By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP
For the past month or so, I’ve been testing out my very own personalized iPhone app. ProPhotoApps is the company that created my app; they specialize in iPhone apps specifically for photographers and photography studios. Once completed and approved for the iTunes store, your studio's app will be available for download at no charge to maximize its distribution to your clients and potential clients.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Sounds cool, but what if I don’t have an iPhone?” No problem. ProPhotoApps has an administrative web interface where you manage all the details; you can customize your app completely without ever having to touch an iPhone.
When the app-creation process begins, you will log into the admin interface, and begin adding your custom data. There are a few fields that you cannot change once you submit your app to iTunes for approval, so make sure to fill out those fields wisely. Most everything else, from images to news blurbs, you will be able to update and change freely over the life of your app (Pics, Social, Contact Us, and Specials).
The screenshot below gives you an idea of the information you’ll need to fill out before you can submit your app. The approval process (from Apple) usually takes about two to three weeks, so don’t expect your app to show up in the app store instantaneously. Once you get the initial info input completed and submit your app, you can continue to work on the news, daily pic, and settings sections without a problem.
Once your app appears in the app store, you will be able to direct your clients to the app by using a web link, or by searching for the name of your app.
Your app will have five main sections: DailyPic, News, Social, About, and For You. The Daily Pic displays a different image every day—you can set it to draw randomly from the pool of images you upload, or you can assign a specific image to be featured on a certain day. The News section has two subsections (tabs): News, and Photo Tips. On the News tab, you can custom input specials, special announcements, or whatever you’d like. The Photo Tips tab is, unfortunately, not customizable. You cannot add your own tips, it only displays generic tips. The Social section includes links to whatever social networking sites you’d like to publish (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn), as well as an Appointment Booking form. While I did test out the feature, none of my clients have taken advantage of this yet. The About section contains two buttons (Send Email, View Map), any information you’d like to share about the studio, and links to your e-mail, website, and blog. Finally, there’s a For You section. This section allows you to customize content for specific app users.
The clients who have seen my app have loved it. They think it is great that they can turn on their iPhone and see a different picture each day—but I haven’t followed up with them to see if they’ve made a regular habit of checking out the newest daily picture, or viewing the news items I’ve posted.
So, let’s recap: your own iPhone app, your clients will love it, and it doesn’t require any tech know-how. To me, that seemed like a decent recipe for success! After getting to try out the app, I’m pretty sure that if this type of marketing is a good fit for your studio, you will be happy with the product (and service) you get with ProPhotoApps. Since I’m a tech geek, though, there are a few things that I would like to see done better.
First, while I love the concept of having a custom application for my clients to access on their mobile devices, the present lack of compatibility is a problem for me. When I asked my clients to test out the app for me, I discovered that surprisingly few own iPhones. ProPhotoApps is planning to develop Droid, Blackberry, and possibly Windows Mobile 7 compatible versions in the future, but right now, the only app available is for the iPhone.
In preparing this review, I did check out a few other photographers’ apps (by ProPhotoApps); I noticed that earlier apps created did not have the “daily pic” logo displayed during startup. After noticing this, I was somewhat disappointed with my app—I would have preferred it jump straight to the app, or display my logo for more continuity in branding.
Finally, I love the News section of the app, but I dislike having to log into the web interface to update the information. I would prefer to see an option for the app to pull excerpts from my blog feed so that my workflow could be more efficient.
All in all, ProPhotoApps does a good job of making app creation a simple task. Even if you’re not a computer guru, you should have no trouble navigating the setup process, and your clients will really get a kick out of seeing their images on your studio’s app.
Your customized app costs $249 for the first year. After that, you will be charged $95 per year for hosting and support. If you wish to create more than one app for your studio, subsequent apps are $199 each (with similar “support” plan in subsequent years).