iPhoto is pretty amazing. Seriously. It can take an entire collection of images and, with one click, instantly create a complete album layout. One click and your design is done. Even if you have a solid album workflow, and create a lot of templates to help speed the process up, you still can’t compete with one click.
So, if your clients have access to this program that can do your job with one click, are you finished? Is this the end of professionally produced albums?????
Nope. Just like the introduction of the point and shoot wasn’t the end of professional photography either.
Are You Better Than iPhoto?
The question then is “Are you better than iPhoto?”. Do you offer your clients something more than this spiffy little program? If you don’t, then you are finished in the album game.
Sorry if that seems blunt, but this is business folks, and you need to get serious about the products you’re asking your clients to invest their hard earned money in.
How much does an iPhoto book cost? A 13×10, hard cover, custom image cover, 20 page book is under $60, including shipping. If you were to create the exact same thing for your clients, it’d probably be more in the range of $700 if it’s press-printed, $1,400+ if it’s on fine art paper.
Yikes, why on earth would anyone ever pick you over iPhoto?? That’s a lot more money. How could you possibly provide that much more value?
Well, if you’re using album design programs that are just auto-filling your pages, you aren’t. If you’re not using high quality album providers who are creating books that are truly archival, you aren’t. If you’re not taking every step of the design process incredibly seriously, you aren’t.
But you want to, right? You want to give your clients something special, and something that will truly do your beautiful photos justice. I’m with you. Let’s look at how you can provide more value than iPhoto in each of those arenas.
Be Better At The Design
Album design is an art, not a paint-by-numbers process. The artistry comes in finding the perfect images that strengthen each other in their combination. You want to powerfully tell the story by your thoughtful design. It ain’t easy to do it well. (Just like photography!!)
For this reason, you definitely don’t want to auto-fill a design. I also advise against trying to choose all your album images before actually getting into the design process. I mean, how can you perfectly visualize the final result of putting those six images on a page together? How do you know that, when put together, they tell that part of the story most powerfully? How do you know that they’ll balance each other properly at varying sizes? Will the colours clash? Will they create visual flow across the page?
Trying to figure it all out without even seeing the photos on the spread is exceedingly difficult, and limits your ability to get creative. The best layouts come when you work around the images, and let them guide you in your design choices. You can definitely choose a few “must-have” images when sorting, to make sure they wind up in the album, but I wouldn’t organize any more than that.
Have your full set of images open, sorted by the time captured (Photo Mechanic is brilliant for this, but Bridge works great too). Start at the beginning of the story, and work your way through. Try things out. Swap photos and see if one works better than the other. Place an image large. Then shrink it smaller to see what works best. You won’t know until you try it out.
Make mistakes. Be fearless. Play.
That is what makes album design so enjoyable, and what makes you, as the photographer, the best person to do it for your clients. It’s your ability to be creative and make thoughtful design choices that provides value—not your ability to plug photos into pre-made templates.
Be Better At The Experience
Album design takes time. Your clients are busy people, and even if they purchase the files, they might not get around to creating an album.
If you can show them an incredible pre-design that gives them an exact idea of how their amazing photos will look in your albums, you’re creating an experience. You’re making things easy for them. You’re taking care of them.
All they need to do is sit back, enjoy what you’ve created, make a change or two, and then not worry about it. You’re the pro. You’ll take care of the rest, and make sure everything is perfect.
People pay extra for an experience. And if you can provide that, by making the process of purchasing an album fun and easy, you’re adding a ton of value.
The pre-design is critical here. They need to *see*, right in front of their eyes, their story in an album. You need to take the time to create the pre-design, and convince them that you’re a storyteller, not just a photographer, and the album is the result of that talent.
Don’t go saying you don’t have time to pre-design. Improve your workflow and it shouldn’t take more than half an hour for a portrait session, and an hour for a wedding—most of that time being spent carefully choosing the images.
Be Better At The Quality
iPhoto books are low quality. Yes they look nice enough, but the binding isn’t the strongest, and it’s doubtful that they will last generations. They don’t make any mention of the print process, colour spaces, paper types, or how long the inks will last before fading.
On the other hand, a custom-made, archival quality album is built to last a lifetime, from the physical manufacturing to the archival inks and papers. Money spent on something that will last for years and years is a much smarter investment when it comes to valuable photographs.
If you offer the same quality of books as iPhoto, there’s really no reason for your clients to buy from you. But, if you take the time to find a solid album company, with a commitment to quality, you’re providing your clients true value.
Most great album companies only work with professional photographers for this reason. To create a great album takes knowledge of photo editing, design principles, colour management, file preparation and more. They work with pros to ensure fantastic results with their books. You *can* offer your clients something great, but you have to take the time to find it.
And note: The quality of books available to your customers is getting better every day. We just Tweeted yesterday about a new line of pro level paper that Blurb is offering the general public. Better quality alone isn’t enough to justify an invesment. You’re going to have to be really great at the design and the process as well.
Be Better At The Process
Album design isn’t a one step process. Even with an efficient workflow, you’re looking at at least 12 unique steps, each one requiring specialized knowledge. If you don’t take each of these steps seriously, you could wind up with mistakes, or sub-par results, and you’ll be letting your clients down with their investment.
So take the time to get to know your clients, so you know how to tell their story in the album.
Learn about graphic design, and use the techniques to make your custom designs strong, powerful, and meaningful.
Consider longevity, and design with generations in mind.
Understand colour management, and how to ensure accurate colour in the final product.
Carefully prep the files so that there are no mistakes in the album, and they’re optimized for great prints.
And take the time at the end of the process to make sure the album is absolutely perfect.
Your value will come from your skills. Do you have enough to justify the higher price tag? If you don’t yet, don’t worry. You can learn them, and you can create albums that are easily worth $1,000 and much more. The real value is not in the paper, but in the story told. Tell it well, in a high quality book, and an album becomes truly priceless.
How do you add value to your albums? Share your thoughts in the comments below!