Church Directories


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Dec 1, 2007
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Is anyone else out there shooting church directories? We shot one yesterday for a little church (about 100 people) and it was pretty profitable. We offered packages from $15 through $50, one pose(mostly), and gave the church a copy of all images for free to use in their directory. The church was happy because they got professional images for their directory, and most of the people bought a package. Along with all of this, we setup a few appointments with some of the people that wanted other photo services. All in all it was a good experience, that I think we're going to try to continue to do. Anyone else have any experience with this?
I just finished one, and it was a great learning experience. The sales was pretty good, but it was spread over a month, so the weekly income wasnt that great. I learned a few lessons for next time. :)

How did you arrange everything?

We had appointments every 15 minutes, but I wasnt able to show the pictures to every group because of getting behind, especially on the days when I brought my older and slower laptop. And its been time consuming to get people back to show them the pictures so they can choose their pose for the directory and possibly buy packages.

Ive also learned not to process every image I take before showing them the pictures, to save alot of time.

Next time I think Ill setup from 9 to 9 on a saturday, every 20 minutes. This should give me more time to focus on each group, and get things wrapped up on the spot. And limit the number of days im there shooting. Ive also got a new laptop computer so I can do everything with out having to bring my desktop.

my first package started at $25 for 3 sheets, and I didnt limit how many poses they could get. The next one I do, will be $35 for 3 sheets with 2 poses I believe. No one bought my 3rd package and above, so Ill tweak the packages a bit. People dont seem interested in larger than 8x10. And almost everyone bought a package, that I had time to show.

How did you print up the directory? Im working with the Pastor and they are doing it in Church because they have a good color laser printer.

The local competition seems to be Olan Mills. I dont think I can compete with their prices. I believe they give an 8x10 to every group, and dont charge to much for their packages, but I could be wrong on the last part. Plus they provide the printed directories. Ive checked the website out, and im not really impressed with thier quality. the background is full of wrinkles to begin with.

I have to figure out what to do about the printed directories. Not every church I work for will have the resources to make their own.

Now im just trying to figure out how to approach other Churches to see if they need a directory.
What we did worked well for us. First of all, we just did the photos for free for the church. We aren't providing anything except for the cd with the images. That way they can use them for their newsletter as well. We handed out the package sheets two weeks before the shoot so that the people had a general idea of what they wanted before they got there. We did our shoot after their service, at the church in one of their conference rooms. We took 4 strobes, a large backdrop and all stands to hold it all. The people formed a line after the service and we photographed them one group after another. After they were done in front of the camera one of us was writing their file number on their sheet and directing them to the "paperwork table" where they could either just turn in the sheet(they didn't have to buy anything) or pay. Most of the people bought. Even the ones that didn't seem like they had planned on buying, got into the "mood" after talking with their fellow parishoners and at least bought something. This is the best way we have found to do it because it gets everyone in and out and only requires us to make one trip to the church, and it doesn't limit us to the churches located near our studio. Most people aren't going to drive 45 minutes to get pictures taken for their church, however we will drive 45 minutes to photograph a whole church congregation... Lots of money to be made there. Our packages started at $15 which got 1 8X10 and 2 5X7's. Our top package was $50 and it included 2 8X10's and 3 5X7's along with a CD. We had a few people get this one, but the majority stayed for the middle packages which were $25 and $35. Everyone seemed happy, including us.
2 hours, 100 people total broken down into roughly 45 groups of people or families. $400 net profit.
2 hours, not bad. But $400 seems a bit low for this type of thing, especially with 45 groups and 100 people.

The one I just did had 50 groups, perhaps 120 people, before expenses ive brought in $1000 so far, but ive spent a number of days photographing, and more photoshopping.

Perhaps theres a happy medium. :)
I agree that we didn't have great sales but the demographic in the church was mostly really old people. We're talkin 80+ so they're not very likely to buy that much. Only about half of the people bought anything.
I have actually been offered a shoot like this...I turned it down though. After reading about your experiences with it, maybe I'll reconsider.

I turned it down because the work to pay ratio was not very attractive... I would have had to make the directory too. From what we talked about, it didn't sound like I would even make enough to cover my costs.

Maybe I just make too much at my 'regular' job. Working on the weekend would have to pay $500 a day, minimum, before it would be more worthwhile than drilling holes & shooting rivets.
I agree that we didn't have great sales but the demographic in the church was mostly really old people. We're talkin 80+ so they're not very likely to buy that much. Only about half of the people bought anything.

But older people usually have alot of family that wouldnt mind their picture! :)
But older people usually have alot of family that wouldnt mind their picture! :)

You're right, and that's why we did it at the church after the service. If others are talking and saying "oh my kids or grandkids would love a picture like this of me." then maybe it will inspire them to buy some. The main thing when doing a shoot like this is to have a system down so that you can move them through quickly. You don't want people to have to stand in line for long periods of time.
I did one directory years ago... before digital.

It was a larger community, with different expectations. I think most churches will want more than a disc with files. I had to deliver an 8x10 to everyone photographed and a printed directory for every registered family in the parish. So in a parish of 600 families, with just over 200 participating, I delivered the 200 8x10s and 600 directories free of charge. My earnings came from whatever I could sell in additional prints to the 200 or so that did participate. I had to speculate what sales would be so I could over "cost of production," anticipating some residue as my profit. I partnered with some friends for this job to get the shooting done as quickly as possible. We didn't lose money, but we sure didn't get rich doing it.

It sounds like a smaller chuch is the was to go for a small studio, since they are not so sought after by the big chains and have few options and fewer demands.
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