me a lot of sales, not just recently but over the years. People look at my pictures and say to themselves, "These are good. And I'm going to buy some. But not today." Then many of them just continue putting off their purchase until they forget about it.

I would be curious to hear how this works out for you.


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Firebot
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Post edited over 1 year ago by Firebot. (2 edits in all)
     
Mar 07, 2017 16:21 |  #6

Ralpho wrote in post #18294121 (external link)
You may be right that I lost a sale by not offering a discount when asked for one. Here's where my anger sometimes hurts me, as I have a problem with people asking for discounts. Maybe next time that happens I'll offer a token 5 percent discount.

5 percent is an insulting amount and will get the same response as no discount. You technically do not have to give a discount, but if you say you will give 20% off a 100$+ purchase (even if the customer only wants 4-5 images), you may not get a sale but it does upsell, and likely get you a bigger sale if the customer does go ahead.

I started pushing "digital negatives" (a.k.a. jpeg files) this season because there's no shipping charge, and with small digital negatives my customers get instant downloads. (Large digital negatives take longer because I have to upload them.) I also figure that more and more folks don't think of pictures as something they can hold in their hands but something that exists on their phones and computers.

Your customers seem to be a special niche, but includes many of the non-techie variety. The term Digital negative in reality has a completely different meaning than what you are actually selling, and your customers may be confused by the terminology. it certainly does not mean Jpeg. Digital download is the right term

I also believe that procrastination has cost me a lot of sales, not just recently but over the years. People look at my pictures and say to themselves, "These are good. And I'm going to buy some. But not today." Then many of them just continue putting off their purchase until they forget about it.

Don't blame your customers for doing that, blame yourself. If you are not catching their attention and have them buy when they show interest, that is on you, not them.

To fight procrastination, I made another change this season. Digital negatives and prints from current season are one dollar cheaper than photos of past seasons. For the just finished basketball season, I'm raising prices on March 15 and told every potential customer I have an email address for about it a week ago. Tomorrow I'll email them again to say they have one week left to take advantage of current-season prices. And I'll do that again two days before the deadline.

Threat of raising prices, when you admit yourself you have abysmal sales and they are already not buying, is not going to get you anywhere. Time limited specials works much better.

By the way, I did offer a 20 percent discount to a man whose daughter finished playing two years ago. He bought nothing while his daughter was playing but told me in February that he planned to make an order this winter. So I fixed him up with a 20 percent discount on an order over $50. He took advantage of it yesterday, spending $300 on 54 large jpeg files.

So you can see that offering a discount does give you more sales. Would you have gotten a 300$ order without the 20% discount? It could have been zero. A discount on volume gives you more sales.

This also shows that your market is shifting towards the digital side. There needs to be a bigger disconnect between your digital download price and prints to make both enticing. Small prints should be much cheaper than a digital download (if you still want to sell prints), but at the same time, you can the market the digital download side better. You have a special niche market that you have exclusivity to where people do want pictures, you can take advantage of it.




  
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Ralpho
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Mar 08, 2017 05:46 as a reply to  @ Firebot's post |  #7

Thanks for your suggestions, Firebot. I contacted the woman who wanted a discount on coach pictures and offered her a 20 percent discount and will report back if she uses it.

Yes, there are definitely some "non-techies" among my customers. Several times I have sold jpeg files and prints of the same image. One person even ordered a small digital download and a large digital download of the same image. That's why I called jpeg files digital negatives, so tech-challenged customers would be more likely to understand that a jpeg file is analogous to film negatives. Nevertheless, I like your suggestion to call them digital downloads and will probably make that change.

You didn't convince me, however, that my potential customers aren't guilty of procrastination. It takes time and effort to order pictures on anyone's web site. You've got to put pictures in a virtual shopping cart and enter your name, address, email, phone and (most importantly) credit card information. Some people also want to wait until they can get input from their son or daughter the college athlete. Personally, I put things off every day, so it's not hard to believe that my potential customers do, too.

You referred to my telling customers that prices will increase on a certain date as a "threat." Is that really the word you want to use? I'm not saying, "You'd better buy pictures, dammit, or I'll raise the frigging price!"

I told them in an email that I don't want them to pay the higher prices and the only reason I established a two-tier price policy is to give them an incentive NOT to procrastinate. I figure I'm on solid ground here, as sale prices everywhere are temporary.

You suggested that prices for digital downloads and prints should be different, with prints being cheaper. That's already the case, as my current-season small digital download is $4.99, and 4x6 prints are $3.99. Do you suggest a bigger difference in price?




  
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RDKirk
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Mar 08, 2017 10:11 |  #8

Ralpho, is it possible for anyone to see pictures on your website? And is it possible for them to link to their pictures?

This, I have found, is true: The impulse to purchase a photograph is greatest a first sight, and that impulse to purchase decreases over time. It takes a huge drop if the picture can be shown to others without having been purchased.

That means you need a mechanism that will push "purchase at first sight," the offering should have limited availability, and online images should not be easily sharable.




  
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Ralpho
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Post edited over 1 year ago by Ralpho.
     
Mar 08, 2017 13:36 as a reply to  @ RDKirk's post |  #9

Well, a potential customer could copy the url of a single picture's page on my site and share it that way. I've also seen where some people (usually college student/athletes) will drag a watermarked image to their desktop and upload it to Facebook. I don't think I can stop that from happening.

This past basketball season I started offering three-day sales on digital downloads and prints. Potential customers have three days after each game to buy digital downloads and prints for $1 less than regular in-season prices.

I promoted that to parents of players (or at least those I have email addresses for) when I sent them a link to the latest game's gallery. I was surprised that so few took advantage of it. Such is the power of procrastination. They may still be telling themselves they'll order after end of season.




  
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Mar 08, 2017 15:16 |  #10

This is why I am changing the model in my area. If you want me to take pictures of you, you must sign up and pay for it at the event. I don't publish to any galleries, hoping they will buy. They buy up front, or I don't take pics.. they can use their cell phone. I post pictures to my facebook with a small watermark and encourage sharing... but they've already paid and I am happy to promote my clients pictures.

The last event I had where they wanted me to take pictures of everyone... I'd have them walk up, look over the photos, and buy nothing. Not going to do that again. Waste of time and equipment.


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Ralpho
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Mar 08, 2017 15:28 as a reply to  @ ksbal's post |  #11

Do you shoot sports, Ksbal? How do you handle the pay-in-advance model?

A friend of mine will shoot a game if four parents each pay him $30, and he gives them a CD containing all pictures from the game.

But he does high school, and I do college. The model might not work on college parents.




  
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Jethr0
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Mar 08, 2017 16:58 |  #12

This is you I presume: http://www.rodcannon.e​xposuremanager.com/g/ (external link)

I solicited input from 3 family members of varying technical abilities. They all didn't know what a digital negative was. They all wondered why you don't just say digital download.

There are ways to thwart right click save and dragging photos. My WordPress site does that. There are ways to cull photos if people really want them and it is what it is.


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Tom ­ Reichner
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Mar 08, 2017 18:41 |  #13

.

Jethr0 wrote in post #18295672 (external link)
I solicited input from 3 family members of varying technical abilities. They all didn't know what a digital negative was. They all wondered why you don't just say digital download.

.
Right. As far as I can tell, the only people who have any idea of what a "digital negative" is are photography geeks referring to DNG files.

I think the OP used the term in a way that he thought that most laypeople would understand, but he just misjudged what it is that people understand and what they don't understand. .Most people - even parents of college kids - are so far removed from the days of having actual film negatives that the concept just doesn't resonate with them anymore.

.


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Jethr0
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Mar 08, 2017 19:01 |  #14

Did your drop in sales coincide with a website change? It took me 3 navigation steps to drill down to a set of pics from an event. If I were shopping just after an event I'd expect to see it highlighted in date order on the main page. Bam. One click. Start buying.


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Mar 08, 2017 19:01 |  #15

In the context of photos, any term "_____ negative" would mean to me that darks and lights were reversed.


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Surreptitious requests for free pictures
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