Since 2004, my partner, Mike, and I have been providing a blend of creative and documentary photography covering weddings and other events through Choco Studio, a wedding and portrait photography studio based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We market our services through word-of-mouth referrals, as well as through our website and blog. Web presence is as important to our business as having the right equipment, and with the number of sites and services marketing to photographers, it isn't always easy to find what works and what doesn't.
Unlike many other studios, we give personal attention to every photo we present to our clients. This keeps us very busy with post-processing, and results in several hundred images per event ready to be viewed and ordered. Since we shoot many events every year, we needed to streamline operations as much as possible, including the fulfillment process. So when it came to the actual ordering and fulfillment, we knew we needed a reliable and high-quality partner to take care of that.
We've tried three different fulfillment systems in the past, all of which proved to be too complex and unfriendly to use. It took days to set them up, and the presentation of photos left a lot to be desired. Few orders were placed as a result-we just didn't feel like it was working for us.
It was at that point that we learned about the new Zenfolio Premium service becoming available. We were early adopters of the Zenfolio.com photo hosting service, having previously used it for personal work. The time had come for us to use it in offering our professional work as well.
Having used several print-fulfillment systems in the past, we knew what to look for during the evaluation. In our past experiences, we faced problems like slow access times, confusing price selection menus, and learning curves, which in the end were a total waste of time. The features we were looking for the most were: quality prints, ease of use, reasonable fees, and an appealing experience for our clients.
Priced at $100 for the year, Zenfolio Premium is less expensive than most comparable systems, yet it delivers a powerful set of features. Unlimited photo uploads, no bandwidth limitations, any number of price lists, several lab vendors to choose from, and customizable pages, including the use of our own domain name-all of that contributed to a positive first impression.
The setup was simple, and we loved Zenfolio's custom shopping cart. I'm not the most technical person, and I was able to find my way in setting up the site relatively easily. Most of the features are intuitive and well-explained in the instructions. I've had a need to email customer support a few times, and they've been quick to respond and always on the ball with their answers.
There seems to be a nearly infinite variety of products that can be ordered through Zenfolio's lab partners, Mpix and EZ Prints. The products vary from basic wallet prints to large framed and mounted prints, and also include specialty products such as T-shirts, magnets, mugs, and more.
The best part is that we don't need to do anything after an order is placed. Everything is handled by Zenfolio staff and partners. We get our profits deposited to our account and can collect them anytime we want to.
We already knew that the photo presentation on Zenfolio is the best we've seen online, and our clients tell us again and again how nice their photos look on the web. We feel strongly that this greatly explains the dramatic boost in sales we've seen since adopting Zenfolio's hosting and fulfillment service for our studio.
Other features we find valuable are the ability to create coupons for promotions and a really robust security system. Every photographer is worried when putting photos online, and we feel that between the flexible access protection settings and watermarking, we get the best there is in protecting our images.
Our prospective clients often find us through referrals, and it's not uncommon for them to have been a guest at one of our clients' weddings. They see our work and often choose us because of our creative style and the consistent quality in our photographs. The photos are shared more among the guests, we have more orders per event, and our clients give us great feedback about how well their photos are displayed. We have no doubts that the professional display of our photos helps us secure bookings for future assignments.
Natasha Valik, co-founder of San Francisco-based Choco Studio, (www.chocostudio.com) specializes in creative and documentary wedding photography and portraiture. Her style has been called "cutting edge, fresh, and candid." She finds it important to shoot from the heart, and describes her work as being natural and honest.