Gary Evans Photography: Burning the "Shoot-and-Burn" Model
No doubt, cracking into the wedding industry as a photographer can feel challenging. Especially in a new country. Gary Evans Photography is now as much part of the Ontario wedding scene as anyone, but he's the first to admit that he spent a long time being successful "to a point."
The constant hustle that came with the shoot-and-burn method he brought with him from the UK wasn't helping to create a work-life balance for him and Kim and their children, so he made a move to a model that embraces the artistry and personalization of wedding albums as a way to increase income from each and every couple booked.
"That's the downside to working for yourself. No one's giving you a salary. You've got to generate everything for your family yourself. So the pressure to continually work can be there."
The drawbacks of shoot-and-burn
When Gary shifted to Ontario, he followed a shoot-and-burn business model — the same approach he had used in the UK. Traditionally, shoot-and-burn referred to giving clients hundreds or thousands of unprocessed images on a "burn-disk" after their shoot. It's now more commonly used to describe delivering edited images after the event, leaving the print and album creation responsibilities to the clients themselves.
"We were doing a really, really good job. Up to a point, and then it's like we were pushing the clients off a cliff: If you want anything else like albums or artwork, go do it yourself."
The shoot-and-burn model created an endless cycle of seeking new clients to bring money through the door. While they were doing well, Gary and Kim were stuck continuously trading time for money. They realized they were missing an opportunity to provide their clients a more comprehensive and lasting service while generating more income from each client they booked.
Transitioning to in-person sales and albums
The turning point came in 2018 when Gary attended a photography conference. He spent the two days talking to every wedding photographer he could find, asking them how they ran their businesses. One of the most common themes was in-person sales. They were all doing it — and everyone included an album as part of their package.
Conversations with past brides revealed a similar theme – the challenge of managing and preserving wedding photos.
“We contacted some of our past brides and asked them what they did with their wedding photos. Some had posted some on social media, others had moved a few times and had no idea where their wedding photos were.”
When asked if it would have been easier for Gary and Kim to organize albums for their clients, the answer was a resounding “Oh my God. Yes!” It was this confirmation that saw them shift their business model from shoot-and-burn to offering beautifully crafted wedding albums as part of every package.
Albums don't have to be a "logistical nightmare"
"I don't know if anyone has ever tried to design a wedding album in Photoshop, but it is a complete nightmare."
One of the biggest barriers to switching their business model from shoot-and-burn to in-person sales was the "logistical nightmare" of creating albums. It's easy to want to offer albums, but working out how to design and deliver them without wasting hours is incredibly difficult — especially when you're using Photoshop like Gary was.
Discovering SmartAlbums was the game-changer Gary and Kim needed to make the switch.
"It takes designing a wedding album from a logistical nightmare in Photoshop to an absolutely pleasurable experience."
The template-based approach to design allows users to click a button and flick through options for each spread — taking album design from something that would have taken hours, even days, down to minutes. In addition, the ability to click into each spread and completely customize the design template has given Gary the scope to create stunning bespoke albums. He can now quickly create unique designs for couples that choose his top package, meaning no album is the same.
"I can get a wedding album done and designed in probably 20 minutes to half an hour instead of pulling my hair out in Photoshop for hours and hours and hours. If you haven't used it, then honestly, you don't know what you're missing out on. It is so intuitive and easy to use and just makes your life so much easier."
When Gary and Kim were looking for an album manufacturer to use, they came across Graphistudio. They immediately fell in love with their offering. In particular, they select products and finishes from Graphistudio’s Tramontia Collection for their top packages. The thick pages, the minimalist color palette, the high-quality materials, and the luxurious aesthetic are a big draw card for their brides. As an award-winning photographer, the color reproduction of Gary’s images in print is essential, and Graphistudio delivers incredibly accurate color reproduction.
“The color reproduction is perfect. It looks exactly like how our images look.”
Graphistudio allows Gary and Kim to create a true keepsake. But they also offer a lifetime warranty on their albums. Between that and the high-quality construction, couples really feel they are getting an heirloom that can be passed down for years.
Making a change for work-life balance
Gary and Kim have been determined to make in-person sales work as part of their business model. It's partly why they have sought out the most time-efficient album design software and the highest-quality albums. Their new business model allows them to spend more time with their kids and be really present with their family.
"Working for yourself gives you the luxury and the opportunity not to work when you want. We don't want to look back and go, 'Oh my gosh, our kids are moved out; I don't feel like I had enough time with them.'"
The shift in their business allows them to be more present with their family, as well as with each couple they shoot. They're working fewer hours, generating more income, and they love what they do.
"We have this high standard for ourselves in our business, but we also want to be there for our kids. If they grow up knowing all that, and we can be good examples of that, then I think that's success."