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Lifetouch integration with Shutterfly heralds change in school photo business model

Our friends at CaptureLife recently posted a blog about how Shutterfly has begun integrating Lifetouch school photos into its mobile app. This long-anticipated step is the beginning of a shift in the marketing and fulfillment of school and event photos. Through the long history of school photography, a school-portrait company’s main customer was the school district or school board themselves. Labs had little or no contact with the end customer, the parents.

Lifetouch school photos on a mobile phone. Image courtesy of CaptureLife

That is now starting to change with the integration of digital technology into the school photo experience. Rather than simply getting a print package made from digital capture, studios and labs are going to start offering parents access digital-imaging services. As CaptureLife indicated:

In a clear signal of just how important Shutterfly views the school portrait market, Lifetouch customers already started to experience the future this fall.

Rather than the traditional method of delivering digital images to customers using a dead-end digital download site, parents now receive an email notification that, you guessed it, creates or connects a Shutterfly account. Here, pictures are saved in the cloud where you are now connected to Shutterfly’s vast online catalog of print products.

There is an even more transformative element to this new workflow. Shutterfly is now connected directly to the parent. Communication is direct. No need to go through the school to communicate with and promote to the parent. That is gold.

In our recent article about Edge Imaging, new CEO Dan Boudreau reiterated this same trend. With digital fulfillment comes direct consumer responsibility: “Parents still want to buy a photo print, year-to-year, but how it’s delivered is different. Parents also want the digital image, too, which is an adaption for the market. This shift is only going to continue.”

He adds, through this direct connection to the consumer, schools are happier they no longer have to interact with parents regarding school photo issues and Edge Imaging benefits because feedback is direct from the end user.

For many consumers, this comingling of professional photos with amateur snaps is what they have wanted all along. Professional photos and especially school portraits were traditionally locked down with strict copyright protection. Every photo lab and camera store clerk knew, when a school photo emblazoned with a “Olan Mills”, “Lifetouch”, etc. came across the counter, the copy work was either turned away or a phone call placed for copyright clearance from the photographer. Kodak even sold professional photo paper designed to inhibit scanning. Today, while copyright laws haven’t changed, a lot of the attitudes and business practices have. To customers, a photo is a photo, and to get the business, photographers and studios are willing to oblige.

Now that Shutterfly has opened this floodgates with Lifetouch integration, expect technologies and systems – like CaptureLife – to answer the need.

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