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Four Festive Families of Photo-Friendly Cards

November 29, 2012 4 comments

You’ve probably taken a spin through our catalog of 2012 holiday cards and seen how easy it is to build, buy and sell photo cards through your galleries. But if you’re still trying to decide on what to send, here’s a few tips that may help you narrow it down based on what’s important to you.

Holiday shipping deadlines! If you’re shopping for someone this season, be sure that you get your orders in no later than the following dates for December 24th delivery. (For domestic US and UK orders only)

  • 6-10 Business days: December 5th, 2012
  • 3-5 Business days: December 12th, 2012
  • 2 Business days: December 17th, 2012
  • 1 Business day: December 18th, 2012

1) Cards For Word Nerds.

Had a busy year? You can tell your friends and family all about it in these templates that give you tons of space to say anything you wish. Fill it with your family newsletter, your favorite recipe or a festive poem.

Inside you’ll see plenty of space to write whatever you wish, perfect for inviting your readers to curl up with a mug of hot cocoa and read what’s new with you:

2) Cards For Studios

We get asked a lot if any of our cards include a text box on the back panel to add a business name. The answer is: Yes! If you want to type in your studio name, website URL or even a surprise message on the back of your card, look no further. These designs rock a little text field so you can have the last word.

Find them in the “Back of Card Text” category in the card builder.

Here are two fabulous examples:

3) Cards For Multi-taskers

Christmas comes but once a year, but there are so  many more occasions worthy of great photo cards. We offer several designs that let you simply change the text and photos, so you can take your favorite card from “New Year” to “New Baby!”

These designs boast clean layouts or multiple color options, so you can dress them up for any event.

4) Cards For Happy Snappers

For those of you who love to share lots of photos and can’t pick out just one or two, try these. We offer lots of designs that give you space to drag and drop in up to 8 different images.

You can easily find all the photo-heavy card designs in our catalog. Simply look at the top and click the “Sort by: Number of Photos” link you see there.

We hope that you’ll find the perfect card in our catalog to suit any photo and any holiday greeting you’re dreaming up.

Happy holiday planning from SmugMug!

Tips, info and inspiration with cards:

5 Tips for Making Scandalously Good Holiday Cards

November 5, 2012 2 comments

As the holidays creep ever closer, we thought we’d ask for (and share!) some sage advice from someone who seriously knows beautiful cards, beautiful photos, and how to put them together into beautiful designs. Today, we’re going to share what we learned from Meghan of The Shoppe Designs, who gave us 5 great tips that will help take your holiday cards from “yaaawn” to “YEOWSA!”

In short: Start with a beautiful design, then follow through with smart and effective personal touches so that your holiday greetings become the talk of the town.

1) Match the mood between your photos and the design.

Sure, you can always pick a bunch of your favorite photos from the year and slap them into a card, but your friends and family will really notice when your photos and your card design match in color and style. For example, if you pair a formal portrait with a playful design, the presentation will look way less harmonious than it would when you match the mood and colors. Like music, find the chord that resonates best.

Here are some pairings that work well:

  • If your family session is outdoors and the family is wearing neutral colors, try them against cards with organic and vintage designs.
  • If your session included your family wearing brightly-colored clothes, a more playful and bright design would work well. Or better yet, try a simple, white card with little text so the colors in the photos really pop!
  • If your photo has a lot going on it it (lots of props, colors, several family members, etc) try dropping them into a simple design like a 5×7 folded card with the photo on the front and some simple text inside. Sometimes less is way more.

Thankfully, no matter what you do, the SmugMug card builder lets you preview them together before ordering so you can be sure your design and photo work together well!

2) Use photos from a single photo session.

There’s certainly an art to arranging multiple photos together on a card, but it’s still easy. The hot tip is to use photos from the same session and even the same part of your photo session for continuity’s sake. For instance, if your photographer shot different locations for your family shoot (some in front of the barn, some in the field, etc) try filling the multiple photo layout using various photos from the field. Then spice it up with a photo or two from a different location on the inside or back of the card. This way, your card keeps a unified sense of colors and style and will visually blend together.

Another fun option is to fill in the wells of your card with a photo sequence of different poses. For example, a series of shots at the same focal length of the subject(s) doing different things from the same sitting. It’s a fun, easy way to add a little motion and storytelling to your card. As always, try to pick ones that have colors that work well with your design!

3) Edit your photos.

A well-edited photo can really make the finished card sing, so processing your photos before putting them into your cards is a very important step.

Tip: If you’re using photos from your pro photographer, they’ve most likely already done this step for you. Whew!

You can push and pull the colors to go with your design and make everything even more perfect. The Shoppe Designs offers unique Photoshop Actions that can help you do this very easily. With just a few clicks, you can give your outdoor family shoot a warm, vintage feel and then it will match perfectly with a vintage-style card. On the flip side, you can brighten up the colors of an engagement session shoot even more to make them really pop on a simple white backdrop. And of course there’s the classic black and white option, which lets your images’ emotion speak for itself.

Not all actions work with all photos, but a great action can really bring a great photo to a whole new level!

Did you know? Post-processing is usually best for photos that you haven’t uploaded yet, but you can still polish up your images even if you’ve already added them into your SmugMug account. Try Picmonkey, a great in-browser editing tool built right in to your galleries, where you can fix redeye, exposure, add filters, textures and lots more. Look for it under your gallery’s Tools button > This Photo > Edit with Picmonkey.

4) Find inspiration for your text.

Writing your holiday message can be intimidating, and it’s hard to come up with greetings that aren’t generic or clichéd. It sounds silly, but try thinking about different holiday songs and lyrics to get in the mood and those festive juices flowing! You can take just a part of a song, like “All is calm, all is bright” (from Silent Night) which makes a beautiful and yet unexpected greeting.

What songs or poems tug at your heartstrings for the holidays? Get nostalgic. Get personal.

5) Use Caution With Fonts.

Fonts can be tricky. It’s generally best to keep the default fonts in the card you pick, as many designs are based around the font. But SmugMug does give you the option to change the font on many of the cards, so just be sure to proceed with caution.

Unless you have a lot of experience in design it is generally a good idea to not use too many different fonts together. It takes a fair amount of experience to determine which fonts work together and which… don’t.

Some basic font guidelines to follow:

  • If your photo is more formal or serious, usually a serif font (that’s the one with the little feet) tends to work best.
  • If you’re using fun shots of kids, a handwritten font can really play up the cuteness.
  • If you want a modern look, most of the simple sans-serif (no feet) fonts will complement the style well. For instance, with an engagement session of a young couple in very stylish clothes in the city, try a thin sans serif font in all caps.
  • If you’re using a more formal wedding portrait, a serif font would works best. Remember to keep it simple and think about how it works with the image stye.

We hope these tips get you excited and inspired to start making your cards and filling them with your year’s best memories. More tips and inspiration coming soon!

Link roundup:

SmugMug Success Stories: iSmile Studios, Inc.

October 22, 2012 6 comments

The Card Shark: Maximizing Profits With More Than Just Seasons’ Greetings

  • Name: Stephanie McCauley
  • Position/Title: CEO
  • Name of Company: iSmile Studios, Inc.
  • Location: Albany, New York
  • Market: Portraiture (Child/Family)
  • Website: www.ismilestudios.com
  • Bragworthy Factoid: A community VIP at a Chamber of Commerce function assumed iSmile was a national chain with hundreds of locations, based on its marketing and strong brand presence.
  • SmugMugger since: 2008

Career Highlights…

  • Opening iSmile just three months after her husband planted the idea in her head.
  • Developing diverse revenue streams, including on-location shooting, an in-schools arm and digital print sales.

Favorite Features…

Sell it again, Sam

Like a lot of photographers, Stephanie McCauley’s interest in portraiture snowballed after she had kids. Trapped in a near-empty mall during a winter storm and finding the portrait studio unexpectedly hopping, her husband suggested she launch her own business. Three months later, her in-mall studio’s doors opened. By the time she launched her SmugMug site in 2008, she had learned that single sessions and a mall presence would not be enough to break out. “Being in a large shopping mall, we are busy year-round,” she concedes. “But we learned long ago that just opening a studio in a mall wasn’t going to bring in enough customers to survive.” Her solution? Make iSmile shoppers’ go-to place for repeat photographic orders—the place that goes beyond the portrait greeting card and makes it easy to buy canvases, mugs, mouse pads, shirts and, yes, all the holiday paraphernalia, too. “We always offer the full line of novelty and card products and keep our prices as competitive as possible,” McCauley adds. “So customers are not lured away by less expensive online card sites where they have to use their own images.”

Moving beyond the mall

In addition to generating repeat business, McCauley’s business model rests on two other pillars: anytime/anywhere customer access to galleries and service that goes beyond that of the typical mall-based studio. “We [take full] advantage of portrait opportunities during all the holidays throughout the year. We began a grassroots community outreach program, offering to photograph all kinds of different events, just to get our name out. SmugMug allows us to sell those prints at a very reasonable cost, and we apply a print mark to each image to build our brand. We also have a baby program that [turns] new parents into lifelong customers.” McCauley remains vigilant about staying “ten steps ahead” of her mall competition. Among other innovations, she launched a boutique branch of iSmile that goes on-location, so customers can get “gorgeous natural-light portraiture” as well as studio shots, and an in-schools program serving rural communities. McCauley’s ace in the hole? Offering evergreen access to customers’ photo archive, anytime, anyplace. “We literally couldn’t survive without SmugMug. SmugMug makes it easy and affordable for us to [offer anytime access] and our customers love it.” The anytime/anyplace model is what makes the first pillar—generating repeat business by essentially selling the same images again and again—possible.

Making card design fun

McCauley doesn’t just promote card-making—she positions it as a fun pastime. “Last year, to encourage customers to make and order their cards online, I made a really simple how-to video and uploaded it to Facebook and YouTube,” she says. “They could see the entire process in about 60 seconds.” iSmile has made it a point to know its customers’ habits inside and out. “We keep our card mark-up reasonable to encourage customers to poke around in their galleries—it often results in additional print orders on top of the cards,” she points out, noting that she moves many 5×7 and 4×8 flat and folded styles locally, but relies on SmugMug’s broader range to generate additional sales. McCauley is also attentive to her clients’ shopping preferences. “Many customers prefer to go home and view their session online, since they may have kids or pets that are getting restless after their sitting. We upload our edited images immediately, so they are ready to view before the customer has even returned home.” Spreading the word about enhancements like SmugMug’s latest card designs is a good way to keep customers coming back for more.

No kidding—one sitting

SmugMug’s “forever” gallery archiving allows McCauley to maximize resale opportunities following a sitting. “We don’t give customers a time limit in which they can view or order their pictures,” she says. “This really helps when it comes time to make Christmas cards. Most of the time, the card design is ‘Christmassy’ enough and our customers can get away with using a portrait they had done sometime earlier in the year.” iSmile leverages the original portrait yet again during her annual January reprint sale, which she promotes with SmugMug coupon codes, Facebook and email blasts.

SmugMug tips ‘n tricks

Once the revenue was streaming, McCauley focused on maximizing the SmugMug features that deliver the most ROI. From proof delay and customization to social media marketing and price lists, iSmile evolves its practices to take advantage of new features. “Our customers’ efforts to crop sometimes fall short. We proof delay every gallery for two days to give me time to personally review each order, making sure every image is cropped perfectly for whatever size print our customer chose,” she says. “It’s an amazing way to keep watch on quality control.” McCauley pays equally close attention to her price lists and offerings. Some features, like digital file sales, have proved to have additional marketing benefits beyond the sale itself. “We love this [feature],” McCauley says, explaining that, on a tip from SmugMug Support Hero, iSmile began speculatively photographing events and selling the print-marked images at a low cost online. “People are now paying us to put the iSmile name in front of them,” she grins. “It’s awesome.” It’s tips like that that have led to a long-term partnership. “iSmile would not exist today without SmugMug,” McCauley says. “In this world of very tough competition, SmugMug gives us an economical way to add tremendous value to our customers through the use of galleries. Our customers’ out-of-town families can see baby pictures the same day they’re taken, and order as many prints as they want online. SmugMug is a household name for an iSmile family, and we couldn’t be more grateful we have them for a partner.”

See more of our SmugMug Success Stories right here.

Make Way for a Whole New Lineup of Photo Cards

October 12, 2012 44 comments

You’ve just packed the kids off to school. What’s that mean?

Time to start planning for the holidays!

We’re kidding. Mostly. Savvy photographers like yourself are always on the ball, so we know you’re already itching to put together your 2012 holiday cards.

Brand-New, Beautiful Card Designs

We’re so excited to tell you about our brand-new, easy-to-love designs. Whether you fancy rustic, elegant, or simple designs, you’ll find something that you’ll love. We swear on our marshmallows!

Best of all, you can customize every design with your own words and your favorite photos. In most of the designs, you even have your pick of a variety of fonts.  Too much of a good thing? Never.

Can I make a card with my Basic account?

Yes! No matter what account type you have (Basic, Power, Portfolio or Business), every SmugMugger can turn their favorite photo into a beautiful card. Or 100 cards, if you’re popular.

Here’s what you do:

1) Open your gallery and find the first photo you want to use.
2) Click Buy > Create a Card.
3) Browse designs to find the one you want, and drag in your photos.
4) Save it, add it to your cart and check out.

Did you know? You can edit any card you haven’t yet bought. Just click the Tools button > This Photo > Edit to reopen the card builder and make it perfect.

If you’ve already placed your order and need to make changes, be sure to email our Support Heroes with your order number ASAP.

Pros: How to Price and Sell Cards

If you have a Business account, yes… and you’ll make a few bucks, too. Price your cards like your other print products and your clients can create their own cards using the photos in your gallery.

You shoot. They buy. We deliver.

Here’s how it works:

1) Visit your Pricelists and create a new Pricelist, or edit an existing one. Whether you use Bay Photo Lab, WHCC, or EZ Prints, you’ll  be able to add in photo cards, which are fulfilled by EZ Prints. (Please note: at the moment, customers using Loxley Colour are not currently able to add cards.)
2) Set your profit (or price) and be sure to apply the Pricelist to your galleries.
3) Share the gallery with your clients. They’ll see a “Create a Card” option from the Buy button, and take it from there.

Did you know? Business pros who use Proof Delay can fix typos and swap images in clients’ cards before they go to print. Just open the order details, click “Edit Project” and make your changes. Then release the order when you’re done.

Watch the video below to find out how Business account holders can sell cards.

Pros in the Know: Our favorite money-making tips

As a working pro, reach out to clients you’ve shot through the year and tell them about your photo card options. They’ll love featuring their favorite images from past shoots on their holiday cards.

Try these tactics early in the season to warm up your clients:

  • Order a few sample cards using your best photos. Let customers hold them, feel the paper and see how beautiful custom cards can be. They’ll imagine sending their own to envious friends and family.
  • Create and send “Thanks!” cards to last year’s portrait and wedding clients. This does double-duty of keeping you fresh in their minds and demonstrating to them the quality of cards they’ll buy from you.
  • Don’t forget: Pets are family, too. Even if you’re not a human photographer, you’ve still got a healthy pool of clients who’d love to feature their furry babies on holiday cards.

And for your ongoing portrait sessions:

  • Set prices for cards lower early in the season, and raise them as the holidays get close. Get it done in 3 seconds with Pricelists.
  • Use Events to avoid wandering eyes. Events keep customers focused by grouping and sharing the good stuff, and the good stuff only. Plus, they can tag their favorite photos.

The bottom line: SmugMug’s here to take the hard work off your hands, so you can get back to wrapping presents. Avoid gray hairs, the holiday rush and the dreaded mail service overload. We’ll help you get your holiday cards finished before you can say, “Hot chocolate!”

What time-saving tips have helped you get your cards out the door? Share your thoughts with fellow mailers below.

All photos by Meghan MacAskill Photography.  

Link roundup:

Create, Edit and Sell Custom Photo Cards

December 1, 2011 92 comments

Big news today for people who love to make photo cards: We’ve brought you a more powerful, more flexible card builder that lets you edit designs before you buy.

Build Your Cards

Try it now right from your galleries. Find the first photo you want to use, then click Buy > Create a Card.

It’s so simple to pick a design, then click and drag in the photos you want. You can even edit the images by zooming, aligning, or even doing a quick conversion to black and white:

Next, type in whatever text you want. In many cases you can even edit the font, which you couldn’t do before.

When you’re done, you can hit Save to stash your progress, or just choose how many you want and add it to your cart.

Edit Your Cards

One of the most-requested requests we’ve gotten about cards was for you to be able to edit them. Now you can.

When you clicked “Save” in the card builder, we stashed your project in your “Cards” gallery. Simply find it and click Tools > This Photo > Edit to open up the card creator:

Make as many edits as you wish and when you’re ready, add it to your cart. Voila!

Check out our help page here to guide you through the new process. Remember that Pros can still set a custom price for all of our 4×8 and 5×7 card options, so their customers can design and order their own holiday greetings and make you money.

Enjoy! Got any feedback, ideas, or just have a question? Let us know.

More ways to spice up your holiday with SmugMug:

 

How To Sell Cards

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

With our latest release, you can now make a card for your customer and price it at your pro pricing :D I’ve had some questions from pros on how best to deal with selling cards, so here goes.

First, you need a good display gallery of the cards. Of course, we have cards.smugmug.com, but that won’t have your branding. Great in a pinch, but here’s another way, I’ve set up galleries on my site to show off our 5×7 cards and our 4×8 cards.

How to do this? It takes only a couple minutes, and I’ve made step-by-step instructions here on Dgrin.

Next, let your clients choose their holiday photo and then pick a card template, and some text to put on the card. You then make the card, when logged in, go to the photo in the client gallery and choose “Buy” then “create a card” – or, again, logged in, visit cards.smugmug.com and find the card you want, and click the ‘make this card’ link under the card, it will bring you right to the card maker :) Make the card, and on the ‘Create’ tab in the card maker, choose ‘just window shopping’ – the card will then be placed into your “My SmugMug Creations” gallery when finished. Go to that gallery, and use the tools menu to choose ‘Move to Gallery’ – and place it in a new gallery just for your client – e.g., ‘The Smith Family Holiday Card’.

Last step – you’ll want to price this card at your pro pricing – so, choose tools, set prices, and first apply $0 to all products, then type in your prices for the cards. Click save and voila, your done!

Categories: Andy Williams, Sales Tags:
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