Digital has created a tremendous amount of change in the last few years, and
photographers who have not been quick to adapt have lost business and, perhaps
more importantly, business opportunities. The landscape has changed dramatically,
and the people doing professional photography range from MWACs (Moms With A
Camera) who work for practically nothing or for friends to very expensive photographers
who call the world their client base.
There are two major ways for the local professional photographer to survive
and thrive in this new environment. The first is to produce photography that
the amateur cannot. That's a subject for another article, but basically
professionals need to use the tools available only to them (studio, high-speed
lenses, wide lenses, professional lighting and posing, etc.) to produce work
that is distinctly different than that produced by "mom." The second
is to offer unique products. These might include specially matted art prints,
composites with text, special albums, and more. This is where the press-printed
products come in to play.
Professional color labs have entered the printing business in a big way and
it is showing a steady growth curve. Albums, note cards, art books, posters,
and calendars are just some of the products now being offered by professional
labs. This is partly in response to a decreased workload as photographers moved
away from film. Indeed, the press-printed segment of their business is rapidly
growing and they are constantly coming up with innovative, new products to help
the professional photographer increase their business and profits.
To get an insight into this explosive market I contacted two professional labs
that are firmly in the press-printed market. I spoke with Paul Kimball from
CPQ (www.cpq.com), a large
lab located in Tennessee, and Ken Wilson from LustreColor (www.lustrecolor.com),
a lab in Massachusetts.
companion albums to go along with the traditional wedding album
are big sellers.
Shutterbug: What caused you to offer this service to your
Paul Kimball: We saw a need to create more ways to print and
display an image, rather than just dropping loose prints into a photo album, or worse yet--a shoebox. Millions of files that are
captured digitally never get printed, so our goal is to give customers the incentive to print those images.
Ken Wilson: First and foremost, press-printed products are
in demand by the consumer. Several online sites and software vendors (such as
Shutterfly and MyPublisher) are offering photo books and greeting cards to consumers.
This created a need for the professional photographer to offer similar but professional
versions. Secondly, both professional photographers and pro labs need to introduce
new and innovative products to their customers in order to maximize their sales
potential with their clients. As good as photographic paper is, it is limited
as to what you can do with it. Digital print presses open up a whole new arena
to all of us.
art cards are one of the first items and still very popular.
SB: What percentage of your business does this now represent
and where do you see it headed?
KW: At this time, our press-printed business is a very small
percentage of our overall sales. This is principally due to the fact that we
didn't introduce them until the fourth quarter of 2006. In spite of the
late start, our press-printed greeting cards were extremely popular and accounted
for over 50 percent of our greeting card sales in the last quarter of 2006.
We see these products having a tremendous upside to our business. This year
we have invested heavily in additional support equipment so that we can introduce
additional products and services to our customers.
PK: Currently, digital four-color printing accounts for approximately
10 percent of our revenues, but that number is quickly rising. A vast majority
of our new customers are attracted to these products as much as they are our
tried and true printing on Kodak Professional Paper.
SB: What is your most popular item?
PK: Our most popular item in terms of order volume is the 8.5x11"
landscape photo book with a hard cover. More recently, some of our unique folded
greeting cards printed on Pearl Metallic paper have stolen the book's
KW: At this time our press-printed proof books are our most
popular item. This is principally due to the fact that it is wedding proofing
season. Overall, our greeting cards are the most popular. Eventually, I believe
our new companion albums and our (soon to be released) coffee-table albums will
become our most popular line.
proof books can offer printing on both sides of the page, unlike