This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
696. In waiting on customers your first efforts should be directed towards the studying of your patrons and obtaining some idea of their tastes and their ideas, and then placing suitable pictures before them in the proper manner.
697. Many times customers will come into the studio quite undecided as to just what they want, and yet they are willing to spend some little money in order to secure a neat and somewhat flattering portrait of themselves. Where the photographer does not meet the customers himself and must rely on others to handle the reception-room, the greatest of care should be exercised in the selection of a saleslady for this department, as it is of vital importance that she be clever in handling trade. If mistakes are made in the lighting or posing of a subject under the skylight, or in the development of the plate, it is possible to make a re-sitting, but if a mistake is made in the handling of your patrons in the reception-room and they are allowed to leave the studio dissatisfied, there is no remedy. Each and every customer must be entirely satisfied and you should willingly make re-sittings until you have satisfied them.
PORTRAIT STUDY Study No. 32 I. Benjamin.
THE ARTIST Study No. 33 - See Page 582 Sweet Bros..
698. There are, of course, extreme cases where people expect too much. Some will hope to appear beautiful in the photograph, regardless of retaining their likeness. They may expect you to accomplish entirely unreasonable things, and even then not be satisfied with their pictures because you have failed to comply with their ideas in this respect. A clever reception-room lady frequently can convince them of the good qualities of the proofs presented and explain how different objections can be overcome, in many instances avoiding re-sittings and at the same time having the customers leave the studio well pleased.
Sample Pictures. A great deal of care must be exercised in preparing your sample work, for herein lies the secret of better prices. A good policy to employ is to divide your samples into three principal classes of customers. The very finest work should be made from negatives of your exclusive trade and these samples should all be finished in your very finest grade of work, regardless of what their original order called for; your next grade should be a medium-priced picture of the subjects representative of the middle classes, and the third grade should be made from subjects of working people.
700. These three principal classes again can be subdivided, if you so desire, into different styles. For example, pictures of men may be arranged by themselves in portfolios or otherwise; pictures of children by themselves, and pictures of women, also group pictures, by themselves. The advantage of classifying your customers is two-fold. First, by exhibiting pictures of your exclusive customers, all finished in the very finest manner you know, and placing these pictures in portfolios by themselves, you please the customer. Second, when this class of customers enters your studio you exhibit your best work and they naturally will recognize their friends amongst this collection. Should the price for this grade of work be more than they care to pay, you can next show them your exhibit of middle-class customers, and as they will not likely find many of their friends' pictures exhibited amongst them, they will either decide to have the better grade or some style between the two, which may yet be exclusive.
701. For the middle-class customers show your samples prepared for that class of trade, and for the working people show them pictures of the middle-class style first, and if your price for this grade of work is more than they will pay, you may follow with samples of lower grade; but in every instance show your customer a higher grade than in your judgment they would likely want and you may succeed in selling them the high grade, and if not successful in this method, you will have the cheaper grade to fall back to.
702. By following this method you will always be able to sell better work at better prices. Some photographers in selecting negatives for samples are careful to select their best looking and most gracefully posed subjects for their best grade, and the more ordinary subjects for their cheaper grades of work. The customer naturally will admire the more beautiful and will want their pictures made similar to them, etc.
703. The very best trade, as a rule, does not care to look at samples, but relies entirely upon the judgment of the photographer. With such it is a matter of confidence in you, which you must strive to retain, and a liberal number of negatives should be made of sizes depending entirely upon the judgment of the customer. With all customers who place themselves in your hands you should make a few large negatives besides the regulation size, then submit them proofs of all. When the proofs are returned it is up to you to get as large an order as possible, and any method you may employ which will assist them in deciding the grade and style of finish to select, will be appreciated.
704. A very good plan would be to select from among your samples of best work some pleasing pictures which you know they will admire, first showing them the sample pictures and then laying your proof over this picture, displaying it on the mount so as to give them an idea of how their picture will look finished in a similar style. While, naturally, it would be your desire to sell the highest price grade picture you make, it is not always policy to urge it upon them. Proceed carefully, and if you find they do not want to expend quite so much money, select something which you consider equally as good, but not quite so elaborately put up, and recommend it in a way that they will observe at once that you are not trying to persuade them into giving you a large order, but that your sole purpose is to please them, and at the same time give them good work. It pays well in some instances to recommend something that you consider very suitable for them, which costs less than they might be induced to pay. You thereby gain their confidence, and while you have not sold them the highest priced picture you make, you can devote your attention to the increasing of the number of pictures, the finishing from different styles, etc., when in the end you will have as good an order in dollars and cents as you would gain by persistence in obtaining higher prices, and, besides, you have retained their confidence, which is invaluable.