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Elevating Your Brand With Creative Sets: by MOPPA 2018 Develop Speaker Alisha Cline

February 23, 2018 12:40 PM | Robin Nordmeyer (Administrator)

If you are looking for a new way to elevate your brand, try adding Creative Sets to your options! They can help set you apart, make more money, and create a customized touch for your clients. Creative Sets don’t have to be elaborate and overly propped; and they work for all sorts of sessions.

What is a Creative Set

To start, we need to define what Creative Sets are. Creative Sets are scenes designed to enhance your client’s experience at your studio. Your subject is the leading star and the set is there to support his or her story.

 Creative Sets don’t have to be complicated or busy. The simplest set, in your signature style, should be profitable – not just break even. It can be as easy as your favorite chair and background combo for a child, a floral & fur layered bowl for a newborn, or even an elaborate Christmas set for large families. 

Add Style

Creative sets allow you to establish a new style within your brand. Brand yourself, by becoming instantly recognizable for your Creative Set style. But, remember, the number one rule of creative sets is keeping your subject the Star of the show. Staging sets includes your technical stuff: lighting, posing, and lens selections. Understanding and planning keys, color harmony, lighting ratios and patterns, proper exposure, and camera angles is important.


Establish the mood you’d like your Creative Set designs to convey, select an appropriate color pallet to match that mood. Then, to be cost effective, look for props that can be used across multiple age groups then refinished later for a new set.

Add Value

 The goal of Creative Sets is to add value to your brand. They are story telling tools. When you are in the planning stages of the session, you and your client should be planning the final display goals of these images. This conversation creates purpose and adds value and allows extra investment to their session. Part of your job as a professional photographer is to know how you want your work displayed. We are a Print Artist studio, we encourage our clients to invest in a Signature Album or Book with each set a different “Chapter”, Wall Art prints, and one of our collections of Felt Paper Prints + Sliding Box from Miller’s. If your studio sells digital files, upsell an added-on Digital Chapter for extra creative sets. So many times, I mentor photographers who offer all-inclusive packages with the session + digital files and think they can’t offer add-ons. YES. YOU CAN. Either way, Print or Digital, you still must get paid nicely for your extra work.   

 Add Profit

The key to keeping Creative Sets working for you is to know how much you need to charge for each set. If it’s a custom set for an individual client, the cost will obviously be more than one staged for a full day of mini sessions. For our studio, clients the decided to add this to their session see a price increase of $40 each to the sitting fee + heirlooms. Because we’ve already discussed a final plan for the displaying their portraits, I have a good idea of what I can spend to add to their experience with me.

This should NOT be a cheap add-on. It takes time to design it on paper, stage, and light. Figuring out how much to charge for your Creative Sets depends on these factors:
  1. Is it for an individual client or a multifamily mini session style event?

  2. Will the Set or any of it’s elements be used again?

  3. How elaborate is the set? Is it a simple backdrop & favorite chair or much more?

  4. How much time will you spend on it shopping and staging?

  5. How much money will you spend shopping and staging it?

I try to keep shopping for new set elements costs about 15% of the total added to the final order. For example, say a client added on 1 custom creative set for a newborn session:

1 additional Creative Set ………………….…..$40

1 additional Chapter in the Album ….....…… $150

1 additional 16x24 canvas ……………………$550 (priced at the Wall Cluster       discount, $650 a la cart)

Est Gross Income added to order…....……..$740

Est. Cost of Creative Set ($740-15%)..........$110

Cost of Miller’s Canvas…………….…....……$103

Cost of Extra Chapter (2 spreads)…....…..…$15 + my design time, roughly 10 minutes.

Est. total net income added on before taxes……..$512, from just 1 additional set.

15% may not seem like much to spend a Set, but when planned correctly gives lots of wiggle room. For the exampled $110 that I can “play” with is a lot and will be stretched far.

Remember the goal of adding Creative Sets to your offerings as a studio is to boost what you already do. Creative Sets can be simple or elaborate, that choice is yours. They are a very versatile tool for your studio, so have fun with them! In August, I’ll be showing you my process of building Creative Sets at Develop during a Live Demo Class. This class will be focused on Babies and Children, but the base process is the same for all sessions. My husband Joshua and I will be driving from Georgia, so we’ll have a load of my favorite props in order to show how they are used in real situations. I’ll also be talking more about the subjects in this post, plus how to market Creative Sets & wording for non-pushy up-sells, working with odd-ball client requests, and, most importantly, safety. Needless to say I can't wait!








Alisha Cline
Cline Artisan Portraits


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