ZNO Layflat Photo Book and Custom Photo USB Case Review | Can Professional Quality Cost So Little?
As wedding and portrait photographers, we’re privileged to capture some of the most important moments in our clients’ lives. While taking these pictures can be fun, the most rewarding part of our job usually comes several weeks after the photo session. In my experience over the years, working as both a photographer and album designer for Lin & Jirsa Photography, few moments carry as much excitement as when our clients hold their photo albums in their hands for the first time. That is the moment when the power of photography, especially in print, becomes evident, when clients realize that they’re holding a bridge to future generations. While I’ve worked on albums with a number of print labs from both near and far, one that always comes through is Zno, and their Layflat Photo Book has become a client favorite. It’s one of my personal favorites as well.
In this article, I’m going to review the Layflat Photo Book, as well as Zno’s USB Photo Case, to show how easily you can give your clients the best of both worlds with affordable photo albums and digital files while also boosting your income.
Zno’s Layflat Photo Book
Professional printing labs can be expensive, even with pro accounts, and wedding albums often cost several hundred dollars or more. Once you account for overhead and profit, photo albums quickly become cost-prohibitive for your clients, making it difficult for them to find value in having their images professionally printed. It doesn’t have to be this way, though.
With the Layflat Photo Book, Zno delivers professional quality that competes with the best press-printed albums on the market, all at a fraction of the price. Adding the Layflat Photo Book to our lineup has allowed us to offer clients a beautiful, high-quality album that won’t break the bank.
Layflat Photo Book Options
You’ll find no shortage of options when it comes to choosing the size, cover material, texture, layouts, embellishments, and more for your Layflat Photo Book. If you sign up for the Pro Plan, which I’ll mention later, you can order a material swatch box to show clients and help them visualize what the materials used in their album will actually look like. You can also explore various options for each of these categories in more detail here. I’ll share a couple of my favorites below.
Pro Photo Paper & Printing: Lustre
While Zno offers plenty of premium-grade lab options, clients always comment on how much they love the look and feel of the thick (0.8mm), professional-grade photo paper. The “Lustre” finish brings the photos to life with vivid colors and detail, which makes my photos look better in person, in my opinion, than they do when viewed as backlit pixels on my monitor. As cliché as it sounds, there really is something magical about seeing your work in print, especially when it is printed well, as is the case with the Layflat Photo Book.
Choosing a cover style will likely fall on your client’s plate, but somewhere between “less is more” (see the Paper Cover) and “more is more” (see the Genuine Leather Cover), I think the hard cover option makes for a solid go-to. The Hard Cover option uses a real photo paper cover with a rigid backing that wraps around the front, spine and back.
Another reason I like this option is that you can add text to the spine in any color you like, and there’s no shortage of font options. You (or your clients) will find one that fits your (or their) style. It’s a simple, yet desirable design feature that adds value to the album.
The Design Process for the Layflat Photo Book
I’ve tried a number of different album design software options over the years, some great and others downright unpleasant, and the Zno Designer, a free cloud-based designer that Zno built in-house, is one of the easiest, most intuitive designer programs I’ve ever used. Although I’m discussing the design process for albums, the Zno Designer also works wonderfully for designing prints, wall art, cards, and other Zno products.
Drag and Drop
You’ll realize how easy the design process is going to be as soon as you open up the Zno Designer. The Designer breaks up into two basic sections with a photo library on the left (that also includes a tab for product details) and a design module on the right with an album mock-up and pre-designed layout options on the bottom. You’ll also find a bunch of tools for modifying your design just above the mock-up of your photo book.
To begin, simply populate the “Photos” tab on the left with your images, choose a layout for the spread from the pre-designed options, and then drag and drop your photos into the image placeholders in the mock-up. It couldn’t be easier.
Layflat Photo Book Layouts
The “stock” layouts have been elegantly designed with text and image count filters (e.g., two images per spread) and will likely work for you with little to no customization. For the album featured in this review, I did not customize any of the layouts. Still, should you need to do so, you can easily modify the number of frames, as well as the height and width for each, and then save your custom templates for use in future designs. The technical part is easy, but the creative side still falls somewhat in your lap. Be sure to follow good design principles and select & arrange your photos with storytelling in mind.
You can view layouts for single spreads as well as all of your layouts at once for the purpose of confirming your arrangement or rearranging your pages if necessary. Here’s a look at some of the layouts in the actual printed book.
Client Proofing for the Layflat Photo Book
Zno offers access to their Proofer feature, which is built into Zno Designer, for a small additional cost. This will come in handy for sending proofs to your clients to approve before submitting the design for print. While other album design options also include a proofing feature, some don’t, and it’s nice to see that Zno has made it available for a small fee.
Checking out works similarly to other online shops, and is rather self-explanatory. Follow the steps of the checkout process, and you should be good to go. Just be sure to review your order in detail and confirm that you’ve placed the correct (and finalized) products in your cart.
If you have Zno’s Pro Plan, which I’ll discuss below, you can select a Drop Shipping option, which will come in handy if you’re unable to have clients visit your studio/home to receive the albums, a somewhat common scenario since the start of the pandemic.
As I’ve mentioned a couple times above, Zno offers a Pro Plan for professional photographers. While this doesn’t directly relate to reviewing the Layflat Photo Book (or the USB Case, which follows), I feel it’s worth noting as it can impact how Zno fits into your workflow. Here are some of the benefits of a Pro Plan:
- Lab Credit with Large Purchases
- 50% off Custom Samples
- Free Shipping on Big Orders
- Material Swatch Box
- Drop Shipping
Custom Photo USB Case
To say it’s important to print your photos is to understate the facts. That said, however, we do live in a digital age and having access to digital files is not only convenient, but also a must. Most photographers deliver digital images to their clients through an online gallery. This is common practice today. I recommend taking an extra step, however, and adding a specialized touch to delivering digital files with a custom USB case, featuring a USB 3.0 flash drive.
Whether you add it as a gift or sell it as an add-on (or sell it in place of an album or prints, depending on your business model), Zno’s Custom Photo USB Case represents an affordable way to enhance your client’s experience and possibly generate some additional revenue. The emphasis still remains on keeping your client’s memories in a physical form that they can easily access and not lose in cyber oblivion.
Like the Layflat Photo Book, the USB Case comes with a number of options for cover materials, an optional image panel, colors, and memory size (32GB or 64GB). Check out Zno’s Custom Photo USB Case profile for more details.
The Design Process
The Zno Designer makes it easy to design the Custom Photo USB Case, which includes mock-ups for both the case and the USB itself. Select your product options on the left, populate your photo catalog (if you’re using an image), and then drag the photo into the image placeholder on the right. You can easily add text to the USB and modify the style and color of the font.
The same holds true for ordering the USB Case as it does with the Layflat Photo Book. The checkout process is easy to follow.
Combinations & Other Products
I’ve reviewed two separate products here, including the Layflat Photo Book and the USB Case, but Zno also offers these two particular products as part of a boxed set. I didn’t choose this combination for this review as each of the products I reviewed are going to different parties, but I would absolutely go this route if the album and USB were intended for the same person. It’s also worth noting that Zno offers a host of other album styles, USB options, and various products.
Over the last couple decades, people have grown accustomed to experiencing photography solely in a digital realm. Perhaps that is partly why holding a print in our hands feels that much more meaningful. We invest a lot of time and energy into creating images that our clients will cherish for generations, and I believe that the best way they can do that is through having their photos printed. As a photographer, seeing the photos you capture in print will also help you better understand and appreciate the photos you take. Zno makes it easy to design and deliver a quality album at an affordable price. Adding a Custom Photo USB Case and USB only sweetens the deal and gives your clients access to digital files they can share on social media or with their friends and family. Order an album for yourself or pick up a free pre-designed album to experience the quality of Zno’s Layflat Photo Books first hand, and then get ready to add it to your list of professional print options.