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21 Napton Close
Redditch, B98 0ES
United Kingdom

Nikki Cooper. Photographer of weddings & all things alternative, relaxed & fun. Based in Worcestershire, Midlands... works internationally.

Out of the darkroom

Block out the noise...

Nikki Cooper

As a photographer I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.

It's been a huge life-line in growing my business - connecting with clients is just a small part really. The biggest benefit has come through the ability to connect with so many other photographers, who are a constant source of advice and inspiration. But these connections became a double edged sword...
I reached a point where I was no longer seeing posts from my friends and family in my news feed. Everything was wedding photography related, and rather than inspiring me, I felt like it was sucking the life out of me!
Too many great photographers to compare myself to... too much paying attention to others rather than focusing on my own journey. It was time to block out the noise. I considered going through and 'un-liking' all photography/wedding related pages. But I didn't want to be completely cut off. I just wanted to control how and when I looked at what everyone else was up to...

How to block out the noise in 3 easy steps

 

Step 1: Locate your 'Friends Lists'
First of all I recommend doing this from your computer rather than your phone, just to make things easier.
On the left hand side of your news feed you'll have your Pages, Groups, Friends and Interests.
Click on 'Friends'

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.49.20.jpg

Step 2: Create a list

Here you'll see a list of groups. Facebook provides some for you already set up, such as 'Family'. But you can create your own by clicking '+ Create List' at the top.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 10.11.52.png

You'll then get a box pop up asking you to name your list... mine has the imaginative title 'Photographer pages'.

Next you need to start adding people and/or pages to your list. If you try to add via the pop up box, you'll only be able to add profiles NOT pages... so we need to do an extra step. Click 'Create' and your list will open. On the right hand side there's a box asking you to add friends to list. If you click in here and start typing you'll now be able to add pages and personal profiles!
I found the best way to find all the pages I'd liked was to start typing 'Photog' and go from there.

Once you've added everyone, give your Facebook a refresh and your list should be populated with all the posts of the people/pages you've added! This means you've now got everything all in one place, all that's left to do now is to stop it all appearing in your news feed...

Step 3: Unfollow the pages
Now you've got all the photography pages/profiles in one place you can click through to each of them to 'Unfollow' them. On each page/profile there will be a 'Following' button under the cover photo.

Just click on the following button so the tick disappears and it looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 12.38.26.png

...and hey presto, your news feed will now be photography free!
You can create as many lists as you like to help organise how you see posts. I've found that by putting all the photography pages in one place it means I can now set aside time to look at what everyone is up to. It makes showing support to fellow photographers less demanding and much more time efficient... and I've got my news feed back :)

I hope you found this helpful. Do you have any tips on how to manage social media to share?

Photo credit: cc licensed flickr photo shared by jack dorsey

Client galleries compared

Nikki Cooper

Client galleries explored and compared...

If you just want the summary feel free to skip to the end :-)

Providing online client galleries, so people can share their images with loved-ones is a pretty standard service for all wedding and portrait photographers. However the ability to make print and download sales from these galleries often gets overlooked... if not completely ignored. I was 100% guilt of this! I didn't want the hassle of providing prints and whenever I looked around at all the options I just felt overwhelmed.

So, as everyone was raving about it (at the time), I used PASS for a free 30-day proofing gallery, upgrading it for my wedding and portrait clients - and I used Dropbox for sharing styled shoots and hi-res files with commercial clients. This was all fine and dandy, until I caught a glimpse of a tweet convo between some well known wedding photographers talking about how they'd increased their print sales by over 150% with a few nifty email marketing techniques!! In the age of digital? Yes! In the age of digital people still value and are willing to buy professional prints.
But money aside, offering your clients an easy way to purchase prints is actually just good customer service. If you're paying good money for a quality photographer, you should be able to get all your photographic needs met by them, which includes print and album offerings.

A few words on PASS before we get down to the comparisons...
PASS is great for sharing photos easily and seeing how many people around the world have viewed + downloaded your images. But it lacks a lot of flexibility when it comes to print options - all print orders go through PASS and are fulfilled through WHCC. 
PASS also lacks the ability to collect the email addresses of people viewing your photos and market to them... so the opportunities for us UK photographers to make money from PASS ain't good.

PASS Views

So, on my hunt for client proofing galleries that had more flexible print options, I asked around in some photography groups for who to use. The main recommendations for client proofing galleries that allowed people to order prints were:

Shootproof
Instaproofs
EverybodySmile
Pixiset
Zenfolio
Smugmug

Having read up on how to make print sales work, I had a list of essentials that my gallery needed to provide. These were:

  • Email marketing capabilities
  • Self-fulfilling orders and setting my own prices
  • Viewing client’s favourite selections, (important for album image choices).
  • Adding a watermark to prevent screen capture, but ensuring this watermark is removed for any permitted downloads.

And on the nice, but not essential list:

  • Hi-res back up storage
  • Custom domain
  • Lightroom Plugin

All I had to do next was decide which of those providers were going to tick off my wish list... easier said than done! After a lot of back and forth I started making a table to compare the features and prices. I left out Smugmug for two reasons - 1. they don't allow you to self-fulfill your print orders and 2. they have a very similar offering to Zenfolio (but just more expensive!)

This is a screen shot of my word document. If you want to view it as a PDF you can download it here.

This is a screen shot of my word document. If you want to view it as a PDF you can download it here.


Shootproof

Pros: Looks good, easy to use, zero commission, you can self-fulfill orders, it has a Lightroom plugin for uploads, you can apply your watermark which is removed when images are downloaded. You can upgrade as you require more space, and you get free music to accompany your slideshows.

Cons: Limited customization, no lab partners in the UK and expensive with a yearly cost of over £200 for the amount of space most full-time wedding photographers will need.


EverybodySmile

Example of a basic layout.

Example of a basic layout.

Pros: UK based, lots of customization options, with the ability to fully integrate it within your existing website, you can self-fulfill orders, and it has a sophisticated email marketing system.

Cons: The price plans aren't straight forward and are a little expensive - to get all the features I want I'd have to spend £228 a year. They have limited options when it comes to their lab partners and there's no mention of a Lightroom plugin.


Instaproofs

Pros: No annual or monthly fees - you only pay commission on what you sell, you can self-fulfill orders and it has a sophisticated email marketing system.

Cons: The demo store front pages aren't very pretty and you have limited customization options. The facility to add hi-res storage is available, but they don't specify how much this costs - without paying for storage your images are limited to 1280px on the long side... which means you have to email the original files if you want to offer digital downloads.


Pixiset

Pros: Looks really good, is easy to use, no commission charged on upgraded accounts and you are able to self-fulfill print sales.

Cons: Quite expensive given its limited features, it would cost me roughly £175 a year to get the amount of storage I need. There's no Lightroom Plugin and there's no mention of the email marketing capabilities.


Zenfolio

Pros: Loads of customization options and great value for money as you're paying for a fully hosted website + blog along with your client galleries - plus you have the option to just use client galleries if you already have a website. You get unlimited storage from just £50 per year. The ability to store RAW files if you want, upload from Lightroom and export client favourites into Lightroom! It also comes with a sophisticated email marketing system.

Cons: Unless you go for the business premium package (at £150) you'll be paying for hosting and paying between 5-15% commission on sales too.


My verdict...

I'm going to go with Zenfolio! For £150 the range of features on offer far outweigh anything that the other monthly/annual fee sites offer. If you don't want to risk paying an annual fee but still want to make the most out of print sale opportunities I'd go with Instaproofs. The key to success is the ability to capture email addresses and then stay in touch with those people who've shown an interest. Both Zenfolio and Instaproofs offer this, so really it's just a question of £150 upfront vs 15% commission on your sales.

If you decide to go with Zenfolio too, make sure to make use of this discount code when signing up: R1T-8B8-6AZ

Now, over to you!

I'd love to hear who do you use for client proofing galleries... have I missed anyone out? Was this blog post helpful, if not, what information was left out that you really wanted to know?
And if you have any tips on how to get those print sales rolling in, please share.

Peace, love and sausage rolls,
Nikki x

Welcome out of the darkroom...

Nikki Cooper

Trying to set up a photography business is bloody hard work. There are so many things to consider, so many options... what equipment, what software, which pricing structure, which albums, prints, usb's or dvd's, and what about all that marketing-bumph... ahhh! The list goes on and on...

I don't have ALL the answers yet, but I thought that whilst I'm busy trying to find them I might as well share my findings. Hopefully it will save someone else some time and we can all share and learn together - yay internet!
So this is a little welcome, an introduction if you like, to 'Out of the darkroom'. A place within cyber-space where I'll be documenting all my photography-business related research, tips and musings.

I'm also planning on learning how to use my dads old Rolleiflex at some point this year, so I'll be jotting down how I get on with that too! So a bit of a mixed bag, but hopefully helpful and mildly interesting for my fellow photogs.

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