Magazine Article


Beautiful & Dynamic Packaging
A must-have for every portrait photography studio

© Sarah Petty

© Sarah Petty

© Sarah Petty

Packaging is one of the most important things you can do to increase the value of your brand, secure relationships with your clients, and encourage referrals. Let's face it: When clients come in to pick up their portrait order, they may be a little nervous about the balance they still owe. Because it's probably been several weeks since they ordered, they may even be questioning whether or not they made the correct decision. It would be deflating after the entire chaotic process of dressing their kids for the photo session and the stress of placing their order to only be handed a plain envelope containing their images.

We make a special appointment for our clients to pick up so we can have the studio clean, their order ready, and the names of their family members on the tips of our tongues. There's nothing that bursts the bubble more than a client unexpectedly stopping in to watch us scramble to find their products. We want to make sure that because we're expecting them, we can maximize their excitement by having it all neatly sitting out when they arrive.

It's so much fun to watch each client's face when they notice that the image on the front of their bag is from their session. It instantly takes them from the logical and technical side of their brain and puts them into the emotional side, where they were when they made the purchasing decision. It's so much fun to watch each client's reaction. Sometimes they giggle or scream. We had one client who ran around the studio clutching her bag, saying how she was going to ship it to her family out of state to see. We gladly offered to make a second bag for her.

Once the clients start to calm down, and after we again discuss how darling their children are, I carefully pull out their box, which is tightly wrapped with vellum. The vellum is sealed with yet another image from their session. Once again, the excitement rises. I feel strongly that the presentation of the final images should be one of the high points of the entire process. I then carefully slide off the vellum, open the box, and gently spread the images across the table. I also want to make sure that when they goes home, they give this presentation to their husbands to reinforce the purchasing decision and create value for our products. I also instruct them not to let people flip through the images, which could possibly damage them. Their eyes are always big at this point, and they've already completely forgotten about their remaining balance.

Our custom packaging is one of our strongest loyalty-building strategies. We invest a significant amount of time to create our packaging. We also try to embellish our packaging with as many bells and whistles as we can. For our child and family clientele, we twist wire to add tags, beads, and other pretty things. For our high school seniors, we have our logo screen printed on canvas, rip it into rectangles, grommet it, and attach it with silver-beaded chain. Because our bags are clear, we are able to customize them with different-colored tissue.

Because our wall portraits include archival framing, the only images that are unframed are 8x10 or smaller. We have sometimes invested more in the packaging than on the one 8x10 print inside, but it really is the icing on the cake. Because it creates such great word-of-mouth exposure, we build it into our cost of sales so we can be generous with the bags. If someone orders 10 Christmas gift prints, we make a bag for each person. This has proven to be a very exciting gift to both give and receive.

Another great feature of impressive custom packaging is that it allows our clients to brag for us. Because most of us have rightfully abandoned paper proofs and moved to projection for selling, our clients don't have small images to take around to show their friends. I had a new client come in and tell me that she was at the yacht club's pool, and a client of ours was walking around the pool showing everyone her bag. That totally made my day and reinforced my decision to continue to invest time and effort into dynamic packaging.

SARAH PETTY ( prides herself on her "meaty" marketing strategies and being able to clearly interpret them to photographers.Petty's educational site is where she offers monthly marketing ideas to photographers through the "Café Joy" subscription service.