Magazine Article


Book It
Selling Photobooks is easier than you think

Kalen Henderson

Kalen Henderson

Kalen Henderson

Kalen Henderson

It was back in the good old days when Steve McGarrett was the greatest export Hawaii ever gave us. I'd sit on the living room floor and transport myself from my small town Iowa home to the awesome Hawaiian beaches as he brought the bad guys to justice in an hour or less with those famous words, "Book ‘em, Danno."

Move ahead 30 or so years. Similar Iowa setting. Same battle cry.

"Book ‘em, Danno."

Five or so years ago when the press printing craze engulfed professional photography, we knew it wasn't long before we'd be replacing peel-and-stick mounts with beautiful, glossy paper pages. And in today's market, everybody has a printer and everybody has a book. But choosing the why's and how's of creating and selling books can be as big a mystery for some photographers.


Ask yourself, "why not?" In this day and age a consumer can create anything he or she wants on the internet. If you're not selling your images, then you are going to have to offer press printed books. If you don't, you are running the risk that the consumer is going to find his or her own source and probably violate your sacred copyright, or they will choose a photographer who does offer this product.

Books aren't meant to be a replacement media for 8x10s or wall portraits, but they certainly have their place in the package when you consider that a book should tell a complete story or at least one chapter of it. With that thought in mind, creating a promotion surrounding books is easy.

Take for example, the baby line. We have marketed to expectant moms a package that includes the maternity images in a book and includes the first "volume" of baby's images. We're not selling one book here-we're selling a library. (Make sure you include an ultrasound image in the first book!) The package includes both books and includes the maternity session (or two sessions, depending upon when the package was purchased), a baby-comes-home session and a session at two weeks of age. You can then upsell that book into a larger volume to include three, six, nine and 12 month sessions and images or you can sell a third volume of "Baby's First Year."

The maternity packages are especially fun gifts for women to get at baby showers because most showers include baby gifts but not much for the mom. We've found them to be very popular gifts from the grandmother to the mom-to-be. Word of mouth is your best source of advertising but placing several sample books in physician's offices does the trick as well.

Just remember that you're creating a "library" of memories-something that can be handed down, and requires no matting, framing, or wall space. With the various sizes that are available from labs like American Color Imaging in Cedar Falls, Iowa, it's easy to add on smaller sizes of the same book for grandmas.


One of the most popular uses for the book comes with our sports line. You wouldn't think that quick and easy football or dance portraits would lend themselves to press printed books, but with ACI's soft-cover books, the kids order them up as activity "yearbooks." If you have the opportunity to photograph the recital or action shots from a game, those, too, can be included and give the book even more value.

In addition, try a high school graduation. Presell the book to the members of the senior class, then shoot candids during the ceremony as well as before and after. By preselling, you know who your buyers are and it gives you the upfront knowledge of who to key in on with your photography.

Encourage your clients to bring in their vacation portraits and create a one-of-a-kind album that they can display as a coffee table book. This is a great promotion to run during the slow winter months when everyone would like to think about being somewhere else. A great promotion for Mother's Day is to offer a "family album" book and encourage family members to bring in old family images. That book always leads to multiple copies.


Whether you use a soft-cover book as a proof book that's included with the session or you create a finished photo-wrap book with the final order, high school seniors always want to see themselves in print. These books will always find their way to a prominent spot at the graduation party, which is great advertising for your studio.

For those who don't want to give up portions of a large senior order, make the book a bonus item, offering it for free if their order meets or surpasses a goal you've set.
Everybody likes to get something for free and this is the best advertising you could get into their hands. A win-win situation for everyone.


Most importantly, make sure your book has quality. Look for solid bindings, color that is crisp and paper that feels good to the touch. American Color offers various paper weights and textures, including gloss coating. Their cover line ranges from soft covers to leather to the most-popular photo wrap cover. Dust jackets are also available. With so many consumer-available books on the market, one that comes from a professional photographer should look just that-professional.

You also don't want to spend weeks creating your book. ACI offers a wide variety of templates with unlimited options, to some specialized templates (think babies, weddings), to the option of uploading pages done completely on your own from your own design. But if you're like me and time is money, these templates work perfectly.


It is tempting to want to charge a high price for something that looks so good. But remember that this is a new product in the market and is something the consumer could create on their own. These books have a twofold purpose-they create a product that you can sell, and they provide a vehicle to carry your work to others. So the more books you have out there, the more people will see your work.
And that, my friends, puts it away in less than an hour and tempts me so ever much to tell you, "Book it, Danno."

For more of Henderson's work, go to

For more information on ACI, check out the website at