Yes it’s that time of year again. The summer has rattled past, there is a nip in the air and leaves on the ground and you are just about on top of all the editing. So all those weddings that you shot this summer… have you now got albums to produce for each of them? No? Why the hell not? You could be missing more than one trick my friend. First up and I passionately believe in this, ALBUMS GET YOU FUTURE BOOKINGS. Eh, how does that work? Well in this day and age most folk are used to seeing wedding images on screens and on social media. So when we put something physical into their hands, something beautiful and downright stroke-able, then people start to think that they want one. Couples show off their albums in a way that is much more covetable than mere social media shares. Parents of couples show off their parent albums over wine and cheese evenings and now all their friends want lovely parent albums to show off at their wine and cheese evenings too. And ALBUMS MEAN YOU CAN SHOOT LESS WEDDINGS FOR THE SAME INCOME. Say what? You do the maths, suppose you make a modest £300 profit per album. Sell 10 and maybe that is what you charge for two weddings. But you don’t even have to leave your house to make that moola. So now might you be bothered with albums?
I’ve tried every which way with albums. Including them / making them an optional extra / including them only on higher packages. And this is my thoughts on albums in THE CURRENT MARKET.
When a couple first set out looking for their photographer they probably have in their mind that an album would be nice at some point but they soon just focus on a photographer’s style and price. In fact it seems to me that the number of hours that photographers will spend at a wedding is suddenly being seen as more valuable than tangible products that could adorn walls or coffee tables for years to come. Meantime us photographers are left with the dilemma that good albums are actually pretty expensive. Include them in your package and you suddenly don’t compete so well with someone else offering endless coverage and digital files only. Offer them as an optional extra further down the line and you will find albums pretty hard to sell. £500 or £800 might seem like a drop in the ocean of a wedding budget but a year later it will seem like a hell of a lot of cash to drop on photos.
So here is what I now offer. A base package that is digital only, a medium package that includes an engagement shoot and for just a little more cost I offer my top package which includes an engagement shoot, a second shooter and a photo book. Most people opt for the top package as it seems like pretty good value.. which it is. I choose to offer my packages in hourly chunks, like I have written about before and in fact I often make only slightly more money from the top package than I would from the middle one. The extra two hours that they are ‘paying for’ cover the cost of the second shooter and the photo book so why even bother? Well I want everyone to have an album from their wedding, it breaks my heart to think of people not having albums and this is exactly what happened when I offered downloads only. Then my referrals rates went right down too, it is a simple fact that I get way more referrals from those couples with albums compared to those with files only.
In an ideal world I would be sending every client away with a Fine Art or Matted album but my package would be too high to get the right clients for me. The Photo Book that I include actually costs me less than £100 and looks terrific for the price. I get them printed by London based Bob Books who are celebrating their 10th birthday this month and when I show these books to workshop attendees, they are always amazed by how good they look for the money. My tips with Bobs are use the code photographer for 15% off, download their pro software so that their logo is not on the book and order a presentation box. They again are pretty dang cheap and look ace.
OFFER AN UPGRADE OPTION. This is not an article telling you how to do a hard sell on people. That is not my style but I do know that it is much, much easier to sell folk an album when they have seen their actual wedding photographs. People have no connection to those images in your sample books but do your job well and it’s not a huge leap to plant the seed of an idea about how ace it would be to have your lovely images curated into a book. In fact it goes in your favour that we are now handing over hundreds of digital files. They can feel overwhelming so offering an edited version is a relief for people.
My clients can upgrade their Photo Book if they wish to an album from Folio, Loxley or Queensberry. You can see them all on my website. And you can also see there that I have taken the time to film each product. I’m not selling the books themselves, I’m selling the Feels. I want to virtually put an album in someone’s hands. I want them to imagine turning those pages, stroking the covers. I don’t draw couples’ attention to those videos until they have their wedding images, so now they can connect the two things in their minds. All those albums roughly cost the same to produce – yes even the Queensberry one as I use one of their Q-Books. So I try to judge which one I think a client would like the most before hitting them with too much choice. While most do stick with the Photo Book, some will opt to put that credit towards a more expensive album. ‘Topping up’ seems like a much softer sell than pushing an album in isolation.
So what about the digital only clients, are they a lost cause for album sales? Quite the opposite if you ask me. We are rubbish at getting our photos printed and even worse at getting them in albums. Speak to your digital only client six months after the wedding and many of them will have done nothing with their files beyond sticking a few on Facebook. So if you come along offering to make a very lovely book for them, they may well bite your hand off. Or box clever and speak to one person in the couple in advance of their first wedding anniversary (Paper) and suggest how many brownie points they would earn by secretly arranging the album. By that point they will probably have had multiple ‘We must do something with our wedding photos’ conversations.
DON’T FORGET TO OFFER PARENT ALBUMS. Half the time, it’s the parents who buy the main album for my couples. They didn’t grow up in a digital age and they know the value of prints and albums. Parents are happy to invest in them and they are even happier if extra versions are thrown in for them. So make this as easy as possible. Nearly all album companies do them, I love these mini versions of Loxley’s Fine Art Bellissimo books and as they are scaled down versions, there is no additional design work. So more profit for not very much extra hassle.
USE SMARTALBUMS. All the album companies have their own design software or services and they vary in their user friendliness. I used to hate album design so I outsourced it but of course then production cost was even higher! Along came SmartAlbums, software to design albums quickly in a simple drag and drop system. You really can design an album in thirty minutes in there and all the main album companies’ specs are already set up for you. So import your high res files, pick the product and get to work. It’s so quick and easy that you could go back through all your past clients who have not had an album from you, design a book for them, pop it on the online proofing system and send them an email, saying “Hey, look at this thing of beauty, I’m offering a special rate on albums right now and can get that to you in just a few weeks”. One afternoon designing albums on spec could again result in a tidy bit of extra income.
GET INTO SHOOTPROOF LABELS. We all want to save time right? The less time you spend on little admin jobs, the more time you have to hustle for more paid work. So my next tip is for when you get a client to select images for their album. I use the client privileges in my ShootProof galleries. By setting the bride up as a ‘contact’, I can let her label the photos for her album. Then when I’m ready I just click to download that particular set straight from ShootProof and then into SmartAlbums. It saves me so much time because I don’t have to go into Lightroom and find the original files plus, I know I’m not going to make any mistakes in what I select.
GRAB THE FOLIO PRICING GUIDE. All this might be sounding great but right now you don’t have the time to start putting together quotes for albums or making films of them. Those Christmas Deadline emails might be sitting unopened in your inbox as you are still editing weddings. If so, you are going to love this. Our friends over at Folio HQ thought long and hard about how they can help you. Log into their ProZone and you will find the ASK (Album Sales Kit). It is a brochure and sales kit set up for you to send out to your clients. You can choose to have one with suggested prices already in it and save yourself from the stress of setting your own. So GET THIS, it’s totally free and they will even add your branding to it if you ask nicely. You can take it straight out of the box (I did, I like an easy life) or you can put together a pick and mix version from the website. It’s so bloody easy, I wish I’d done it earlier in the year. Folio are also offering a tidy incentive to get your album orders in this month with 10% off so how about emailing your clients today to pass that discount on?
STRUCTURE ALBUMS INTO YOUR WORKFLOW. The Photo Books that I include must be ordered within three months and I am quite strict about this. I’ve had people leave it for years before coming back with their selection, or ended up having to produce them all right before Christmas and that can be quite a sizeable financial hit all at once. By setting a deadline for each wedding, they are staggered over the year and while they are more likely to upgrade at this point when the wedding is not too distant a memory. Another option for you could be that this month you set aside a week of doing albums.. designing them, chasing orders and making the most of the Folio 10% deal. I guarantee that if you put a small amount of effort in, it is entirely possible to make decent money from albums. Let me know how you get on or if you have any tips of your own.