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Album Pre-Design

Lesson 38 from: Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

Kathy Holcombe

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Lesson Info

38. Album Pre-Design


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How To Price Your Products


Which Products Will You Offer


Methods For Pricing


Mark Up Factors On Products


What Is Your Per Hour Figure


What Is The Feasibility Of A Product


Target Sales Average


Session Fees Pricing Strategy


Minimum Purchase And Incentives Pricing Strategy


Bundling Pricing Strategy


Pre-Design Pricing Strategy


Album Pricing Strategies


Example Pricing List


Business Basics Overview


Tracking Product Lines In Your Business


Track Your Session Counts


Know Your Sales Average


Importance Of Data Analysis


Overview Of Costs


Professional Photographers Of America Benchmark Survey


Creating A Vision For Your Business


What Do You Want To Accomplish


Take A Leap Of Faith


Refine Your Vision


Products That Sell


Identify Pricing Strategies


Portrait Pricing Strategy Example


Album Pricing Strategy Example


Online Pricing Strategy Example


Fine Art Prints Pricing Strategy Example


Packages Pricing Strategy Example


Sales Strategies Overview


Portrait Sales Session Overview


Sales Strategy for Portrait Sales


How to Present Images to Client


Sales Strategy for Wedding Sales


Album Pre-Design


Marketing: Define Yourself


Who is Your Ideal Client?


Who is Your Ideal Partner?


How to Start a Partner Business Relationship


Marketing Strategies that Work


Product Lines: Business Plan Part One


Workload: Business Plan Part Two


Sessions: Business Plan Part Three


Expenses: Business Plan Part Four


Clients: Business Plan Part Five


Lesson Info

Album Pre-Design

Now, earlier we talked about album pre-design, and I want to give you the nitty-gritty about the details, on how it works. So we do a final consultation before the wedding. We allow plenty of time to work through the schedule of the day. Let me back up a little bit whenever we're right before the wedding we're doing this consultation and we try to do it as early through the process as possible. We do a lot of weddings where there's a coordinator. And the coordinators have a different agenda than the photographer, often. They have all kind of things that are going into play. And we want to make sure that we schedule a couple of hours in that wedding day when we get the bride and groom to ourselves. Often it's before the wedding so that they can enjoy their guests in a seamless celebration. Sometimes it's between the wedding and the reception. And we outline all of that before the wedding at least two weeks before and hopefully a couple months before. Peter acts as the wedding coordinato...

r for a lot of weddings. He's really good at laying out a day so that they can maximize their time with us. And he can create images at the best light of the day. He starts talking to them right off the bat. Yeah, we can capture images at 2:00 in the afternoon. Are they gonna be the images that you see on our website? No, because the light's not good there. If you want the amazing images that you see on our website, we need to be shooting a couple of hours before sunset. Do we get to have that very often? No, but we're trying, we always try to plant those seeds. We make sure that the client understands how things will happen after the wedding. That's this whole album pre-design concept. So album pre-design, there was a question earlier, what are the disadvantages of album pre-design? It's added work during the busy season. You're working on speculation. They may or may not buy it, and sometimes you have to redesign multiple things, or the worst-case scenario you have to redesign the whole book to scale it back to what they originally purchased. So I wanted to include those, but there are some distinct advantages as well that we talked about a little bit. You have the opportunity for bigger sales which is always a good thing. It allows you to be an artist and create something that you are really excited about without the constraints of a number of pages. It reduces the turnaround for when you can deliver an album to your client. It speeds up the process exponentially. If you're choosing your favorite images and you're doing the design, you don't have to wait on your client to say I like these images which can take months and months and sometimes years and years. It allows you to order a book in the busy season, so that helps with cash flow whenever you don't have as much going on. And it provides new content for your blog. We're posting wedding albums on our blog and clients are seeing those and it's propagating who we are out there in social media land. Alright, so here's our works, pre-wedding day we tell them how it's gonna work. Remember I said earlier if you say, "okay, here's how it works," they're like, "okay, great." so make sure that they understand that although they have a book or a credit included in their package they will probably end up investing more. We're gonna design without constraints and then we can reel it back in if we need to. And I talk to our clients that way and here's what's really funny about that. Our clients, I tell them before they book, most of our clients do add on extras to their wedding album. And they're like, "Yeah, yeah, probably that's not us, but great to know." And then I tell them at the final consultation, "You have this credit, but you may want to add on some additional spreads because you guys are so good in front of the camera, you're gonna love these images and we may want to make it bigger" and so I tell them at least three times throughout the process. Here's where it sets in whenever we get the one or two hours on the wedding day with our clients, and we've taken them away from the craziness of the wedding and they're out in the mountains somewhere and Peter's photographing them and it's the first time of the day that they've had any time to themselves and they're connecting emotionally about how incredible what's happening really is, peter's capturing all that, hopefully the sun is setting, the mountains are clear and it's not stormy, and it is like the apex of the day for those clients. We've actually had clients look at us in that moment and say "This is gonna cost me, isn't it," and "We're like, "Maybe." It sets in at that moment. All of a sudden they see the value wherever that happens in the process. Communication is key, it's the most important step. Okay on the wedding day make every interaction amazing. That's where they see the value in you. If you need to or if you have something you're really excited about show them that one image that will stick them on their honeymoon. Just like in the portrait session. It's gotta be extraordinary, and they will remember it, and they will want that image. Alright, and then, before we leave the wedding, we go and give them hugs and kisses and say, "Alright, you guys want a book, right?" Yes, Peter's gonna design the book. He's gonna pick all the best images. You guys don't worry about that. The next thing you see from this wedding will be your fully-designed album. We're gonna send you an e-mail. We're gonna post it on our website. And you guys are gonna see the finished piece while you're on your honeymoon, it'll take about a week. They're like, "Oh yeah, that'll be great!" And so that's the first thing that we post online. Now I've been so adamant about not posting images online throughout this entire workshop. Why do you think it's okay and why do you think we post images now? It's because they've already paid us. They already own the digital files to this wedding. They've already paid us, we've hit our minimum target sale. And what we want to use right now, the strategy that we're using, is that we want them to see that finished product while they're on their honeymoon. We want them to get it out fast. We want them to fall in love with it. We want them to share that with everybody they know so they can write back and say, "Oh my gosh the images are amazing! I love your book, that's incredible!" And every time they hear "I love your book" they're thinking "oh yeah, my book. Yeah, it's pretty cool right?" It's gonna cost me, remember that, but totally worth it. Okay so we're tapping into that emotion, that's the only reason we post the book design. They've already paid for at least a portion of it. So here's how it goes down after the wedding. After the wedding we call it the wedding hang-over not because we drank too much but because we're over 40. And we are tired so it's usually a day of kayaking and climbing and it's a family day. We take the entire day off and then the next day, we actually download on the wedding day. But we download, backup, edit, enhance, tag potential book images and convert. So that's usually Monday, wedding on Saturday, rest day on Sunday, Monday get to work. Day three and four design the book. Sometimes it's just a few hours. Peter's definitely gotten efficient over the years, but we allow a couple of days to design the book, if he gets done early, guess what, we go kayaking, yay! Then day five, we post the book to the blog, and we Facebook and we e-mail clients and we share, we start sending out some of the images into the world. Okay, so then we're done with our work. And we send it to our clients and we let them enjoy. Then, we let them enjoy it for a couple of weeks, and then it's time to start making decisions. For us, day six, Friday before the next wedding, we upload all the images from a wedding day to a client gallery but we don't give them access to that gallery until day 14. We want them to fall in love with the book for two weeks we want them to fall in love with the book. We've already done the work on our end, and it gives us a little wiggle-room if we're behind if for some reason we have two or three weddings on a weekend, then it gives us time to do it for everybody. Day 14 we release the entire gallery of images. Usually somewhere between eight and 1200 images for the client. We release that to them. We send them an e-mail a week later actually when we release the client gallery I say, "Okay, let's get down to business. it's time to finalize everything. You guys have chosen this book. Peter has designed a book with this many spreads. If you keep the book how it is it will cost this much. If you would like for us to make changes to the design we're happy to do that for you. We provide one complimentary round of changes." And this is critical because you don't want to be going back and forth a million times with your client on the changes. You want them to get them all to you in one batch. And we do tell them if there's a second round of changes it's $150 for each additional round of changes. So in that e-mail when I release the gallery to the client, I say here's the book, here's the spreads, here's how much additional that book will be. And then I say, "If you get your changes to us within two weeks we'll give you a 15% discount on any additional spreads added to your book." this is the incentive, this is how we use incentives in our business. We want those changes done and we want to be done with this wedding in a month, and we want to move on to the next thing. So a 15% discount can be a really big discount to our clients, several hundred dollars, sometimes a thousand dollars or more. And so we give them a nudge and then a week after that, after they have all of their images, if I still haven't heard from them, I say, "Okay, don't forget you have seven days before that deadline to get that 15% off of additional spreads." And then sometimes the day before that deadline, I send them another e-mail and say, "Okay, your deadline's tomorrow, be sure to get your changes to us by then." One of the things that we've added recently is we give them a 20% discount if they keep the design the same. We really want to incentivize if we don't have to do anymore work on that I am so happy to give them that additional discount. So then we are at 28 days from the wedding, hopefully we received the changes from the client, we can place the order and we can archive that wedding, and be done with it and move on to our new clients. It's a wonderful process so we receive the changes, we make the changes to the book the next day. We upload the new version to our blog. The old version disappears forever. They can't have that version anymore. So if they've really scaled back that book design, they don't get to have it anymore in any way. And then we receive the approval from the client that yes they're happy with the changes, we get it in writing, almost all of this is done via e-mail. We ask for half of the balance that's due if they have upgraded. And then about a month later we deliver a book to a very happy client. So this is a completely different sales strategy than we use for our portraits. Almost all of this is virtual but it's also still very strategic in how we do it. And they've paid for the images before we post them online. So we talked about this earlier, prior to 2006 prior to when we started doing pre-design every book we sold was 20 spreads, after 2006 we average at least 30 spreads per client. It's great, it's been such a wonderful increase to our average sale. How do you price and sell a variable spread book? You start with a base price and so here's where I want to show you our albums. We talked about having three different albums. This is our creme de la creme album. It is an 11 by 11, we call it our organic, which is one of the words we use to describe our brand. It has a beautiful exotic hard wood cover. It has a cameo, it includes 10 spreads, 20 pages and inside the book is beautiful photographic paper. And so this is what all of our active outdoor enthusiasts go with. It's beautiful, it's natural, and it's incredibly appealing. Okay, can you picture the kind of client that would want to buy this book? Absolutely, okay, let me show you our medium book. Our medium book is a little bit simpler. It still has a really beautiful cover design. It still has a cameo, the quality on the inside of the pages is still the same. Photographic quality, we never compromise on quality. We only change the materials, okay? This is the medium, this is what most of our clients get. This is what most of the clients invest in unless they really love the natural feel of the organic book, we call this our contemporary book. And then the last option, this is our simplicity book. This is the one that I often add on to a portrait sale whenever they still have a lot of images that they want to keep and do something with, just a simple faux leather cover with their names embossed interior exactly the same. They all come with 10 spreads, the price to add a spread on any of these books is the same. It's a very simple system, okay? Alright so those are our albums and it's the same for our portrait clients, it's the same for our wedding clients. It's the same for the engagement session. And I had to keep them all the same because I can't keep track of that many things. I need to know how much they cost for every single client and the process is the same just for my personal sanity, okay? So that's how you, so I chose the books that we were gonna offer. I chose the sizes, I chose the cover materials. So then all I had to do was add up how much those things cost, multiply by our mark-up factor of four. And then use our per-hour figure for how many hours it takes me to design that book. Add that in there and that tells me what I have to charge for these books. So to give you a ballpark on these books. We charge $1300 for the simplicity. We charge $1900 for the contemporary. And we charge $2600 for the organic, okay? And they fit very different needs within our business very different clients. So you start with a base price that's competitive for your market. You use mark-up factor in your per-hour figure. You create a per-spread price for additional spreads. So you need to look at the pricing structure. How much does it cost you to add a spread to an album? Usually it's not very much usually it's less than $10 to add a spread. You apply your mark-up factor, you use your per-hour figure for how long it takes you to design it, and that'll tell you how much you have to charge for additional spreads so that you can make a living. And then you package that to your clients in a way that works for you. If you have a higher per-spread price, and a lower per-book price versus how that works to have a higher book price and a lower per-spread price. It both gets you to the same place, it just depends how your clients react to that. So tell your clients again and again and again what the process is be very upfront about how it's gonna work. They won't believe you at first, but it helps soften the blow whenever they have that realization of "Whoa, this is gonna be a big book!" and then of course this is obvious, but treat all of your clients with respect and kindness, even if they ask you to redesign the entire book. Know that they are probably just unable to afford it. And do the best you can to help them maintain the integrity of the original design. Alright and then lastly offer payment plans. And here's the trick to payment plans. I mentioned it earlier get two forms of payment especially if it's somebody really stretching their budget. Bill one card if that doesn't work bill the second card. Automatically bill a specified amount on the same day and have a policy in place for missed payments.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Business Plan Worksheet
Expense Worksheet
Sales Averages by Product Line Worksheet
Sales Projections by Product Line Worksheet
Session Count Worksheet

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Art of the Sale Book
Creating a Vision Workbook

Ratings and Reviews


I started my business a year ago with little formal technical photography education. It's hard to admit but I've been winging it, figuring out each small task that goes with photographing a session, editing one, and working with clients as I go. I may be doing things backwards, but now that I feel like I'm more comfortable in those small, specific parts of business, I need to figure out how to make this business sustainable and profitable. Kathy's class felt perfect for this time in my business to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what I want to focus on and where I want to go (and how much I want to pay myself!). She uses realistic, specific numbers: something that's SO helpful and I feel like I rarely see in the photography community. And she breaks everything down in an organized and easy to understand way. The classes were easy to follow along with and Kathy's positivity and patient manner is inspiring and motivating. The fact that she used to be a school teacher is clear. Thank you so much Kathy (and the rest of the Holcombes)!

Jenny Farrell

I am so glad I was able to attend this course in person and receive all the wonderful and practical information Kathy shared with us. I also really enjoyed the connections with other audience members and side conversations with Creative Live peeps as well as the Holcombe family. What an inspiration this family is--lots of practical info, but also a great pep talk to not sell yourself short and get out there and do what you love, but use sound business practice while doing it. Thanks so much for these incredible two days.


Fantastic course! Very helpful instruction and how-to guide for anyone considering starting up a photography business. Kathy was an excellent instructor, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I gained a good understanding of the practical everyday aspects of running this kind of business, and how to create my own vision.

Student Work