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Online Photo Galleries

The online photo gallery. Twenty-five years ago, most people would have laughed at the idea of posting thousands of photos on the internet for parents to view. Watching camps’ social media presence these days, it feels like you are literally at camp all the time. There is nothing like seeing a picture of a beautiful lake, sun rising, tall green trees, knowing campers are about to burst out for the day…in the middle of January. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest et al are fantastic tools for keeping everyone engaged throughout the year and they are also great for your summer photo sharing. Many camps rely on these sources as their primary photo galleries during the summer and it makes perfect sense.

We are often asked our thoughts on what tool camps should use to post and display their pictures. I will ask about their current use of social media and see if they consider that to be a suitable option (many camps like the openness and transparency to the wider public and many prefer a more private, secure option for camp families only). If camps want to look outside social media for their summer photo gallery, then there are many options to consider such as:

Flickr

SmugMug

Zenfolio

Photobucket

Shutterfly

jAlbum

We’ve seen all of these options used by camps. Some of the factors to consider as you look at these options:

  1. Branding – do you want to brand the gallery with your camp’s “mark” or are you okay with the provider’s branding taking precedence? There is a real variety here with some of these providers allowing for some fabulous customization on the look and feel.
  2. Professionalism – similar to the above point, there is a range of professionalism in these various tools where some are used by high-end photographers due to the very strong quality level and others are on the lower-end, intended more for free sharing of photos between family members (and sometimes showing ads).
  3. E-commerce – would you like to offer the ability for your families to purchase prints and other merchandise?
  4. Security – would you like to password-protect access to the galleries, providing at least a simple layer of security over access to the photos?
  5. Internal tools – it is worth taking a peek at how the products work in terms of the flexibility of uploading photos, the different sizes of photos that can be stored, the ability to setup different galleries, adaptability to phones and tablets, ability to easily download, etc.
  6. Cost – as you would expect, there is a range but, even at the high end, this is an inexpensive service. The high end is around $300/yr but you do not have to spend that if you don’t want to.

For what it is worth, our favourite online photo gallery is SmugMug. It is a stunning product that can be customized to your branding (so, it looks like an extension of your website); there are no ads or spam; you can upload unlimited photos and setup your own galleries with passwords if wanted; it is easy to upload and transfer photos and easy for viewers to download photos (if you want to provide that ability). Full disclosure: we chose to integrate SmugMug into our software as our photo gallery.

So, you have social media tools available and you have many online photo gallery options. The final option is to use a camp-specific online photo gallery that directly ties to registration software. The main benefits of this approach are:

  • One parent account – the parent can use the same account for registering, completing forms and viewing the camp’s photos.
  • Security – the photo gallery is behind the parent login so it is intended only for camp families; this security is really just a basic “front-door” level given the ability for parents to share their login details (or invite others – see below).
  • Inviting family and friends – the ability for parents to invite their relatives and friends to view the camp’s photos.

If you are considering the camp-specific online photo gallery service, some points to consider:

  1. Branding and professionalism – is the service branded for your camp as an extension of your website, or is it branded for a third party?
  2. Parent relationship – who has the relationship with the parent and are you comfortable with how it is handled?
  3. E-commerce – do parents pay to download photos and are you comfortable with that? How much do prints cost and are you comfortable with parents paying those prices?

I have some pretty strong opinions on these 3 points! As camp directors and owners, you work incredibly hard to build your camp’s brand and your parent relationships. Assuming you choose to host an online photo gallery, I think it is safe to say you want it to be a beautiful depiction of your camp. You want the parent to be delighted with this experience – if it is smooth, elegant, beautiful, intuitive, all of these elements will be positively attributed to you and your camp. The opposite is also true. Poor branding, unprofessional approaches, silly pricing (e.g. $3 to download a photo or $6 for a 4x6 print) will all reflect poorly on you, the camp, even if the prices are set and charged by the third party. Parents are used to downloading photos for free and, if they still buy prints, they are expecting to pay less than $1 for one.

The opportunity to provide parents with a supremely positive experience in the photo gallery far outweighs any small revenue that might be earned. If earning some revenue from this service is necessary, charge a small fee with registration to cover your costs.

Many parents will flock to the gallery daily (hourly?) for that window into camp. With so many great options available, choose one that reflects your camp in the best way possible. It is an inexpensive way to share the incredible moments that happen at camp.

What online photo gallery do you use and would you recommend it?

I look forward to seeing some fabulous photo galleries this summer!

rob@campbrain.com

Love your Software,
Rob
rob@campbrain.com