Thursday, March 17, 2011

Making Your Photo Business Green

Today's guest post has two things in common with the holiday that is today, St. Patrick's Day. For one, we're talking about green things. And two, our guest contributor is Patrick Williams!


Patrick Williams is a photographer who is truly making a name for himself- not only with the impressive work that he does, his established client list, or his passion for life, but also by encouraging other photographers to implement green-friendly practices into what they do.

Over the past couple of years, Patrick has developed an initiative in his work to be an eco-friendly photographer. He has incorporated green and eco-friendly standards into everything he does. He reuses and recycles whenever possible, has replaced paper address and logo stickers with reusable polymer stamps, and has implemented the use of carbon neutral transportation to provide deliverable items to his clients.

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Today, we're going to talk specifically about labor and delivery (couriers, FedEx, or brown) services...
One of the things we have dealt with in our studio is the way we deliver our products. Not the packing, the materials, or any of the tangibles (that is whole different post!), but the actual service we use to send our products to our clients.
We are located in a metropolitan area, and business moves at the speed of light here. "How soon can I get the images?", "I need it yesterday", and "immediate turnaround" are phrases I literally hear every single day from our corporate clients.
Not so very long ago we were using couriers multiple times a week to satisfy the needs of our clients. One car making a special trip to pick up one package (often just a single DVD), to make another special trip to one destination the same day. When we started thinking about impact, we realized carbon output is at it's highest with a courier... costs were pretty ridiculous, too.
We started thinking about using UPS or FedEx ground for next day delivery - the drivers are out roaming around in the area, so less fuel is wasted for the pickup and delivery.
Then a low emission fluorescent light bulb went off - USPS drives by my mailbox every day, rain or shine! I can make labels online in my studio and stick my packages in the mailman's hand; no extra fuel at all! Mail it Priority Mail and it will usually go anywhere local in a day, for about $10-20 less than a courier.
Need more tracking and definite timely delivery? UPS also offers a carbon neutral delivery add-on now also. For just a few cents extra, your package delivery will be trackable AND carbon neutral.
So, it goes like this: when a shoot is booked, we briefly explain our impact initiative to clients when the topic of delivery comes up. We will courteously ask our clients if they actually have a deadline for the disc of images, or if they have a deadline for just the images (the impact is tied to the physical DVD).
Surprisingly, only 50% of the time will clients need the images immediately. In these cases, we handle requests for 'a couple' of images by email. When the client wants more than a couple, we post them on our server, send the client the log in information, and let them pull as many off as they want (which is faster than a courier, by the way). In both cases, we mail the high res DVD USPS Priority Mail or UPS carbon neutral.
40% of the time our clients don't have a deadline at all - they just have a conditioned response of 'immediately' when the topic of delivery is discussed. We mail the DVD USPS or UPS and sometimes (one out of five shoots?) have to send an image for a pop-up deadline before the disc is delivered.
For that 10% of time when a client simply has to have the *disc* of images immediately after the shoot - we will get a courier... Ok fine, I lied. I haven't ordered a courier in months! I am still waiting for that 10% that **really** needs the disc immediately.
When armed with the knowledge of 'why', and provided with a way to access the files, everyone is perfectly happy to pull what they need off the server and wait for the disc. They also love INSTANT access on the server.
For our studio, we had our IT guy build the PC server (sorry Mac) which gives us the ability to create web folders for clients and securely share files over the web. It is a Windows Server and cost us about $800 in materials and software to build the current 4TB version from scratch (expandable to 10TB with standard SATA drives). It is also the server that enables our employees to telework. If you don't have an IT guy, funds to build a server, or interest in anything PC, you can also look for a comparable Apple version, or try online sharing services like MegaShares, youSENDit, or SendThisFile.

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Bio: Patrick Williams is located in Atlanta, GA, and has a true passion for what he does at his photography studio, PWP Studio. He and his team capture special events for PWP Studio’s established client list, which includes the Georgia Aquarium, Wolfgang Puck Catering, KIA, Porsche, and many of the local Atlanta 'heavy-hitters'.
In 2005, Patrick helped to launch the first satellite chapter of Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization of award-winning photographers who photograph children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The organization works to capture the beauty of these children, make them smile, and provides the children’s parents with a portrait that captures the bravery and dignity of their child. (We previously posted about Flashes of Hope and other photography charities, along with some words on the topic by Patrick here.)
PWP Studio website: http://www.pwpstudio.com/


photos © PWP Studio