April 24, 2014  
  You are here:  CommunityIndustry ArticlesArticle by Bekah Wright    

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Collages.net: Online Hosting in the Digital Era
by Bekah Wright

Ask most photographers how they’d prefer to spend their time and the response won’t be marketing and sales. Still, these two components are an integral part of any business. In 1999, Kevin Casey was working in medical sales when he was e-mailed photos of a co-worker’s new baby. An idea took hold and the entrepreneur developed a leading photo-sharing, marketing, and workflow solution targeted to event and portrait photographers -- Collages.net.

Pete and Liliana Wright, owners of PW Photography in Richmond, Virginia, first heard about Collages.net in 2004 at a convention in Las Vegas for the Photo Marketing Association (PMA). “We were looking for an online hosting site where we could share images we shoot at weddings not just with the bride and groom, but all the guests,” says Pete. “We recognized this kind of service as a great opportunity to increase our studio’s exposure and expand sales opportunities to people who weren’t able to attend weddings.” During presentations at PMA, the Wrights heard photographers Clay Blackmore and Monty Zucker speak about how Collages.net had helped their businesses. “We decided to look more deeply into Collages.net,” says Pete. “We compared companies that offer the same service and found Collages.net offered administrative tools the others didn’t.”

Through Collages.net’s onsite hosting service, events shot by participating photographers are available for viewing and purchase to clients, as well as their family and friends. The site also serves as a showcase for potential clients and is ideal for photographers receiving phone or e-mail inquiries from potential clients. “The initial contact is where you can often lose people,” says Pete. “If you direct them to the Internet to look at your work right away, you’re going to stand out over phone calls to other photographers who don’t.” When couples initially contact PW Photography, the studio supplies them with links to three wedding albums that have the look the interested couple is going for, be their wedding indoor or outdoor. Clients also get a sense of how the team works and what they can expect. “This is a perk for us, too, since the administrative tools allow us to see who logged in and how long they were on our site,” says Liliana.

Collages.net’s private, password-protected websites are personalized for each couple. “There’s so much that goes into making our site and presentation the best there is in the industry,” says Deirdre Gillin, Director of Marketing. “Photographers can choose a desired color scheme, music choice, and graphics for each website. Images can be viewed in color, sepia and black and white. Visitors can click on thumbnails and zoom in for better viewing or compare two images. We also make sure the photographers’ logo is front and center.” PW Photography uploads their galleries in pre-categorized folders that represent the different parts of their clients’ special day. “This allows couples and guests to break up the viewing and gives them a bookmark of where they left off,” says Pete. “They can see pre-ceremony now and look at other categories on subsequent visits. During each visit they can fill their ‘favorites’ folder with the pictures they’ll ultimately purchase.”

Wedding guests, family, and friends are given the option to be alerted when images are posted online. At the reception, PW Photography supplies a sign-up sheet beside the guest book. “It acts as an invitation from the bride and groom to view the images from their wedding without seeming commercial,” says Pete. Fun and memorable for the newlyweds are personal messages left behind by guests who visit the site. Individual galleries are available for viewing for 60 days. Reminders are sent as the 60 days progress so couples or guests can extend the site’s posting time for a nominal fee.

Collages.net offers fulfillment through collagesColor Pro Photo Lab. “Collages.net offers a complete and comprehensive, easy-to-use workflow solution,” says Gillin. “Our end to end solution helps photographers make more money – and saves them time.” Collages.net also offers clients DVD slide shows of their wedding or special event that are set to music and can be played on a computer or television. “The DVD adds another dimension to the photography studio’s offering as well as adding another revenue stream,” says Gillin.

Another bonus for photographers using Collages.net – reprint sales. “After the initial sale to the bride and groom, you can’t depend on additional purchases from the immediate family to get a good post-event residual,” says Pete. “Going to Collages.net opened up a market we didn’t have access to before – the extended family and friends of the couple.” This additional exposure has greatly impacted the studio and changed the way the Wrights operate. “It’s easy to get sucked into shooting the bride, groom and wedding party,” says Pete. “Now we’re more cognizant of shooting the guests. You realize there are people who never get up and dance or who are older or shy, so there are usually no pictures of them from most family functions.” PW Photography has found these guests to be potential customers. “The winter holiday season is typically a slow time of year for photographers,” says Pete. “During that time, Collages.net puts each website back up for two months and e-mails every person who had access. As a result, our company has an unexpected extra influx of cash from people using the service to purchase gifts. Last year, this alone increased our yearly sales by 15%.”

Financial transactions are simplified by going through Collages.net. “Photographers put their own price lists on our site,” says Gillin. “Our fee is 12 percent of the order total plus 3 percent to process the credit cards. Most of our photographers add this to the price they charge for the sale of their images.” Collages.net, in turn, pays photographers the remaining 85 percent of proceeds through Direct Deposit or Account Credit weekly. The company offers three membership plans. Photographers can pay as low as $9 to post a 50 image website, pay $70 a month for unlimited usage, or pay for the entire year upfront at $699. “You’re giving co-ownership to Collages.net of your images,” says Pete. “PW Photography looks at this as though we’re paying Collages.net a commission to go out and find customers for us.”

Collages.net offers its clients free customer service and workflow training. “We have a fully staffed technical and customer support department,” says Gillin. “We share with studios how thousands of photographers use the Internet to gain exposure and additional revenue through our services.” As for Liliana, her favorite feature Collages.net is the ‘Website of the Week’ program that gives studios the ability to network. “I like to look at other photographers’ work,” she says. “It inspires me.”
 

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