There aren't many paradigm shifts in the event-photography industry (like going from film to digital), but Miltonstreet Software's Photo Parata has helped create just such a paradigm shift for event photographers.
Any concentration within the photography industry is 10 percent taking pictures and 90 percent presentation-in other words, you won't sell what the customers can't see. Showing your work professionally and rapidly to customers who have money to give you is the key to success.
During the winter months, I spend many hours shooting (my wife would say too many hours) youth sporting events: hockey at rinks with multiple sheets of ice (games playing simultaneously), ice dancing, tournament basketball on four courts at any one time, and wrestling tournaments, to name a few.
The metrics of the events are similar: my company (www.ejsphotography.com) shows up several hours before the first teams take the ice or court, sets up a network of computers, fires up Photo Parata, and waits for the controlled chaos to start. At a set time, parents start to arrive, and our booth helpers hand out flyers to wave after wave of parents with players in tow.
My photographers take action photographs of the games. When the games are almost over, I start receiving their CompactFlash cards full of images from the first round of games. The key to my business is that I rapidly get these images onto the server so that the parents can begin purchasing the photos taken of the events they just finished watching only minutes ago.
The popular Fox TV show 24 has its CTU: computer experts backing their field agents. For event photographers, there's Miltonstreet Software's Sam Carleton and Photo Parata.
Faster Presentations, Faster Ordering, More Profit
Photo Parata is client-server software designed by photographer/programmer/workflow guru Sam Carleton from the ground up, with event photographers in mind. This workflow solution enables the event photographer to rapidly display the photographs made during the event to customers, with a user experience that has customers throwing completed order forms at you as fast as they can finish filling them out.
“You will not sell what you cannot show” is an analogy that is true in most photo-related businesses, and it's especially true in event photography.
I utilize Photo Parata's easy-to-understand user interface to create categories and image galleries. Parents then go to the kiosks we've set up and start viewing and ordering pictures in as little as a click of the mouse. Photo Parata is lightning-fast at presenting images to customers.
The viewing is done through Kiosk Viewing Stations (KVS), which is software that is installed onto all the viewing stations. A customer walks up to a viewing station, clicks on an image gallery, and starts purchasing pictures or adding images to a shopping cart for later purchase.
The Photo Parata server (Grand Marshal) and software are very much a key part of my business, leading to a successful workflow. Photo Parata is simple to run and configure. All it takes is installing the Grand Marshal on the server, the Kiosk Viewing Stations on the clients, and plugging the computers into any standard router. The only information you need is the network IP address of the Grand Marshal, and that's displayed in the status bar of the unit. On the Kiosk Viewing Stations (KVS), you enter the IP address and a password-so the kids can't shut down the KVS program-and you're up and running.
Photo Parata uses the Apache web-server technology to distribute the images to the Kiosk Viewing Stations. By utilizing web technology, your customers have a familiar interface that has both an elegant design and is less expensive to use than solutions that utilize Windows file sharing. The web server technology alleviates the need for every viewing station to have a Microsoft Client Access License (CAL) and can be run on Windows Server 2003 Web Edition, a less expensive version of Windows Server.
For my setup, I have a Dell PowerEdge server running Windows Business Server 2003; this server has enough power to run the Grand Marshal and, for me, the 10 to 15 viewing stations, which are a mix of computers running either Windows XP or Vista.
My entire sales metrics for an event, profit per team and profit per athlete, have almost tripled since I adopted this solution. My direct observation is that more customers viewing equals more customers making purchases.
When a customer makes that magic bond with an image they order it on the spot. More orders means more money being deposited into my company's bank account. If only everything in event photography was this easy.
Edmund J Szalajeski (www.ejsphotography.com) is a sports photographer from Portland, Maine; specializing in capturing action images that make timeless memories for years to come. He currently shoots all levels of sporting events from youth to pro. One day Ed could be making pictures of a youth league the next day a professional league.