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Episode #5 of the Sprouting Photographer Podcast features an interview with Andrew Funderburg, better known as Fundy from Fundy Software. Discussion topics include: Efficiency in your photography business, workflow and the importance of products.

Discussion Topics

  • What differentiates Fundy Software from other design software.
  • Why template-based software doesn’t make sense.
  • Fundy Software’s goal: use computers to their full capacity to allow us to do what we want to do.
  • Why it’s important to offer physical products.
  • How smart photographers answer the “digital file” question.
  • Photographers who sell high-end product are most profitable.
  • It’s our job as photographers to educate clients about the importance of a finished product.
  • The importance of treating the wedding album as an heirloom piece.
  • Our job isn’t just to take a picture, it is to capture an event and put in a format that can be in the family’s legacy forever.
  • How you need to make products a part of your entire business plan, not just a “sales” pitch.
  • Why photographers don’t offer albums and how you can overcome the challenges.
  • Why it’s important to have a repeatable workflow.
  • How you can create a workflow that makes sense for you, your business and your time.
  • How long a typical album should take to design (hint: under an hour!)
  • Where the tipping point is for being profitable and making minimum wage.
  • Why it’s important to break out your costs and figure out what your products actually cost.
  • Fundy’s proprietary Dropzone technology and why it is useful.
  • Why blogging is important for marketing your photography business.
  • Why automation is crucial!
  • What’s in the “road map” for Fundy Software (hint: it’s huge) including Image Brander, Blog Collage, Gallery Designer.

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Action item:

Set aside time to define your digital workflow. Write down every step of the process. Look for places where you might be inefficient or wasting time. Be sure to account for your time appropriately when calculating your costs (use our free calculators here, here and here). Repeat the system every time that you have to do that specific task and be strict about it!

Podcast Transcript:

Bryan Caporicci: Andrew, do you want to give just a bit of a background? I know that you started out in the industry as a photographer. Do you want to give a quick history of how you got to where you are today?

Andrew Funderburg: Sure. It’s been kind of a funny journey. I graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts and Literature. You can obviously see the direct connection to software. After that, I had a travel bug. I lived in Paris for a while. I went into the Peace Corp. In the Peace Corp, I was an English teach in the former Soviet Union. After I got out, a friend talked me into going to Japan. While I was in Japan and got married, I ended up getting into photography and wedding photography specifically. And had a contract with three Iron Chef restaurants to do their weddings at the Iron Chef restaurants, which is a pretty big deal in Japan. It’s not like the TV show here. That was how I got into the industry. I’d alway done black and white photography in college and dark room and all that stuff for fun. I got started right after the D100 came out. It was at the cusp of digital and there weren’t that many options for designing albums. They were all very much template based. For the most part, all other software except for ours is still template based. That’s where I was banging my head against the wall, because I’d see a design I kind of liked but it had three horizontals and two verticals. And I had two horizontals and three verticals. Template based digital software is pretty much like taking old mat technology. Back in the day albums, you had to order one mat with two 5×7 cut outs. Then, you had to order your 5×7’s and put them in. That’s basically the same concept, as I see it. Our concept is to actually use computers and math, which we have, to dynamically arrange the layout based on what images you put in. Which seems like an obvious solution to me. And that’s really how we got started in the industry.

Bryan: That’s awesome. I want to talk a lot more about the software because I think – especially with this newest release that you guys have – you’re doing amazing things in the industry. You’re providing these tools for photographers that allow us to design albums and create products – not only quicker but in a much more customizable and unique way on a client-by-client basis.

Fundy: That’s the goal. We have computers, let’s try to use them at their full capacity to do what we need them to do.

Bryan: Right. Love it. Let’s back up for a sec, Fundy. We’re in the digital age and there’s all this buzz and all this discussion in the industry about digital files versus print or product. It’s hotly debated, so it’s very controversial. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Why is it important, for us as professional photographers who are being paid for our work, to be offering physical products to our clients – instead of just digitals?

Fundy: That comes down to two fold. Before I talk about that, it’s important to acknowledge that it is difficult in this day and age for photographers, because clients – it’s a knee jerk reaction. They want the digital files and they don’t even know why they want them. It’s just a knee jerk reaction because everybody’s telling them that they need to get the digital files. Depending on your location or industry – for example, here in Portland, Oregon, you have to give the digital files – nobody’s going to book you if you don’t give the digital files over. But smart photographers that I know, they say the digital files are some exorbitant price or they’re free with an album. Or they’re free with a wall collage. They’re pushing the product first and then, the files come along with them. So that’s just kind of a preference, too. It is a difficult thing to communicate to your clients and potential clients, but I think it’s important. The reason it’s important is two fold. From a business standpoint, every single successful photographer that I know that has been successful for a long time – there’s a lot of people that have been shooting for three to five years and they’ve done really well, but that’s really easy to do; it’s really easy to be successful for three to five years. But every studio and photographers that I know have been successful for 10-15-20 years and have set up a viable business – that they can either pass down to their kids, sell, or it’s going to send them off to their retirement – sell product. The high-end wedding album, portrait album, wall prints – whether they be framed, canvases, metal prints, whatever – those are what really drives the profit. The shoot and the wedding feeds just keep everybody in business, but those expensive, high-end goods are what really drive the profit for a photography business. We have contacts with hundreds and hundreds – if not thousands – of photographers through our business, and we can see plain as day that the photographers that do really well selling high-end product are the ones that are profitable.

Bryan: Right. Yeah. One of the things that you said there is key. The key to a successful, long-term business is in the idea of selling product. You’re totally right, it’s easy to come in, be a great photographer, hand over the files on a USB key, and be done with it. That might garner short-term success and maybe you’ll see financial success in the short-term with that. But if you’re looking to set up that long-term career as a photographer, you’re dead right in that you have to be offering a beautiful finished piece that our clients can be proud of.

Fundy: And also, from a customer standpoint, by not forcing your clients to get an album or wall prints, you’re doing a disservice to that client’s family. Because it’s our job to educate the clients on the importance. Especially the wedding album because a nice wedding album becomes a family heirloom. It’s a gift that’s passed down generations. Someday, that wedding album’s going to end up in a trunk. The bride and groom will be long gone. They’re going to be dead and some great, great grandchildren are going to find that wedding album in the trunk. That’s your family legacy. By not providing that to your clients, you’re doing a disservice to not only them but their children and their grandchildren and their great grandchildren. I firmly believe that just capturing a moment or event is not our job. Our job is to capture that event and put it in a format that it can become part of that family’s legacy.

Bryan: Right. I love that. You’ve talked to a lot of photographers and I’m sure had this discussion many times – what are some ways that you’ve seen photographers selling, offering, or presenting albums to the client that makes it that much more likely that the client would go with it? Let’s say, for example, that I have a client come in and they say, “I’m just interested in digitals”. What are some techniques or things you’ve seen photographers say or do in their marketing, in their selling, that puts more emphasis on the album as opposed to just digitals?

Fundy: It’s important to look at photographers that are very successful at doing this and the photographers that are successful at doing it, it’s part of their entire business plan. It can’t just be part of a sales pitch or it’s not going to work. Photographers have photos of their actual physical albums on their website. Nice photos of what the albums looks like. They talk about telling the story and they talk about all the things I talked about – the legacy, the family, specializing, and story telling. How they describe the albums – whether they describe them as handcrafted, Italian storybooks of your wedding day. However you want to describe them, it’s part of their entire marketing piece. So that before the client even comes for the consultation, they know that they’re going to see a photographer that specializes in the wedding album – not just the wedding photography.

Bryan: Right. I love that, and that’s exactly what I was hoping you would say. That’s perfect, because a lot of photographers get hung up. And if you’re listening to this, if you get hung up in the idea of you have to wait until after the wedding when you’re presenting the proofs to the client – that’s not the time to sell the album.

Fundy: No, you’ll get no sales.

Bryan: Right. If you’re waiting until then, it’s too late.

Fundy: Exactly.

Bryan: So the idea of making it a huge part of your business – right from the get go. For example, when a client calls, talking about their wedding, and they say, “I’m interested in hiring you as a wedding photographer”. You can already start the conversation about the wedding album or you can say something like, how do you picture your wedding album. Keep the conversation around that physical product. Then, like you said, that way they know, without a doubt, that the physical product is just a part of the package.

Fundy: Yep, exactly.

Bryan: Love it. Let’s talk a little bit about work flow and efficiency, because I think one of the biggest reasons that a lot of photographers aren’t interested in offering albums – that currently are only doing digital – is because they see it as a huge hurdle. They might think that they don’t have the time to do it. Or they might think that it’s just too complicated, and they’re not technically inclined enough to go and learn all of these things. Obviously, that’s not the case. There’s amazing tools out there. Fundy Album Builder being exactly what I’m talking about. What are your thoughts on the process of photographers that are offering albums but they’re spending two full working days designing a wedding album? That’s crazy.

Fundy: One thing that some photographers get in the bad habit of is that they’re so caught up in keeping up with their business, they don’t have time to step back and create a work flow. There’s a lot of photographers that just don’t have a work flow. They don’t have an approach to a work flow. And that’s so important, especially in the digital age, because you could spend a whole week processing a wedding and designing an album. If you spend a whole week doing that, you’re not being profitable. There’s no money there. You’re going to be making minimum wage. So getting that process in – personally, I love to break it down into steps. Bring the images in. Cull the images. Choose the keepers. Only bring those keepers in the light room. Process in light room. And then, once everything’s processed, go through. Choose my first round of album selects. Put those in it’s own collection in the light room, and then only export those in JPEG to bring into the design software. There’s a lot of people that want to bring in every single image in the wedding to start an album design. That’s cognizantly difficult. You would have to be borderline genius to be able to see 700 images all at the same time and arrange them to tell a story. That’s really, really hard to do, no matter what software you’re doing. So you want to pare those down to your album selects, and then start designing in the software. Then, you’re ready to go.

Bryan: Right. In your thoughts, in Fundy’s Software for example, how long do you think a typical album should take to design?

Fundy: I have a funny story to tell you. Somebody sent me a private message two or three days ago. It was on Monday or Tuesday. His name’s Jerome and he has Studio1943. He downloaded the software. The very first album that he ever designed took him 16 minutes to design.

Bryan: No way.

Fundy: He submitted it to the Connecticut PPA Convention, and he won album of the year – at the Connecticut PPA. True story. Very first time he used it, very first album he designed, took 16 minutes and he got awarded the best album of the year at the Connecticut PPA. I don’t know if that’s everybody’s experience, but that’s an awesome experience. People that have been using our software for a while – I’ve had people design albums in 5 minutes – tell me, “oh, I spent 30 minutes and I designed four albums”. But I think, typically, you should be able to get in and out of an album design in half an hour tops.

Bryan: Perfect.

Fundy: If you’re spending over two hours with that very first revision that you’re going to proof to your client, that’s the tipping point where the album no longer becomes profitable.

Bryan: Right. That’s just it – two, right? If you look at what, as photographers, we should be making as an hourly wage. We’ve had this discussion many times. Let’s just say, for example, as a personal salary, a photographer wants to pull $80,000 dollars. That comes down to their personal salary being $40 an hour. So you can see quickly, for photographers that are spending 10 hours designing an album, it’s costing them so much time that they would literally have to sell that album to their client for $5,000 in order for it to make sense, once you factor all that in. So you’re totally right. If you can get it down to under an hour, that’s where the magic really starts to happen.

Fundy: Exactly. I calculated that if you do 75 grand a year, with two weeks holiday, it works out to $25 an hour, which is really low end. That’s the minimum that you want to pay yourself. You’re really not doing that great at $25 an hour. But if you spend 10 hours designing an album – that’s $250 cost. Then, the albums costs you, let’s say $300 from the album manufacturer. So you’re at $550. Well, PPA – Professional Photographers of America – says if you’re a home studio, you need a 3x multiple. If you’re in a retail studio, you need at least a 4x multiple. So you’re at $1,500 to $2,000, right off the bat. Which, depending on your market, is a good sellable price point, but you’ve gouged your profits completely.

Bryan: Right. Yeah, you’re speaking to my heart there, because those are the kind of calculations and discussions that I love. It’s so important for photographers to really sit down and figure out what goes into a product like that. A lot of photographers would be floored if they sit down and actually track their time and realize, oh my gosh, I literally could be making more money flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

Fundy: Yeah, exactly. For the most part, we want you to get in and be able to design an album in 30 minutes – easy.

Bryan: Great. I love it. Let’s talk a little bit more about Fundy’s Software and the things that you guys have then, because you’ve got an amazing suite of tools that does just that. It lets photographers get in, do what they need to do really efficiently, and then get out. That ultimately impacts your bottom line. It means you can be profitable. So talk to me a little about your suite of software and what you offer.

Fundy: We just launched Album Builder 6, which is our first product within the new Fundy Designer, which is the desktop program. Basically, there’ll be one desktop program that will house four modules. The first module being Album Builder. All of the modules operate with our trademark Drop Zone technology. Drop Zone, imagine a square that you can grab the corners and move and resize – different rectangle sizes. You can drop and remove as many images as you want into that. The images adapt to that location so we’re able to be really flexible with how images are treated within the design. Then, going forward, in June we’ll be introducing Image Brander and Blog Collage. Image Brander is  sophisticated watermarking tool, posting to social media right within the application, etc. It’s a really good tool for marketing. Blog Collage, which is also coming in June, works much like Album Builder but in a vertical dynamic for blog posting. Blog posting is essential for many reasons as a business. We do at least three blog posts a week in our business. It tells your customers that you’re still alive, right? Seriously, if you have a blog and somebody goes to your website and you haven’t made a blog post in four months, they’re not going to call you.

Bryan: Right. Exactly.

Fundy: It’s the worst thing you can have for your business – you might as well not have a blog. We made blog collage to make that a painless process. You can drag 10 to 15 images into the blog collage, do a little tweaking, and in less than a minute, you can export a collage and it’s ready to upload to your blog. Type a few sentences, you’re like, hey, we had a great time at Jenny and John’s wedding, we loved the cake. Write three sentences, post a blog collage – you’re done. You can do a blog post in five minutes. That’s the goal there. If it’s five minutes a blog post, then three blog posts a week doesn’t sound very daunting. Carve out a half hour and you’re done.

Bryan: Yeah. It’s funny because the social media thing, the blogging thing – we know it’s important. We know that we have to be in these spaces, and we have to blogging. We have to be consistent, but the way that most photographers do – this manual process of opening up the original JPEG in Photoshop, resizing it manually, manually opening up their logo, putting it on – all these things. And who even knows if it’s optimized for the web or if it’s saved properly or if it’s in the right format. There’s all these things. It can be a tedious process, which is why a lot of photographers don’t do it, and it’s very time consuming. So having a software like Image Brander or Blog Collage, that’s huge. That’s money in your pocket if you can get those things done automatically, get it up, get it going, and move on with your business.

Fundy: Yeah, it’s all about time savings. I personally use them all the time too, just for my personal photography because it just makes it easy. Then, going into July, we’re really excited. We’re going to be introducing Gallery Designer. Gallery Designer is a way to mockup wall art over – we have a bunch of stock imagery with sofas, bedrooms, baby rooms, and stuff like that. You can even drop in your client’s pictures, if they want to take a picture of their living room or whatever. It’s a way to do a flexible mockup of wall art. There’s a few options out there currently but at the same time, these same options are based on templates.

Bryan: Right.

Fundy: And once there’s a template, there’s a disconnect between your imagery and what you’re trying to design. So, same thing, you can just grab a bunch of images, drop them on a wall, and then dynamically rearrange them and resize them in the matter of a few seconds. You can instantly create what you need to create without having to hunt through templates or fight against what’s there. Then, one thing that we’re really excited about, is in the Fall we’re going to introduce Fundy Direct. We have eight labs and album companies – once you’re album’s designed or your wall art is done, you’ll be able to click a button and it’s going to go to the lab, get printed, and come back.

Bryan: No way.

Fundy: Yeah, we’re really excited about that, especially with wall art. Imagine you have four or five different canvas sizes up on the wall in a collage. After you sell that to the client, you have to go back and reopen up all those images and crop them to their right size. And do all that file prep and then open [rows] and send those off. We’re going to take care of all that. You just click a button, we’re going to crop everything, send it, and be done.

Bryan: Holy cow. This is blowing my mind right now. This is crazy. You’re literally giving people hours and hours and hours right back to them, just by having these amazing, efficient work flow tools. I love it. So what does this look like? Do you buy into the software and then you get everything? Or is it an individual product? How does that work?

Fundy: There’s a couple things. You can buy Album Builder separately if you want or you can buy the suite of all four products together. Or you can buy everything individually, if you want. Obviously, we hope you buy the suite. Then, when you place an order, it’s just the lab’s retail prices. There’s no fees there. One thing that’s going to be exciting is we’re going to hook into Amazon payments, so you can just use your Amazon.com log-in and credit cards and just click the button.

Bryan: That’s amazing.
Fundy: You don’t have to go worry about, what’s my customer number and the lab and log-in and all

that stuff. You don’t have to worry about that.

Bryan: You’re automating so much of the work flow, just to keep it about the photography for people. They don’t have to worry about those nitty gritty, monotonous, repeatable things that they otherwise would have to do manually. Love it. For those of you listening, if your mind isn’t already blown, go over to Fundy’s website. I know that you guys do have a free trial. Why don’t you tell everyone a little bit more about where they can find you guys.

Fundy: Yeah, just go to FundySoftware.com. You can download the free trial. You can design as many albums as you want. You can use it as much as you want. The only thing you can’t do is export on the trial. So you can go and design five wedding albums and if you like it, you can purchase, export, and send it off to your lab.

Bryan: Love it. Awesome. Fundy, thank you so much for hanging out with me today. This has been awesome. Some great advice for photographers. I love the discussion of breaking down costs and time. That’s a good exercise that a lot of photographers have to go and do. Thank you for sharing more about what you do and talking about the software. For those of you listening, definitely do go check it out. The software is amazing. I’ve seen it. It’s going to blow your mind. It’s going to save you so much time and energy. Ultimately, that means more money in your pocket. Andrew, thanks again for hanging out.

Fundy: Thank you, Bryan.

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