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Rebecca Sehn on Selling Portrait Albums

Album Designs, Featured Clients
As you might guess from poking around on our website, the majority of the albums that Align designs are for weddings. But that's not ALL we offer! We absolutely love designing albums for portrait sessions too! We love the flexibility and beauty that comes along with family portraits, senior photos, boudoir shoots, newborn sessions, etc. And it's a special bonus when we get to design a portrait album for Rebecca Sehn Photography! Rebecca is a Vancouver-based photographer who specializes in childhood and family portrait photography. Her work is always stunning! 
We asked Rebecca about her album process and she came back with a wonderful testimonial that I think with be helpful to both portrait and wedding photographers alike! Let's meet her....

(Photo by White Linen Photographers
Hi, I'm Rebecca. I'm a childhood and family portrait photographer based near Vancouver, Canada. I love where I live, but also love to travel! I've photographed some pretty wonderful families all over the world, including France, Ireland, and Hong Kong. 
While expecting my first baby in 2014, I had visions of work slowing down a little as I adjusted to life as a new mom. I was so wrong. After my daughter Penny was born, business kept growing... fast forward to August of 2015: I found myself fully booked in Vancouver, as well as a packed week of portrait sessions abroad in Hong Kong (a dream come true!). But I was also eight months pregnant with my second baby, and life was a bit chaotic, to say the least. 
I've felt so torn between giving everything I have to my family, while also growing and tending to my work -- everything I had been working toward in my business was happening, and it was so hard to say no. But my once forty hour work weeks were now chopped down to stolen hours in the early mornings and evenings, and I was scheduling client calls during overlapping nap times. I began to take a good look at what I really needed to be doing in my business, and what I could outsource. 
One of these things on my outsource checklist was album design. I sell albums to almost every portrait client, but they've so far been very simple, with just one portrait per page. When I added a new premium album that needed beautiful design, I knew that this was something I could (and should) outsource. Align makes more beautiful album designs than I could ever dream of! My clients appreciate that they are both modern and timeless, and I love how responsive the designers are to creating albums to my specifications, and remembering these notes each time. It's easy, fast, and perfect.

The cost of design is worked into my album pricing. But beyond that, in the time it would take me to complete one album design, I can market to new clients, or provide above and beyond customer service to my current clients.  
A lot of photographers ask me how I 'get' my portrait clients to purchase albums. Long story short -- I make it the most logical choice. My clients receive a digital copy of every portrait that they choose for their album, and digital files on their own are priced in such a way that unless a client chooses less than five portraits (and who can choose just five??) it's more cost effective to purchase an album.  
These days I feel like I have things a lot more under control, thanks in a large part to outsourcing. Does that mean it's time for baby number three?
Oh my goodness, Rebecca, you're brilliant! We sometimes have photographers ask us how they can get portrait clients to value albums as much as their wedding clients do... now we have an answer! I'm going to point them right to this blog post and your sales strategy. And YAY for baby #3 -- we vote yes!! AND we're throwing "Al" into the hat for a boy name! The fact that it's short for "Align" can be our little secret! ;) 
Now it's time to check out some prettiness! Here is one of Rebecca's recent albums designed by Align and printed by GTA Imaging. Thanks for sending us these photos of the finished album, Rebecca!!

If you'd like to flip through this portrait album design in its entirety, click through the slideshow below! 
Design by: Andrea (View More) // Design style: Simple (View More) // Blog post written by: Denise
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Deborah Zoe on Educating Clients on the Importance of Albums

Album Designs, Featured Clients
We're so excited to share some wise words from Align client and Massachusetts photographer Deborah Zoe today! We just LOVE these paragraphs she wrote up to share the why's and how's of her album process! Without further ado, I'll let Deb introduce herself!! 
I'm Deborah Zoe, a Boston area wedding and portrait photographer - Inspired by a rugged coastline, classic architecture and the beauty of New England, I'm passionate about creating images that will serve as a family's history, honoring what was and celebrating what is to come! I'm married to my college sweetheart (just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary!) and together we're raising the most adorable three year old around!! When not behind the camera you can find me digging my toes into a sandy beach, getting lost in a good book or watching entirely too much Fixer Upper!

I believe in a wholistic client experience, meaning I don't just show up to a wedding to just photograph the day. From initial inquiry to delivery of their wedding album, I want to give my clients an experience that celebrates their relationship and that tangibly shares the love they are building together. A big part of that experience is in the creation of a wedding album.  
In the beginning I didn't know how to offer albums to my clients, let alone how to price them properly. I realized quickly that if I wanted my clients to add albums to their collections I needed to educate them on the value of the album. Through a series of posts on my blog, I began to share why I believed in wedding albums along with testimonies from past clients who created their own albums. I shared examples of real albums and gave my audience a sneak peek into what my albums looked like. Slowly, through intentionally sharing on my blog and in conversations with potential clients, I was able to educate my audience on the importance and value of creating tangible heirlooms. Beyond simply increasing my album orders I was able to increase the price point of my albums. Key point? Educating your audience through a constant conversation, whether through social media, website or blog, helps to create value and make the difference in helping you to increase your albums sales.

As I shared above, an exceptional client experience is a cornerstone of my business. I knew that if I was going to offer albums, I wanted to offer my clients the best. I found a match in Madera Books, whose quality, attention to detail and customer service cannot be beat. I've been working with Madera since 2011 and have been pleased to partner with them to create beautiful albums for my clients. Recently I've expanded my heirloom offerings to include a matted folio and album from Cypress. Their commitment to quality and the client experience is the perfect fit for my business.  
Part of the exceptional client experience I've already talked about is in the actual album design. I'm a photographer, not a designer and I knew from the beginning that album design was something I needed to outsource. Align Album Design takes care of all the design aspects of the album. I love being able to confidently (and easily!) share an album design with a client knowing that they will love what has been created. Each layout is thoughtfully created with the client's desires and specific wedding day in mind. Knowing that this part of the album experience is cared for by professional and talented designers not only gives me peace of mind but frees me up to take care of other aspects of the client experience like delivering fun surprises or thoughtfully addressing their planning questions.
Deb, thank you so much for sharing your story and experience with your fellow photographers! You rock! And a bonus thank you for sending us some photos of one of your recent printed albums! The following photos are of a Madera Books 10x10 album with a khaki leather cover that Align designed. 

To view the full album design, click through below! 
Design by: Andrea (View More) // Design style: Classic (View More) // Blog post written by: Denise
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Sharon Elizabeth on album image selection

Tips & Tricks, Featured Clients

Sharon Elizabeth is a wedding and women's beauty photographer based out of Smithfield, Virginia. She recently placed two wedding album design orders at the same time. Album Design #1 was for a bride from a few years ago who Sharon had tasked with selecting her own album images (Sharon's OLD album process). For Album Design #2, Sharon submitted her own favorite images and asked her Align designer to pick the best ones to tell the story of the day (Sharon's revised workflow). After receiving the initial designs, the difference between the two albums was VERY apparent to Sharon. For #1, she commented that "the album seemed all over the place and didn't seem to flow well." For #2, the design only needed a couple of image swaps to be perfect! 
Maybe it's because we're album nerds, but Sharon, her office manager, and all of us at Align found this fascinating and it sparked a great discussion! Sharon was SO happy that she had revamped her album process to eliminate the client's selection step. Align's owner Melissa Jill has shared why SHE chooses to select the initial album images herself, but it was neat to see a back-to-back comparison between the two strategies!  
We asked Sharon if she had any album workflow advice she would offer other photographers, and below is a resulting letter she wrote: 

Dear photographer, 
WHY are you asking your client to go through the 1000 images you delivered to them to narrow it down to about 150 of their favorites?!  
Is it because you thought it'd be easier... you thought your clients would WANT to have control... or did you think they'd love their album MORE if they designed it?! I've been there... I've been the photographer allowing my clients to select their own images. I've been the photographer finalizing albums TWO YEARS LATER. I simply just didn't have a policy in place. I always figured I'd handle the album process with each client individually. 
I was hurting myself... and my clients. Through this process of change and growth, I've discovered there are 3 ways in which allowing your client to have control over image selection can hurt the album process: 
  1. The album does not tell the story...  
    Clients may have a strong emotional connection with EVERY photo ...OR they're going to fixate on whether or not hair is in the right place and if Aunt Judy's hand is pointing the right way ...OR they're going to choose the photos that Mom and Uncle Bob want in the album. These are items that can wait until AFTER the story has been initially told... not to determine the storyline itself. 
    The album will not flow like an album should. An album should tell the entire story without a) being long-winded, b) rushing through, or c) missing pieces. It should tell the beautiful love story that was their wedding day. Your client may be too close to the story to be able to tell it accurately. 
  2. The album does not get designed quickly...  
    If you are relying on your clients to select their favorite photos, you have to remember that THEY JUST GOT MARRIED! They have a honeymoon to attend... a house to buy... puppies to bring home... and futures to think about. The LAST thing on their mind is designing an album... because well... they're not album designers (in most cases). They'll use their last little bit of down time to pick a few favorites here and there. But this will lengthen the amount of time it takes to get the ball rolling on the album design.  
    I've determined that none of my clients should be getting their album back YEARS after their wedding.... Not even 6 months. This process should not take this long. 
  3. The album will not be as beautiful...  
    I'm going to make a confession here, but I have never had an album where the client picked the images that I personally loved. In fact, most of them make me cringe a little. My heart even breaks on the inside a bit. The albums don't showcase the best images from the day and the story isn't cohesive.  
    I should LOVE LOVE LOVE what I am sending to my brides and grooms. I should be able to stand behind what I'm giving my clients. Not only am I dropping the ball if I don't love the album itself, but I'm not delivering quality service with love if I'm making my clients do so much work. I think we can all agree that a salad tastes better when we don't make it ourselves. Right!? Stop having your clients cook their own food when they hire you to be the chef. 
Take it from me, dear photographer, clients may THINK they want control over this process - but I could give you a list right now of three brides who would tell you otherwise. Before I put an album policy in place - my brides had to spend SO MUCH TIME selecting their album images! Let's encourage our couples to celebrate their marriage instead of putting them to work. They aren't on our payroll - we're on theirs, so to speak. Create your own album system and see how wonderful it can be for you AND your clients. 
How my process USED to look: 
1) Wait for client to ask about album  
2) Wait for client to tell me their favorite photos 
3) Realize it's been a year 
4) Send photos to Align Album Design 
5) Send album draft to client 
6) Realize it's been another year 
7) Remind client to approve their album 
8) Wait 3 more months 
9) Approve album 
10) Cry a little 
My process now: 
1) Select favorites during initial cull  
2) Upload favorites to PASS (so that it's the first gallery the clients see AND so that I already have my favorites ready to send to Align for the album design) 
3) Ask client to heart/favorite their favorite FORMAL portraits or any other MUST HAVE photos that are not ALREADY in the favorites gallery. Then add those to a 'MUST HAVE' gallery in PASS 
4) Send galleries to Align Album Design 
5) Send album draft to client 
6) Approve album 
7) Send to Leather Craftsmen to be created 
8) Order sample album for office :)  
I hope you can take away from my own personal failures and set aside some time to put together your own successful systems and policies in place. Not only will it allow your clients to have a beautiful, cohesive album... BUT it'll allow you to provide a polished client experience from start to finish... making you look like the PRO that you are! :) 
Best of luck --- Go be an album ninja!!! 
Blog post written by: Denise
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Beautiful Woodsy Wedding by Caroline Logan Photography

Album Designs, Featured Clients

Hear ye, hear ye! We'd like to introduce you to Align's newest Client Advocate, the talented Caroline Logan! She's a wedding photographer based in Pennsylvania AND she's a total sweetheart! Here's what she has to say about outsourcing with Align.... 
"The great thing about outsourcing my album design is that HALLELUJAH, I have my life back! Before using Align, I found myself nearly wishing that clients wouldn't invest in an album because I knew how time-consuming album design is and how overwhelming back and forth client revisions can be. But now, when clients choose to invest in an album, I'm excited knowing it's a win-win: my clients get to have a legacy album in their hands within weeks after their wedding, and I'll have more freedom than ever before. All because of Align. It doesn't get much better!" 
And we'd like to chime in and add that it's a win-win-WIN situation because WE get to work with Caroline's beautiful images, like those featured in the following fun woodsy wedding album! Thanks, Caroline, for sending us photos of the finished KISS Books album! We're smitten! 

And here is the album design in its entirety! Enjoy! 
Design by: Michelle (View More) // Design style: Classic (View More) // Blog post written by: Denise
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Introducing Our Client Advocates!

News!, Featured Clients
We have SO MANY amazing clients at Align, and while we love them all, we do have a few that we just can't help but brag about. Not only are they talented photographers, but they give generously to other photographers in the industry through their blogs, workshops, speaking engagements, and educational materials. In the process of helping other photographers, they often share about how they use Align to better serve their clients. They do this naturally -- because they're just awesome like that -- but we recently decided to make our mutual love for one another official by starting a client advocate program. Meet our client advocates: 

If you don't already know these photographers, you would be blessed to make their acquaintance and get to know them a little bit. To do so, click on our ABOUT page and then "Meet Our Client Advocates". Then click on each face to learn more, find out how they've partnered with Align to take their businesses to the next level (some of them share AMAZING expert tips on their blogs, so make sure to click through their article links!), and drop them an email to find out what they really think about our service. Align's client advocates are a great resource for you if you are looking to improve on your current album workflow and sales strategy. You can also click here to interact with them on the "Photogs Passionate About Albums" Facebook Group.  
Thank you to all of our client advocates for giving so generously and sharing their knowledge with others in the industry! You make us all better!
Blog post written by: Melissa Jill
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