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SmugMug Success Stories: Graham Watson Publishing, Ltd.

June 28, 2012 6 comments

The Master: SmugMug Helps a Seasoned Pro Adapt to Cycles of Change & Finish Strong

Name: Graham Watson
Position/Title: Director
Name of Company: Graham Watson Publishing, Ltd.
Location: Lives in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, but works globally
Market: Professional Cycling
Bragworthy Factoid: One of just 4-5 pros worldwide who cover cycling at this level
Website: www.grahamwatson.com and gw.smugmug.com
SmugMugger Since: 2009

Career Highlights…

  • 30-plus years photographing cycling
  • Apprenticed to society photographer Leonard Green as a teenager (Green, AKA “Lenare,” was the UK’s leading mid-century celebrity portraitist)
  • Authored or co-authored 20-plus books
  • Offers online, same-day race coverage of more than 160 racing days/year

Favorite Features…

Portrait of a master

Watson attributes discovering his life’s passion to impoverishment. Signing on to study photography as a teen in 1970s London and unable to afford the train, Watson invested in a bicycle to make the 15-mile trip into the city each day. He points to the 1977 Tour de France, his first as a fan, as pivotal in his journey from portrait to cycling photography. “It’s one big adventure. The photography purists would be horrified if I said that. My passion, if anything, is the adventure.” Purists aside, Watson clearly had the chops: Following the event, he won a photography contest sponsored by Cycling Weekly and his career took off at a sprint.

Blocking with the best

Watson’s business includes magazines, books and online print sales for race fans. He brought his online business to SmugMug in 2009 after it was recommended by a developer with knowledge of both cycling and photography. Watson relies on SmugMug to leave him free to do what he does best — take brilliant photos. He likes leaving printing in SmugMug’s capable hands and concentrating on other areas of his business. Citing cycling’s worldwide following and the need for quick turnarounds — globally, fans number in the millions — Watson takes his role in fan appreciation seriously. “You entertain people. It means a lot to see pictures of the sport they love. It’s a responsibility.” SmugMug’s platform has allowed him to make prints available to a bigger audience at a more competitive price; it helps him stay in touch. Watson links to SmugMug from social media to deliver a race-day postmortem, tracking the day’s happenings through pictures. He loves focusing on his commentary while SmugMug takes care of post-race ecommerce, enabling fans to order directly from the site.

Riding the pegs

Like a lot of seasoned pros, Watson initially had mixed feelings about the industry shift to digital. Now, they’re gone. “Digital prints better in a magazine than slides ever did. Digital photos go straight to press (no 15 minutes sending one image!). The romance is gone, but it’s efficient.” Watson says the increased competition enabled by digital technology has changed the game. “Most of us thrive on the challenge of staying ahead of everybody. It’s very expensive and [digital] has more people getting involved, so I try to find extra ways to keep pace with my rivals.” He points to SmugMug handling print fulfillment as a benefit that allows him to focus on his core competency: capturing exciting sports moments. Watson’s studio relies on SmugMug for every aspect of order processing, from selection and payment to delivery and customer service. They are pleased to have had exactly zero issues with fulfillment since they became a client. One favorite feature is the ability to link directly to an individual order with full details after payment is received, via the Tools button on their homepage.

Bagging the peak the smart way

Because digital is making access easier for non-pros, Watson says it’s important to move with the times. This means recognizing what’s good about digital. “Even 10 years ago working with film, the day never ended. It was eight hours of shooting cyclists and another eight getting film scanned and emailed. With modern tools, you’re in bed by midnight.” He likes that clients can get their images very quickly following events, view their full archive and choose what they need, without having to contact him and wait for source images. “I use Twitter as a way to entertain and promote my work,” Watson says. “It’s proven to be a commercial tool. You get low-res pictures on the website, and, true, it’s not the same as being published in print. [It’s] a different medium, but a very important one.”

Interested in seeing more SmugMug Success Stories? Look here!

Save $30 on Adobe’s Creative Design Tour

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

We recently shared the news that we’ve got another great album option, so why not spice up the photos you’re putting in them? If you love giving your images lush, digital embellishments, we’ve got an opportunity that’s perfect for you.

Learn to Turn Photos Into Art

Adobe’s new Creative Design Tour is the next great educational series on our list. It’s 5 fully-packed hours of hands-on experience with Photoshop pro Judy Host. She’ll show you how to use all the tools in your Photoshop toolbox to create gorgeous (and sellable) digital portraits like these:

Click here to see the what you’ll need to bring and what you’ll learn. Here’s a taste:

  • How to prepare your images using clipping masks.
  • How to use backgrounds, vector art, graphic borders, brushes, overlays and more.
  • You’ll create five digital images together as a class.
  • You’ll finish by building your own completely unique creative design, using one of your own photos.

Learn New Tricks with a Special Discount

Grab your tickets now and use the special SmugMug code CDTSMUG to save $30. Regular ticket prices are $129, you get them for $99.

Here’s the full schedule for all 28 cities. Find the one nearest you!

  • 7/22/2012 Atlanta, GA
  • 7/23/2012 Raleigh. NC
  • 7/24/2012 Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • 7/25/2012 Dallas, TX
  • 7/26/2012 Houston, TX
  • 7/29/2012 Phoenix, AZ
  • 7/30/2012 San Diego, CA
  • 7/31/2012 Ontario, CA
  • 8/01/2012 Los Alamitos, CA
  • 8/05/2012 San Jose, CA
  • 8/06/2012 Sacramento, CA
  • 8/07/2012 Portland, OR
  • 8/08/2012 Seattle, WA
  • 8/09/2012 Denver, CO
  • 8/12/2012 Minneapolis, MN
  • 8/13/2012 Milwaukee, WI
  • 8/14/2012 Chicago, IL
  • 8/15/2012 Detroit, MI
  • 8/16/2012 Cincinnati, OH
  • 8/19/2012 Secaucus, NJ
  • 8/20/2012 Long Island, NY
  • 8/21/2012 Philadelphia, PA
  • 8/22/2012 Baltimore, MD
  • 8/23/2012 Washington, DC
  • 8/26/2012 Boston, MA
  • 8/27/2012 Toronto, ON
  • 9/04/2012 Las Vegas, NV

Never stop learning… and creating beautiful things that blow your fans away. See you there!

KISS Loves SmugMug Long Time

June 21, 2012 9 comments

We’ve heard that making custom photo albums is a scary deal. Finding a quality company with good designs, managing the clients’ approval and then exporting your album to print makes most photographers hide under the couch. It’s complicated, clunky and just plain no fun.

Ridiculously Simple Custom Photo Albums

KISS has come up with their own integrated solution with their SWAT system. Their automated design process is easy, slurping photos right from your SmugMug galleries. It auto-posts gorgeous slideshows to your Facebook page, your SmugMug gallery, or you can email it or embed it into any website. This way your clients can see and approve the design via the built-in comment system.

Here’s an example of the slideshow. It’s like flipping through the real album, but without the weight:

Once you’ve picked the options and leathers, order the finished album with one click. No exporting or uploading required.

Look here for step by step instructions and see how it’s done, and check out their collection of How-To videos to learn the ropes.

And don’t be shy! Try one of their cheek-rubbingly beautiful albums and start giving your customers what they’ve always wanted: Custom albums delivered fast at a great price.

Create your free account at KISS and get started here.

SmugMug Success Stories: Silverbox Creative Studio

June 19, 2012 3 comments

The Hybrid: SmugMug Smooths the Way for a Dual Focus on Design & Photography

Name: Susan Sidoriak
Position/Title: Owner
Name of Company: Silverbox Creative Studio
Location: Lederach, PA
Market: Graphic Design, Branding & Photography
Bragworthy Factoid: Growing enough to hire freelance photographers, a graphic designer and an office manager
Websites: silverbox.smugmug.com and www.silverboxcreative.com

Career Highlights…

  • Expanded globally throughout the US, Europe, Australia, and Africa.
  • Within the last two years have become a go-to source for branding in the photography industry.
  • Ranked #1 for invitations in the Philadelphia region for the last several years.
  • Escalated photos prices while growing a customer base.

Fave Features…

Career by design

Sidoriak is a graphic designer by trade who came up via the traditional corporate ad agency route, settling into a freelance career after her first child was born. Her interest in photography was born out of necessity: unhappy with the cost of the stock photos she worked with, she decided to create her own photographic images. After buying her first camera and editing initial batches of holiday photo-cards and family pictures, she thought, wow, I could do this for other people, too. Silverbox designer-photographers now spend half their time in each discipline, most often melding the two as they produce photo-based materials like cards, booklets and invitations.

Designing a custom solution

This dual focus led to Silverbox’s most innovative application of the SmugMug tool set: creating virtual photo albums for presenting graphic design work to clients. “We’d used SmugMug for our photography services for years,” Sidoriak says. “One day we had the bright idea to upload our design ideas, much like a [physical] photo album. Suddenly, showcasing our thumbnails and initial concepts was easier. All designs are numbered and communication via phone and email is seamless. The option of clients typing their thoughts in the comments section is a tremendous asset.” Clients can also use one-click sharing to send their preferred designs to other stakeholders. Version control is easy, as Sidoriak stacks the newest iterations at the beginning of the album. If the client needs high-res jpegs, they can simply download them from their link, negating the need for Sidoriak to create another file for finals. Her other favorite time-saver? Designing logos in Adobe Illustrator, taking a screenshot of each design and quickly uploading them to SmugMug. “I can compile an album of 20 logo ideas in less than a minute — it’s the perfect combo! Clients can say, ‘I like the colors in #3 and the font in #7’.”

Counting on coupons

Learning how to use SmugMug coupons effectively has been key to growth. For example, Sidoriak realized that offering a free photo session with a retainer-like cart coupon did not yield as much profit as charging fair market value for a sitting and letting clients buy what they want. The coupon is used to discount the sitting, not for print shopping, where it can be viewed as a natural “cap” to spending. “I never had confidence that I was a good photographer—I was the designer,” Sidoriak says. “I once offered a free photo session and used coupons for $450 to spend in your cart, but I think it shot me in the foot—everyone was spending $450 and that’s it. This year I charged $225/hour for the sitting plus buy-what-you-want, my print prices are up, and we averaged in the $600s.”

Seamless with SmugMug

SmugMug has helped Silverbox bring agency-level professionalism to its customer relationships. And unlike traditional photographers, Silverbox’s crew thinks about embellishment from the start. “I can take photos a step further than a regular photographer would,” Sidoriak says. “We’re designers first. Do you want a collage? Do you want a monogram? What color is your living room? I want to hear all about it to modify the photos and design.” For example, SmugMug’s Blurb.com integration has helped Sidoriak do a lively business in Mother’s Day photo books, for which she shoots original photos, embellishes them, designs a book around them and uses Blurb to publish a high-quality memory book. Citing site customization as a major part of a high-quality user experience, Sidoriak relies on SmugMug to get her through peak times, including the holidays and Mother’s Day. “I love everything about SmugMug. They are so on it when I have a client issue; they’re on it well before me. I’m out shopping or something and I come back and it’s resolved. If I could hug them I would.”

Weathering the recession

Counterintuitive lesson #1: placing a fair (high) monetary value on your work does not decrease profit per se. “Moms and young kids out of college are opening up shop down the street. The new freelancer charging $50 per session has taken some of my clientele,” Sidoriak says. “Yet I have raised my prices throughout the recession, and the economy hasn’t really hit my business. During bad economies people are slower to commit…I’m the person who can help modify your business a bit visually—branding and business-to-business work has actually increased.” Sidoriak actually got a little pushback when she fairly upped prices on 4×6 and 5×7 holiday photos last fall—but, instructively, not one customer jumped ship. Sidoriak generates business mostly by word-of-mouth referrals. To network and build her skills, she participates in weekend seminars and conferences with other photographers. The shift to servicing a nationwide customer base took her by surprise when she was recently hired to photograph a batch of products the client shipped to her studio in rural Pennsylvania. Finally, she uses SmugMug’s quick-share to Facebook frequently. “What better advertising than to share your photos to the world? I have received many new clients because of that little blue button!”

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Interested in seeing more SmugMug Success Stories? Look here!

New for Pros: Photo Extras Help You Sell More Through Bay Photo

June 12, 2012 112 comments

One of your top requests over the years has been, “Can I offer my customers mat and frames when they buy from my site?” Which spurred us to come up with today’s catalog-busting release, Photo Extras.

What are Photo Extras?

They’re à la carte upgrades available for prints you sell through Bay Photo. Your customers can choose them through an ‘Add Photo Extras’ button under each item in the shopping cart, before they check out.

What are the options?

There’s tons! Frames, mats, contemporary mounting options and even paper surface textures are all available with a few mouse clicks. And they can be purchased in lots of different combinations to create something truly unique.

  • Mats. 3 professional picks: 1.5″ wide mats in White, Off-White and Black.
  • Frames. 14 tasteful types: Flat wood, box wood or aluminum in a variety of colors. All served with clear, shatterproof acrylic.
  • Mounting. 7 sturdy selections: 2mm Styrene, Bevel mount, Gatorfoam and 3/4″ Standouts.
  • Finishes. 5 awesome alternatives: Pebble, Canvas and Linen surface textures, Satin Laminate and scratch-resistent Protective Coating.

*Note that not all options are available for all print sizes.

Swing by our general catalog page to get more info about each choice.

How do I use them? Do I have to?

Photo Extras are on by default for all Pricelists set to Bay Photo. Open up your Pricelists manager and create a new Pricelist with Bay Photo as the print lab. Be sure the “Allow Photo Extras” box is checked at the bottom of the page. That’s it!

If you’re already using a Pricelist that sells through Bay Photo, you’re already offering your customers the full array of goodies because it’s on by default. You don’t have to do a thing.

But you don’t have to offer Photo Extras if you don’t want to. Disable them by opening up your Bay Photo Pricelist and uncheck “Allow Photo Extras” at the bottom.

 

Can I set my own price for Photo Extras?

Right now, Photo Extras are only available at the default price, but you’ll still earn a profit on the print portion of the order.

We’re pretty sure some Pros will want to set a markup on each Photo Extra upgrade (just like the other goodies in your catalog), but don’t worry — it’s on our radar!

Are they covered by Coupons and Packages?

At this time, no. Photo Extras aren’t yet available for prints purchased in Packages, and Coupons apply just to the print portion of each order. We didn’t want you, the Pro, to end up covering the unexpected cost of a ginormous mat and frame. That wouldn’t be fair, would it? More about Coupons and Packages.

Your customers will love Photo Extras because they get it all in one step: Ready-to-hang, beautifully finished prints without a trip to the framing shop.

Which means you’ll sell more and make more money.

We hope that you’ll tell your clients about them, give them a try and share your feedback with us. Our ears are perked.

SmugMug Success Stories: Connie Anderson Photography

June 11, 2012 11 comments

The Phoenix: Rising Again to Capture the Beauty of the Build

Name: Connie Anderson
Position/Title: Owner/Photographer
Name of Company: Connie Anderson Photography
Location: Houston, TX
Bragworthy Factoid: Having one of her images featured on the homepage of HGTV.com for several days
Market: Interior & Architectural
Website: www.ConnieAndersonPhotography.com
Smugger since: 2008

Career Highlights…

  • Being named Hawaiian Style magazine’s architectural photographer of record for the islands
  • Realizing she was shooting multimillion-dollar properties on a daily basis
  • Bringing revenues nearly back to where they were before the housing crash of 2008

Fave Features…

Movin’ on up

Anderson never intended to become an interiors photographer. Living in exotic Hawaii, she had always loved photography and simply fell into shooting editorial for a local magazine with an international audience. The magazine did not survive the recession, but her contacts did; before long, realtors were asking her to photograph high-end properties. “I discovered that I really loved doing editorial work because it told a story,” Anderson says. “Shooting interiors and architecture can also tell a story. You have these gorgeous properties to shoot. I was excited to get back and pull images off my card and work with them. I decided to make it my specific goal in my work.” Before long, she’d schooled herself in the necessities of her specialty, including optimizing interior lighting. In addition to commercial work, her images have been published in Hawaiian Style, Luxury Pools and other national publications.

SmugMug in the house

Anderson’s passion for SmugMug can be summed up in two words: esthetics and marketing. “Before moving over to SmugMug, I was being hosted by another site, where my images lacked life and luster,” she says. “On more than a few occasions, people have said how clear and crisp my images look, and this is because of Smugmug.” Her work to customize her site also paid off. “When I first joined, I knew I wanted plenty of customization,” she says. “I perused [forum] threads for a solid week looking for tweaks. The heroes were always helpful and I got my answers quickly.” Reaching out to her client base of home builders, architects, landscape architects, interior designers, pool folks, restaurants and pretty much anyone in hospitality or with a business they want to market professionally also requires a strong command of Google SEO. “Smugmug helped get my site [indexed] faster on Google and gave me the tools to expand on what they’d done by easily allowing keywords on images.” Anderson recommends naming the images you post instead of using generic file numbers to help boost your search results. When she relocated from Hawaii to Houston recently, she changed all her images’ tags in her SmugMug galleries, a move Google Analytics has shown was successful. In fact, optimizing her tagging using SmugMug features like captioning and keywords has helped Anderson appear in the top three or four Google results when potential clients search for such phrases as “Houston Interior Photographer” and “Houston Architectural Photographer.”

Animating the inanimate

Like photographers who shoot live subjects, Anderson enjoys creating images that prompt an emotional response in viewers, pointing out that all photographers love creating beautiful images, regardless of specialty. “I love the inanimate part of photography,” she says. “Lines, color, décor…I find them all appealing. It’s creating beauty—creating something that one wants to walk through.” She credits SmugMug with making her shots look equally striking on her site, monitor and in print. “It’s a consistency that I appreciate—SmugMug is so focused on the look, the best quality, the best sharpness you can get.” Citing image display as one of her most-used features, Anderson points out that you save time using galleries for proofing. “The ability to view them in the larger size is extremely helpful.”

When the bubble burst

The recession hit the real estate industry hard. Anderson was caught in the resulting tidal wave. “After almost nine years in Hawaii, I made a move back to Houston and started over. SmugMug was right behind me. I was fortunate to have a good portfolio; it just took some marketing effort on my part.” Anderson hasn’t changed her focus so much as her tactics. “I’m doing mostly interiors and architecture and I really enjoy that. I was working with a lot of realtors in Hawaii. When I got back to Texas, I realized that was a mistake. I quickly switched gears to focus on builders. They have the budget and were building consistently.” After landing some steady clients, Anderson’s business has thrived, mostly via word-of-mouth and Google. She emphasizes that social media is one of the best ways to get your work seen by potential clients, and uses SmugMug’s quick-share tool often. “When I’ve uploaded new images, it’s great to be able to share the link on my favorite social media sites in one click,” she says.

Building a future

When it comes to futures planning, Anderson believes technology’s where it’s at. “SmugMug has given me a mobile presence. I was reading about that last year, that ‘if you don’t have one by end of year, you’re missing out on ‘X’ percent of business,” she says. “Once again, SmugMug had my back. I depend on that. I wear a lot of hats; I appreciate that they are on top of this.” Excited about future site customization she has planned, Anderson looks forward to continuing the partnership. “Images will always be needed. We just need to figure out how they will be used,” she says. “My images are used mostly online, and I need to stay on top of what’s coming in technology.”

Interested in seeing more SmugMug Success Stories? Look here and stay tuned for more.

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