Do I Need to Sell Image Downloads in Sports Photography?

Right now there is a lot of chatter in our industry based on companies that have provided a way to deliver image files. We all have heard of studios that are increasing sales with the addition of image downloads. And at the same time many of us have seen or experienced how offering downloads can cost us thousands of dollars in losses. If you are reading this, then you are likely a business owner. Or, perhaps you call yourself an entrepreneur. Maybe this is just a side hustle for you. Call it what you will. You are reading this article because you want to know how to stay competitive and grow your business. There are companies who are making sales presentations promoting you to push image downloads in order to drive significant revenue through them to make a profit. But before you make wholesale changes to our business model,; there are some questions we need to ask ourselves.


Don’t get scared off by math. Stick with me. Most of us have a ‘most popular’ package that sells for $25.00 to $30.00 (no commission). And it typically consists of 3.5 to 4 units. Let’s just assume lab costs are with package envelope included are $3.20. If you’re selling the package for $27.00, that leaves you $23.80 gross profit. Pretty good, right? Think about it. $23.80 every 60 seconds for 4 hours. Depending on your participation, you are looking at a potential average of $1,000/ hour. That is what I call a good Tuesday morning.


What happens when have to sell digital files for $15 – $22? Wait! Seem a little low to you? Remember, the largest company in the business is going to set the market rate.The average cost to deliver a download is typically $1.50 to $3.00. So, a $15.00 price for the image download leaves (let’s be generous) $13.00 gross profit margin.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have the $23.80 margin as opposed $13.00 margin. Right now, parents are not overwhelmingly demanding image file delivery. And we are all selling what our customers demand. Changing our successful businesses and our working business models based on our desires for workflow AND NOT SALES RESULTS, is a recipe for disaster. Maybe we should look at creating successful sales and business models first, and then decide workflow.


Now I don’t want this article to be a downer. Like I said, there are folks out there that are growing healthy business models that include downloads. I’d like to share with you how it has worked for me. I have found good success in offering the download after I’ve got my $23.80. Remember a good business transaction is when I give you what you want after I get what I want. I’ve got what I wanted. Now if you are willing to pay me for more, then I’m going to make it easy for you to do so. We use a low-cost automated second sale system that offers downloads, prints and specialty items I choose at prices I set. I’ve done so for several years. I was recently looking at our numbers and talking to some other studios that offer second sale. From any second or reorder sale opportunity we see anywhere from 2% to 12% in reorder sales. And that average is continuing to grow.

Now for my shameless plug. I have been an H&H Color Lab customer for many years. They offer mobile-friendly sites, automated image download delivery and private galleries, all built into a one-button click. And they’ve done so for several years. With this system we have been able to scale our business and workflows. This is possible because we work with one piece of software instead of having to hop between a bunch of different, disconnected applications to get work done, or partnering with a company that doesn’t have my best interests at heart. This significantly speeds up our workflows and simplifies employee training. If you are not using them you should check them out. Even if it’s just to educate yourself and compare to what you are doing now.

Jeff Edwards

This article was written by Jeff Edwards. He is a 40 year veteran of the volume business as well as a speaker at numerous conventions and workshops. He current operates his own business and his company photographs over 130 schools a year.

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