Packaging Your Photo Products
With the change of the photography industry from product based to service based many more of our clients are wanting to have digital copies of their photos. How you accommodate that and price is up to you. Everyone is different, but it seems as though everyone is offering the option to have either digital copies or prints or both. So the question is...how do you package these items?
I get emailed questions all the time from you guys wanting to know who and what I use for my packaging of products. While many photographers value taking the time and money to set up very nice packaging I'm very simple in that aspect. Unfortunately it might mean I'm not the best person to ask about it if you like fancy packaging, but I'll tell you what I do and why. My personal view is that with a business to run I'm very picky about where and how I use my money and especially my time (since my time is my money). This means I don't do anything except for simple when packaging and I don't deliver my orders personally. Most of my orders are out of state. Those who are in state I just think the amount of time and money for gas it would take for me to deliver all of my orders personally isn't a good use of my time and money from a business perspective. I like to think I can still offer the same experience and quality packaging without too much time and effort.
My main consideration with packaging is balancing out the idea of having something nice that carries my brand and also not having it be so nice when clients rip it off and toss it in the trash can. After being a member of Simply Color Lab for many years I trust their service easily and don't need to ship orders to me to ensure they are done well. They always are and I've never once had a hiccup with their services. I drop ship all of my orders directly to my clients and that means I use the boutique packaging the lab offers. I always chose the same color scheme for the box and ribbon and sometimes I pay the extra few dollars to have my logo put on the boxes and voila I'm done. Most labs do a great job of leaving out the receipt, but if you're worried you can just mention it in the notes whenever you put in an order and they'll be sure to leave out the receipt.
The downside of sending my packaging by drop-shipping it is that I don't get to include a personal thank you card. The money that I'm saving though by not taking the time and money to order personalized packaging, shipping the order to me and then re-shipping to the client, and then the time to repackage it upon its arrival before I ship it out again is the reason I keep choosing this method. Instead of worrying about the thank you card arriving with the order I just send it on my own. I actually feel that this says something more coming separate than it does with an order. Many businesses thank people for their purchases, orders, and the money they've spent with the business. When I send a thank you card with an order I sometimes feel as though I'm thanking them for the money they're giving me that I live off of. When I send that thank you card separately I think it becomes more heartfelt when they receive it. Of course I am thankful that my clients do business with me, but I'm also thankful to meet them and have created the friendships and relationships as well.
These are my personal choices for packaging and they aren't for everyone. I know many photographers who have great success taking the time to personally brand and create packaging for their businesses, but my success and strengths have never been in that area. I once heard from a successful business owner that whatever you're weaknesses are as a business owner you need to find a way to make those things easier for you, even if that means you aren't as good as the next person down the line. I'm not good at packaging and shipping so I need that to be easy for me to take care of.
As far as CDs go I don't offer CDs to my clients. I use digital downloads instead because it saves me money from shipping, packaging, and the time it takes to burn, package, and go to the post office when dealing with a CD. I use http://www.sendspace.com for digital downloads and I just leave my computer to upload a zip file overnight and in the morning when it's done uploading it automatically emails the download link to my client. I've had great feedback with this from clients because it's just so easy to use and in a couple clicks all their photos are there on their computer. CDs sometimes would get lost (I have a terrible postman), damaged, or sent back and it just wasn't the best way for me to serve my customers. It's also very easy to include a print release file for your clients to print off in the zip file with everything else. The great thing about send space compared to other download services is its price ($8 a month) and that you have more control over who is downloading your photos. I password protect my downloads and set them so they can only be downloaded once. It minimizes the risk of using another service and having their friends and family pass on the photos and anyone being able to download them without your knowledge. On the other hand Sendspace isn't beautiful and it doesn't present your photos in a gallery or have a way for you to put your logo up. It's just simple.
Again, these are the options that work best for me, but then I'm a big fan of time management (maybe a bit extreme) in that I always want to use my time really well so that I make more money per hour that I work overall.
*Please keep in mind the date of this article. Many times my business changes and evolves. I no longer use Sendspace