From the beginning of their careers as photographers, Christian Koskza and Heather Farley of FreeTime Productions have partnered with Printroom to create a new way of running a studio. With little prior experience, they quickly jumped into the digital age of photography and all that it has to offer. For the past five years, FreeTime Productions has been offering amazingly quick turnarounds, with lots of options for their clients, who keep coming back for more.
Christian Koskza started FreeTime Productions in 2001 when he was just 19 years old, focusing on videos of weddings and dance recitals. Koszka grew up halfway between Sacramento, CA. and Lake Tahoe, reared on the commercial sets of his father's advertising agency. But the young entrepreneur quickly realized that brides often axed their videography orders before the big wedding day, when expenses ran over and there was no money for video.
He and his partner Heather Farley knew brides would never cut out the photographer, so they had a big idea. The only problem: they weren't photographers. They didn't know cameras, or their way around a darkroom. They are avowed technophiles, however, and as they saw the first mainstream professional digital cameras come on the market, they had a plan. All the needed was a partner, and they found it in Printroom. Five years later, they have more business than they can handle. They've doubled their prices and still have clients begging for appointments. Photography is the busiest part of their business, and the easiest—because Printroom handles everything but the click of the camera. "If Printroom went out of business, I would stop offering photography," Koszka vows. "There are other companies out there, but the ease is not there."
FreeTime credits Printroom with enabling three of its biggest selling points—flexibility, speed and easy ordering. Building a business from the ground up, the startup has been able to scrap the traditional model of a local studio photographer and create a customer-friendly approach. In the good old days, for example, parents of seniors, dancers or ballplayers would send their kids to photo day with a check, they'd have only a few photo packages to choose from, and then it could be months of waiting for a picture they might not even like. With the combination of digital photography and Printroom's online galleries, Koszka says he can take as many poses as he needs, snap all the buddy pics the kids want, and let customers select them online and buy them a la carte. He catches the little fish who can only afford a $5 buy, he says, but with more choices, most parents spend more than they would have on a pre-determined package. The second big plus is that the pictures are available for purchase within days, not weeks or months. "When we take pictures—dance pictures, wedding pictures—people always want to know when they'll see them," Farley says, and describes customers' "shock" when they hear it will be within a week. "Our speed is what we've always bragged about."
If you were to try to peruse their many galleries online, though, you'd have a difficult time if you weren't a client. FreeTime doesn't like looky-loos, so they've password-protected galleries that allow them to create private showrooms for customers to peruse at their leisure. They believe password-protection gives them access to a whole new group of buyers. It's not just brides that are purchasing a wedding's photos--now a bridesmaid, grandmother or aunt can get in the act. They've had parents stationed overseas buy dance photos, and relatives purchase senior photos. At the same time, FreeTime is able to assure customers that password-protection keeps out unwanted onlookers. Farley and Koszka have found out how to offer all these amenities to their customers without having to do much more than shoot photos and upload them. After the photo sessions are over, it's a hands-off business for them, which works well with their busy schedule. Since Printroom offers seamless integration with their FreeTimePro.com site, Farley and Koszka look like they handle each order personally. "People think we are this huge company," Koszka says. They're on their way.