I've had a few people ask me, "Why don't you offer a Groupon?" When starting out on this endeavor, I considered it. I could get some customers, build up my client base, and have a really nice portfolio. It took me 30 seconds and a little research to realize it's not for me, and for photography services, it shouldn't be for you, either.
I reviewed some of the photography offers on the three sites that I frequent; Groupon, Living Social, and Crowd Cut. Most of these offers range from $25 to ~$50. I took a closer look. For $25, a local "mass market" studio offered a 1 hour on location session and an 8x10 and four 4x5's. For $50, a private studio was offering a 90 minute on-location session, and 1 8x10, two 5x7's and the digital files of the chosen prints. My next stop was to look at the websites. Amazingly enough, I just saw a private studio's deal: For $49.00, you get a hour session AND all edited files on a CD. Whoa!
(And for the sake of not hurting anyone's feelings, I'm just going to refer to these offers as, "Daily Deals")
With the "mass markets" they had nice websites, but you also get whatever photographer is available, and if it was a large deal for them, you should plan to cross your fingers that they weren't over worked, tired, and had equipment that worked. (I have heard of these back to back sessions where there weren't memory cards, batteries that weren't charged, and flashes weren't working).
For the private studios, often their work just wasn't what I liked to see. White Balances were off, poses were too strange, lighting was poor and focusing seemed off. You can pretty much insure who your photographer would be, and because their names are on the line, they'll do the best that they can. Before I get "flamed" here, let me state clearly that this is not the case of all studio photogs offering "Daily Deals". I know some who offer them on the "once in a Blue Moon" occasion, and they do a great job, but those are far and in between.
Now lets look at it from the business owners point of view using a $40 "Daily Deal" as an example. For my fictional offer of a 1 hour session with 2 prints and digital downloads, I make $20. It might take 30-60 days before I see any of that. The purchaser has their session, so after that session, I spend another hour processing and editing (if I'm lucky, it can stay that low, generally it can go to 1-3 hours to edit and touch up loose hairs, skin problems, etc.) After that we meet, for say, another hour to order. Research has shown that most photography "Daily Deal" users, pretty much stay to the package offer. By know, I'm paying for your print order, I'm 4 hours into this, and I've made less than $5 a hour.
Most of the clients will not be back to these studios. They'll look for the next photography offer when they need portraits. They came out ahead, but both types of studios took a financial loss.
Instead of "Daily Deals", I offer seasonal sales and discounts. I'm not paying someone else for your business, and I feel that I'm being fair and honest to my customers. I strive to develop a relationship with my clients. I want to see you and your family at different stages of your life. I'm also not going to "mass market" you through the experience. You get my undivided attention because I follow you and your portraits through all aspects of the process; from the initial consult to the delivery of your items. I'm proud of what I have to offer and the experience I've gained over the years.
Please leave a comment below. I'm curious about your opinions and what your experience has been like with these "Daily Deal" sites..