I shared my first Recently magazine (a personal photo magazine) on my Instagram account and was inundated with questions about how I made it and whether I loved the quality. I've made 3 magazines now from photos on my iphone, through the Recently app, and love each one more. That's 3 x more photos than I've printed in the last 5 years! I signed up for the quarterly membership, though I love the idea of monthly printing, but I haven't been that organized (yet). Instead I have chosen themes for my magazines, like our trip to Portugal or our camping adventures. These were a little more work to put together as I had to scroll back a ways on my phone... but I learned in doing this interview that I could have saved time by first making a folder of my theme and then choosing that folder in the app (Thanks Liz!), at least now I know for next time! I also love the idea of giving them for presents for relatives. As you probably know, I am so careful about adding more things to our small space but these compact magazines that stack beautifully and are full of cherished memories are easy to make room for. Oh and for those that have asked me, all my photos are taken on my iphone 7 and I edit them before I print using VSCO or PicTapGo.
I reached out to Recently to see if they would be open to an interview and found that they are a small business run by a husband and wife team. So while I already loved their offering, I'm a little bit more in love with them now that I know they are a small home business.
Liz answered some questions for me here....
Team Recently is my husband Scott and I. We founded it, created it (along with our Super Star developer Howie), and we’re the ones who run it now. We live in Brooklyn, NY, with our 7 year old daughter.
I think I understand Recently but can you explain it to someone who has never heard of you?
Recently is a mobile app that produces a printed magazine of your camera roll, right from your phone. It’s based on a monthly or quarterly subscription. And while we call them ‘magazines,’ they’re in fact high-quality paper back photo books made with premium archival paper, meant to be collected and saved. (Ed note: I've found their FAQ part of the app to be very helpful if I've ever gotten lost. Also I don't know much about paper but I love how these books feel in my hands)
What made you start Recently?
Scott and I were always snapping pictures of our daughter on our iPhones, but when she was about three, we realized we had ZERO printed pictures of this kid! Or of our lives together. This was so depressing to me. I come from the design world of book publishing and magazines, so I find the idea of the tangible — of holding something in your hands — extremely important. For that reason I had always meant to make photobooks, to show to our daughter down the road like our parents did for us, but I never got around to sitting down at my computer to complete this daunting task. It took too long. However, both Scott and I always had our phones on us, or at arms reach. So we decided to create an app to make these photo books right on our phones. And we wanted the entire process to require very minimal effort, for busy (or scattered) people just like us! Scott has a background in motion design and technology, so it seemed like a perfect thing for us to do. And the idea of turning these photo books into subscription magazines really appealed to us, because then we (and ideally others) would make them more than once! And over time we’d have a visual chronicle of our lives.
...P.S. Since the launch of Recently, I’ve gone back and finally made a baby book for our daughter! And both of us have just kept going from there! We have magazines of everything now. And we even give them as gifts! (Sending the magazines as gifts is an option in the app.) Scott just made one of a friend’s birthday dinner, and my last one was of my cousin's bachelorette party and wedding. … You get the idea.
I think it's pretty clear you have a love for photography. What's your favourite way to take photos? Do you use your phone most or a camera?
When Lucia was first born we used our camera in addition to our phone. We used to lug our camera on vacations or to special events. But now the cameras on phones are so high quality — the technology is so advanced — that we ONLY use our phones to take pictures. And now we never have bother uploading our pictures on to our computer (which I also used to procrastinate on).
Who is doing the layouts? I really love how you put my magazines together and I usually agonize over layout, thank you for taking that off the table with Recently. Can you share if someone is doing the layouts or is it a program?
I designed the layout initially, but now it’s completely automated. The layout varies depending on the format of the images (portrait, landscape or square). And the 50 image layout is different from the 100 image layout (one full bleed image per page vs. two images per page).
A lot of people ask me if it's easy to quit. I haven't wanted to, so I can't answer that question. Is it easy? And can you sign up again easily?
Yes. Both are quite easy. Each can be done right in the app.
What's the best part of running your own business?
Setting our own schedule. And getting to work together…. We’re both quite busy with work, but we’re still able to take our daughter to school and have dinner together every night. I can make time to grocery shop during the day and Scott is usually the one who carves out a break to cook dinner. As for working together, while we usually try to work in separate locations throughout the day, we always meet up at a certain point to go over things and bounce ideas off each other. Oh, and another great part is that we get make all the decisions.
Setting our own schedule. And getting to work together… Seriously, all the best parts are also the worst parts. It takes quite a lot of discipline to set your own deadlines and then uphold them. Maintaining the drive to excel requires huge dedication, especially if the only ones you’re held accountable to is yourselves. And when the workload gets big (which is pretty much always), there’s no one to delegate to. So it’s common for us to work nights and weekends too. Plus, while working together is awesome in so many ways, it can also be quite challenging. Giving and receiving criticism or suggestions from a spouse can certainly be more complicated than doing the same with a co-worker or boss in an office. We’ve definitely learned a lot about each other, ourselves, and communication through working together.
Thanks Liz and Scott for sharing insight into your small business. I'm completely hooked.