A classy lineup of portrait clothing is boosting order size and revenue in portrait studios nationwide. A closer look may be worth your while. . .
Award-winning portrait artists Cindy Baxter, of Studio C, and Lisa Jane Murphey, of Eden Studio, have tapped the trend with partner Barnes Children’s Portrait Clothing (www.barnesclothing.com), designers and suppliers of stock and custom portrait clothing for photography. Cindy and Lisa Jane both have developed distinctive and profitable studio programs around the Barnes label.
From her photo trade show booth in 1997, Barnes Portraiture owner Faye Barnes was displaying a handmade fairy dress used in her studio for special portraiture sittings. Show attendees were enthralled with the dress and the photos. So popular was this dress that Barnes Clothing was born with its first order for 17 pieces.
Today, Barnes Clothing provides adult and children theme portrait apparel, fashioning each creation with long-wear and multiple sizing in mind. Vintage baseball uniforms, Dickens styles, plus soft-white mother and baby layette/lounging outfits are all designed and produced in the Louisiana workshop. Barnes tests each new design during her studio sessions, checking that each is “photographer friendly.” The company also designs and produces custom pieces.
According to Barnes, studios generally start with a single piece then, as word spreads, business starts to increase and studio owners call back to order additional sizes and styles. Says Barnes, “Theme portraiture is new to most, so I enjoy explaining how to get started. Being close to the customer allows us to provide one-on-one service. They ask for suggestions on what pieces to start with, tips for marketing, and how they can have custom styles made.”
Cindy Baxter Banks on Barnes
Portrait photographer Cindy Baxter (www.studiocportrait.com), of Studio C, New Martinsville, West Virginia, is the first woman in the state of West Virginia to be named Photographer of the Year—five times. She has seen a steady rise in studio revenue with Barnes Clothing.
“In 1998, I discovered children’s theme portraiture and within five years I was running a half-million dollar portrait studio in a rural West Virginia community of 5,000 people,” she says. “For my business, being able to offer gorgeous, high-quality clothing is key to raising sales averages.”
Last summer, Baxter previewed the line of vintage baseball outfits and was inspired to create a new themed session, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” She ordered girls’ and boys’ pieces and began promoting to existing clients via direct mail.
“The response was tremendous! I offered the special for two days and generated more than $13,000. We have a waiting list of clients who want the special when I offer it again this year.”
Adds Baxter, “The Dickens clothing line has been a huge draw for us. In 2004, I featured a ‘Dickens Christmas’ for two days and was sold out! I created the set again in 2005 for three days; it filled fast. I could never do this type of photography without the right ‘look.’ Barnes Clothing helped me generate nearly $65,000 in additional sales.”
Seven years ago, Baxter began lecturing on successful marketing practices for children’s theme portraiture. She promotes through industry organizations and leaders, and has written a manual on the subject (visit www.cbsetseries.com).
Lisa Jane Murphey Works Wonders with Angels
Lisa Jane Murphey (www.lisajane.com) of Eden Studio, in Houston, Texas, has photographed children for more than 20 years. A five-year Barnes Clothing customer, Lisa Jane has noticed a tremendous difference in the size and quality of client orders and print finishes when she uses Barnes pieces.
“The clothes are so classic and beautiful that they really lend themselves to large oil-on-canvas or painter-style portraits,” she says.
Order size and finish upgrades are just two ways Lisa Jane tracks benefits.
“Recently, for a brother-and-sister shoot, I asked the customer to bring in clothing from their wardrobes,” she explains. “I took photos of the children in their own clothing then had them change into Barnes pieces. After seeing the photos, the mother requested a 5x7 in their clothing, and ordered a wonderful large wall piece with a painting finish in Barnes Clothing. My order went from small to huge!”