Wednesday, 6 July 2011

EVS4 - Why I wrote my own Event Viewing System

There is a lot of debate amongst event photographers about the value of viewing systems. A viewing system is a system that allows potential purchasers to view images in which they feature before they purchase them. The simplest viewing system is a set of proof sheets tacked onto a board. This has some issues, a proof sheet has to be printed (time and cost considerations), a good gust of wind and your proof sheets are flying around the event and at a large event or an event with a large number of images they can take up a considerable amount of space.

For equestrian and dog event photographers viewing systems are essential. They can have many thousands of images and the participants expect to be able to find the images featuring their horse or dog reasonably quickly. If they cannot find them they leave the sales station and so do the pounds in their pockets. Photographers working larger 'black tie' events will hit the same wall. It is usually very inefficient to use the print station as a viewing station. The print station should be doing exactly that - churning out prints.

So, the solution is electronic viewing stations. Just display the images on a set of terminals and the user chooses the images they want to purchase and either pops them into an electronic basket or lets a sales assistant know the image numbers and the hard work of finding a clients images has been done by the client without tying up the print station.

There are numerous solutions but I found that for my use none actually did what I wanted in the way that I wanted so all I looked at were rejected. For myself, coming from a web development background, the obvious solution was to use a browser based solution and write the underlying code myself. A few refinements and about a year of use and further development and it is at version four. Hence EVS4, Event Viewing System Four.

This is currently being tried by a few selected users and will shortly be generally available to other photographers. Before you start thinking that this is very generous of me I should say that if you use it I want you to send me some money. Not a huge amount (you can if you want to send massive amounts of money) but enough to say thank you and that recognises the value the product has for your business. In the order of £15 (or the equivalent in Euros or Dollars) per viewing station would seem to be fair.

It is designed to be fast to update and easy to use both for clients and system operators. Web sized images and thumbnail images are dropped in a folder and the script automatically builds a page of these images. Just create a folder, drop in your images and select the folder from a list of galleries and view your images. Very fast to do, very easy to do and very easy to use.

What it does not do is create baskets and price lists. My experience is that sales are maximised by supervising viewing stations. Put a sales assistant with every three or four stations and not only do you add the personal touch but you also manage the sales process whilst ensuring people are moving on from the viewing stations to the print station.

The latest version is going out to selected users this week and I will have a link to the code/system available within the next week assuming all feedback is positive. To date the feedback from these users has been very positive so I think we can look forward to a release next week.