The move to digital photography has created both opportunities and challenges for photographers. While there is now the possibility to present clients with greater choice and selection due to the reduced cost of shooting digital, photographers must grapple with how to deliver and manage ever increasing numbers of large files. This article gives a quick overview of the key issues that photographers need to address when deciding how best to share files online with their clients.
1. Security: Hey, those aren't my files!
All file sharing solutions emphasize security when it comes to physically safeguarding your files, that however is just the start. There must be a way to handle sharing among multiple clients where each client has access to their files and no others; this requirement is one good reason why FTP servers should be avoided. Security levels should be configurable by client; requiring the use of passwords can be a potential roadblock for clients the first time they use your solution, it's therefore best to make password protection optional. Files must be automatically encrypted for you when uploaded or downloaded to ensure that nobody can snoop as to their contents.
2. Ease of use: too many clicks puts you over the legal limit
There are two points of view to take into account when you consider whether a file sharing solution is easy to use - yours and your clients. From either perspective the learning curve must be minimal. Requiring your clients to signup or create an account in order to participate in sharing files with you should be viewed with caution. The process of sharing or receiving files should be straightforward and simple, hopefully wizards provide step by step instructions and a few clicks of the mouse are enough to receive and download shared files. A notification system that alerts you and your clients as to when files are shared, received or downloaded helps streamline jobs and avoid unnecessary follow up emails. The ultimate test for ease of use comes when you share files for the first time; if you run into problems chances are your clients will as well.
3. Cost: Still no free lunches
The days of paying large sums of money up front for software are thankfully coming to a close. Your file sharing solution should let you get started without setup fees, or at most minimal ones. The cost to you should reflect your usage; when you are busy it stands to reason you pay more, when you aren't you pay less. The best way to achieve this mix is with a pay as you go system that bills you monthly (or quarterly) based on your actual usage. Avoid plans which require you to guess ahead of time how much storage you need, you will likely end up paying for storage you don't use.
4. Collaboration: Work with me people. . .
Sharing files online opens the door to a whole new way of collaborating with your clients; there are lots of ways to take full advantage. Clients should be able to browse online the files you share, this can help streamline the selection process and speed up your workflow significantly. At some point you will need to receive files from your clients (perhaps some feedback or a marked up image), your file sharing solution must seamlessly provide this functionality. Advanced features, such as tracking versions or revisions, should be available but not forced upon you from the start; after all you need to walk before you run.
5. Marketing: Put your best foot forward
Photography is a very competitive business, you need to constantly remind your clients of the great work you are doing for them. The ability to add your corporate branding to your account and have it prominently displayed is vital. Remember that when choosing a solution you need to carefully consider your needs as well as your clients’ needs. Ad supported, or supposedly “free" file sharing solutions, which inconvenience and annoy your clients with banners or other forms of advertising roadblocks, can save you a little money up front but will lead to client dissatisfaction.
There are a multitude of file sharing solutions for the photographer available today thanks to the internet. When making your decision keep in mind the issues mentioned above. Ultimately your success as a photographer will be impacted, in either a positive or negative way, based on which file sharing solution you decide to use.
Daniel Frank is the President of Single Wrench Inc. Single Wrench offers a file sharing solution that is secure, reliable and easy to use. Built to replace FTP servers, Single Wrench is designed to save you money while improving your network security.