Building A Successful Preschool Photography Program

This post is Day 21 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

If you have photographed a number of years, I’m sure you can look back and recall your favorites.

For us, we have favorite wedding clients, favorite engagement shoots, and favorite family sittings. We also branched out for a couple of years into the art of preschool photography, and I have one location that became my favorite.

We worked with a private preschool that taught 3 to 6 year olds, from preschool through private kindergarten. It was in an upscale neighborhood, and they weren’t looking for the same old school portraits for their children; they wanted something different.

This preschool was in a beautiful building that had an educational atrium filled with plants and mini-waterfalls. Trust me on this – it was a photographers dream location. So we came up with a special deal.

We offered a complete 20 to 30 minute portrait sitting, and we took the child out of “class” and photographed them around the atrium, taking 24 to 48 images. Instead of putting together a typical package deal, we custom designed a photo book of each child, and presented the parents with a variety of images, all in a smaller size image – 2×3 in size. Of course they could order enlargements, and we offered those at reasonable rates. We also offered a bonus in which we would take the family out for a separate portrait at a location of their choice for an extra fee.

We organized a week long event, and spent several hours at the preschool each day. The 30 minute sittings were back to back, and the staff actually helped us get the children and work out any issues we had. They became “friends” through all of our time there, so they were happy to have us back again a couple of times per year.

We ended up with dozens of portrait sittings during a one week event, and on average had around 10 percent of the population take advantage of the family opportunity as well. We also had a fairly good reorder rate, topping out at around 25 percent.

So lets put some numbers to this to show you how successful it can be.

  • If you photographed 50 families at $75, your total sales would be $3,750.
  • If you photographed 5 families at $100, your total sales would be $500.
  • If 25 percent purchased an additional $50 in enlargements, your total sales would be $700.

That would add up to total sales for the week of $4,950.

I’m sure you can quickly see that by doing 10 preschools a year – 10 weeks a year of work – would add up to $49,500 per year. Not bad.

And once you find great preschools to work with, chances are you can come in twice per year – doubling your profit zone without any of the work looking for a new client. You don’t have to stop at preschools either. This method works just as well for private schools that are smaller in size and don’t want the typical “smile and say cheese” portrait sittings that come with typical schools.

Come Up With Your Offer

In the above example, I shared with you how we put together a dynamic offer the community was excited about. You can do the same, and in many cases customize it depending on the school and what they desire. They may want web images for their website, prints for their yearbook or parent directory, or images for their walls. They may want enlargements, albums, or a combination of everything.

While you should go into it with some ideas and samples, talk with the administration and find out what they desire. A few ideas can quickly grow and create a dynamite campaign for you. And if the administration is in on it and loves the idea, they will be your biggest promoters.

Keep your offer simple and easy to understand. Don’t ala carte anything, and give them one or two offers only. We came up with a single child program, multi-child program, and a family option. We had several families with two children, and we would take the kids together, shoot some together, and some alone of each child.

For us, I used my daughter as my model when I developed the program. She was at the right age, so I brought her to the park and created the image ideas I had in mind. I then converted it to sample books, and brought those in to show the administration and to have on hand at the table when I was selling to the parents.

Visual is everything, and you should always show what you have in mind. By working with the admin first, she modified a few things, and added things that actually became more of a hit with her parents – she knew them well and knew exactly what they wanted.

Don’t think small on this. If you are approaching private schools, you can step up your pricing a bit. Traditional school pictures at a public school can range anywhere from $10 to $75 or more, so a $75 package at a private school is acceptable. As long as you provide something that the public schools can’t get!

Find The Schools

Chances are you are already thinking of a school or two in your area. Head online and do a little more research and add to your list. Again, if your target is 10 schools a year, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find them in a fairly good seized community.

While I mentioned a school with a target of 3 to 6 year olds, you can find a huge array of potential. Day cares, preschools, private elementary schools, private K-12, summer camps and more. Find one, create your samples and your statistics, and move to the next.

School administrations also talk. So if one has success, they usually pass it along to the others within their community. After the process is complete, sit down with the head of school again and chat about potential. Are they open to doing it twice per year? Do they have any referrals of others schools in the neighborhood? They may be willing to pick up the phone and talk to other heads of schools, and give you a recommendation.

Keep Them Happy

Remember, this is a very customized, very hands on type of business. Because you are working with a private community, keep the administration and head of school happy the entire way through. Work with the parents and solve any problems immediately. Go above and beyond to keep them happy.

Once you have the parents’ names and contact information for making final delivery, also remember to follow up as well. Because they’ve purchased from you once, they have a greater chance of buying more in the future. Do they want a family portrait around the holidays? Maybe purchase holiday cards?

And by keeping them happy, they will also remember you when you go back into the school for your next session. Even thought they might not buy twice per year, if they had a great experience, they will become your fan club. They’ll talk up the experience to parents that didn’t participate before, and easily convince people to take advantage of your program.

It’s a great way to build up your studio with quality, paying clients. And they’ll be back again and again for years to come.

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clientexperience@todaysgrowthconsultant.com' About Virtual Photography

We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!

  • Steph

    I absolutely love this idea! I think I will take this one on. :) :)

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Good luck Steph, let me know how it goes.
    Lori

  • Roni

    I love it too! I already made a list of 9 off the top of my head. I currently use My Publisher to make photo books for my personal use. Is this professional enough for the types of books listed above, or would you recommend another company?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Roni
    I am always careful with general consumer products. If a customer can get it themselves, why should they come to you? By using professional products, or things they’ve never seen before, you are adding some “wow” into the equation. Just make sure a potential customer can’t start judging your costs because they can product the exact same thing.
    Lori

  • Kathy

    I love this idea too!! A few questions for you.. Did you offer the photo book to the parents for purchase or did they just use that to choose the photos they wanted to purchase? Did you sit down with each family to make the sale? Or hand out the photo books for them to look at on their own and then place an order?
    Thanks!
    Kathy

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Kathy – The book was theirs to keep. We included order forms with their books, and they contacted us and ordered on the side.

  • Felicia

    Love this idea!!! I am a preschool photographer. We specialize in ages infant to 6yrs. Question, you charged a sitting fee for each child, and with that they get to keep there photo book?

  • Inga

    Hi there,
    I’m starting in 2 weeks to do child care photos, for 200 children. I like the idea of making albums with 6 5×7″ prints in them. Where could I order these albums in Australia? Is it a good idea to make albums and prints in advance or is it safer to make contact sheets and wait to see what parents order before I pay for all the prints in advance? Thanks for any suggestions.

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Inga

    Its really what you make your program to be. With 200 children to photograph, I would definitely keep it simple and systematic. I wouldn’t give parents choice – that could be a headache with 200 kids. And if you’re going to include 6 images, you really don’t have to shoot much more than that of each kid – just make sure you have 6 great shots. Then parents can order more if they desire, but your work is done.

    As far as albums, you can also find many different options. Do you have an art or a paper store around you? I’ve found many very interesting things in stores like that. And while they probably won’t have 200, you can find out who the manufacturer is and order direct. Or do a Google search. If you like something, see if you can order it and have it delivered to you.

    Good luck
    Lori