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Val Marlene on determining your "WHY" for selling albums

Tips & Tricks, Featured Clients
Today we're thrilled to introduce you to Align client, Valerie of Val Marlene Creative. She's a midwestern wedding photographer and business coach for creatives. We asked for her perspective on album sales and she blew us away with the wisdom she provided about the "why" behind offering albums! If you're a photographer who feels timid about selling high-end albums to your clients, Val's insight is bound to inspire you! Read on!

Hi friends! I'm Val! I'm an ambitious, deep feeler, propelled by God's grace and fueled by pumpkin spice lattes (when they're in season). I'm married to Mark, my college sweetheart and business partner, and we're not-so-secretly-obsessed puppy parents to #elliethefluffypuppy. As a wedding photographer turned business coach, I get all the heart eyes and energy from walking alongside other creative boss ladies as they dream big dreams from the heart and build intentional businesses. 
As a wedding photographer, I actually really struggled through offering fine art wedding albums earlier on in my business. It wasn't so much the cost of the product as it was the reason to buy. I didn't have a clear understanding of the mission and purpose of my business (my 'why') and that bled into my album sales (or lack thereof). Because I hadn't thought through it myself, I didn't know how to sit across that coffee shop table from a bride, look her in the eye, and tell her why it was worth the extra investment to include an album in her collection. I thought it was salesy. I thought it was just what wedding photographers did. I didn't know why she needed an album, so the conversations were short and just focused on how pretty it was. Now, don't get me wrong. It's absolutely valuable to highlight the quality and beauty of a professionally crafted fine art album, but in the end, the heart needs to buy in. 
So, you've probably heard it said and maybe you've started to believe that it all starts with your 'why.' Your business, the reason you love capturing a moment in time for your clients, the legacy you're helping your clients create...really should all start with why (Simon Sinek anybody?). 
But what does this have to do with albums and your client's experience with the process? Lemme tell ya. Everything. 
Your why doesn't just influence who your ideal client is and how you present yourself online. Your why should directly affect your decision to both offer and encourage the purchase of a wedding album. If you don't have a reason for offering wedding albums, it will be really hard to sell them.  
So, let's get to the heart of it. Are you ready for this? I need to ask... do you believe in wedding albums? But you really believe in wedding albums? 
Deep down, do you truly believe they are worth every penny that you charge? 
Do you believe it's better for your client to purchase a fine art album through you as opposed to DIY-ing a kitschy Walgreens photo book? 
If you're selling albums, the answer to these questions needs to be a resounding 'Yes!'  
And if it's not, then you might just need to do some thinking about your why and how that should influence your thoughts on the matter.  
But, I have another question for you. If you answered 'yes' to the above you know why?  
Why do you believe every couple should invest in a fine art wedding album? And how does that relate to your personal why behind your business? 
Once you've worked through those questions, you have everything you need to sell albums with confidence because you hold a deep belief for a purpose behind the product. You're not simply selling a product, you're serving your client well by sharing your heart for their story and the legacy they'll leave. 

I'll leave you with my own personal narrative that gives a peek at the reason I believe in wedding albums. 
Your album tells a story. Your story. The traditional wedding portrait you might hang on your wall is just a tiny piece of that story. But your album shows the way your nose wrinkles when you laugh. It reminds you how you felt, and who you were with throughout your wedding day. Your wedding album isn't only for you to remember the details of your wedding. It's for the day your little girl asks about how you met Daddy. It tells her what Uncle Matt looked like when he was 21. It shows her the incredible look on Daddy's face when he first saw Mommy in her wedding gown. It reminds her that Grandma and Grandpa were there that day, and shows the joy Grandpa felt when he twirled you around on the dance floor. It reminds her that she came from a place of love. That your love story is the beginning to the family you're growing and the memories you're making.  
You see, I have only ever seen a few images of my Mom and Dad on their wedding day. But, my dad's bushy mustache and my Mom's slightly puffy sleeves on her dress make me giggle. Their album, although limited, still gives me insight into what their wedding day looked like and I know more about them thanks to those thick, glossy photo sleeves. I love seeing their silly (to me) fashion and the story behind it all. Like how my grandpa thought it would be hilarious to get his hair permed for the wedding. Or how my aunt's hair was bleach-blonde and looked as bright as a ripe banana. Or the images of my Dad's parents, whom I never got to meet, but know I would have loved. And then there's the canary yellow 1972 Super Beetle Volkswagen that they drove away in that my Mom always talks about. These are the stories the album tells that the framed portrait cannot.  
And THAT, my friends, is a why worth believing. Not to sell a product, but to preserve a legacy. 

Wow, Val, thank you SO MUCH for sharing your heartfelt "why" and helping your fellow photographers think through their own purpose behind offering albums. We love the passion you have for coaching creative business owners! 
For more Val Marlene goodness, click here to see some photos Val took of her clients opening up their wedding album for the first time. I can't even handle the sweetness!

Blog post written by: Denise
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Kristen Browning's Secrets to Album Sales and Profitability

Album Designs, Featured Clients

Hi everyone! Meet Kristen Browning! You may remember her from this Tropical Florida Keys Wedding Album Design we previously featured on our blog. Kristen is an Align client, a talented wedding photographer, and a brand new mama! To oooh and ahhh over her sweet newborn Easton, head over to her blog for some photos of her baby boy born 2/25/17! :) 
We recently asked Kristen if she would be willing to share some insight into her album process and she wowed us with her response! Today we're excited to pass along her wisdom on incorporating albums into your photography business and give you a glimpse into her album workflow! We'll let her take it from here!

Hi there! I'm Kristen of Kristen Browning Photography. I am based out of South Florida in a little town called Stuart. I love traveling, especially when the destination involves coconut palms, blue water and sunshine! I love the ocean, the aloha lifestyle, yet my roots are grounded in the south.  
When I first started out, I didn't offer anything to my wedding clients other than the digital files. Slowly I learned the value of holding a piece of printed product; holding a piece of history. I specifically remember listening to a podcast in which Jerry Ghionis said, "Years from now, would you rather swipe through your wedding album on your iPhone or electronic device, or would you rather sit down, open up your album and run your hand over the pages?" This really spoke to me and to this day, I use Jerry's example to get my clients to see the value in an album. But what really sells them is when the client can see the album in person. They LOVE it! 
My biggest struggles when it came to first incorporating albums into my business was where I was going to purchase them and how they would be designed. I first started purchasing through a lower end printing company, but the album binding began to fall apart. It took a lot of time and research, but I finally settled on a really great company, Miller's. Their quality is outstanding, and their service is super fast! 
As for the design, I have been a customer of Align for a little over a year now. Before I used Align, I was designing my own albums using software I had purchased. There was one particular wedding that I kept going back and forth with the bride about image selection, image placement, so on and so forth. I remember becoming entirely overwhelmed. The amount of time that I was putting into making that album was tremendous. I remember thinking, that was IT. I had to come up with a better solution. I had heard about Align but I hadn't committed to anything because I was afraid it would eat into my profits. Boy, was I wrong! What was killing my profit was the amount of time that I was spending pouring my efforts into album design. That is when I got serious and made the decision to outsource to Align. Best decision ever! 
For those who do not want to spend the money to outsource album design, is it because you have priced your albums too low and are afraid of losing your profit? Usually this is the case. Be sure that you appropriately price your albums to where you can justify the subtle cost of album design. 
Outsourcing album designing has allowed me to be more present in my own life, with my husband and baby! Who has time fiddle with tedious revisions when you can be spending time with those you love?! 

When my client orders an album, here's what my process looks like... 
First, during the initial consult I tell the clients that I will select the album images that best tell the story of their day so that they do not have to worry about going through hundreds of photos. They love that! (Thanks for the tip, Melissa Jill!) After the wedding, I edit my favorite images and send them to Align. Within just a couple of days, my Align designer sends me the album spreads so I can look at the design and make sure that I love it, which I always do!  
After the entire image gallery has been delivered to the client (about a week or so after the wedding), I then have my designer send my client the album design and start the revision process using Align's Hands-Off Service! If you are going to outsource the design process to Align, you might as well go ahead and include their $10 Hands-Off Service as well. You literally do not have to do anything during revision rounds! It is such a streamlined process that takes a lot of the grunt work away from me! It's like having your own personal assistant handle the whole process. SO worth it. I trust my designer will take care of everything they need. It's so nice to have that peace of mind! 
In case my client ends up being slow, I recently added a deadline in my contract for the album (another tip I got from Melissa) which states that 6 months after the wedding, if the client has not ordered their album, there will be a $50 fee. And after one year from the wedding, if there is no album activity, my contract releases me from the responsibility of making the album. 
Then after the client finalizes their design with Align, I send them to a page on my website which has screen shots of the different color swatches that Miller's has to offer. I have a step by step guide laid out for the client to give me everything that I need to fully complete their design. That's it! 

Kristen, thank you SO MUCH for being willing to share your experience and insight with your fellow photographers! You're amazing! And a bonus thank you for sending us the following photos of one of your Miller's Signature Albums! We love seeing what this beauty looks like in print!

And here's the full album design for you to flip through! 
Design by: Andrea (View More) // Design style: Classic (View More) // Blog post written by: Denise
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How Erin Lindsey Transformed her Client Experience

Album Designs, Featured Clients
Today we're thrilled to introduce you to Erin, the friendly and talented wedding photographer behind Erin Lindsey Images! We've only been working with Erin for about 5 months, but we knew right from the start that our businesses formed a perfect partnership! For us, working with Erin's dreamy images gives us major heart-eyes. For Erin, having the weight of album design off her shoulders has been so freeing in her business. We'll let her tell you about that herself.....

Hi! I'm Erin Lindsey and I'm a destination wedding photographer based out of North Alabama. I have a passion for not only capturing beautiful moments for my clients to cherish forever, but also giving them a beautiful experience as well. 
What is ironic about that is that while the meeting, planning, engagement session, and wedding day experiences I was giving my brides were what I wanted them to be, the album design side was severely lacking. It was the one area I felt that no matter how hard I tried, I wasn't able to keep up and give my brides the beautiful experience they deserved. Wedding season would hit and I would be bogged down with wedding after wedding to shoot and edit, and, as a result, album design fell to the wayside. My brides had to wait months for me to start their design, then several more months for me to finish the revisions and get the album delivered to them. In the Fall of 2016, I made the decision that I needed a drastic change in my album design process and I reached out to Align Album Design. 
I can't even begin to express how thankful I am for Align! I'm continuously blown away by how friendly, professional, talented, and FAST they are! I feel such a weight lifted off of my shoulders knowing that my brides are being well taken care of during the album design process... and I barely even have to lift a finger! 
Investing in an album designer is one of the best decisions I've made for my business. Truly. Not only have I gotten hours upon hours of my time back, but my stress-level has gone down significantly in the 5 months I've been using Align! I shoot an average of 25 weddings a year and almost every single one of my brides receives an album as part of her package. That's a lot of albums to design, especially during peak wedding season! Knowing that I can now shoot a wedding then have my clients' albums designed for them and delivered to them within a few weeks of their wedding - as opposed to months - is HUGE! 
I wish I had been using Align from the start of my business. It would have saved me so much time, energy, and stress. I would encourage any photographers who are on the fence about outsourcing their album design to Align to stop what they are doing right now and GO FOR IT! I cannot gush about them enough! :) 

Oh my goodness, Erin! Thank you SO much for that sweet testimonial! We absolutely LOVE being able to help you in this aspect of your business! We make a great team!  
Now let's check out one of Erin's recent album designs!! We love that she took some photographs of this WHCC album with an Aviator Vintage Leather cover and premium lustre paper so that we could see the end result! Check it out...

And here's the lovely design in its entirety! Click through the slideshow below: 
Design by: Denise (View More) // Design style: Classic (View More) // Blog post written by: Denise
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Caroline Talbot on her Album Workflow

Album Designs, Featured Clients
Today we are excited to be able to give you a peek into into the album workflow of Caroline Talbot Photography! We've been working with Caroline, a talented photographer based in Massachusetts, for about two years now. You may remember her from this Gorgeous Farm Wedding Album Design we featured on our blog awhile back. Recently we asked her to share a little about her album process, and here's what she had to say.....

Hi, I'm Caroline Talbot. I specialize in authentic wedding photography and women's portraiture. I love providing my clients with printed albums, but my biggest struggle with the process was designing them!  While there is a ton of software that can easily create layouts for me, I could never quite seem to end up with a design I loved.  I realized that the strength in the album is not only in the layouts, but moreso in which images are chosen for each spread.  When I realized I hated designing albums, regardless of how easy the software is, I started outsourcing to Align Album Design. I would much rather spend that time shooting or with family. It's 100% worth it for the time I save alone. One of my favorite parts of Align is that they're so easy to communicate with and are always ahead of their promised deadlines! I also love knowing I can work with the same designer if I choose! Shannon is amazing at knowing exactly which images will fit perfectly together for that wow factor for an amazing album! 
We shoot about 20 weddings a year and most of them purchase an album. We explain that an album is their first family heirloom and that any albums they add before the wedding include a 20% discount.  We're currently working towards building packages that emphasize the importance of a printed album! After the wedding, when we deliver the images to our couples (either with a visit to the studio or through an online link), we remind them of our album design process and how each step works, and we remind them that they still can purchase a wedding album if they didn't add one to their original collection.   
To start the album process, we pre-design the first draft for our clients because it's way too overwhelming for our couples to select images that will tell a story. After taking a year to select our own wedding album images, we realized we want to take that homework assignment away from our couples. Then we give them a round of changes where they can swap and change whatever they like, but they rarely change much! Our clients love the designs that Align creates! There are usually only a few revisions with mostly just small tweaks.   
Our clients have two weeks to submit their revision requests or approve their album. Then I send the design files to Leather Craftsmen for printing. Their quality is amazing, and works for both our more traditional and less traditional couples.  They're also always on top of customer service and will take care of you no matter what!   
To photographers who want to start offering albums but are overwhelmed about where to start, I'd suggest creating a sample album of a wedding you're super proud of and have it on hand to show your clients.  Don't skimp - show what you believe in! I believe in long lasting albums, so I show the best I have to offer.

Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing your insight into albums, Caroline!! You rock! 
Caroline ALSO sent us photos of one of her printed albums. This is a Leather Craftsmen split edition album. It's so fun for us here at Align to see our designs in print! Here are some of our favorite spreads from this design...

To view the design in its entirety, click through the slideshow below: 
Design by: Shannon (View More) // Design style: Classic (View More) // Blog post written by: Denise
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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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