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Family Portraits

Brian Buck
© Scotwork NA

Getting the family together for the annual holiday portrait can be a nightmare. It was exactly that for one of my clients, Margaret. However, her family portrait drama had nothing to do with family but, rather, the photographer. Apparently, he wasn’t upfront about all of the fees and options available. What he didn’t know was that Margaret is an experienced procurement professional, and how she went about handling the situation was brilliant! The photographer had no idea what hit him.

Between weddings, babies, and the like, Margaret has become savvy about the ins and outs of family portrait photography. Over the past eight years alone, she estimates that she’s paid for the services of a professional photographer on five different occasions. In other words, she’s as familiar with pricing and options as she is with posing and lighting. Which is why, when she wrapped up her latest shoot, she immediately knew that something wasn’t right — namely, she would be on the hook for physical prints, with packages starting at approximately $400 but likely running significantly more than that. The photographer never mentioned that there was no option for her to buy just the digital photo rights, and being that she’d never run into this limitation, it never occurred to her to ask about it. 

But Margaret had some leverage at her disposal. As it turns out, she’d found the photographer through a charity auction. It just so happens that she sits on that auction’s planning committee. Being that the photographer gets free publicity, not to mention quite a few clients, through said auction, he was willing to negotiate. 

So they took it to the table. But during discussions, they hit some gridlock in terms of the value of his product offering, and Margaret proposed a trade: In exchange for a reasonably priced option to buy digital rights (as well as a guarantee that he would clarify in his future marketing materials that such an option is not available), she would continue to support his work via the charity auction. While she expected to pay a few hundred dollars for the photos, the photographer surprised her by giving them to her for free. He did not realize how out of line he was with the market. He even offered an apology. He appreciated her candid feedback and is currently updating his marketing materials. He’s even taking a look at his offerings versus those of his target market.

In the end, Margaret walked away feeling good about the outcome. And why not. As she pointed out, she’d read both the photographer and situation very well, which is a critical negotiating skill. While her sister-in-law was ready to move on and book another photographer, Margaret correctly felt that, with a little intelligently applied leverage, she would get what she wanted, and at a price point that she could live with. She got that — and a whole lot more. 

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