Talking PhotoShelter with Sara Allen: Branding, Customizing, and Standing Apart from the Crowd

Talking PhotoShelter with Sara Allen: Branding, Customizing, and Standing Apart from the Crowd

Sara Allen considers her brand in every business move she makes.

She and her team of fellow photographic artists make up onelove photography, a group of self-described Neo-Impressionists based out of California (mostly San Francisco and Los Angeles, to be exact). Together they’re shooting over 100 weddings per year, all the while maintaining a unique sense of style, distinct vision and brand, and high-end level of customization. With a gorgeous portfolio and stunning client work to showcase, it’s no wonder onelove works steadily all year long. But their secret to standing apart from the crowd? You guessed it. Sara signed up for PhotoShelter in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since.

Customization, Customization, Customization

“I want to be able to showcase myself uniquely. I don’t want a template,” Sara tells us. This is why she contracted a designer to build her a totally custom site from scratch — the site you see at www.onelove-photo.com. Her designers created a lovely look and feel for her to start with, but she needed more. Sara needed to be able to sell from the site. She needed to be able to update things on the back end without having to contract her designers again every single time she wanted to make a change. She needed all this, but most importantly, she needed to be able to fulfill this wish list while remaining 100% on-brand.

What Sara found in PhotoShelter was just that — a fully fleshed out and professional ecommerce platform including a built-in shopping cart and integrated print vendors, the ability to personally and dynamically update imagery directly on the site whenever and wherever she needed to, and a way to successfully make it work all within one single already-established design concept. “What’s so cool about PhotoShelter is I get to control what I need to control from inside, and I just love the fact that it’s so seamlessly integrated into my site — people can’t even tell!” And this ‘seamless integration’ is truly what hit home for Sara. She knew that PhotoShelter could supply her with the client galleries, portfolio display, and ecommerce platform she needed, but when she learned she could take all of those things and make them look exactly like her already existing, completely custom site, she was immediately sold. “When I found out about this level of customization, I thought it was just awesome, and I’ve been hooked on the service ever since then.”

Of course, transforming the website pages PhotoShelter provides to integrate with an existing design does take a little HTML/CSS elbow grease. To help customize PhotoShelter to match her site’s concept, Sara hired PhotoShelter Certified Consultant Steve Fox. As a Certified Consultant, Steve is not only a great designer, but is also very familiar with the customization process within PhotoShelter. To start, Sara expressed to Steve the need to showcase portfolio galleries on her site from different events, as well as for each member of her team. When Steve was finished, onelove’s clients were able to click the “Portfolio” option from the site’s main navigation, then click on a specific wedding/engagement shoot, and there they’d find the gallery as it exists in Sara’s PhotoShelter archive  — just completely rebranded to match the rest of the site.

On the left is a page from onelove’s personal site — the “Portfolios” page. On the right is a page from onelove’s PhotoShelter site — a gallery of images you will find after clicking into a portfolio.

A Little Bit of Marketing Makes it All Worth it

Once Sara got her PhotoShelter website customized and integrated, she was ready to start sending her clients there. Her favorite way to bring people to the site is via a marketing tactic she feels is worth the price of maintaining a PhotoShelter subscription alone. “When you go to a wedding with onelove, we leave a little postcard at the reception that has a photo of the couple on it, and on the back side it says ‘View our wedding photos online here’, and it has a link to the gallery and the password to the gallery,” she explains. “So we’re giving people a little card to take home, and the family and friends go crazy, because they really want to see pictures from the wedding!”

To achieve this, Sara creates the password protected gallery for the wedding ahead of time, leaving it empty, and naming it with the couple’s name and the date on which the images will be posted. Once she creates the gallery she will automatically have the direct link, so she can place that on the postcard. “It’s marketing,” says Sara. “It’s so awesome because all these people go to my website, and whether they buy or not, they have now been to my site. And if someone needs a wedding photographer, they’ll remember onelove. I have the ability to give people my name this way, and it’s visual, and they’re experiencing our brand.”

onelove’s listed password protected client galleries.

Uploading, Delivering, Selling

When Sara finishes a shoot, she uses Photo Mechanic, which has a plugin for PhotoShelter built right in, to load the images into her PhotoShelter Image Browser. Depending on whether or not she wants to upload the full sized high-res images, she’ll use Photo Mechanic to resize her files as she is uploading, which is a huge time saver and convenience for her. Because she almost always has the gallery created ahead of time for marketing purposes, she’ll upload directly there, and price for both print and personal-use download sales.

Onelove’s clients receive a CD containing images from the big day as part of the package deal, but family and friends of the bride and groom look to the website to get the prints they desire. Sara is set up to fulfill print orders via EZ Prints, one of PhotoShelter’s four integrated print partners. As far as pricing is concerned, Sara keeps what she feels to be the real value of her work at the forefront of her decision making process. “I price my imagery with the concept of spending a little bit more for something you value in mind. I want someone to see our photos as art, something beautiful.”

Copyright onelove photography

Image delivery is a large part of the game for onelove, as well. Vendors often come to Sara looking for photos of food, flowers, etc., and she needs to be able to just let them take what they want, for free, without too much work on her part. If it’s one quick image and the vendor tells her exactly what they want, Sara will use PhotoShelter’s Quick Send tool to handle the job. With Quick Send, Sara can very easily fire off an email to the vendor straight from her Image Browser containing a link to the individual image download.

A look at PhotoShelter’s Quick Send tool from onelove’s perspective.

Providing vendors with 100% off coupons is another trick Sara’s got up her sleeve. Because she doesn’t want them to have to pay but the work is already priced for client sale, coupons are a great way for her to allow the vendors to “check out” without actually having to fork up the cash. It also serves the purpose of letting the vendors choose select images from a gallery of hundreds without them actually having to tell her which ones they need ahead of time.

The Heart and Soul of her Success

“Point blank, if I wasn’t able to customize to this extent with PhotoShelter, I don’t think onelove would be where it is today,” says Sara. “We’ve worked hard to cultivate and maintain our brand as Neo-Impressionists, and we’ve been able to carry that through with PhotoShelter 100%. We’re able to show our very best face by having the ability to change our galleries out all the time, so we can always change things up to showcase our newest, latest stuff, and that just adds to our uniqueness. And the way that I can have the ecommerce integrated on top of that within the unique design — it’s kind of the best combination, it’s like a perfect storm.”

Experiencing PhotoShelter as she has, Sara makes a point to recommend the service to fellow photographers as often as she can. She feels that even for those who don’t already have a hand in the branding pot, the ability to so smoothly sell online is reason enough for her to spread the word. “I recommend PhotoShelter all the time! The #1 thing I tell people is that the ecommerce aspect is so great. I explain that you can integrate with PayPal, and you can pick from a ton of different third party printers. You guys have a bunch of choices, which is really helpful for a photographer.”

After all is said and done, Sara rests easy at the end of a long day because she knows she has chosen the right tools to set herself up for success. Distinguishing from her peers in the sea of wedding photographers out there is a must, and PhotoShelter has helped take and keep onelove’s online branding where Sara needs it to be. “PhotoShelter really has helped my business to succeed,” Sara tell us. “As any photographer knows, marketing and branding is the heart and soul of your success, so just the fact that I’m able to remain distinct as a photographer makes all the difference in the world.”

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