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Melissa Jill on Album Workflow: An Introduction

Tips & Tricks

Hey guys! I'm Melissa Jill -- the Owner of Align! I'm also a Phoenix-based wedding photographer who has been shooting weddings for 15+ years. I started Align as a way to help other professional photographers get a handle on their album workflow because I know from experience how tough it can be. Just like all of you out there who are trying to make a living through a small business, I have A LOT of balls in the air at any one time. I shoot about 10-15 weddings per year. I currently start at $5,500 and most of my clients end up spending more than $8K on their photography. I really value albums and highly encourage all of my clients to include one in their package. I've struggled over the years to learn how to sell albums profitably and efficiently. More on that later!  
I work from my home office with a full-time office-manager in this space:

We also have an office mascot -- my miniature schnauzer Dixie (she has her own hashtag on Instagram if you want a dose of cuteness overload -- #dixieschnauzer):

In addition to shooting my own weddings, I have four associate photographers who shoot weddings for my company at lower price-points. Between them, they shoot 20-30 weddings per year.

So that's a little about myself. I LOVE what I do, but like many photographers, album design and workflow has been a pain point of mine. I remember sitting down to do my very first album after a client requested one during my first year in business and thinking..."This is going to be easy, I'll just throw this together." Turns out it wasn't so much. There was a HUGE learning curve and every time I thought I had one thing mastered, another issue popped up.  
First there were gazillions of options -- which company do I use, which style album do I pick, which cover, which paper type? Do I design it myself or outsource it? Which software do I use or which company do I outsource to? How do I manage proofing with my clients? In addition to all of these choices, I hit so many obstacles with my client workflow. I waited FOREVER for clients to pick their images. Then when I figured out I needed to be pre-designing, I waited FOREVER for them to finalize their design. There were endless rounds of revisions, clients wanting to stuff every last corner of the design with images, and the list goes on and on. I was left wondering -- IS IT EVEN WORTH IT to sell albums?  
Clearly I answered that question in the affirmative. And I've lived to tell about it. And not only that, but we've figured out how to make albums PROFITABLE. Now our studio's yearly profit from albums is close to $25,000. I share this only to encourage you that it is possible. And it IS worth figuring out how to navigate through the aforementioned obstacles. 
Over the coming weeks I hope to share a few things I've learned along the way that have helped make my album workflow profitable and efficient. These tips will apply to Align clients, but they will also apply to those of you who design your albums yourselves. And while what I share works well for my studio, it's not the only way to do things. I hope this blog can be a place where we can have a conversation; where we can learn and grow from sharing our knowledge and experiences with one another. Life is always better lived in community. So I hope you'll join me, follow along, and share your insight in the comments!  
To make sure you don't miss out on any of the upcoming tips in this series -- many of which I guarantee will be life-changing! -- click here to sign up to get them sent straight to your inbox!
And exciting news! If you're a photographer who wants to start offering albums without investing hours of guesswork and trial and error -- we have a solution for you! Check out the Album Start-Up Kit and start maximizing your profit today! 

Blog post written by: Melissa Jill
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