I've never been much of a photographer. Growing up I had a some low-end point and shoot camera that took Kodak 110 film. My parents were oddly stingy with the film so I never developed any real proficiency. I do love my digital camera (a Fujifilm SD2000HD) but because it's digital, I now have the opposite problem - too many photos. I tend to dump them into iPhoto, pic one or two to post on Flickr or Facebook - or actually email them to family/friends.
I'm also pretty haphazard about organizing pictures people send me.
And by haphazard I mean I look at them, and then file the email in the "Received" folder. And hope that if I ever need to find it again my email's search function is up to the task.
Because of my poor photo-organization skills, I've been a little skeptical of photo books. I tended to lump them in with my mental category of scrapbookers - something that seemed like a nice thing to do if you had kids but not a realistic goal because it was so time-consuming.
Since I figured I wouldn't have enough really good photos to create a book all by myself (the basic photo book has 20 pages), I thought it might be nice to do a book for a family member. So I put out the call to a few other folks and asked them to send me their best pics.
While waiting for them to sort though their photo stash, I went ahead and started my book. Details of the experience:
At first, the interface was a little clunky. Instead of just clicking a button to start a project, you have to click it and then choose "Next". Ironically, getting started was the biggest interface hiccup in the process.
After choosing a size for your book, you choose the theme. This was a little overwhelming because there are a lot of choices up front. What I didn't realise was that I could change the theme when I was editing the book as well as choose a single layout from a theme to include in my book. So, I was able to mix and match layouts from the different themes. This is great because a lot of the themes (e.g. baby, wedding, sport) are graphically quite busy. I can see having one or two of these layouts in the book, but a whole book of them might be overwhelming. I really like that you can do this.
You can also tweak the layout once it's in your book. You can remove a photo slot from layouts with multiple images, add effects, resize photos, re-layer photos. Very flexible. Below I've put before and after shots where I started with the same layout on facing pages and then a shot of how I edited one.
Like a lot of bloggers, I get a lot of pitch emails. Most of them suck. But the "Delete" key and I are best friends, so I don't spend a LOT of time ranting about why they suck, making flack blacklists or bitching about them (though I will admit to the occasional tweet about some of the more egregious emails).
But sometimes, riding a ray of sunlight, a pitch hits my inbox and I stand up and shout "Yes! YES! A pitch I was actually happy to get." Dan Mahoney of CSG|PR sent me such a pitch this week. Let me break it down for you (I even asked Dan's permission first).
The subject line is short and descriptive. Not overly cutesy/clever. It simply STATES WHAT THE EMAIL IS ABOUT. Yes, I'm yelling. Just tell me what the email is about. Don't use "Story Idea". Don't use "Want Your Thoughts". Don't tell me it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Shut up. If you have something I'm interested in, I'll know. Don't try to trick me. Dan also gets bonus points for not using ALL CAPS nor for marking the email URGENT.
Dan addressed me by name. Not "Dear Blogger". Or worse "Dear mynameiskate.ca" And he said "Hi" - which is nice. Friendly.
OMG, give Dan's high school English teacher a gold star. Or if Dan didn't write this, give his copywriter a raise. There is not one wasted word, one unnecessary superlative, one gimmicky sell line in this email. It is 93 words of pure gold. Also, notice how the font of the body of the email is the same as both the greeting and the signature. A lot of the times it's not and that just screams "copy and paste job". Look, I know this isn't a personal email. That's cool. But don't point it out to me by having two (or more) different fonts, often in different colours. And I don't need PR people fawning over my blog. I need PR people respecting my time. And I need smart, savvy people raising the tone of the profession. Really well written and respectful.
Dan said "Thank you." I can't tell you how rarely I see that phrase in a pitch.
There is an obvious, clear, one-click Unsubscribe option. Not in minuscule font (oddly, it's in a larger font). And not "hidden" in a mass of other links. Just simple and easy. Like the entire experience of Dan's email.
The only thing I would have changed about Dan's email is I would have stuck an "http://" in front of the URL so I could immediately click and not have to copy/paste URL. But some email systems mark emails with live links as spam, so I respect it if Dan were trying to avoid the spam filters.
So there you have it. Pitch like Dan and I'll pay attention.