By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
These days, projection sales are the norm, but is your software limiting your sales experience for your client or even you? Being able to use today’s technology to offer a stress-free sales experience is important, and FathomFocus is a software solution that does just that. It’s an in-person sales app that allows you to use your iPad (2+) in conjunction with your projector to conduct ordering appointments, and it has a number of promising features.
Getting started is pretty easy. You install the app on your iPad, and the correlating desktop software to the computer you will have connected to your projector. There’s also a way to use Apple TV with the iPad directly, but I don’t have the hardware to try out that technology, so I’m going to cover the more standard method.
Once I had software installed on both devices, I went to the desktop interface to set up my first client. FathomFocus has you first select the screen that it will display the previews on (top dialog box), and then create a new session (or select an existing one). Enter a session name and navigate to an image directory. Note that the browser (in Windows at least) will not display any image files—only folders—because you are supposed to select the folder you want FathomFocus to pull images from rather than the images themselves.
Windows Firewall did block some features, so I had to allow access via the dialog box that opened after I clicked save on the new session (bottom dialog box). If you’re reopening a session, you’ll be prompted to browse to the *.ffs file that FathomFocus created within the image folder.
At this point, your desktop should be ready and waiting to receive input from the iPad, so it’s time to switch devices. Select a session to get started. Assuming your computer and iPad can communicate via your network, you’ll be able to select the session you just created. I ran into some problems here; my devices couldn’t see each other, and I couldn’t determine a reason despite referring to FathomFocus’s support page on the subject. After some on-the-phone problem-solving with FathomFocus tech, we determined that the cause was twofold. First, my firewall or antivirus software had prevented something from installing completely on the desktop; second, the mobile hotspot I was using for Wi-Fi connectivity was causing some delays in initial loading. Once we got those two things straightened out, everything worked like a charm.
My next step was to configure my studio settings from the iPad app, which comes preloaded with sample information. Before you have a client ordering appointment, it is important to configure all your settings so that your pricing, studio information, packages, sales tax, etc., will be used rather than the sample defaults. Here is the menu, on the left side of the screenshot below (I’ll get to the icon menu on the right side a little further on).
You can set items, packages, collections, and crop presets, calibrate the scale of your projection screen, and more. Most important? The studio info settings section. This information will show up on the invoices that are generated, and this is the data that didn’t install properly due to my firewall/antivirus software. There’s also a useful terms and conditions section that will display when you have your client sign their invoice.
The settings panels are easy to decipher, and here’s a view of the collections settings panel to give you an idea of how things can be customized:
Once settings have been configured, you can load a session from the iPad, either using a photo album locally stored on the iPad or via the connected desktop computer. Aside from the image source folder, everything works the same way. Here’s the screenshot of the session loading from the desktop:
Once loaded, you will be controlling everything from your iPad; the desktop (projector, etc.) is just the display screen. When no images are selected, your logo will display. Once you’ve selected one or more images in gallery mode, those will be displayed on your desktop screen. The screenshot below shows the gallery mode interface with just one image selected. You select multiple images by tapping once on an image; tap again to deselect it.
Now let’s revisit the icon menu on the right side of the interface. The app will walk you through everything with a tutorial, but the icons allow you to change modes (listed from top to bottom): gallery, color, rotate, crop, note, scale, order, collections, slideshow, and sorting.
Gallery: When you tap this icon it opens a pop-up window with options like select all.
Color: There are three color modes—color, black and white, and sepia. Tap the icon to switch through the modes.
Rotate: Rotate the image with a tap.
Crop: Tapping the crop icon enters crop mode. You can pinch, drag, and tap to perform a variety of cropping options. To accept your crop and save it, tap the crop icon a second time.
Note: You can add text notes to any image, and the notes will show up on the invoice. You can apply notes to more than one image at a time.
Scale: This option is only enabled when connected to an external screen; it will display the image according to scale (e.g. 8x10 vs. 16x20 size comparison).
Order: Add images to the invoice via a quick order screen. You can designate which customer is ordering the image, too (useful if you’re doing an extended family portrait session). Tap on the icon again to save the ordered item and return.
Collections: Allows you to offer groupings and layouts of multiple images. Tap on a collection opening, then tap on an image to add it to the collection. You can tap order to add the collection to the invoice. (See collection view below).
Slideshow: Plays a slideshow of the images according to the settings you configured in the menu.
Sorting: Organize images into folders: yes, maybe, no.
When you’re done with your ordering appointment, tap the menu button to pull up the first menu I discussed. You’ll see the second item is Order Review, where you can review your order, and the last item is End Session. These are the two you’ll likely use during a session.
First, you’ll have your client view the invoice to approve everything. As you can see in the screenshot below, the items ordered have file names, image thumbnails, prices, quantities, and all the details you want in an invoice.
Tapping the item review button brings up the item review screen, and tapping an item brings up the order item for quick changes.
At the bottom of the invoice is a signature box, you tap on that to open the signature dialog for your client to approve the order:
Then you’ll want to apply any payments to the invoice:
And the last step will be to email the invoice to your client. The app generates a PDF of the invoice with all the images, captured signature, etc., and attaches that to the email for you to send to your client and yourself.
Overall, I was pleased with how the app operated—user friendly and intuitive. Despite the technical snag I encountered, I would consider installation and setup to be easy. I like the fact that you can do ordering sessions without an external screen hooked up; this might be useful for location sales appointments and such. Being able to assign ordered images to specific clients within one ordering appointment is a huge plus when you’re working with extended families; I’ve had to resort to pencil and paper in the past to track who ordered what in those circumstances.
Some of the other projection apps I’ve evaluated may have more bells and whistles, but ultimately it’s all about what you need to get the job done. And I think FathomFocus does a good job of making sure the necessities are covered without adding in extra fluff and confusion.
The app is $99 through the Apple App Store. For more information, visit FathomFocus.
Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP is a portrait artist in Michigan.