How Custom Mobile Apps Can Help Take Your Photography Business to the Next Level
In the photography business, we all know how crucial word-of-mouth is. When photographers are a dime a dozen, a client referral can go a long way. It’s important for us business owners to stand out in small ways and using Mobile Apps can be an amazing tool for promoting your brand.
As a mother to a 9 year old and two dogs, including a brand new puppy, I am constantly whipping out my phone and tablet to show off the newest set of photos I took of them. (I’d post a few pictures here if I could – my new puppy is adorable). And even beyond that, I am always showing people the funny bumper sticker or viral video of cats singing via my phone so it makes sense to use my phone to promote my business. So it goes to say that as a photographer, making it easy for my clients to share the photos from their last portrait session or wedding just makes sense. In the past, I used to have these cute little accordion books printed up so my clients could throw them in their purses and share some of their images from their portrait sessions. Now, I’ve moved on to something more modern and accessible for everyone – not just those that carry purses. Your last portrait session – there’s an app for that.
With custom mobile apps, you can create beautiful photo albums for your clients to easily showcase the images you’ve taken without forcing them to search your blog or sift through emails to find a specific link.
Ideally, clients will share their photos and word of your business and talent will spread. But pay attention to how you use mobile apps in your sales process: is it an end product, that clients can add on to their order? Is it a bonus in a collection that cannot be purchased a la carte, to provide incentive to your clients to purchase print packages? Is it included in your digital packages only? Regardless of how you market it, mobile apps are what today’s clients want. Use it to your advantage!
Taking mobile apps one step further, however, can really boost your business. Take the time to think about the ways you can use mobile apps to promote your business from a different angle. Whether you do in-person sales or online gallery proofing, you can create mobile apps that serve other purposes than simply showing your clients the images from their session.
How I Use Mobile Apps For My Business
1. Available Products
Create an app with images of the different products you offer your clients, such as accordion albums, standouts, canvases, magnets, and frames. Many times, your professional printing lab will have stock marketing images that they allow for exactly this purpose. Or, you can photograph the samples you have in your studio, and include them.
When you meet with clients in person, pull the app up on your iPad or tablet and have clients zip through the options you offer for displaying their images. When a client asks, “What’s the difference between a print wrap and a canvas?” you can quickly and easily show them an example. This can be extremely helpful for products that you may wish to offer clients, but don’t have a physical sample of. Alternatively, if your clients preview and order their images online, send your clients a link to download the app several days before you email the link to their gallery to give them an idea of the different choices they have for ordering.
2. Thank You
After the holidays or at the beginning of slow seasons, plenty of photographers send out cards and promotional pieces to clients to drum up business. Since creating a mobile app is both easy and free, quickly generate an app for your clients with several of their most recent session’s photos, instead. Include a slide you’ve created in your favorite photo editing software that lets clients know about upcoming events, sales, or specials. Or, imbed a “thank you” for being such a loyal customer, whether it’s simply a nicely designed message telling them you’re appreciative of their business or a “coupon” for a future session.
Either way, remember that no one wants an app on their device that’s full of advertising; make the point of the download to be the excitement of seeing and sharing their session images, and let the marketing piece be an added bonus.
3. Traveling Portfolio
Create an app for yourself. Include a sampling of your best images across several different genres to show your versatility, or, if you specialize in one area, include images that show why you stand out in your field. Download it on your cell phone and tablet, and anytime the opportunity arises, show potential clients your best work. Offer to email the app directly so your audience can view the photos again later — photos speak much louder than a business card!
Regardless of how you use your mobile apps, remember that they are a business tool like any other; balance them with your current marketing plan and use them to their fullest advantage.
There are two major companies out there whose names are synonymous with Mobile Apps for photographers: ShootProof and StickyAlbums. When choosing a company to go with, look at the perks of each and weigh your options.
ShootProof’s mobile apps are free with any paid plan. For beginning photographers (and the super thrifty among us), ShootProof’s Forever Free plan still lets you create 5 apps. While StickyAlbums’ yearly price is a bit more expensive than ShootProof’s paid plans, the real deal enters with ShootProof when you factor in their unlimited mobile apps and enough gallery space to post and sell dozens of sessions worth of prints and digital downloads.
(Updated to add 8/21/14: StickyAlbums offers a free trial, and their annual plan is comparable in price to ShootProof’s paid plans. StickyAlbums also offers unlimited apps, as well as unlimited photos and lifetime hosting).
My clients like things that look pretty (and I’m sure yours do, too!), and they certainly like the photos of their loved ones to look even prettier. ShootProof has a Pinterest-esque look, while StickyAlbum has a square, simplistic look. Regardless of what you choose, look for an image showcase that is cleaner and more modern to be sure your mobile app doesn’t look dated after a few months; chances are, your clients will want to keep them around!
(Updated to add 8/21/14: StickyAlbums has updated their album style to a more modern, clean design).
Both companies show the images full screen, and both have the ability to rotate the mobile device and the images successfully rotate with it. While ShootProof is missing the ability to zoom in on specific images, StickyAlbums’s zoom was insufficient on photos of groups (i.e., a wedding party), where clients may feel a zoom feature is most needed.
For photographers who shoot boudoir or other sensitive subject matter, StickyAlbums’ password protection can definitely come in handy. For sessions in which privacy is not an issue, both companies’ mobile apps allow clients to share on social media sites or via email with just one click. With ShootProof, sharing the apps with friends and families can send them back to that online gallery, where prints and digital downloads are for sale, which may increase your business’s exposure and the possibility of more sales.
(Updated to add 8/21/14: StickyAlbums’ most recent update now lets clients share either the whole album or an individual picture, which increases the chance that your brand is shared. In both cases, your brand name is attached to the image so you get credit).
I ended up choosing ShootProof for a few reasons. Both companies were great and had a lot to offer, but Anthony Thurston, one of our writers uses ShootProof for all his online proofing and recommended it so highly, that I made sure I stopped by the booth at WPPI. The people were friendly and the interface is super modern and clean looking. I love the fact that the app looks like I’m scrolling through Pinterest.
My clients also love it and I get people telling me all the time how easy it is to show off their photos. At my last wedding, one of my bridesmaids was a former bride and pulled out her app to show people her own wedding photos! I’m making it super easy for people to show off my work and take about how much they love their photos, which is a big WIN for my business.
Of course, do your research and choose the one that best fits your brand. Both companies offer a trial period to try out their product. ShootProof has a 30-day free trial here. StickyAlbum has a 14-day free trial here.