September 2008

News & Updates

The first thing we would like to do is thank everyone that participated in the survey we put out last month! We had a lot of great responses and we got a lot of new ideas on things that should be added or changed with our service. The survey participants that were randomly selected to have their fees reduced to 10% for the month of October were notified a couple of weeks ago, but for those of you who were not selected, there is sure to be another chance at it in a few months so keep your eyes peeled for the next survey.

In addition to the findings in our survey results we have both some good news, and some bad news...

First, the bad news.

In the past 30 days we have had more chargebacks come in than during the previous two years combined. For those of you that don't know what a chargeback is, a chargeback is a request from a consumer to their credit card company asking that the money they paid out be forcefully refunded to them. We cannot be sure why this is happening, but one reason might be that as the US financial crisis continues on, more people may be trying to get something for nothing.

Regardless of whether your company has been hit by one or more of these chargebacks, we suggest that if you are not already doing it, start requiring a signature upon delivery of your orders. If someone comes into your office to pick up their images, make them sign something saying they have received their complete order. If you ship the order, make sure you add signature confirmation to your packages. By requiring a signature upon delivery you will be protecting your company by having the evidence required to dispute a chargeback if it happens to come in.

Now the good news!

In the last 30 days we have been busy implementing quite a few new features and changes in our system. In fact, we have added/changed more things in this past month than we have done in any other month in recent memory! Some of the items include creating a way to offer instant image downloads, getting rid of the unneeded Java upload areas for products and add-ons, adding rich-text editors to the bulk email creation areas, creating a way for you to more easily manage your homepage slideshow images, and adding the option to have social bookmarking links displayed on your storefront! We also added a few more things (six to be exact), but you won't find out what they are without reading the rest of the newsletter!

Added/Modified Functionality

Instant Image Downloads

There are sooo many applications and websites (including Instaproofs) that cater to people with digital images that it is well beyond the time for professional photographers to start thinking about catering to these consumers as well. Whether it is a grandma, a soccer mom, a business executive, a high-school senior, or an enthusiastic pet-lover, everyone is posting their images on their blogs, on their cell-phones, on flickr, and on a million other places. When people want to show a picture of their kid to a colleague they no longer take out their wallet, but instead they take out their PDA. The digital image revolution is in full force, and we hope that this new functionality will help you keep in touch with what your consumers are desiring to have.

Many photographers worry about the negative impact that selling digital images might have on their business (rampant copyright infringement, etc.), and although that is a valid concern we believe that the distribution of professional photographs is now reaching the same point (technologically) that digital music was reaching just a few short years ago. Don't get us wrong, we do not want to encourage the illegal use of your images, but by creating a channel where your clients can get their digital images legally (instead of scanning them when they receive the prints in the mail) you might be able to stem off some of the copyright infringement that you are already seeing.
Instant Image Downloads
One big “need to know” piece of information about these images is that they are not intended to be sold in place of selling your normal prints. Prints are sold in order to be placed on the wall as art, to be kept in photo albums, to be sent to grandmas that live far away, etc., and these downloadable images are primarily meant to be used on the web or on a digital device of some type. Since the largest images that we store in our system are 1280px on their longest side, that is also the largest size that you will be able to offer to your clients. Your clients *could* try to make prints out of them, but that is not the overall purpose of these images.

Setting up an instantly downloadable image is as easy as creating any other print size option in the admin area; to get started go into the “Sizes/Sets” page within the “Setup” tab and click the “Create New” button at the bottom of the page. Once you have created your new print set (using the instant image download option) go into the “prices/shipping” page and update your pricing templates to have prices defined for your newly created option(s).

Instant Image Downloads

Bye, Bye Java

According to the survey results, a lot of your complaints with adding products and add-ons had to do with the Java application that we were having you use to upload your images. Because of the number of comments that we received on this particular area we have now re-worked the pages, and the Java application is no longer used to upload your product and add-on images.

Bye Bye Java

Add Some Style to Your Bulk Emails

Have you ever received one of your own bulk emails sent from Instaproofs and thought, “man, that thing could really use some prettying up!”, or “I wish I could have an image displayed on these emails?” If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, then we think you are going to be happy about this change. On both the “bulk email” page, and on the page where you can modify your automated emails the standard textbox has now been replaced with a rich text editor.

A rich text editor is an editor that can be used in much the same way as a word processor can be; you can align the text whichever way you would like, you can bolden the text on specific words, you can create tables and add images, etc. With the rich text editor in place you can now format your emails however you would like them to look, and you don't have to know any HTML to do it. The image handling support on the rich text editor is only good for images that are already online someplace else (for now at least), but in addition to just displaying the images as-is, the editor allows you to resize the images and place them anywhere you would like them to be on the email. So take a few minutes (after reading this newsletter) and spruce up your emails! Who knows, it may even increase your sales by doing it.

Rich Text Editor

Manage Your Slideshow Images

By now most of you have had the experience of uploading a bunch of your favorite images to be used on your storefront's front page slideshow, only to be frustrated later when you found out that you couldn't just switch one of the images out for something else when you wanted to. Well, we've (finally) heard your cries and we have now gone in and modified the functionality a little bit to help alleviate your frustrations. In addition to adding the ability to delete out specific images, we have also added the ability for you to arrange the images in whichever order you would like. We're sorry for the amount of time it took for us to finally get this functionality put in place!

Slideshow Images

Social Bookmarks are Awesome

We didn't realize that social bookmarking was going to be as hot as it is, but within just a couple of hours of enabling this new feature (and without disclosing its availability anywhere) *hundreds* of events had been modified to display our new social bookmarking toolbar. Social bookmarking is something that is on fire right now... everyone is doing it, and everywhere is adding it as an option to their pages (though we believe that we are the only image proofing service offering it at this point).

Don't know what social bookmarking is? Well, social bookmarking is basically an extension to regular bookmarking (adding a page to your favorites for example), but instead of just saving the bookmark for your own use, social bookmarks allow you to create bookmarks in a way that many people can see your bookmarks and visit the same pages that you have found to be interesting.

Social Bookmarks

The application/use for this with professional photography is that the more people that visit your events, the more potential customers you gain. For example, if you shoot a wedding there are a countless number of people that would be interested in viewing (and hopefully purchasing) the images from that wedding, but the majority of those people do not know (or have forgotten) where to find the images. So what happens with the social bookmarks is that one person visits the event, posts a link to it on their Facebook account through a social bookmark, and then everyone that visits that person's Facebook account can see the link and visit the event. As additional people bookmark the event using the social bookmarks, a much larger the number of people are made aware of the event and the pool of potential customers can grow dramatically.

To enable the social bookmarking toolbar on your events just go into the event edit page for any of your events and put a check in the checkbox labeled “Enable Social Bookmarks.” The setting is handled on a per-event basis, so if you have some events that you would like to use the toolbar on, and some that you would not, you are free to enable or disable the setting as you please.

The Other Stuff

At the beginning of this newsletter we mentioned that there were an additional six items that we have added or modified in this past month, and here is what they are:

Wrap Up

And that about wraps it up for the month! Hopefully at least a couple of the items mentioned in this newsletter will be useful to you and your business.

Like always, we welcome comments, suggestions, and questions. If you have any, please drop us a line and tell us what's on your mind.

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