Category Archives: Insider Secrets

The Ten Minute Portrait Album

Have you ever wanted to enhance your portrait session revenues, but the album design process seems overwhelming? Are you looking for an easy way to enhance your portrait package?

Creating an album doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking. Of course we love making big, tricked out, all the bells and whistles metal-cover books with a photographers heart poured into every page, but sometimes a nice, simple, inexpensive professional quality book that shows off your photos can help differentiate your portrait packages and increase your profits.

We’ve created a quick video tutorial with how Eric (our customer advocate) likes to create portrait books in less than 10 minutes using Photoshop and Adobe Bridge.

In this video you will learn how to design and order a portrait album in less than 10 minutes!

Don’t forget that studio samples sell themselves. Take advantage of our 33% studio sample discount program. Have any questions? Let us know! 

Laura Cottril – Growing your Portrait Business

Laura Cottril is a portrait photographers in the San Francisco Bay Area that provides clients a complete portrait solution. Learn from her experience how she has been able to almost double her per session sales by spending quality time with her clients.

Personalized service

A big key to Laura’s success has been to go to the client’s home for the initial consultation. This is a great way for Laura to develop the relationship, view the client’s style, and provide a high level of customer service.

If the client primarily has small, high quality art, matted and framed, Laura suggests fine art photos in matted frames, and doesn’t recommend a canvas. Laura takes this opportunity to brainstorm display ideas and get excited about the session with the client. This is the “planting seeds” portion of the relationship, when you and the client are developing a plan together. Then when it is time for the sale, it is simple to refer back to the plan when presenting your work.

Laura also takes photos of possible display locations that she can use in the sales session with ProSelect. The program enables her to show the client room with their portraits displayed as an overlay at various sizes. This is a big hit with the client and also shows what “too big” or “too small” look like. You may think you don’t have time to be spending with each client like this, but because of this client commitment Laura photographs less clients and makes higher sales per client.

Photo books

Some client’s don’t want large portraits of themselves and their family around the house. For these clients she leads with portrait books. Laura takes their word with a grain of salt as she has had clients say they didn’t like portraits all over their home only to turn around and purchase exactly that! It is very different once a client experiences the process and sees the beautiful portraits of their own family! Another great selling point for portrait books is when the client “loves them all” and “how can I ever decide?”. A portrait book is a great solution and Laura emphasizes the benefits in that each portrait is retouched, the book is custom graphic designed and the book itself is made from high quality archival materials. This book is a special way to include all the client’s favorites in a beautiful package.

“I prefer the coffee table book over a thick paged flush mount album because I think it looks more like an art book I would find on photography at the book store. Someone once compared the stiff page books [flush mount albums] to books you read to babies and I never got that out of my head. My goal is to provide my client with a high quality product that also has a high perceived value and something they could not get on their own.”

Portrait books have a lot of time and talent involved in photographing, creating and printing them. Laura makes sure to capture the value of the book with a simplified strategy.

“Rather than quoting a huge number for the book and having them go into shock over it, I’ve come up with a “per page” cost. This way I quote to the client how much it is by the page and tell them they can make the book larger or smaller to fit their budget! This puts the cost decision in the hands of the customer, and doesn’t make me the bad guy. Even though it is still expensive, when it is broken down as a page cost, it feels more acceptable to the clients. Most of my clients will order a twenty page book. I let them know that they should average 2-3 images per page. Less if they want more full page images. This helps the client narrow down their favorites in order to fit their page count.”

Laura charges a similar amount per book page to her 8×10″ portrait price. Having multiple images on a page and the design work required makes a photo book page a good value for the client. When they ask about the pricing, once this is pointed out it makes sense and the client feels more comfortable. This formula only works if you are charging adequately for your 8×10″ prints. Costs factored in to the 8×10″ are print cost, retouching and packaging. Laura also subs out the retouching and graphic design for the books so these costs are factored in at 30% of her total cost to the client. This also allows for 30% business overhead with 30% going to you. It is easier to stand behind your pricing when you understand what your costs really are. When you consider that you are receiving 30% of the sale of the book you must also consider if you feel like you are getting paid what you are worth. What is your “happy” number? (Note: even if you are doing the retouching and graphic design, you should be compensated for that. Your time is money!)

Once photos are selected, if the design calls for a couple of extra pages Laura often adds them with no extra charge to the client. The cost of a few extra pages is minimal and the client is thrilled when you point out your bonus gift to them.


Laura’s strategy seems to be working. In the last year or so average sales per portrait session has almost doubled.

To find these higher-end clients, Laura partners with other local businesses that cater to the type of client that Laura wants. Laura calls this micro-targeting. Here’s a couple of examples:

  • One recent partnership is with a landscape architect who plans to give her best clients a gift certificate for Cottril’s photography. “The intention is for me to photograph the family in their newly landscaped yard. By also photographing the landscape architect and providing her with samples, I can share my experiences with her clients. In turn she can provide me with guidance in my yard.” One thing Laura does to make it a win-win for the referring company is to ask the families if the images can be used on both companies websites.
  • Another example is a referral from a friend that is a post-partum doula. Marketing photographic services to families with newborns is not an original idea, but having a plan in place to get referrals to the right clients makes all the difference.

Once you’ve taken a photography oriented sales class or two, you will find you are getting a lot of similar information, look into sales training outside the photography industry. Looking at training outside the photography industry will provide a fresh perspective and also give you ideas that will work with your marketing partners.

Sources for sales and marketing information and training that have helped Laura include PPA Studio Management Services, Sarah Petty of, and Jesse and Sharla of

Choose the Right Suppliers

Laura advises not to offer too many products, focus on a few high value products that customers can’t get elsewhere. Laura generally offers clients:

  • Canvas wraps
  • Photo Books from SharedInk
  • Fine art prints from Jonathan Penney
  • Gift sized photos and holiday cards are add-ons to the sale

Along the way Laura learned to outsource things that were holding her back. Laura says: “Let go of things you don’t enjoy.” This philosophy, which she “learned through pain” , allows her to spend her time behind the lens, servicing clients, and networking.

When selecting products Laura advises that partnering with suppliers can make a big difference in studio success. Currently Laura outsources her photo retouching and album design. (editors note: Laura outsources most of her page design, but she designed this awesome photo cover. This is what Laura has to say about SharedInk:

“Hands down I am always impressed with Shared Ink customer service! My friend and I used to joke that (you) were just sitting there waiting for us to send you a book because the response time was so great! This is so helpful for my business as the ordering process is so smooth, with any questions or problems worked out quickly. This keeps the book ordering from being bogged down and helps me get my client’s books to them quickly. I appreciate when anyone can help me keep the flow moving!”

About Laura

Laura Cottril Photography specializes in maternity, children and family portraits using natural light. Laura has been profiled in Professional Photographer magazine, Rangefinder and ProPhoto West magazines. Laura continues to learn and expand her skills and is in the process of becoming a master and craftsman, and enjoys having speaking engagements and seminars to share her expertise with other photographers. You can see Laura’s web site at

Album Design Webinar

Our friends at Fundy Software are putting on an album design webinar exclusively for SharedInk customers. Whether you are new to album design or a seasoned veteran you are sure to pick up some great album design tips and see a great workflow for designing your SharedInk album.

What you will learn:

  • Pick up some great album design ideas
  • Learn an album design workflow using Adobe Bridge, Photoshop and Fundy Album Builder
  • See how to quickly design and modify your layout using Album Builder  
Mark you calendar:

Thursday, November 10
10 a.m. Pacific Standard Time

Update… the webinar already happened. Bummer? No. Watch a video of the webinar

Software tools for designing professional albums and coffee table books

metal cover senior album
Thanks to Jodi Weelborg of JJW Photography for use of her metal cover senior album.
Whether you are new to album and coffee table book design or have been doing it for awhile it is always good to know what tools other photographers are using. There are many software tools used for designing albums and photo books and it can be difficult to know where to start.

The options are numerous. Be aware that the “free” design software provided by many album and photobook companies generally lock you in to ordering your books from them. After spending hours of your time learning the software and designing your first book you’ll learn that you can’t order a wedding album from one company and purchase parent albums from another supplier.

We always recommend using standard design tools that allow you to purchase from the supplier that is appropriate for your project. Here is a brief description of some of the applications that are popular with our customers.

Adobe Photoshop  is commonly considered the industry standard. Although it does not have tools specifically created for album design, it is extremely flexible and just about any album design can be created. SharedInk templates are available from our downloads page.


  • you probably already own it
  • you already know how to use it
  • extremely flexible, anything can be done if you have the time
  • Mac and PC compatible
  • album and photo book companies commonly supply spec templates
  • creative album design templates are available, sometimes free


  • it can be very time consuming to create an album design
  • changes can be equally time consuming

Fundy Album Builder is a Photoshop add-in that automates album design and changes. It turns Photoshop into a full fledge album design solution. You get all the advantages of Photoshop, plus save tons of time in your album design workflow.


  • makes Photoshop rock for album design
  • easy to make simple to complex page layouts
  • easy to make changes
  • Allows you to select any available photo book and album company templates in your design workflow.
  • based on Photoshop, a tool you probably already have and know
  • Mac and PC compatible
  • great customer support


  • Another tool to buy and learn, although it is much easier to learn Album Builder than it is to figure out how to lay out a pleasing album page in Photoshop.

Adobe InDesign is the graphic design industry standard for creating print-ready layouts. Some of the more confusing aspects of print design, such as bleeds, trims, and safe zones are visually very obvious, making it easier to create a pleasing book.


  • easy to make simple to complex page layouts
  • relatively easy to make changes
  • works well with Photoshop
  • Mac and PC compatible


  • another software application to purchase and learn
  • most album and photo book companies do not supply InDesign templates. SharedInk templates are available from our downloads page.

AlbumFlow is a relative newcomer in the market. It is a set of tools that work inside InDesign to automate many album specific tasks. You get all the advantages of InDesign, plus makes it easy to implement album company specs, layout and modify grids, and create a library of pleasing page layouts.


  • turbocharges InDesign to make it a powerful album layout tool
  • easy to make, modify, and reuse creative page layouts
  • PC and Mac compatible
  • good customer support


  • requires InDesign

Lumapix FotoFusion Extreme was created for photo book and album design. It has presets for many album and photo book companies. The Extreme version is necessary if you want professional results.


  • easy to make simple to complex page layouts
  • relatively easy to make changes
  • has presets for many album and photo book companies


  • PC only, Mac version under development
  • another software application to buy and learn