The wrap of luxury

Mink wrap, not shrink wrap

By Greg Stangl, M.Photog.Cr.
First published in March 2005

The middle-of-the-road leads nowhere. Wrap your photography in premium packaging, and take the high road to maximum profit.

These days, American consumers are in the market for upscale products. From luxury automobiles to designer lingerie, even the middle-market consumer will pay a premium for quality, innovation and emotional value, according to Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske, the authors of “Trading Up: The New American Luxury” (Portfolio Hardcover).

One way independent portrait studios can capitalize on this trend is to add to the perceived value of their products and services with premium packaging. A marriage of form and function, upscale packaging signals quality within. Of course, today’s sophisticated consumers won’t succumb to fancy packaging alone, but when your work is excellent, the right presentation can boost its perceived value over the top.

The Maybelline cosmetics company, for example, is presenting its Revitalizing line of makeup in black, gold and white packaging that conjures up visions of Chanel—and successfully selling these products for about 35 percent more than its other products.

Image-savvy restaurants are even riding the trend by wrapping your humble leftovers in upscale, logoemblazoned doggy bags you don’t mind being seen with. According to a survey by American Demographics magazine, requests for doggy bags are at an all-time high—some 62 percent of diners-out leave the restaurant with leftovers in hand.

What better way to tell the world your cuisine is too good to leave behind?

Premium packaging makes an instant impact. It’s a reflection of not only the portraiture inside, but the entire studio experience as well. Proper packaging gives your products a finished look and provides much-needed protection, given the propensity of today’s photo papers to curl at the edges. But when individually placed in a proper presentation mat, folder, easel or mount, the curl is eliminated. Better yet, mounted prints are virtually gift-wrapped for your clients to deliver to friends and family. That’s a perfect way to spread the word about the quality of your work.

My wife and I recently obtained a small collection of family photographs taken by area photographers in the mid to late 1800s. Most of the portraits are individually signed and matted, and I was amazed at how wonderfully both the images and the mounts have held up for more than 100 years.

At my studio, we deliver our portraits in a classic folder from the Taprell Loomis Co. (

Designed by Edda Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., a photographer in Merrillville, Ind., the folder comes in a variety of colors. We chose this product not only for its unique look, but also for the feel of its texture and its weight. We hand-sign every folder to individualize each order.

The majority of our clients are women, whom we’ve found to be upscale buyers when it comes to portrait options. The authors of “Trading Up” agree, noting that “Women have the means, the motives and the opportunities to purchase goods that meet important emotional needs.”

Consider the female perspective when you’re choosing your presentation and packaging materials. Another successful value-added sales= strategy in the coordinated presentation of our senior portraits. We present the ordered images individually in ebony and gold folders, and as a incentive bonus for large orders, we use TAP’s Platinum Commencement folios, which hold eight 4x5-inch images. We believe that this kind of matched upscale packaging adds to the perceived value of our portraiture.

Your packaging needs to show everything about you: the type of photography you do, the style of your studio, whether funky or luxurious, and the status of your clientele. Premium packaging is your golden opportunity to turn each last impression into yet another booking. n

Greg Stangl, author and popular speaker, teaches winning business techniques in May at the Georgia School, the Florida School and the Colorado Imaging Workshops, and in June at the Great Lakes Institute, in Michigan. You can e-mail him at prospeak1@aol.

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