Here at PhotoDay, we’ve had the pleasure of watching countless studios transition from years of paper order forms into the future of online selling. We’ve interviewed volume photographers at all stages of their businesses, but we’re particularly excited to start hearing from photographers who are using PhotoDay from the very beginning of their journey into volume photography.
Meghan Goering of Meghan Goering Photography is a fine art photographer based in Cedar Falls, IA, who has done this very thing. Although she’s been photographing professionally since 2017, Meghan decided to dive into the volume photography industry in 2021. Using PhotoDay from the start, her sales have increased over five times in the past year. We sat down with Meghan to hear her story and advice for photographers looking to do the same.
PhotoDay: Tell us a little bit about your business.
Meghan: My background is actually in mechanical engineering, but I had dabbled in photography as a high school senior working for a wedding photographer. It had always kind of been in the background, but I really brought it to fruition in 2017.
That’s when I started serving [high school] seniors. I had a harder time penetrating other markets; I had no concept of how to be a business owner. I just knew, “Hey I love taking pictures,” and then just over time my business evolved. For my portrait business, I am using an in person sales model that’s very boutique. I have a studio in town that’s about a thousand square feet, and my average sale for a portrait session is between $2000 and $4000. I photograph seniors, families, maternity, newborn, milestone, business headshots…everything but weddings and boudoir. For volume work, I photograph two dance studios and two preschools. My average sales are much different there.
PD: What type of volume do you typically do in terms of subjects photographed (for your volume markets)?
M: The current dance school volume I’m at right now is somewhere between 400 to 500 subjects, which relates to about 2000-2500 spaces (each costume is almost like another subject).
I was doing shoot and burn, but was not satisfied by it. In 2021 I committed, “I’m going to switch back to IPS (in person sales) no matter how many little clients I have because that’s where my heart is.” I love serving people. I’m from the South, and my mom ingrained in me the importance of tangible custom-framed portraits. She custom-framed everything, including our artwork from when we were terrible in elementary school. As a child, this taught me that I was valued and that was reflected on the walls in our home.
In 2021 I photographed maybe 25 families…I was focused on building and establishing my name in the community. I think I might do around 24 portrait sessions again this year. This might not sound like much, but I am committed to working a part-time schedule to be available to our three girls on my off days. Motherhood is my priority first. Could I take my business and blow it up and work a whole lot more? Yes, but that’s not my priority right now—it’s to slowly grow and build while also being present as our girls’ mom.
PD: How did you first hear about PhotoDay?
M: My daughters were attending a dance studio when I was exposed to Katherine Marie on Instagram. Her fine art approach to dance photography is absolutely breathtaking. And I thought, “What if I could recreate [this]?” What I love about dance is that there’s a very artistic element in spite of it being volume work. It feels like I can create something beautiful while still serving the masses.
As I said, I’m an engineer, and even though I am a photographer, I think like an engineer. I’m all about problem-solving, efficiency, and streamlining workflow…that’s just how I’m wired. And that’s when I started to dream and think, “If I’m going to do this, I need some sort of process to handle all of the backend processes,” like the orders—I had no desire to do QR codes.
So I started joining dance volume groups and asking if something like this existed to be like my team. I always tell people that PhotoDay allows me to be a one-woman show. It’s as though I’ve hired you to be my back-end team. So I think it was truly from searching through Facebook Groups that I found PhotoDay.
PD: Word of mouth is typically how we’ve spread through the community, so it’s great to hear that first-hand! You’ve become known in the PhotoDay Users Group for specializing in collages. Tell me how that process/workflow includes PhotoDay.
M: The dance studio that I took over for said, “Our families are used to collages.” I hate Photoshop for making design stuff, so I needed to find something that was easy. I landed on Canva for the ease of drag & drop. I can make a collage in less than 5 minutes from start to finish. I integrated with WHCC as my lab, and I think they stand out by offering 10×13, 10×20, and 10×30 prints—for me, that’s a small, medium, and large collage. The beauty of those sizes is that parents can’t order that collage photo as a cheaper 8×10 version due to the aspect ratios.
After a gallery goes live, I send an email talking about the collages and include a marketing flyer that shows the different sizes and prices. Then when parents view the gallery, all they have to do is send me the file names of all of the images that they want with the name they want at the top. Then I go into Canva, design the collage, and upload it to PhotoDay like any other photo, but tag it as “collage.” When I email parents, I tell them to go to the collages tag. When they do, it says the subject’s name and clearly explains which size to order. I write out every single step so there are no questions and to reduce mistakes when they order.
And my parents that buy collages end up spending a whole lot of money. Most of my highest sales are due to the collage; even though it’s only $120, people end up placing $300-$700 orders.
If you’re interested in integrating collages into your business model, Meghan offers her templates for purchasing here.
PD: How do you communicate PhotoDay to your volume clients?
M: In 2021, my business grew five and a half times. I tell people PhotoDay was the tipping point for me. What it allowed me to do was to show people in the community that I could create an amazing experience for their dancers—and even preschoolers—beyond your typical crappy volume experience.
How has PhotoDay affected the way I do business? To me, it changed my business. PhotoDay allowed me to open my first commercial space because I finally had cash flow that I could count on and forecast for and know that I’m going to meet operating expenses every year.
I have learned that there’s so much power in relationship marketing. I didn’t print fancy pamphlets; I sold them on Meghan. People choose volume with me because they love me. I’m not saying that to be prideful. I’m truly grateful for the relationships I’ve built with other business owners. They know me first before they know I’m a photographer because my kids go to dance at their studio and attend these preschools. The directors know me and like me as a person before I ever make a pitch to them. Because of this existing relationship, I’m able to come and say, “Hey, I’d really like to serve you and your families, and I think I can do it better.”
For our dance studio, it was all paper order forms—the owner was having to hand out everything, and she didn’t have time to do all of that paperwork. I was solving her problem, but also her parents’ problems. Now they can buy what they love and create a package with lots of different poses. Whereas before, you could only get one pose. I used to hate that as a parent!
Even with my preschool photos, I was able to come at it as a parent: “I’m a parent of a preschooler. I’ve been there. I think I can do this better, and I think your parents will love it.”
I didn’t have pretty pamphlets or a nice marketing video. I had a relationship first. I sold them on me and I told them, “This is how I how I can make your life better and your families’ lives better.” That’s why they chose me.
PD: That’s wonderful. Leveraging relationships is the best way to add that human touch you just can’t beat with marketing materials.
How has PhotoDay streamlined your workflow specifically? Some studios went from using paper order forms, were able to downsize a large team of employees, etc. but you are coming from a different starting point.
M: Because I never had that “before,” all I’ve ever known is PhotoDay. The pain point I was trying to solve when I chose PhotoDay was because I didn’t want to have to deal with paper order forms, remember names, or make QR codes. I wanted an online sales platform—I didn’t want to have shipments come to my house and deliver orders. I wanted amazing customer service so I could delight parents every time there was an error. So instead of PhotoDay streamlining my workflow, I chose PhotoDay because of what it could do for my workflow.
PD: That’s a very unique perspective, especially because we typically deal with a lot of older studios that have been in business for decades, already have their process, and have had to shift and go through a transformation. With you, you chose this right off the bat.
M: I’m trying to help other portrait photographers like myself bring in additional, reliable revenue, that will ultimately then funnel future clients into their portrait businesses. People like myself have never had any experience with volume.
PD: What are 3 specific ways PhotoDay has helped you and your studio grow? You already mentioned opening your space. Tell me more about that.
M: That was the hugest thing—PhotoDay has helped me open my first commercial studio. Before this, I was operating out of our basement (which is probably true for a lot of portrait photographers). Specifically during COVID, having a client come into the home was difficult. I had to clean before and after, and what if my kids were sick? It affected our daily lives tremendously. The studio brought freedom and allowed me to grow my business due to having a better space to serve people and show legitimacy.
Another way PhotoDay has helped me grow is by encouraging me to develop these resources for other photographers to use. I have collage and email templates for sale and share my process and workflow. I also developed a dance banner for posing. I’ve had 48 people buy that banner for this dance season alone (which can be purchased here). That extra, unexpected revenue enabled me to buy a new mirrorless system. I never would have done these collage templates or dance pose banners if it wasn’t for getting into PhotoDay and dance photography and seeing a need that will help other photographers grow.
PD: You already touched on this concerning photographing in your home during COVID, but how has your daily life been changed?
M: PhotoDay has been an enabler to my success. I couldn’t have done this without PhotoDay. Yes, I take great pictures, but what good is it if you can’t sell them? So it’s a joint partnership.
This is really cheesy…but I’m going to say it anyways. I think my confidence as a photographer has increased. My confidence as a businesswoman has increased. Even my own joy in my business has increased.
In 2017 when I started photography, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to be a business owner. I just knew I wanted to take pictures. In 2018, I still wasn’t growing and hadn’t paid myself a single dollar since everything was being reinvested. In 2019, it was still slow. I was doing shoot and burn, we’d just moved to Iowa, and I was re-establishing myself again. It felt like I was working for pennies based on the service I was providing my clients, and I felt like, “Is anybody ever going to value what I do?”
At the end of 2020, I said to myself, “I’m going to give this one more year. I’m going to try in person sales one more time. As much as I love photography, at the end of the day, a business has to be profitable. And if I can’t be profitable, I’m done.” That was really hard to admit to myself that if I’m not successful, I’m not doing this anymore. But, my family had made so many sacrifices for me to launch my business (i.e. late night sessions, years of not being paid, intruding our home with a studio, etc.) that I was unwilling to do this to them any longer if it wasn’t going to pay back.
PhotoDay affected my daily life because it proved to me that I could create a profitable, thriving, and fulfilling business that volume AND portrait clients appreciate. I didn’t have to walk away from photography. I’ve been successful, and I’m continuing to grow my business—and my sales per person. It feels great to say I was on the brink of failure, and now look where I am. That feels awesome.
PD: In terms of Average Order Value (AOV), what are some before and after examples?
M: My first year of doing PhotoDay, my AOV for a particular dance studio was $101. This year, for that same studio and about the same number of people photographed, my AOV is $138. Preschool is a little different since I have less content to provide than with dance, but I think my AOV is still around $75 for preschoolers.
For my in person portrait sales, there is one number I’m really proud of—this year, I had my highest in person sale of $8000. And that’s from their first of three sessions. That was a great way to start my year!
This isn’t to toot my own horn. My goal is to continue to be profitable, sell more of my collages and dance banners, and be able to help other photographers be successful, too. In fact, I really want to help other portrait photographers who are doing in person sales to see that they can use volume photography to help stimulate and support their portrait work.
Even just looking at sales from last year vs this year—this year with PhotoDay my total sales are just shy of $39,000 (as of June). Last year with PhotoDay was a total of $15,000. I’ve already more than doubled last year’s sales.
PD: Knowing what you know now, if you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
M: This goes hand in hand with what I’m hoping to help coach people through, but I think there’s a lot of strategy when it comes to picking your studio or preschool that you want to work with. We have to think beyond just the goal of revenue.
Sure, we want to be profitable. But I’m also thinking strategically from a place of being able to re-market to these families. I’ve sold them on loving their preschool and/or dance photos, and now I want to sell them on newborn, family, or senior photos.
If studios only want to do volume photos, that’s great! But if they’re looking for more after, if they want to actually leverage the pool of data and relationships they now have, you must think about the demographic before picking a random daycare or studio.
So what does this practically look like when I’m thinking about adding another dance studio? I’m going to pick one with a really strong rec program and a really strong competition team. If we only pick rec, the reality is that our sales will probably be lower. But if we pick rec and competition, now we’re reaching more potential revenue.
PD: Any advice to those who may still be on the fence about PhotoDay?
M: It’s interesting you ask this question. I recently chimed into a conversation in a Facebook Group about this. I feel like there are lots of things that set you guys apart, but here’s where I feel like there’s no other competition.
- FaceFind. Truly, I would not choose anything else except FaceFind. I don’t have to remember kids’ names or deal with and print out QR codes. The fact that I just know that at the end of the day, if I don’t remember a single name—it’s okay. FaceFind is a game-changer, hands down, worth gold.
- Customer Service. I know this sounds cheesy, but I have times where the post office mis-delivered something or a package got covered in water and the parents got mad. Not only does PhotoDay have great customer service, but you have very responsive customer service. Almost immediate! And that’s worth gold when my name is on the line. If I have a mad customer, it comes down to me and my reputation; but because of PhotoDay’s customer service, you help me feel confident in responding to my customers’ problems. And I know at the end of the day, we’re going to make them happy no matter what.
- AdvancePay. I believe part of the reason why I’m so successful is because of the way I leverage the AdvancePay system. That’s a selling feature for PhotoDay. Money spent is money forgotten, and my parents spend so much in AP credits, that by the time they’re checking out, they think “Oh, I got an $80 credit!” Because you offer this as a general credit purchase (instead of pre-purchasing a specific package, like some other systems), it gives the parents freedom to purchase a credit without making a commitment to photos they haven’t seen yet.
- It’s very simple, but being able to turn off the digital download option for a photo is incredible.
- Lastly, when parents go to build out a print package, they can combine as many different poses as they want into a single package. As a parent, who needs 20,000 5x7s of one pose? I want a bunch of different 5x7s of different poses.
We can’t thank Meghan enough for sitting down with us and sharing her experience! You can connect with Meghan on Facebook and Instagram. She welcomes anyone seeking to create a profitable and stress-free dance experience! Additionally, her templates and coaching can be found in her online shop.