Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Web Services For Pros
Reduce your workload while improving services for your clients
When your service receives your files, it creates web pages for your proof images and a means for clients to select images in particular sizes for purchase. Although you may know how to create your own website, the task of adding frequently changing pages holding hundreds of linked image files adds another level of complexity. This is where the web services really come into their own, taking care of the proof gallery pages for you. Some services can create your entire website, if you so choose.
Keep in mind that the lab you choose is as important to your workflow and the quality of your results as the web service. Some labs accept film or digital images, for example, processing and scanning the film for you, and optimizing both film and digital images before uploading them to your web service. If you shoot in changing light, as you would at a corporate event or wedding, having a trained lab technician optimize all 250 of your images is essential. On the other hand, if you shoot studio portraits, exposure, contrast and color balance are consistent from shot to shot, so optimizing all of the images from a photo session may be easy for you to do in-house and reduce costs.
Your workflow depends on which approach you take and which lab you select. Here are two extremes, one for hands-on control and one for hands-off simplicity. If neither completely works for you, you can set up an in-between approach that better fits your needs.
Hands-On. After the shoot, optimize your images in Photoshop or another image-editing program, which includes adjusting contrast and color, and then making a downsized copy for uploading to the web. After the contrast and color adjustments are done, you can save time by using Photoshop to batch-process the adjusted images into downsized and sharpened screen-ready proof images. The full-sized original and adjusted images can remain with you or you can burn them to a disk and send them to your lab so they'll be on hand for incoming print orders.
You upload the screen images to your web service and they assemble an individual site for those images. The service notifies you when the site is complete so that you can e-mail prospective clients. You send your client a note saying the site is ready for viewing and include a username and password so they can access the pictures.
Clients log on to the site, select the particular prints in the sizes they want and make a purchase online. Your web service will e-mail you that a purchase has been made and you then log on to your web service to get the specifics of the orders and the client billing information.
After you're satisfied that the order is correct and the billing handled, you place the print order with the lab yourself or produce your prints in your studio. Some labs ship directly to the client, while others send the prints back to you.
Hands-Off. As you'd expect, this approach is less involved. Upload your images or burn them to a disk and send them to your web service or their affiliated lab. Alternatively, you also can send film for processing and scanning. If the film goes to the lab first, they'll upload scans from the film to the web service. The web service optimizes the images for you and then creates the individual website for the shoot.
As with the “hands-on” workflow, you'll e-mail your clients when the Website is ready. The clients view and purchase the images, as with the other workflow. To your clients, there's no difference between the two approaches. The real difference is in what happens after the clients order a print—with this approach, the web service will collect the money and fulfill the print order. You don't need to be involved at all.
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