I recently wrote an article for the Fundy Software blog, where I discuss why I feel it's crucial for us as professional photographers to offer printed products. There were 6 reasons in total, and if you want to know all of them, you'll have to head over the Fundy blog to read the full article. I'll give you a little teaser here by sharing 3 of the reasons why offering printed products are important for professional photographers:
- Products differentiate professional photographers from amateurs
- Products increase our perceived value as professional photographers
- Products allow us to deliver a better customer experience
I was also pleasantly surprised when literally DOZENS of Fundy “fans” reached out to me to thank me for the article. It's great to see such a positive reaction, especially since I put a ton of time and effort into writing that article. Many of the photographers who read the article also saw the images that were attached and were intrigued by my USB/print hybrid box. Because I truly want to be an “open book” here on SproutingPhotographer.com, I thought that instead of privately sharing the details with those who asked, I would write an article here all about it, and talk about how I came about it.
The thought process that got me to where I am.
Let me give you a bit of context. I am a wedding photographer, and I have a deep belief the the best way to enjoy photography is through print. I practice what I preach, too – this isn't just a marketing message. We have prints all over our home – pictures of our daughter, our family, everyday moments, vacation photos, our wedding photos, and so on. We have a wedding album, our engagement book, a portrait book from Ava's birth and one from her newborn session all out on display in our living room. We ultimately prefer to enjoy photography away from a computer screen as we believe in the importance of “printing to preserve”.
You can see that prints play a big part in my personal belief system, and so it naturally has worked it's way into my brand as a wedding photographer. Prints and albums are built into the foundation of my business and it is always a part of the conversation. I educate my clients about printing their images from the first point of contact, and every one of them ends up with a beautiful album, wall portrait or some sort of finished printed piece to display in their home.
The best way to enjoy photography is in print.
The dilemma? As a wedding photographer, I also know that it's important for my brides and grooms to have their digital proofs. If I end up with 600 images from a wedding, I know that it's not realistic to think that they'll print every one of their images. For example, most of my wedding albums end up with 150-200 images in them, and they're huge 10×15 25-spread albums. What about the other 400-500 images? Digital proofs are a great way for my clients to have all their images to “keep” for their own archiving purposes.
When I deliver the digital proofs, though, I have never loved the idea of just having a digital piece of media (DVD or USB stick) in a pretty package. I find that to be boring and frankly it goes against my brand and my “print to preserve” belief system. Prints are important and I want to re-enforce that at every point of contact.
I got to thinking how I could deliver digital proofs and re-enforce my brand. After much deliberation and trial-and-error, I decided that the best option was for me to include a few of my favourite prints with the proofs so that my clients didn't have to just get a USB stick in the mail – they could also get something more meaningful. How would I do this, though? I didn't want to have to order prints from my lab because that would be another barrier to get in my way. Having to wait for the prints from my lab would also delay the whole process, since it is a part of my policy to have digital proofs delivered within a week of the wedding.
The solution? I have an Epson 3880 desktop printer – let's use this thing! After a consultation with master photographer and expert print maker David Williams (from Toronto, Canada), I got it all set up, calibrated, and printing like a well-oiled machine at every push of the “print” button. I then simply made it a part of my workflow to print off five 4×6 prints (Illford Smooth Pearl … so beautiful) from every wedding that I wanted to share with the couple as my “artists choice” favourites.
Presentation is Everything
How partnering with a local album supplier opened the doors to innovation.
I wasn't sure how to present these prints with the digital files, though. I didn't want to just slip them into a plastic sleeve – that isn't exciting, and I wanted this product to be different! I wanted this to be a surprise when my bride and groom get home from their honeymoon; not only do they have their digital proofs waiting for them, but they also have these five beautiful prints to enjoy right away!
I ultimately decided that having each of the five prints individually matted and displayed along with the digital USB key would be the best way. So I got to work. I reached out to a local album supplier, Phaloo, and started to plan the product. We were starting from scratch with my idea as we were basically combining several products – a USB box, a linen fine-art album cover, a 4×6 proof box and matted prints. I wanted to order these in bulk, and the mattes had to be pre-assembled so I didn't have to get messy with glue, but still open on one end so I could slide my own prints in them. This was new and revolutionary, and I loved it! What we came up with is nothing short of beautiful if I do say so myself.
The Icing on the Cake
Displaying the Prints
After going through a few rounds of manufacturing and prototypes, I was totally stoked with the design. I loved the new product that we were working on. Something was missing though, and it had to do with the matted prints. See … I always thought that matted prints were great but that they lacked an important finishing element – how do you actually display them? I am a practical person and always try to think in terms of intent and purpose. What good is a beautifully matted print if it sits in a box all day? We need to get these puppies out of the box and on display!
The solution? A custom-designed wooden slate with an angled groove cut out through the center so that a matted print can slide right in. It's a minimalistic easel that doesn't take up any more space than the matted print itself, and you can quickly change the print you wish to display with ease. Perfect! The icing on the cake? We re-designed the box so that this new minimalist-easel fits nice and snug right next to the matted prints.
I am so happy with the finished product, how it allows me to deliver digital files to my clients while still re-enforcing my brand and personal belief of enjoying photography through print. When designing the product, we chose only the best quality materials and so the finished piece has a very high-end feel to it. It increases my perceived value from the first touch, and that's even before the clients looks at their images!