BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Celeste McWilliams

To Proof or Not to Proof

I am a photographer for a preschool. Each year, I provide proofs (via online passworded gallery) for parents to look at prior to ordering. I was very surprised to find that my daughter's elementary school - as well as most of the elementary schools in the area - do not provide proofs. Package info was sent to parents prior to "photo day", and orders/money needed to be turned in on photo day.
Initially, I thought that non-proofing was bizarre, figuring that, as a parent, I would only order a basic photo package in case my daughter's photo didn't turn out too good. However, I'm now wondering if non-proofing is better, as the only way parents are able to see their child's photo is if they buy at least the small photo package.
Should I continue providing proofs for the preschool photos?
Thanks for your input!

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10/28/2009 6:13:32 AM

Jeffrey R. Whitmoyer   Personally, I think that not proofing is providing the parents a dis-service. I certainly wouldn't want to be locked into buying pictures sight unseen. I think you'll do better overall by putting the proofs online and letting the parents pick their favorites and packages from them.
Thinking about this as an issue makes me glad that I don't shoot people in general and kids in particular. LOL

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10/28/2009 4:31:16 PM

Deborah Bettencourt   I work seasonally for a regional school photography company. Their "prepaid" program is like your daughter's school program and provides the most economical school picture program. I offer the same for my own studio's schools. With a satisfaction guarantee of retakes or refunds people can be assured of ultimately getting pictures they're happy with and order with confidence. The company I work for also offers a "proof" program where the 4 poses are posted on-line and the parents order after viewing. This is a more labor intensive process and therefore the packages cost more. I see more private schools choosing this option. Plus I would think that procrastination once the proofs are viewed may cost you some sales too, versus ordering everything up front.

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11/10/2009 4:49:38 AM

Donna L. Jones
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/22/2002
  Hi Celeste, I just did a private home school program and collected the money for packages up front. I then posted the photos online as a courtesy for grandparents etc. I did offer makeups if they came to my home studio (I did not set up at the school a second time) Only had three retakes from 174 photos taken. No one minded paying up front and some ordered more later. I think it's just the way it's always been done for school pics so no order from proofs online like I do for seniors/families, etc. would be way too much work. People would drag on ordering for months and I needed to send it all to the lab at once to get the bulk pricing...only 18 didn't order a package of 138 kids (the rest were staff) so..I'd recommend it. Let me know if you need any other was a real learning experience for us but went well and we learned a lot! Sincerely, Donna Jones

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11/10/2009 9:51:33 AM

Jerry Deutsch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/25/2009
  You can do a quick analysis...Figure out how much you would make if everyone ordered the pre-pay package with no extras and compare that with the amount you made by proofing. Then you can see if the difference is worth the effort.

My question is: who selects the photo for the package and will that be more work than putting up the proofs online?

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11/10/2009 1:23:11 PM

Corrinne Ellis   Our school also provides similar picture packages for the students. We do not get to proof the pictures at all. However, the company our school uses does offer retakes, also at the school, so if you'd like another pose, etc., you can get the picture redone. More often than not, I have ordered the pic they choose, but I do wonder about the other shots and if I would have preferred one of those over the one they chose for me.

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11/10/2009 4:39:43 PM

Beth Verser
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/14/2007
  I provide proofs however I send 2 small prints with the proof water mark stapled to my order form and the deadline for ordering and I have done well with my sales. I have tried the online proofing and I only do that with seniors and family pics. It did not work as well with my preschool orders I live in a small town and not everyone has a computer. Also some would order and some never got around I think the pics being online they did not feel they needed to soon and after awhile they just end up not ordering. However with the printed proofs my sales were wounderful everyone ordered and I had all the orders at the same time which was helpful to me

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11/13/2009 11:00:21 AM

Bruce A. Dart   As a professional portrait photographer for the past 30 years, I have done this type of work often. It is not the most creative nor most lucrative of all the things we do in our studio but is well worth doing. The nature of "school photos" as well as proms, dances, team sports photos, etc. has been considered a "one shot" type of photography. Of course with digital it is no problem to take more than one image -- especially with preschool and younger children. As previously mentioned, we guarantee our work. They can have their money refunded or even come to the studio if they wish. For larger events and numbers of students we do offer a makeup day but not for small groups. However, like all photography you try to get the best product the first time and not spend more time trying to "fix" things than what you charge. Yes occasionally we get more than one cute photo but usually there is an obvious best one. The trade off, if you will, in special event photography is that you get photos at greatly reduced prices but you don't get a wide selection. Those that want a choice of photos come to the studio (sometimes on location), pay a creation fee, get a choice of poses and pay higher rates for those services. That is why we are in business to offer those services and why we must charge more. When you offer services such as proofing or on line viewing, they cost more. Your time is also a factor in "cost of goods" that you sell. If you are in business and you don't have money left over (profit) at the end, you learn very quickly which things for which you need to charge a fee. All of this type of photography is prepaid -- that is, paid on photo day. Otherwise, there is always from one to several that you will spend a lot of time trying to collect the money for the order. We do the best job we can at the time, choose the best images and deliver them in a professional package in a timely manner.

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11/22/2009 6:56:00 AM

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