Data Matching for Volume Photography

QR Codes, shooting tethered, supplying proofs or a mixture. Which data matching method is right for you?

As a volume photographer, efficiency and accuracy are the core of your business.

You know how many photographs you can take in an hour. Your data matching processes should be equally streamlined and succinct, whether you are a school, sports, or dance photographer.

This is essential for client satisfaction and business success.

The key methods to achieve this are:

·         QR codes

·         shooting tethered

·         supplying proofs

·         a combination approach

Let’s go back to basics before delving into the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.

Then you’ll be able to choose the right one for your photography business.

QR Codes: Bridging the Digital and Physical Worlds

This is often perceived to be the simplest way that covers all bases. You don’t need to learn to use any new equipment or any complicated software.

QR codes are like digital fingerprints for your subjects. When you generate and photograph a QR code, any photo taken after is then associated with that QR code.

The Good:

Precision and Efficiency: Data matching is instant and seamless because every subject is associated with a unique QR code.

Streamlined Workflow: QR codes automate the data matching process, reducing the risk of human error. This means less time spent sorting and matching photos manually, freeing up more time for the editing processes.

Enhanced Client Experience: Clients (or parents) can be supplied with a registration code that corresponds to that QR code. This means that once images are made available to view and/or buy, that person will only see the relevant images. Your school or club will also be able to instantly import photo records to their MIS system.

Potential Drawbacks:

User Error: We don’t mean your error. Usually, it is ideal for the school or club to hand out the QR codes to subjects either prior to the shoot date or on the morning of the shoot. This means that it won’t matter what order subjects are presented to you for photographing.

Bearing this in mind, it is important that your clients understand the importance of each code being unique. Ideally, you will have a names list to generate QR codes against, which goes someway to making that evident.

Additional Costs: You will need to factor in the cost of both printing QR codes and potentially having them delivered.

Shooting Tethered: Real-Time Feedback and Control

Shooting tethered means having a connection between your camera and a piece of software (usually through a laptop but some people use a tablet) so that images are matched and viewable instantly, without the need for anything printed.

The Good:

Immediate Preview: Tethered shooting allows you to view images on a larger screen in real-time, ensuring you capture the perfect shot. This is particularly valuable when precision is crucial, such as in dance photography.

On-the-Spot Adjustments: If something isn’t quite right, you can make instant adjustments to lighting, composition, or other settings, minimising retouching needs later.

Time Saving: Once the shoot is over, there is no need to spend time uploading and/or manually data matching. The time spent setting up your tether, once proficient, will be significantly less than other methods of data matching.

Potential Drawbacks:

Learning Curve: Shooting tethered can be overwhelming the first time, especially if you are unfamiliar with the software. If you work alone, you will need to have some practice shoots before doing it for real so that you can be relaxed and professional.

Tethering Equipment: Setting up a tethered shooting system requires specific hardware and software, which can be expensive. It may also be less practical for on-location shoots  – do you know that you’ll be able to plug a laptop in if needed? What about a network connection?

Limited Mobility: Tethered shooting limits your mobility as a photographer. This is fine for subjects standing or posing on one spot that doesn’t move, but you could find it difficult to adapt if needed.

Supplying Proofs: Traditional and Reliable

Proof cards are how you remember it from being at school yourself. Often printed on photographic paper, they show a preview of the image(s) taken, a selection of ways to purchase the image and how to do so.

This can work with or without a list of names of subjects to be photographed and relies on your client doing the final stage of data matching when distributing the proofs.

The Good:

Tangible: Providing printed proofs offers clients a physical representation of their photos, creating a more personal connection to the images. These are harder to forget about than yet another email.

Familiarity: Being the traditional option, most people recognise and understand a proof image and will be able to follow the instructions should they wish to purchase a print or download.

Upselling Opportunity: Especially if you take more than one pose, a line on your proof card stating ‘go online to view 2/3/4 other images’ can pay dividends. You can also state that there are many more product options when the image is viewed online.

Potential Drawbacks:

Time-Consuming and Expensive: Preparing and delivering printed proofs can be time-consuming and costly in terms of materials and postage.

Environmental Impact: In an age of increasing environmental awareness, you should consider that printed proofs contribute to paper and ink waste.

Delayed Workflow: Providing proofs will extend, sometimes considerably, the time that you reach maximum earnings from a shoot.

Expectations: This method requires your reliance on your clients and/or their staff to distribute your proof cards. You need to trust that they will be willing to do this.

Combination Approach: QR Codes + Proofs

If you aren’t lucky enough to receive a list of email addresses to match with each subject’s photographs, you will be relying on subjects and/or their families to pre-register for their child’s photograph against the code that you provide from your chosen system.

Ideally, you will receive 100% pre-registration. This would mean that when you shoot with your QR codes, the image will automatically be matched to a code, name, email address and ordering account.

If not, you can still provide proofs for those that did not register.

The Good:

Accuracy and Efficiency: QR codes ensure precise data matching: reducing errors and streamlining your workflow.

Client Engagement: Providing proofs also extends your reach and keeps clients engaged, even if they didn’t pre-register.

Sales Boost: Using both methods provides duplicate opportunities for upselling, increasing your revenue. You are also maximising views of your photographs and therefore sales. Your customers aren’t going to buy an image they haven’t seen.

Accommodating: It ensures that every client, whether tech-savvy or not, gets the best experience possible. By implementing this approach, your photography business can thrive while delivering exceptional service to all clients.

Potential Drawbacks:

Complexity of Implementation: Implementing both QR codes and supplying proofs can be logistically complex. You’ll need systems to manage QR code generation, distribution, and data matching, as well as the production and distribution of proofs after the event. That’s a lot of printed material and lot of instances where mistakes can be made or materials lost.

This complexity may require additional time, resources, and technical expertise, especially if you’re dealing with a large volume of clients.

Client Education: Clients must understand and follow the pre-registration process to benefit from ‘photographs ready!’  notifications. Some customers (families) may resist the idea or overlook it, increasing the need to print a proof for more subjects than you’d like to.

So what’s right for you?

The choice between QR codes, shooting tethered, supplying proofs or using a combination method to improve sales, ultimately depends on your photography niche and business model.

·         QR codes offer unparalleled efficiency and precision, making them ideal for high-volume situations like school photography.

·         Tethered shooting provides real-time control and feedback, suited for studio setups and meticulous dance photography.

·         Meanwhile, supplying proofs maintains a personal touch and can enhance the client experience but may be more time-consuming and less eco-friendly.

What about pre-registration leaflets and job-registration codes generated by volume processing systems?

There are other options for helping to strike the, sometimes difficult, balance between accuracy, efficiency, maximised sales and easy import of data for client.

Ask us about the different solutions for registering your subjects with the most streamlined system around.

Consider the unique needs of your clients and the nature of your photography business to determine which method or combination of methods best suits your workflow.

Perhaps you will need to be adaptable and be set up for all eventualities. Explore your chosen volume photography workflow system for possibilities according to what you are likely to shoot over the course of the year.

Perhaps you would prefer to stick to schools and/or clubs for which you chosen method would work for.

Whichever approach you choose, aim for a data matching process that is as accurate and efficient as possible to ensure happy clients and a thriving photography business.

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