Philip & Susan join us from PSG Photo Solutions in Pataskala, Ohio…
Share your story about how you became a photo organizer…
When we were adopting our son, friends gave us a book about making a LifeBook and why it was important. I read it and said to Susan, “We need to do this!” She responded that if it involved paper and scissors, I would need to do it.
Now to be fair, my parents had taken photos and movies of our family all my growing up years. I remember watching home movies and looking at photo albums while hearing stories of relatives and friends. That influenced me in the making of my son’s LifeBook. That led me to making other photo albums and then the direct sales company Creative Memories. I would do workshops teaching people how to make LifeBooks, but they would come back asking if I would make it for them.
I had a full-time job and was making a decent living, but found I had backed myself into all the jobs I hated and was thinking of making a change. I talked to a friend who runs his own business about how I might make a living making albums for others. I was thinking of going part-time the following year at my job to start ramping up this business, and then go full-time with photo organizing the year after that. He told me to jump in “whole hog” right from the start! He said going in part time would distract me and I’d never make the switch. My friend knows me very well. It was the push I needed to make the jump. Losing my job made the date to start obvious. That’s how this wild ride began.
Primary services and which do you most enjoy?
Since Susan and I work together in the business, we can each specialize and offer more services to our clients. Susan has been doing desktop publishing and design for years at various arts organizations so it was easy for us to have her do all the design work for anything printed such as books, posters, canvases, etc. I do all the organizing of print and digital images, the scanning, the backup systems, and with my professional dance background, I create all the slideshows. I love choreographing images with music to tell a story. We each do what is our strength. We’re working on cross training as we really like being a full service studio.
How did you find APPO and how long have you been a member?
I was introduced to APPO when my cousin, who was my upline in Creative Memories, heard Cathi Nelson mention it at a CM leadership meeting. I was looking to switch careers after 15 years in administration. I talked to Cathi about what she was doing and how becoming a PPO might be a viable career that I could support my family with. I joined APPO in January of 2011 and launched my business in April of that year.
Favorite tool or vendor you use for photo organizing?
I love ProShow Producer for slideshows. It gives me all the creative choices I could want and lets the slideshow be branded to my company. Susan really likes H&H Color Lab for printing the photo books we design. They have a rich look and feel that says ‘this is quality.’ Can you tell we like the finished product that tells the story the most?
What is a big (or small) mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?
I had a big mistake early on. On the largest job I had in my first year, the client wanted a fixed price for the work, and then they made constant changes and additions to what was expected. It was a huge job that I worked on for a year and a half, more than 1,500 hours. I had no idea how long things really took me, and way underestimated the job. I learned to break jobs down into smaller pieces, see how much time it really takes to do a given part, and go from there. I also learned that if the client wants to change the scope of the project, I need to say right away, “that will change the cost”, and not just do it.
Best client success story…
I had a client who came to me with her mother’s and grandmother’s photo and scrapbook albums that had been stored in a basement and were mildewy and musty. She couldn’t keep them in her house as they smelled bad and were a health risk, but couldn’t throw them out as they held so much family history. We scanned the pages to make a photo book of the albums. What we found were letters and other memorabilia stuffed behind photos or glued to the pages. We removed and scanned all of it and then talked with the client about how to include letters from her great grandfather to her grandmother as a young girl. When we were finished, the book had references from the original pages to a section in the back of the book with the full scan so people could read the letter or card. When we gave her the finished book, she cried and we learned later that she had given copies to her sister and mother. Her sister, who was too young to really remember her grandfather hugged the book and thanked her sister for giving their grandfather back to her in the pages of these books. I love when people reconnect, and photos and stories open up dialogue that might not have happened for years.
What is your favorite family tradition?
Our favorite family tradition has to be going to our cottage on a lake in Maine. Our boys love the water and fishing. We always walk out the breakwater in Rockland. You never know what you will see. One year it was crabs, this year it was a parade of schooners. Yes, we take lots of pictures, especially of the fish we catch.
If you weren’t a photo organizer, what would you be doing instead?
If we weren’t photo organizers I’m not sure what we’d be doing…most likely we’d be back in arts administration or education.
Are your own photos organized?
We just moved to Ohio from our house of 25 years in Massachusetts. I thought I had all my photos gathered in one place and had the printed ones fairly organized. I was sadly mistaken. We found several boxes of photos hidden away in places long forgotten. It was a real education and reminder for me to always ask, ‘where else might you have photos?’
Best tip for a new photo organizer…what you wish someone would have told you sooner?
You are in business! So many people start in as a Personal Photo Organizer because they love some aspect of it, but forget that this is a business and you need to treat it as such. There is continuing education about the work we do, and as a business owner. Get your APPO certification, watch the webinars, come to conference, and do your best for your clients. Finally, don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth!
Anything else you want us to know?
We have such a privilege working with people’s photos. It is a very personal job and my clients want to work with me because they know, like and trust me. At first I was amazed at how many of my clients wanted to continue working with us long distance from MA to OH. Then I realized it is because I have spent so much time with them and know their photo collection (really their family and history!) that it would feel strange starting over with someone else. This is the best business to be in!
Say hi to Philip & Susan in the comments below and share something you learned from their interview!