Marketing Proms: Making the Most of a Challenging Market!

Proms, which used to be the golden goose of the Spring photo season, have now become a financial challenge for photographers in the digital age.  Proms are still being held all over the country, and expensive tuxedoes and fancy dresses are still all the rage at these events; but pre-paid posed photographs have taken a serious hit.

The cultural shift that we have seen in the college market in the sale of Party Pics, has worked its way down to the high school market, and the printed photograph is not the prized commodity it once was among the 14 -18 age group.  Combine that with the proliferation of digital cameras, camera phones, and other recording devices and you have a very steep mountain to climb.

Ah, but all is not lost.  If you are serious about cracking into the prom market or trying to make some lemonade from these lemon-scented events, then you will have to change the way you think about proms.  Though it’s true that the students may not be interested in photographs, their parents are!

A few years ago a CCS customer decided that he was going to change his marketing direction for proms, and instead of directing his efforts towards the students, he would now target the parents of the students.  Working with the administration of the schools, he enlisted their help in providing a mailing list with all of the parents’ names and addresses. He then sent out a nostalgic letter reminding the parents how important, fun, and prized their prom photos were when they were in high school; and wouldn’t they like the same valuable experience for their sons and daughters?

His success rate was instant and his stable of prom events quickly doubled their gross sales over the previous year. Marketing in advance of the event proved successful and it can work for you also, but it will require some work on your part. In the communication sent to the parents you will need to let them know in advance what the packages contain and their cost. In addition, you’ll need to include an order form, or provide a link to one they can print out to bring with them—with payment—the night of the prom. You may want to include a pre-order discount code that they can bring with them the night of the prom to receive a percent off discount.

Remember to display the background to be offered at the prom prominently on any flyers or order forms distributed. Create posters with samples to display around the school for a few weeks prior to prom.  Provide each school with website/password cards to be used as invitation/ticket stuffers.  Each card should include information about your portraits and candid service.

In Oklahoma City at our retail division we are still shooting many proms but how we execute the event has changed dramatically.  In order to photograph as many couples as possible we shoot everyone with no money collected upfront.  When our pre-paid sales dived to next to nothing we decide that, in order to get couples in front of the camera, we would have to offer a free sitting with many poses which would encourage them to view those poses online to pick the best one for their prints.

Depending on the school and the number of couples attending we will also include the Jump Studio as an alternative photo location at the prom where they can do whatever they want to do—photographically—within reason!

Now, if you’re looking for something completely different to offer consider green screen for your proms. Green screen will enable you to offer more background options—online—without the added investment of props. If you choose to go the green screen route it is imperative that you test, test, and test again for the correct lighting setups.  Green screen is not very forgiving when improperly lit so if you go this route you will have to TRAIN your photographers to execute perfectly.

At the prom make sure your shooting location is highly visible.  Your portrait location should be easily accessible and within sight of the dance floor to increase participation. If possible provide a short script to the DJ for regular announcements over the sound system on your behalf encouraging the attendees to have their photos made.

After the prom is imperative that you utilize an email campaign for at least three months.  Just because they didn’t buy shortly after the event doesn’t mean they won’t do so several weeks or months afterward.

For more information about executing proms, marketing or pricing prom packages call Brian at 800-336-4550 ext. 251.

Proms Sales: Online vs. Presold

by Evie Sibert

Prom season is right around the corner and this is the time to decide your marketing strategy.  Traditionally, most photographers have found success in shooting proms by pre-selling packages before or at the event.  Selling packages at or before the event guarantees that you will collect your money the night of the prom.  It is important to premarket to the parents in order to ensure that the students bring their money and forms.  Tom Davis, a Candid Color Customer, found premarketing to the parents a great success.  His first step in premarketing was to obtain a list of all of the parents’ emails and physical addresses, which was provided by the school.  He then sent out a mailing that consisted of a letter to the parents, an order card, a discount coupon for senior portraits, and a prom photo price list.  He sent these two weeks prior to the prom.   By premarketing to the parents, Tom had a 30% increase in participation over the previous year.

It has also been effective to include packages along with prom ticket sales.  This can be done in a form of a gift certificate or voucher that can be presented in the picture line.  This makes it more convenient for the parents and students and encourages the students to get their pictures taken the night of the prom.  For example, the ticket price for the prom could be $15 and $5 of that would go towards pictures.   This would need to be negotiated with the Prom Committee.

Selling images online can also be successful.  This allows the photographer to take multiple poses of each couple. It also allows for buddy shots, group pictures and much more.  Different background styles, such as a Jump Studio, are also a great idea.   It is important to collect emails and also physical addresses of every student that is photographed.  Candid Color System’s software can help market images to students and parents.  By email marketing you can put the images in the students’ and parents’ hands.   By using an email campaign that is on our CORE software, you will be able to send several emails within specific time increments.  Candid’s Email Campaign sends out 8 emails to your customers throughout the year, beginning with an email notifying them that their images are online.  With CORE software, paper proofs can also be mailed to the students’ homes.  If you are in an area where you have customers without internet access, paper proofs are a must.

Selling images online also give the customer more options.  They are able to choose from multiple poses which in turn could lead to more sales.  The customers can also custom crop their images online.  Up-selling is another option using our software.  This option is available in CORE. Up-sells not only encourage your customers to upgrade their package, but it also gives you a chance to reduce the number of offers on your page, making your website more attractive.  The products that you can offer as an Up-sell are limitless, but some of the easiest to market to your customers are Premium Pearlized Paper, Quick Retouching, and Mounting. Creating an Up-sell that is attractive and catches your customer’s attention is important.

Whether or not you choose to pre-sell your packages or offer images online now is the time to start preparing for prom season.  Both methods can be very effective if done correctly.  If you would like more information about which method will work best for you, please contact Customer Development at 800-336-4550.

CCS Annual Winter Seminar in Puerto Rico!

Here at Candid we pride ourselves on being involved with our customer base, by watching for changes in the market place and finding solutions to assist our customers in growing their business.  Candid’s Seminars are just one way we reach out to teach our customers about best practices, innovative ideas, and new trends.  This is also a chance for us to hear from you!  This year, CCS’ annual winter seminar is in Puerto Rico.  Our staff will be covering a wealth of information on a variety of markets including; Schools, Sports, Proms and Events.  Topics include Software Training, Sales Calls, Green Screen Photography, Digital Photography, Marketing Your Images – Your Best Options, and what’s New at CCS.

Candid has also added a guest speaker to the agenda, Frank Harrison.  Frank has 21 years of experience in the photography industry, and has had great success shooting youth sports.  He has been featured on the SEPCOM tour and spoke at Imaging USA in Phoenix, AZ.  Frank will share his innovative ideas, and conduct an actual outdoor sports shoot. Discover how to shoot fewer action photos with less staff, while doubling your weekend’s income! Frank will explain what equipment is needed to do “posed action photography,” how to set up a posed action shoot area and how to create a smooth workflow.

We feel it is more important than ever before for our customers to attend the seminar, so we are offering an extended payment plan on hotel rooms to make it easier for everyone to attend!  When you book your room through Candid you will be able to pay for your room over a 3 month period beginning March 1st.  A third of the room will be charged to your lab bill on March 1st, April 1st, and May 1st.  Too make it even easier we will also find a roommate for you to cut the cost in half.  If we are unable to find a roommate for you we will pay for half of the room!  Attending our Winter Seminar will pay for itself with the knowledge that you bring back with you.  All of the information gained will be something you can incorporate into your business tomorrow!

To learn more about The CCS Winter Seminar you can contact Evie at ext. 377.  Become a customer

Pre-Marketing for Fall and Winter Dances

With high school Homecoming and Holiday dances on the horizon over the next several months, this is the perfect time to plan your marketing strategies.  Your goals should be to raise the participation rate, increase sales, and also try to raise your average ticket price. 

During the past prom season there were a few CCS customers who were very successful in regaining participation but more importantly, increasing their sales on events from the previous year.

In both cases, each were proactive in reaching out to the parents of the students to stimulate more couples being photographed, and more money being spent at the events.  The photographers created a school approved personal letter that they mailed to each student. Once the content of the letter was approved, the school gave the photographers all of the home addresses of the students that were eligible to attend the prom i.e., Juniors and Seniors.

This letter was very simple and had all the components of a well advertised product.  His goal was simply to appeal to the parents who, he assumed, had probably been photographed at their prom.  He figured if they had been photographed at their prom, than they understand the significance of the photo and would want their children photographed.  

It worked beautifully, 94% of the attendees purchased photos as compared to 65% the previous year and two-thirds of the orders were checks or credit cards proving that the parents had received the message.  Also, coming to the prom with completed order forms kept lines to a minimum. 

To raise the average ticket price a good idea would be to offer both standard and deluxe packages; traditional Kodak Endura paper on the standard packages and the Kodak Metallic paper on the deluxe packages. Having samples of both papers side-by-side on your sample table is critical in persuading the couples to upsell to the higher grade paper. 

Take charge of your events.  Don’t expect that just because your customers were photographed and ordered last year that they’ll do the same this year.  Be proactive and assertive in your planning for upcoming events.  Both homecoming and holiday dances can contribute significantly to your bottom line so long as you take the first step to get them to the camera.

PhotoMatch Success at Proms

In an attempt to maximize candid photo sales during last Spring’s prom and dance season, one Candid Color Systems customer made the most of this opportunity by utilizing our proprietary PhotoMatch system. The PhotoMatch system was created to make it easier for the end customer to find their images online, thereby creating a more timely purchasing opportunity by sending a link, via email, that will take them directly to their photographs.

The PhotoMatch system revolves around a wireless scanner, barcodes, email addresses, and the time clock inside of all digital cameras. By synchronizing the time clocks with the scanners PhotoMatch is able to pinpoint the exact time customers are photographed, and then manually match their email address to the time they were photographed. Once matched, an email can be sent with a link to the customer’s photos. This process eliminates the need for customers to spend endless time and effort looking through several pages of online images just to find their own.

To effect higher sales at dances this past Spring, our customer created wristbands for each attending student that contained the following information: Event name, date, locator number, barcode, and in some cases—where the school cooperated fully—the student’s name. In cases where the school didn’t provide a list of names, the students were required to supply information on cards provided for that purpose at the dance. As the students were photographed the photographer then scanned the wristband which had the matching barcode that corresponded to their email address.

This PhotoMatch process created an average increase in sales of 27% over the previous year at the same schools, when the PhotoMatch system was not in use. In addition, it created excitement among the students who were eager to hold out their wrist for a scan after each candid shot. Finally, in addition to online proofs, paper proofs were mailed to each student with all of the photos they were in during the event.

If you are interested in speaking with someone at Candid Color Systems concerning either the PhotoMatch system or maximizing candids at events call Customer Development at 1-800-336-4550.

Jump Studio™ Results


We previously published an article about Candid Color’s new innovation, the Jump Studio™, in the April 16th Snapshots newsletter. Since that article, we have put the studio in action at several Oklahoma City social events.

The Jump Studio™ is an automated set up which takes a picture every ten seconds without a photographer snapping the shutter. It utilizes a high key background lit with two studio lights with softboxes and a main light with a softbox to illuminate the subject(s). It requires (at the moment) a camera with an interval timer (intervolometer) such as D300, D200 with an external cable, or Nikon camera control software. It also requires a visible timer to indicate to the subjects when the picture will be taken and a monitor to display the pictures. Sales are made by posting the images online using Quicpics.

Candid Color Systems understands that this may sound like a lot of work and equipment but, we have found that most photographers already own almost all the equipment necessary. In addition, if you plan on sending a photographer out to photograph the event, they can set the Jump Studio™ up and then go about their business photographing the party! This way, you will get at least double the images with only one photographer at the event!!!

Recently, our retail division, Candid Color Photography, booked the Jump Studio™ for several proms. They initially booked one High School and within the next couple of weeks, other schools were calling asking about the Jump Studio™ saying they wanted it too! The Jump Studio™ was a big hit with the teens who attended the proms. The Jump Studio™ sparked an interest with the High School students and Candid Color Photography foresees booking more and more Jump Studio™ events in the future!

Below are the current sales from the Prom Party Pics® and Jump Studio™ Shoots of our retail division, Candid Color Photography (CCP.)

We believe the studio has the potential to help book more events at schools and also has the potential to be a stand alone studio at clubs and even malls in the near future. As these new concepts are developed and as we improve the marketing efforts for events utilizing the Jump Studio™, we will inform you of our results. If you have any further questions on the studio, contact Steve Foisy at 800-336-4550, Ext. 166

3 ways to boost sales and offer better services!

3 ways to boost sales and offer better services!

Maximizing sales on business you have already booked is a never-ending quest. To complicate matters, there is no shortage of ways to tackle this quest. You can raise prices, add shipping charges, create new packages, institute minimums, etc…

But wouldn’t it be great if you could increase sales AND offer your customers better services? You can! Candid Color Systems has 3 unique services your customers will love and that can give you the incremental increase in sales you are looking for!

The first service is Quick Retouching. Quick Retouching lightly softens facial complexions including blemishes and wrinkles as well as brightening teeth and eyes, while enhancing the overall quality of the finished photos.

This great product add-on can be offered to your customers online through our CCS retail website. Quick retouching is a service that requires no inventory, has no direct labor cost for the photographer, requires no additional postage and can have a large margin! There is no risk!

The perfect target market for this retouching service is teenagers! Senior portraits, prom and dance portraits or posed packages would all benefit from retouching.  CCS charges for Quick Retouching by the face. So, typical dance portraits of couples would be charged twice. Quick retouching is also popular for sports! When shooting high school and middle school sports, offer retouching as an add-on!

 The second service that can help increase your sales is our Pearlized Portrait Finish. Prints made on this special metallic paper appear luminous! Offer this as an upgrade to standard prints.

Pearlized Portrait Finish is not just for standard portraits. The metallic property of these special prints can make the graphics on our sports products really appear to POP! This special service is also available on popular sports products such as magnets and statuettes!

Take some samples of this product to your next sports shoot to get customers excited about this option! This is another upgrade you can offer with no additional work for the photographer and no additional shipping costs. There is no risk!

Our third service that can boost sales and customer satisfaction is Zoom and Crop! Zoom and Crop can give your customers control over their image and even fix some images that would not have made great prints otherwise. Crop out unwanted subject matter (or people), center the primary subject or create an entirely new picture out of the original!

Zoom and Crop can be offered as a free service on our websites (there is no additional charge to the photographer)! Photographers can choose to charge for Zoom and Crop, although the main benefit will likely be increased sales due to higher satisfaction with the images! Zoom and Crop is great for improving sports action shots sold online! Again, Zoom and Crop is another service that requires no additional work for the photographer, no additional shipping charges and has no risk!

So what are you waiting for? Add Quick Retouching, Pearlized Portrait Finish and Zoom & Crop to your offerings for your holiday parties, Fall & Spring sports or your upcoming dance season. Beyond gaining additional revenue you may be offering something that your competitor does not! And your customers will love it!

*Quick retouching is available in several CCS product lines: Sports, Graduations, Schools and Dances. Our Professional Portrait line has a more extensive array of retouching services available. Zoom & Crop is available in all of our online product lines, but not for every product. For pricing and more specific service details, contact our customer development department: Brian Speers at 800-336-4550, Ext. 251, or Dan Hays at Ext. 227. 

*Candid Color Systems offers great tools for pre-paid and the View First™ sports programs. We offer online proofing, online ordering, order envelopes, password cards, mailing direct to your end customer, software to print paper proofs, an amazing array of sports products, photographer order entry and over 30 years of photography experience!


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