Ask JB and DeEtte Sallee how they classify what they do, and they'll tell you they're artists. "We call ourselves artists, not photographers--anyone who can own a camera is a photographer," DeEtte says. Adding to the perception of fine artists, "all we have in our gallery are gallery wraps," she adds. "Gallery wraps give the vibe that we're artists, with their simple, clean look. People are attracted to the work, not distracted by the frame."
As their work is portrayed as a piece of art, the smallest-size canvas their customers can purchase is a 16x20. "Anything smaller simply doesn't do the images justice," she explains. The Sallees use large canvas prints hanging in their gallery as a sales technique. "People have to see visually, and if they see large [canvas], they're going to buy large [canvas]," DeEtte says. One entire wall is dedicated to 20x30 canvas wall portraits. "It's an easy way to sell wall portraits," she says.
DeEtte also notes that wraps are a somewhat modern way of displaying a portrait. "Our work is modern, as are many of our customers' homes," she explains. "The wraps fit our work and the locations they'll be displayed in."
"We keep the true image to the front of the gallery wrap and add black space to the file, so the part of the canvas that is wrapped around the sides of the stretcher bars is black, not part of the actual image," JB says. "We instruct Miller's Lab to wrap the black portion around the sides." "It looks more timeless and artistic with the black border, rather than with the image around the sides of the stretcher bars," says DeEtte. JB adds, "Our goal is to keep them timeless. No type, just simple overlays on the image. Our canvases look like a piece of art, not a picture under glass."
"We use the 2 ½-inch stretcher bar gallery wraps only," says DeEtte. "This size is more unique, modern, and artistic. It's much different than what consumers can buy direct from an online photofinisher or catalog, because those people are selling canvas prints using 1-inch stretcher bars. And we don't offer options--what they see is what they get."
"Five years ago, when we started our business, we were referred to Miller's," she adds. "Their turnaround and customer service are great. They're a big lab, but they don't treat you like a number."
"Our goal is to sell a 20x30 canvas gallery wrap or album to every portrait or wedding customer," explains DeEtte. Focusing on the premise that customers will purchase what they can visualize, Sallee Photography displays two triptych groupings. The first features a canvas gallery wrap each from the engagement session, bridal session, and wedding. The other incorporates a large horizontal with a 20x24 on each end.
Canvas gallery wraps also let Sallee Photography stand out at bridal shows. "They're still so new and different--when prospective clients see them, they fall in love with them," DeEtte says (especially when other photographers at these shows have brought their photographs in "old" gold frames). "Brides tend to think of the canvas as new, and standards such as gilded frames as old-fashioned," she adds.
Off the Wall--On the Wall
"The 'Off-the-Wall' concept started when we saw Robert Deyber's paintings in a gallery and were inspired," says DeEtte. At the last consultation before the wedding, JB and DeEtte ask the couple to tell them how they met, which will generate an idea for an image. The Sallees suggest props to the couple, and an idea for a unique image. These images take only a few minutes to shoot during the wedding. The result is a quirky photograph, something that most people aren't used to seeing in a wedding portrait. "After customers see these images, they're immediately interested in buying a large wall print," says JB. "We say it's a conversation piece--of art. And who wouldn't want to hang artwork starring themselves."
Sallee Photography (www.salleephotography.com) is owned by JB and DeEtte Sallee, a married photographic team from Dallas, TX. They've been in business for five years. The duo speak around the country and also own Sallee Solutions, a company that sells album templates and digital solutions for photographers. For more information on Miller's Professional Imaging, go to www.millerslab.com.