When I established Prints Charming Photography & Framing in 1995, I was still riding the digital learning curve from my then-basement portrait studio. Then a relative created a Web page for me as a class project, putting me at the forefront of photography marketing in Oregon. I loved this tool, and I welcomed the move toward online shopping.
As copyright chairperson for Oregon's PPA affiliate, I knew well the importance of protecting my images, so I eagerly sought a system that prevented me from "donating my work."
Arriving at a client's home for a shoot a few years ago, I discovered screen prints of our prior shoot on their refrigerator. I had two choices: I could feel victimized, or I could increase image security to create more, investigate less, and maintain peaceful relationships.
I chose the latter. I started out with a "film-branded" shopping cart, but relinquished my independence—the process grouped me with all other Brand X photographers. I wanted my clients to remain on my site, or at least to feel as though they'd never left. The concept of diminishing my logo to my hard-earned clients, only to show them I used "Brand X"—which skimmed a percentage of my profits—had little appeal to me.
Early on, I shot many affluent, black-tie events. I wanted the people there to remember that Prints Charming was their photographer. I didn't want to just send a thank-you letter with my shopping cart's logo. Then, after one of my clients suggested paying by check, I knew I required more control to meet my clients' needs.
The Search Begins
My wish list began to grow. The service I was looking for would need to be Macintosh-friendly and feature an aesthetic and intuitive layout for Web newbies; custom controls to make my Web page unique; top security for images and payment processing; ease of use, with little need for client instruction; the freedom to select a lab without being required to "buy in" to its framework; cutting-edge offerings without having to raise my retail to compensate for giving the service a percentage of sales; and free, unlimited technical support.
I began by researching boxed software, finding everything I needed except for the simplicity. And losing my remaining five hours of sleep was not an option. Extensive searches led me to my answer in January 2003: www.MorePhotos.com.
I scrutinized MorePhotos.com's pricing page before calling them. After numerous questions, I was directed to owner Mike Connors. I knew right away that I'd met my equal in entrepreneurial enthusiasm. I kept my guard up, though, as I questioned the base price ($49 per month, including Web hosting, with no commission fees). I kept probing for hidden provisos, only to find that every one of my needs were met—and then some. "It's your money, keep it," Connors said. "My job is to provide you with the tools to make more." He told me the best ways to attract more customers to my site. I would have paid a higher setup fee for these ideas alone (shhh!).
It's All Good
Four years later, the base price is still $49, with a host of added features. An incredible Zoom tool has generated more self-serve sales, allowing a virtual loupe to see closeup details that used to fall between the lines of screen resolution. The Slideshow function is great for big events; additional languages have impressed our global clientele. Last year MorePhotos was integrated with Adobe Photoshop CS2 via Bridge, making their partnership a 100 percent workflow solution, aided only by Apple's Automator to script my unvaried tasks.
Friendly tech support got me through my "training wheel" period, and new features are adding as quickly as I can think of them. With the easy-to-use Online Manager, I see hundreds of dollars per month being earned after I've gone home for the day. That, to me, is priceless!
Brian Geraths (www.yourprints.com) is owner of Prints Charming Photography & Framing, in Portland, Oregon. Winner of the Kodak Gallery and Fuji Masterpiece awards, among others, he is official photographer of the Portland Rose Festival Court and an Adobe Bridge beta tester.