Client Proofing – Part I: The Death of the Sneak Peek

I recently decided to change things up from what I’d been doing and I want to share my experiences here because I’m really excited about the change and what I learned along the way..

To sum up, I HAD been doing online proofing galleries and this week I did my first in person ordering session and it was AMAZING. I’m never going back to online galleries except for maybe shoots where the client lives farther away.

But before the really long post that is coming on how I prepared and executed the ordering session I want to talk about the other change I made that allowed it to be such a positive experience: the death of the sneak peek.

A week or two ago there was a HUGE thread on clickimoms about why someone stopped doing sneak peaks on their blog.  It got my attention because it was something I’d been mulling over as well..

The sneak peek, while totally embraced by what seems like all photographers is kind of like seeing a bad movie preview. You know the ones I mean – the “comedies” that have like 5 funny jokes and you realize when you see the movie that you already saw all of the funny jokes during the preview and wish you’d saved yourself the $11 and the 2 hours of your life!  Ok, so our photos aren’t bad movies, but you get the idea.. why show the BEST 5 images to the client before they are even in the mind frame of ordering? It’s guaranteed to dilute the client’s emotional reaction when they see their full gallery because they’ve already seen the highlights.

Furthermore, they’ve probably sent the URL of the sneak peek to all of their friends, or posted it on facebook and gotten the requisite oohs and ahs and the initial “high” of sharing their awesome photos with the world.  So their incentive and emotional investment in “needing to have” these images takes yet another hit and so will your order.

So I knew I wanted to kill the sneak peak and I also knew I wanted to try in person ordering. It only fit naturally that to make the ordering session even more exiting of an “event” that the client hadn’t seen a THING before I came to their house for their ordering session.   I think this played a huge part in why the session was as successful as it was and so I’m definitely not going back to sneak peeks!

After the ordering session I will blog my favorite images so that my site stays active and I will also create an online gallery so the client can share them with remote relatives lik grandparents etc who might want to place an order. This isn’t something I’ll advertise though, it will just be a nice extra that I send after the ordering session is over.

So that’s part I, coming up next is How I prepared for the session, what I brought with me and how I used LR3 to make the whole process easy and effective.

In the meantime, I’m curious to hear how you all feel about the sneak peek and if you’ve tried with it and without it and any difference you’ve noticed with orders!

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Alex says:

Great post! Definitely food for thought. That’s why I always try to keep my sneak peeks to one photo, and definitely never use the best photo – as I want them to be even more impressed by the actual photos. Interesting topic.

Debbie Allan says:

Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I have been in business for a little over a year and have been wanting to offer slideshow sales presentations for some time. I just purchased LR3 and so am looking forward to spending some time in January (quiet time) getting more familiar with it so that I can take a new approach.

Of all my clients, the ones that ask me to come to their home to help them select their order are ones who end up spending a little more on canvases etc.

I plan on blogging and using FB as a way to enable my clients to share with family and friends after they have ordered.

There is so much emotion involved when a client sees their images for the first time. I would rather that be on a HUGE high quality screen instead of risking the high chance that they view my images on their cell phone or low end pc where color quality and size are not going to enhance my work.

Thank you so much for encouraging me to put this to the TOP of my list for my 2011 Business Plan.

Cathy says:

Totally agree !Sneak peeks are fun for the initial comments but steal the thunder when you show the family as they have seen it on FB etc.
I think showing the family their photo’s first would make the pictures extra special to them.
I am totally going to do in person ordering. I have had one client state she wants help choosing sizes and image color vs B&W. The other client I think is overwhelmed.Most people need to see the product before investing in the images such as gallery wraps etc. More to think about and work into a presentation workflow.

I am SERUOUSLY looking forward to the next post

Sarah says:

Thanks for these thoughts. I’ve been thinking about my selling strategy and this is good food for thought.

I recently started my photo business after endless hours on many forums learning the ins and outs of running a business. I decided to go with in person proofing from the beginning. While some order sessions have gone past the one hour mark, most are 30-45 minutes. It’s not high pressure at all. I take note of the images the clien loves and keeps going back to, and then we narrow it down to the ones they wish to purchase. This info is also very useful to me because I’ll usually print an extra 5×7 o an image they loved but didn’t order as a gift.

As for sneak peeks, I only post one image usually later the same day of the shoot. I figure that with just one photo, it’s not enough to take away excitement from the order session. However, I cant really see how not posting a sneak peek would hurt me. So maybe I’ll stop doing it and just stick with a blog post afterward (less work for me).

So glad I found your blog the other day.

ariana says:

Victoria, that’s so interesting! Thanks for adding your perspective :)

Victoria says:

I’m not a photographer, but as a client I think this is a great idea! I have been disappointed before by seeing the sneak peek expecting all my images to be as great which set the rest up for destruction. So instead of being excited to see all of my pictures, I was let down

ariana says:

Thanks JB, I actually LOVE it now, his curls came back! I forgot that it had been unusually low in humidity when he got it cut, which is why it looked so weird and straight. It’s back to it’s curly crazy self but more neat looking.. so cute!

jbhat says:

I cannot comment on the sneak peek bit because I have no idea what you are talking about. But I believe I forgot to mention how sweet Jasper’s haircut is, so wanted to pop in here to say that. He looks so grown up!


ariana says:

Doris, most pro photogs (including me) have something in their contract that says that even with purchased digital files they cannot be altered in anyway from the original. I shudder to think that someone would buy a digital file and do something that I hate like selective coloring and have my name associated with it (NOT saying that YOU are doing anything untasteful, just trying to explain why it’s not allowed).

I think you have two options: 1) find another serious hobbyist and “swap” shoots 2) find a local photog that you LOVE and don’t want to change his/her editing style! It’s great that you love to edit/play, but like you said, there’s plenty of opportunities to stretch your editing muscles on the photos YOU take of your family.

There is an amazing photog local to me who’s work I adore. I love to edit as much as the next person but I wouldn’t DREAM of touching her edits even if she would let me (which she never would!) because that’s part of her talent that I’m hiring her for KWIM?

So I think maybe it’s just that you haven’t found a photographer who’s shooting AND editing style you love, so maybe keep searching? That’s just my take on it :)

Doris says:

Hum, I’m going to add my thoughts here as well. Great post. I think you are right sneak peaks would devalue the shots for the individual client. I would consider posting them to your blog only after an order was confirmed. I think the question is whether you are using the shots to generate more bookings (by other people looking at your blog) or increasing the order from the client (and their families?)
I have a separate question. I do photography as a serious hobby. I’m proficient in photoshop/lightroom. In a nutshell I adore it. (Your tuts here are fabulous BTW!) I am not a professional. I can take fabulous shots of my kids and for the most part I do. Where I need help is the annual family shot. My remote can only take so many ‘natural shots’. I have purchased digital shots/CDs in the past from photographers and it’s been disappointing mostly because I enjoy processing the shots myself. Typically the photographer has run all the shots through a color boost (leaving telltale red fingers!) and it drives me just a little crazy! To be fair I have never told the photographer that I do photography but what do you do with someone like me? Should I tell the photographer about my interest?

ariana says:

I would NEVER go back later and offer something that devalued their original purchase!!

While it would cost me NOTHING in terms of cost of goods to sell an entire CD to my client, I wouldn’t even sell it for $1000 because the entire collection is the most valuable thing I have, and therefor the most expensive. The value/worth of the digital images is not in what it costs, but what it represents which is “art” or “talent” or “emotion” or whatever you want to call what photographers sell.

Anyway, my guess is she was going to purge the files and thought she could make some quick cash, but instead she devalued her own services and lost you as a client!

Shauna says:

Hello there! I’m not a photographer, but I did happen to read your blog post today and thought I would share my two cents.

Last Christmas I had a photographer take 6-month photos of my son as well as a few family pictures. I wanted one picture to use on our Christmas cards, and the rest would just be saved for photo albums. She charged me in the neighborhood of $75 for one digital image to use on our cards. I then ordered several 5×7 prints of my son for ~$25/print. Finally, after I had spent several hundred dollars, she sent out a blast e-mail offering a CD with digital negatives of all the images of a particular photo session…..for $100. I have to admit, I was a little pissed. I’d already spent so much money. I would have preferred the CD over the prints to begin with, but it was so exorbitantly expensive that I had to pass on the CD and just order prints (even though $25/print isn’t cheap!). I did end up purchasing the CD for $100, so all in all, she made a nice profit off me. However….I think her tactics were a bit shady bordering on bait-and-switch (changing prices of the CD after the fact). She may have fooled me once, but next time I hire a photographer, it won’t be her, so in the end she lost out on any future business.

The point of my ramblings is be careful how you attempt to get your clients to order. If they feel like they have been worked over, they probably won’t hire you again, and you will ultimately shoot yourself in the foot. …just my two cents.

ariana says:

I can’t even explain to you how NOT high pressure the session was!! Yes, I give an incentive (10% off) for if the order is completed during the session, but they are by NO means obligated to order if they want to think about it more.

The problem though with online proofing is that people DRAG their feet, partly because they are busy but also partly because they are overwhelmed, they don’t’ know what to order.. will this look better in a 5×7 or an 8×10? Will this look better in B&W or color etc. these are all things that the client has to mull over and they don’t even know the different aspect ratios and what they do to the image!

My point is that getting it over with and ASSISTING them in their selection I think is actually a relief rather than a “task” hanging over their heads that they have to get done before their gallery expires.

I think once I write my follow up post about the actual session it will be more clear how this is actually good customer service in my opinion ;)

lauren says:

Hey there… I have totally been struggling with the sneak peek too. Your points make so much sense, but at the same time clients love them. I definitely want the best sales possible but I also don’t want high-pressure in-person ordering. If they don’t even have a chance to see the images beforehand, and are overwhelmed in-person, I don’t think that’s benefiting anyone either. This last newborn session I had, I sneaked one image on facebook (not a blog post) because I knew they really wanted family and friends to see their new bundle of joy, and they wouldn’t get around to posting pictures of the baby for at least a few days. I feel like by doing that, I created positive thinking about me and my business. I’m still struggling with this, but I’m thinking that my new route will be to sneak one image on facebook fairly soon after the session (and probably not the best one), ordering (still doing online ordering at the moment because of time) and then like you doing a full post after the order is complete. Would love to revisit this in a few weeks/months to see what people have done differently and if it’s worked for them. Thanks for the food for thought!! :)

Abbey says:

I have put up a few sneak peaks from my sessions, but I love the idea of doing the proofing session 1st, then sending them the link to the proofing gallery for them to share with family and friends.

Alicia says:

Great post! I’m still pb-ing so not even trying to sell stuff yet, but something I’ll def consider down the road! Priceless info here!