by Guest Contributor Elizabeth Halford

Have you ever read something that was SO…so…DUH! Something that made you baffled and ask “Why didn’t I think of that?!” That’s what happened when I read Ariana Falerni’s blog post on the death of the sneak peek.

Since reading that, I’ve been commenting here and there on my new business strategies but haven’t given you the whole story. And I’m getting email after email asking what I’m talking about when I say things like I don’t post a preview until the client buys.

So this new bizstyle of mine comes in two parts:


  • Ariana (of Becoming Mom) said it perfectly: “The sneak peek…is kind of like seeing a bad movie preview. You know the ones I mean – the “comedies” that have like 5 funny jokes and you realize when you see the movie that you already saw all of the funny jokes during the preview.” This was the big lightbulb moment for me. If you show your clients the 5 best shots (which they can, by the way, just steal off your website) then when they’ve waited anxiously two more weeks to see the rest (because they think that EVERY photo will be as good as your 5 best!) they feel disappointed and instantly fall out of love.
  • People have a short flippin’ attention span. I mean SHORT. I can’t tell you how many clients have paid my £100 session fee (not that much, but a lot for my demographic) and then never buy ONE.SINGLE.PRINT. I kid you not it happened to me all the time. Now, I attribute most of my past failures to lack of expectation management but now, even with measures in place to manage expectations, I still get no-sale sessions and I’m putting this down to the sneak peek and the online gallery. One they’ve had a couple weeks (or even just a couple DAYS) to drool over the sneak peek, send the link to all their friends and family and go back to them over and over again, they ‘get over it’ and move on to the next shiny thing that comes their way.
  • When DO I post the session highlights? After the sale or after it’s clear that your client is a no-sale. Now, this is really really hard to do. It’s really going to take some self control not to post your weekend pride and joys but trust me. Just try and see what happens with your next few sessions when you combine this with the death of the online gallery.


You’ve gotta kill that sucker d.e.a.d. dead. This is why:

  • Like I said: short attention span. I stopped doing online preview galleries that stayed up until the clients decided they were ready to buy. Because then, you’ve got tons of sessions still up in the air, never resolved with the main purpose: the sale. So I began putting a 30 day limit on my gallery. Clients had 30 days to buy. These galleries were heavily watermarked and un-stealable. But still, little sales.
  • People are fickle. And impulsive. The world is moving SO fast and 30 days is toooo long. When you give them the luxury of looking at their photos for 30 days they fall out of love and move on to, as I like to say, the next shiny thing that comes their way. Like this:
  • Have you ever gotten this email: “Hi I’m so sorry I haven’t responded to your email/call. We’ve just been sooo busy we took two holidays this summer and, you know, we just can’t afford any photos.” Gee thanks! You just admitted plunking potentially thousands on a summer of holidays and you can’t follow through on the session you paid for? What’s most confusing about this is that we make every effort to make sure our clients are really committed to the endeavour, right? Afterall, that’s one of the reasons we charge a session fee. 1.) They’re not serious unless they’re willing to invest and 2.) Once they’ve already made a financial/time/emotional investment, they won’t walk away without fruits of their labour.


Well you’ll have to come back next week to find out! Afterall, short attention span…are you still even reading? LOL :*) Love you guys!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Christy Lee - March 10, 2011 - 3:08 pm

This is a really interesting idea that I hadn’t thought of. I’ve just started out and of course I offer an online gallery for the clients to proof the session in order to buy. I’m very interested to read the rest of this to see what the alternative is! Thanks!

MelissaFoscardo - March 10, 2011 - 3:08 pm

Last year, I decided I would only post 1 picture as a sneak peek. I may have broken that “rule” in a few sessions, but overall, I think it’s a good way to go. They get to see on picture which, I think, builds the anticipation for the others. I watermark client’s sneak peeks in a place that is sometimes obtrusive to view the photo in all its glory, but at least I know it won’t be printed w/o my permission!

I’ve been considering in-home consults in lieu of the online galleries. Looking forward to hearing your solution!

Jessica Strom - March 10, 2011 - 3:18 pm

You nailed it! I agree with you 200%!!! I have done just this for the exact same reasons! I felt like I could have written that article! The only sneak peeks I ever blog are ones I have done for fun, everything else is after the fact. And galleries, buh bye! I have an article coming out on MCP in April similar to this. I even laughed at your last comment about the vacations because I had something so similar happen to me only she’s sooooo busy she just doesn’t ever go online. Yep, wonderful article! More photogs should do this!

Megan Scott - March 10, 2011 - 3:20 pm

i never really thought of that. I think you are right though. I know that in the past I have had friends and family do just that. Thanks for the advice.

Erin - March 10, 2011 - 3:23 pm

I’ve never done online proofing. I’ve done in home proofing, using a 4×6 proofbook. Its been great!

Dana Hof - March 10, 2011 - 3:25 pm

I could not agree more! I am a professional photographer, but I hired a photographer to take photos of my family. I was shocked at how “behind” she was when she said that we would review the proofs at my house. “No online gallery?” I thought. Then I was REALLY shocked when she showed up at my house with 80 5×7 proofs. It was the first time I had seen any of the images. After looking at all of the images and proclaiming how I couldn’t decide because I loved them all, she said that if I purchased $400 in prints, I could buy the proofs for $1 each, but only as an entire set. Well, what did I do? I ended up buying way more than $400 and then I HAD to buy the proofs because I wanted ALL of them and I mean, they were ONLY $1 each. :)
The flip side of that is that I did a private portrait event at someone’s home (which I rarely do). I calculated that I would likely make $3,000 for a few hours of work. I posted all of the photos online and guess what? One order for $100. That’s it. $100. One. Hundred. Dollars. I am convinced the images were stolen off the gallery.
I definitely think you have a point.

Jodi - March 10, 2011 - 3:25 pm

This is a unique insight that I’ve not thought about before. I’m looking forward to next week’s post. Maybe I need to change some things in the way I do my buisness. Thanks!

Leanna Sutton - March 10, 2011 - 3:36 pm

This gives me a lot to think about. I am new and trying to fix up my blog in the cheapest way I can and I just spent about I would say 6 hours figuring out html to create a page with passwords and to disable right click and now I read this. I forgot about the attn span of people out there. This article is perfect b/c it reminded me of how important sales are (even though I hate sales). I like the ideal of posting only 1 sneak peak. I wouldn’t even make it the best one just so they can be wowed later. I can’t wait for part 2.

Rhonda Morse - March 10, 2011 - 3:40 pm

Thank You….Your article..and reading Dana’s experience…may have saved me a ton of mistakes right out of the gate…I am just starting out..and This is why I am reading as much as I can..Your reasons make perfect sense to me

jeni - March 10, 2011 - 3:58 pm

always a bugger for me. cannot wait to read the follow up post.
I just stopped pricing for purchases…and don’t even expect them. I have brides that have never bought anything. At all! Their whole wedding is captured and not one single photo printed. They’ll regret it one day.

Kelly Hosch Photography - March 10, 2011 - 4:26 pm

YEP! I’ve done just that! But I will admit… it is all on self control… and since that part is what is so hard for me, I still post ONE image for a sneak peek… but the rest wait! I’ve only been doing this for about 2 months now, but so far so good! Once they order (unless it’s a wedding cause those are completely differnt for me)… then they finally get more images on Facebook.

I finally broke down and did this not so much for lacking sales… but because I had a client who took the images off facebook and printed them on computer paper!!! YUCK! That’s when I decided!!!

Sarah Swade - March 10, 2011 - 5:31 pm

I can’t wait to see next weeks follow up!! This sounds like a great idea!

Sarah King - March 10, 2011 - 6:26 pm

Fantastic article. It makes so much sense and I am so going to jump on board with that. :)

Colleen - March 10, 2011 - 8:06 pm

Very true, photographers need to wake up and stop “renting” their images to clients, because, for many, just seeing the images online satisfies their needs so there is no reason to purchase a hard copy print, or lessens the amount of prints purchased. And as to disabling right click – doesn’t matter because the image can still be copied with screen grab software.

This makes so much sense! I’ve been looking at ways to sharpen (overhaul would be the better word) my business practices and this is a definite must do!
Thanks for sharing.

Amy - March 10, 2011 - 10:13 pm

GO! This is so laughable. I am sitting here, being a photoreflect photographer, just feeling I could be writing this. After taking a JoyStart marketing class, I decided projection is definitely the way to go. This year, I even charged more for the session fee with part of the session fee going towards a print purchase. I just can’t believe how much money people will leave on the table.

Angie Ray - March 10, 2011 - 10:15 pm

This is the reason I don’t want to be with Millers anymore. They keep the galleries up for 60 days!! 60!! I see clients go to their galleries 10 times and still not bu anything.. well.. why would they if they can just look at their images on their shiny pc screen for 2 months whenever they want to, right? :( So frustrating.

Lynn Likens - March 10, 2011 - 10:24 pm

Can’t wait to read the solution. I like others’ comments about at home proofing sessions, but I would be leary of putting out money for proofs that they may not buy. I can’t wait till I can get a designated studio/office space and can do projection sales.

Ronda Bragg - March 10, 2011 - 10:29 pm

Wow! This is soooo true! And yes I will be here waiting for next weeks post lol

Gina Parry - March 10, 2011 - 10:33 pm

Thank you for this article Elizabeth, I can hardly believe what has happened to people but I can totally see why now you’ve explained it. People are fickle and as you say, only interested for a short while until the next shiny thing comes into view. It’s so hard not to post the best of the shoot because we feel proud of our work and want others to like it too. Can’t wait for the next installment.

Tiffany Chabert - March 10, 2011 - 10:36 pm

OK so I am just starting out. I am currently getting my website ready to go live. Any thoughts on the following:

Lets say that I really want to charge $100 sitting fee. I had this idea that I would require the client to pay $250 for the sitting fee. In return I would give the client a coupon code for $150 off of purchasing online portraits. This way I still collect my sitting fee of $100 and I collect at least $150 in sales. Once they are on the site and using their $150 coupon, my hope is that they would spend more than $150.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

kiersten c - March 10, 2011 - 11:32 pm

dana – i love that idea!! were the 80 proofs loose?

Cathy - March 10, 2011 - 11:37 pm

I am also instituting having the client have my price menu and collection menu prior to the “ordering ” session. I will offer a complimentary consultation to come to their home prior to ordering to see what kind of prints would fill up their wall spaces and give some expert help.
I am also having the collection prices good only at the ordering session otherwise it is ala carte prices.
In the ordering session I will know what spaces they have and be ready to help create groupings for the families.
I am biting my nails now as I have a session ready to go but will not post until after the ordering session.

Rachel - March 11, 2011 - 12:09 am

This article does make a lot of sense. I only put up 5 x sneak peeks and not necessarily the cream of the crop. I heavily watermark through the image with my nice bright logo. I used to do a proof sheet, but I ended up being out of pocket due to lack of sales. So I, like many others opted for the online gallery.
The main question I get asked is “Can I have my images on disc”. While I’m not a “shoot and burn” photographer, I realise that a lot of people would prefer the option (for whatever reason). So I had to find a compromise that would convert my hard work into sales. So, I now offer a 20 x image 180ppi res disc with a minimum spend of $400 on prints. Then the client has the best quality print to compare to the 2nd rate ones they will get if they print off the disc. I also make sure they are well aware of this.

Melissa - March 11, 2011 - 12:09 am

Like a couple of other commenters I am a budding professional photographer, just starting to build my business and am researching as much as possible. I was wary of galleries or more than 1 photo in the first place, but after reading this article, I’m convinced I don’t want to do either! I really liked reading Dana’s experience with her wedding photographer, and I personally think that’s a great idea, and may offer that myself!

The Dedicated Photographer - March 11, 2011 - 1:02 am

I am in total agreement about the online gallery – but I still throw up 1 or 2 teasers for my clients. I find it only gets them more excited and builds anticipation for their ordering session. Clients often don’t realize you got some terrific shots if the session seemed chaotic. Thus – once they see that in fact you did – they get stoked about seeing the rest. That’s my own experience. I definitely see both sides, however.

Tonya - March 11, 2011 - 3:05 pm

I can’t WAIT for next weeks post!!! This is all SO true!!! I have decided to stop the sneak peeks except maybe ONE, because I know I won’t be able to stand it! :) I’m still thinking about doing an online, watermarked,right click disabled gallery for 7 days. I may change my mind when I read next weeks good stuff, but right now this is what I am leaning on. . . just because people like to share w/ family and friends. I don’t know. . . gosh this has been thinking about this online gallery stuff!!! I’ll be tuning in next week! :)

Emily Dobson - March 11, 2011 - 7:15 pm

Just read about the “death of the sneak peek” last fall and think it is so totally true. Thank you for the reminder!

Cathy - March 11, 2011 - 9:15 pm

I changed to in studio viewing. No more portraits online. My print sales have gone way up. And let’s stop handing over the DVD of images while we are at it.

Nicole Bauer - March 11, 2011 - 9:47 pm

Excellent advice!!

Emma Braford - March 12, 2011 - 12:32 am

Can’t wait for part two!

Virginia - March 12, 2011 - 1:55 am

Love this post. This idea of no online sneak peeks has been on my mind for a while now. After reading this it clarifies what I was thinking and it makes total sense. No online gallery also makes sooo much sense. If they can see them and have time to absorb the images, the chance of a sale goes down. They have had time to mentally process them and sometimes that IS good enough. Cant wait to read more.

Melissa S - March 12, 2011 - 4:15 am

Just joined the mailing list!

Kerry Varnum - March 12, 2011 - 11:39 am

Very helpful tips. I will DEFINITELY keep this in mind

Su Ferguson - March 13, 2011 - 6:53 pm

Great sharing of information. Lots to think about. Thanks

Katrina Weingart - March 14, 2011 - 12:32 am

OMG! Its like you’re talking about me and my clients!!!!!!! I can’t wait to hear the finished product because I’m telling you what, I’m ready to REVAMP!

Amy Weiler - March 14, 2011 - 3:36 am

You couldn’t have said it better! I am so glad I was told to read this article! I had a client who said she couldn’t afford to purhase any prints. Later on, through facebook I found in the background of some of her personal pics, MY images framed on her wall!!! When confronted she attempted to yell at me for invading her privacy and cussed me out for looking at her personal pictures! I am now changing my ways.

Eliza Daniels - March 14, 2011 - 3:25 pm

I’m a fan:-)

Belinda Philleo - March 14, 2011 - 4:28 pm

This post is JUST what I needed! Can’t wait for part II

Amanda - March 15, 2011 - 12:53 am

I love this concept!!

Gabrielle Bass - April 14, 2011 - 4:25 pm

wow. back to the strategy board! thanks for this!

Eco Frugal - July 25, 2011 - 1:59 am

I have a feeling my clients would get really pissed at me if I made them pay to fly thousands of miles to go see their proofs. This is a great idea if you are a local photographer, but as an international photographer I’ve only lived in the same city as a small handful of my clients. It’s just not a conceivable concept for my business. I have, however, learned that shorter is better. I keep galleries up for only 30 days as a standard (they can buy more time) and offer discounts if the order in the first 10 days. Since doing that my business has increased a lot as it creates a sense of urgency.

Maisi - October 7, 2011 - 10:25 am

OK, I haven’t read the “solutions” post yet, but I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I now have a minimum order clause in my contract, so I never have “no sales.” Also, I really think that posting one preview picture on FB is great. . .it gets the client excited to see the rest, and it piques their interest. Maybe putting five is too much, like a bad movie preview, but one gives them a feel for the session. And to be honest, I think I have sold the image I post on FB for every single session. . .in some form. Plus, it’s great advertising because they are excited to comment and share their love of the photo with friends. For the online gallery part. It’s the only way for me. I don’t have time to do in person ordering. And I wouldn’t like it if I was the customer. I want to be able to look at something and think about it. . .but I don’t give my clients too long. . .one week and that’s it. And there is a charge to keep the gallery live longer than a week. It’s the only way. . .otherwise, people do tend to just procrastinate (I know I do!!!). Thanks for the post!!

Ricki - October 25, 2011 - 4:32 pm

First we stopped with most online previews, with a few exceptions. Several months ago we changed to in studio viewing sessions. It is more time consuming but it is the ONLY way we will ever work in the future. We had experienced the phenomina of spending many hours on a job (if not days) to do custom sessions and art work only to have clients express their love for the images yet never purchase a single image or place a $30-$100 order. It was heart breaking and discouraging. I wanted them to PRINT the images and do something special with them! We would wonder.. WHY did they do the session? I know it is a lot of effort on their part too. We work hard together to create their images. Our prices are posted, they know beforehand the cost of prints, yet all too often we would experience disappointing sales. In the end they seemed satisfied with the initial excitement of seeing them, then to simply share the marked images on facebook or from the blog with friends and family. :(

Our sales are rarely under $600 now. Most exceed $1000. There are many studios exceeding this average and I believe with only a little tweaking of our sample offerings, it will not be difficult to be among them. It is an important service to help your clients see their images all the way through to the final printing process. You can not expect them to know your industry and what is possible in the way of decorating their homes with images of their family with wall art and coffee table books etc. You need to provide both photography and design services for them or they will likely default to ‘school picture’ 8×10 and wallets mentality. There is a place for that but it is not with a custom portrait session that hundreds of dollars and multiple days of work have just been spent on. I love the change! My clients are happier and so am I. They end up with truly heirloom pieces to pass down that they love and I don’t have to work for free. That is a win win!

Great articles.. I hope everyone picks up on.. Life to your business is death to the sneak peak previews prior to sales AND imho, online galleries are for post sales of loose prints and such to extended family or additional loose print sales for gifting after primary art has been purchased. Ps.. oddly enough.. Online print sales are often higher than they were before too. Go figure! Good luck to you and happy PRINTING!

Sarah Hurd - April 15, 2012 - 2:30 pm

I am loving this idea and all of the comments! By day I am a middle school teacher and I have to agree with the attention span – of both parents and students! My husband and I are in the process of starting a photography business. I am curious – is there anyone out there that would be willing to post a short video about what this looks like with clients? I too am leery of spending lots of money for proof books or artwork that the client may not purchase. I am excited for next week’s article and looking forward to more comments! Thanks Elizabeth!

Sean - April 15, 2012 - 2:41 pm

What a bunch of garbage. Just because you don’t get sales on these methods doesn’t me other won’t. Killing the online galleries is going to destroy a wedding business especially when you are getting after sales from people who were not your clients but are at the wedding. As for local portrait session I could care less if the person does a sale or not. I already charged them enough for my time and processing. My print sales are not part of my bottom line they are just extras. If I do some great if I don’t not a big deal because they already dropped a bunch of money for me to shoot them.

I give my people 30 days to purchase additional photos and then they are deleted from the galleries and I charge a $300 fee to put them back up there after that.

Just because you have poor business and sales skill don’t blame the clients. Stop teaching other photographer bad habits also.

Sonja - April 15, 2012 - 6:02 pm

I’m not sure, sounds like you can make a lot of money that way but it is very very labor intensive. Why not just charge up front for what you do and then give them the images on disk? I really think “ordering prints” is past it’s time. We live in such a digital world I think you should charge up front for your time and talent and then let the client do what they want with the printing or not printing.

Reneé Frey - April 15, 2012 - 10:41 pm

I use my iPad in place of a proof set of prints. Saves me money and helps me make money. I load the photos into photosmith app and the tag the ones they like while I am setting there.

Michelle - April 27, 2012 - 9:11 pm

Excellent article, but (there is always a but isnt there?)I don’t think its as simple as stating ‘no more sneak peaks’ and no more online galleries because that dosn’t work for every business model. Photographers tend to forget (while touting the virtues of custom photography) that their own business model will be unique to them – mindlessly taking on a business suggestion without considering how it affects your business is not prudent.

I live in a rural area and re-starting the portrait side of my business after a hiatus…I have travel to clients or they travel to me – the convenience of an online gallery is essential. Seven days and an $80.00 reactivation fee seems to work well. Watermarking correctly and only putting small images online is essential…as is the understanding that some clients will steal them anyway (and most don’t realise its stealing).

Having a sneak peak on your blog or facebook *is* important (unless your many thousands of advertising dollars are spend wholly in print rather than online. Sneak Peaks create activity, interest and shows *demand* for your services. Not to mention the huge benefits to SEO for your website so that more clients can find you as well as sending potential client traffic to your facebook page.

Only posting one photo (something nice but not your favourite) does sound like excellent advice…enough to keep the client excited and anticipating more, without showing all the highlights. Then after they’ve ordered share some more (adds another blog/facebook post, gets some more activity to improve your SEO, potential clients get to see more of your work and your not loosing out on anything becasue you’ve already been paid.

That one photo sneak peak is a great strategy that I am going to implement when I start accepting paying clients again.

[…] read this post by Elizabeth Halford and it all clicked. People lose their excitement after seeing a sneak peek […]

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *



There was an error submitting your comment. Please try again.

F O R U M   R E G I S T R A T I O N
F a c e b o o k