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Archiving for fun and profit. (Mostly profit)

One of the most highly-rated presentations from IPIC 2020 in August featured Cathi Nelson, CEO of Photo Managers , (formerly Professional Photo Organizers) and IPI’s Erin Von Holdt addressing the growing and high margin photo archiving business.

As the world pauses during lockdowns imposed due to the Covid pandemic, tackling the challenging but rewarding task of getting the  family photo collection sorted has seen an uptick in interest in photo archiving, but as Erin (pictured right) noted: ‘If most of your archiving orders stop with a DVD or USB drive you are probably leaving money on the table. There are plenty of opportunities to increase sales with add-ons and premium level service.’

But first, she suggested retailers have a good hard look at their pricing to make sure they are making a decent margin after labour and other costs are included. She made the point that cost is not such an issue when offering these kinds of custom services as it is with the parts of your business which price-compete with mass merchants.

She said it was imperative – more so with lockdowns – that archiving services offered be available by cloud or digital delivery. ‘Also add in virtual consultations, especially in the age of Covid,’ she said.

Scanning sorting
An hourly rate can be charged for sorting through an image collection, and this is in addition to the costs for scanning.

Emphasising the consultative nature of the service gives customers a sense that they are being offered something which is special and premium. Store managers should consider training up a dedicated staff member with good technical knowledge and customer service skills to be the consultant.

The consultation process also enables the consultant to fully understand the customer’s goals, the breadth of the project etc, so they can direct them to the right services and make value-adding suggestions.

‘What that does is allow you to ask additional questions such as how many copies you need, or how many family members would want one? Would you like to add a photo book? Would you like us to name and number your files? Any image  restorations required? Do you want us to re-mount the original album? Slideshow montage?

‘People don’t want to do this work themselves,’ said Erin. ‘ Things like naming files, putting them in chronological order and photo book design become premium level services that you can offer and get additional revenue from.’

She recommended an app called Calendly to enable customers to book a consultation without the hassle of back-and-forth emails or phone calls. You synch it with your Google calendar or Outlook so it knows what times you have available. The customer chooses a time for Zoom or equivalent ‘face-to-face’ get-together.

‘It’s a lot more personal than a simple phone call or working across the counter,’ she said.

She ran through a few examples of retailers doing well with add-on services. One retailer – Nick Gillenwater, The Pint Refinery@Click, Chicago – was ‘doing crazy good’ offering slide show montages after scanning carousels of slides at $75 per carousel. It only takes about 15 minutes per job and recently he did an order worth $2250 (30 carousels) in addition to the scanning fees.

Another lucrative service was digital file download and transfer. ‘Make it Number 1 on your list if you don’t have that. Nick charges 50 cents per gigabyte. Assuming a 200GB average order that’s an additional $100 to deliver the files to the client in a professional zipped, properly formatted way.

She said it saves the client a lot of time because with an app like We transfer you can enter as many emails addresses as you like, so you can offer to send the files direct to their friends and family for them.

Removing and remounting photos from albums is another good added service because it’s simple and all it costs is time. She suggested a fee of 15 cents to remove a pic and 25 cents to put back ‘because it’s a bit more tricky’.

Retailers can sort the photo collection for the client, charging $50 or thereabouts to get all the slides together, remove things from albums, and get all the video and movies organised.

The second speaker, Cathi Nelson (pictured right), established the Association of Personal Photo Organisers – now ‘The Photo Managers’ – back in 2009. It now has over 700 members around the world.

She said the name change from ‘photo organisers’ to ‘photo managers’ reflected the breadth of activity the role really encompassed: Organising images and documents; creating photo books and slide shows; digitising various analog media; setting up backup systems; creating online galleries and websites; photo editing; gather together family history; and providing education and instruction to the client on managing their photo collections.

The Photo Managers’ Fiver-Step process.

The key demographic for photo management services was ‘mostly women who are at that moment in their lives when they are looking around due to the pandemic, or they are downsizing, etcetera.

‘They look at those boxes and boxes of slides and albums and movies and realise they simply don’t know what to do with them. Quickly followed by asking themselves “does anyone really care?”

‘The answer is absolutely their children will care, but they don’t want the entire collection. They want a condensed, curated version.’

Cathi said the first step is to help customers set a goal, including uncovering any deadlines – gifts for Christmas or the like. ‘The “why” is important,’ she said.

Having agreed a brief of work, the next step is to make an inventory of what’s been handed over and sort that material into categories that make sense. At this stage the photo manager and client need to have an idea of design and decide how to organise the collection – via a range of dates, events, themes or people.

The scanning and restoration follows, working towards creating a ‘digital photo hub’ on a PC or external drive with a backup.

‘The last part is the sharing,’ said Cathi, ‘the fun part where all the printing can happen – photo books, slide shows –  all sorts of things.

She noted that camera-based scanning was becoming increasingly popular with her members.

‘This is a great way of speeding up the process, and you can do high resolution scanning at 600dpi for prints and 4000dpi for slides and negs.’

‘It’s a very high speed workflow,’ she said, with the Photo Managers member who took the shot to the above left, Adam Pratt, doing up to 800 images per hour using Lightroom Classic. As well as achieving high speeds, camera scanning has low start-up costs.

Camera scanning also enables scanning of larger hard copy, such as scrap book pages, and as clients have doubtless put hours into creating the originals, they are happy to pay to have them in digital form.

Other services worth considering are DAM – ‘digital asset management’. Simply running an image duplication app over the photo collection can reap great efficiencies, dramatically reducing the sheer volume of files in a collection.

‘The average person is not going to run image duplication software. But they aren’t going to do anything with those images if they can’t find the ones they care about,’ said Cathi.

She encourage audience members to visit the Photo Managers website, where there was a range of  courses available and more information about becoming a Photo Manager.

The linked  Save Your Photos Month pages on the website offer 40 free short classes for retailers and even clients interested in knowing more about photo management.













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