I want to tell you a story about my experience at a local chain studio a week or so ago. Not from a photographer's perspective, but from a mom's perspective. I'm always telling my client's how the experience at my studio is so significantly more enjoyable, custom, exclusive, (not to mention produces high quality PROFESSIONAL images that they cannot achieve).
But I had never actually been through the process at another studio... so a friend and I took along our willing little models and off we went.
The studio opened at 9am, and we had a 9:20 appointment. When I called to book I called a local number, but was greeted by "what city & state please". National call center, hmm, already I'm not thrilled.
We arrive just a minute or two ahead of schedule, and shortly after are greeted and told that they'll be with us soon. It's a nice waiting area with modern couches and a lego table that they boys enjoy.
There are 2 studio rooms where they take the photos, and you can see them from the waiting area. You can also HEAR them... lots of high pitched hooting & hollering trying to get some little one to look at the camera.
10 minutes or so later it's our turn, and the photographer tries to make "friends" with the kids. They're not excited. Ben is leery of men anyways, and my friend's little guy is 2. He just wants to run around, haha. And the way the facility is laid out is very distracting. You can see everything from any spot you stand, and it just keeps grabbing his attention.
A wrinkled white sheet is draped and we're told to place the kids in a specific spot. We struggle to get them sitting and smiling, and mr. photographer will not take a shot unless they are on that exact mark, doing as he requested. This is going to be a long day.
It might not have been overly successful, but I will say that the photographer tried hard to get the kids to smile. After 30 minutes of frustration, we were finally done and I couldn't have been happier. THEN COMES THE SALES PITCH. High-pressure sales pitch. Think: timeshare sales. We're brought to a table outside of the studio rooms, and it has a nice big plasma screen. Before I even know what's happening there are 3 images up and I need to pick my favorite of them, in about 5 seconds. Next set of 3, same thing - process is repeated until we have narrowed down the images to about 15. WAIT, I ONLY GOT TO SEE THOSE IMAGES FOR A FEW SECONDS!! Too bad, they're gone now and you only get to look at the 'favorites'.
Keep in mind that after 30 minutes of wrangling the kids for photos, they are all done. Hungry, tired, bored, and not wanting to sit. But we don't have an option... you see your ONLY CHANCE TO PURCHASE IS RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT. THAT'S IT. THEY DELETE THE IMAGES AFTER YOU LEAVE.
He started with a $300 package and worked his high-pressure sales tactics to try to persuade us. No. Take something away and it's $250. We keep playing this game, and he keeps pressuring us "it's only $100 for each of you!". Ugh, I don't need this guilt!
Besides the kids fussing and crying, now the studios are working with the next families and the hooting & hollering resumes. Directly next to where we're trying to concentrate & make a decision on what to purchase. My friend's little guy goes running away, and she goes after him. The photographer-turned-salesman STOPS and says I CAN'T CONTINUE UNTIL SHE COMES BACK. We asked him to speed it up, clearly our children won't make it any longer, and neither will our nerves. His answer.... no, I'm just going to finish going through this.
The waiting area is filling up now with another 3 or 4 families, another 2 in sales presentations, and a few more in the studios. Hectic to say the least.
Oh, and can we talk about the images for a minute.... they're not good. Not AWFUL, but not good. They're definitely nothing I would ever show a client. And yet, as we're sitting there we're both feeling GUILTY. This photographer is sitting in front of us, and we have to keep saying to him over & over again "no, I'm not spending my money on those images you just took". That's an uncomfortable situation to be in!!
We finally make our meager selection (this is just an experiment after all, and the images are nothing I'd put on my wall) and I'm going to assume they are paid by commission because he quickly (and with annoyance) dismissed us to the cashier.
Whoa.... just thinking back to that day makes me feel anxious all over again. The end result was a mediocre image and lots of frustration. Definitely nothing I would ever do again. And now I see why new clients tell me that often (I went to such & such and it was a nightmare, never again!!!!).
There is a positive side to my experience, and it's that I learned some valuable lessons on how I operate my own business. Look for Part 2 of this blog post tomorrow - "I'm looking for a few good clients...."