by Carolyn Edlund
Less can be more when it comes to the options you offer.
I recently had conversations with a couple of photographers who sell their work online. The very nature of what they do tends to produce many images, and this led to conversations about the selection and choices that we offer customers.
The first photographer was having problems deciding which photos to offer of a rural area he had visited. He couldn’t decide between three similar shots, and wanted to present all of them. However, it turned out that this situation happened all the time for him. Because he was indecisive, he had a huge portfolio filled with slightly different photographs of many subjects.
This became overwhelming to people viewing his work. Having too many choices caused them to “shut down” and choose nothing. Realtors run into this type of issue with homebuyers who view too many properties. They have a name for it: analysis paralysis. I think it applied here, too.
A different photographer was building an e-commerce website, and wanted input on her shop. Her portfolio was not filled with too many similar photos, but she had another issue. Since she had access to printing on many surfaces and in many sizes, she offered them all. The list of options was massive. Matte paper, glossy paper, fine art paper, stretched canvas, loose canvas… it seemed endless. In addition, over a dozen different sizes were available, some only slightly larger than others. Who could ever decide?
Could this be a problem with your portfolio? If the collection of work that you have for sale is unwieldy and tends to overwhelm customers, you must cut through the clutter and make some hard decisions. Decide what is important to offer, and what should be removed from the offering.
The truth is that no matter what you have for sale, there are bestsellers, mediocre sellers and slow sellers. It’s typical that your bestsellers will make up about 20% of your portfolio. Then there are bestselling sizes, and others that are rarely purchased.
Start by pulling out those choices that don’t sell well for one reason or another. Perhaps offer one type of paper, or two at the most. Choose a canvas for your giclee prints that you feel is the best fit for your work, and stick with that. Then, pare down the sizes you offer so you have a big enough “jump” between them – or, choose standard frame sizes so your customers don’t have to pay for custom framing (which in itself is a great selling point.)
Look at the range of images that you have for sale. A body of work that is too small isn’t good, since it doesn’t give enough choice. One that is too large creates an inability to make a decision. It’s up to you to determine through experience the size of portfolio that is just right to maximize sales while keeping your customers satisfied. Don’t give into the fear that you might miss a sale because you don’t have enough options; you might miss sales because you have too many.
And when you speak directly with customers, take that opportunity to be consultative and suggest an image, a substrate or a size for them. After all, you are the expert on your own work, and you know your bestsellers. This type of recommendation also helps overcome buyer paralysis, and usually is appreciated by your collector.
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