Prints for Pros Without the Pain
(And how an amateur can "turn Pro" with
By DAVE ETCHELLS
In late 2001, I reported in our Newsletter about a slick online service offered by Printroom.com that handles all the backend hassle of print order fulfilment for practicing pros or anyone else who needs to deal with large numbers of print orders in an efficient manner. I was impressed with how powerful, easy to use, and flexible the service was, and still am today. Feeling that the Pro Studio service could be a real help to many of our readers, I decided to break out that earlier article, expand on it a bit and promote it more to the pros and serious amateurs visiting our site.
The concept behind Printroom's Pro Studio service is simplicity itself:
- You upload photos you want to sell to a "gallery."
- You send the gallery URL to your prospective customers.
- They visit to order prints of the photos they're interested in at the prices you set.
- Printroom collects the money, prints and ships the photos.
- Every month, Printroom mails you a check for the selling
price of the prints, less the cost of their printing service
and a 14 percent fee for processing the orders. (11 percent order-processing
fee, plus 3 percent credit card charge.)
Like I said, it literally couldn't be simpler.
This is a fantastic service for a whole range of pro and semi-pro photographers, taking up assignments for wedding, school, sport, corporate function, reunion and many other events. Anywhere you've got a large number of prospective customers ordering from the same set of images. I think it's a particularly good match for kid's team sports photography, where you can easily end up with thousands of photos and hundreds of customers: Coordinating print orders in that situation can be a nightmare, and Printroom Pro Studio can eliminate almost all of the administrative work involved. - And less time spent tracking orders, collating and shipping print orders, and collecting payments means more time spent shooting. And that means more profitable business.
But this could also be just the ticket for a proficient amateur looking to make their digicam hobby profitable!
Getting bugged to shoot photos of Little League or the church soccer league? The biggest hassle is not the photography itself, but the overhead associated with getting prints to everyone. With Pro Studio, you just set up a gallery or two, set a nominal (or even not-so-nominal) price for prints and sit back. No hassles, no phone calls at dinner time, no trying to keep track of who wants what. Just painless proceeds and happy parents.
And if you choose to do it gratis, you can use the proceeds from the photos as a fundraiser for the team instead.
Of course, you may not want your photos to be available to just anyone on the Web. Many parents would feel more secure if their children's pictures were only available to a select group of family and friends. And those photos from the bachelorette party will definitely need to be kept under lock and key! Which is exactly why Printroom lets you assign a password to each gallery.
Want to maintain different pricing for different customers? No problem. You can set the price of each print size separately for every gallery you have. And if you password-protect your galleries, the Bushes won't know what other clients paid for the 8x10 they bought for $50.
Printroom offers a wide range of print sizes, from wallet-sized to 20x30 posters, so potential profits could be sizable. Your galleries are available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and you don't even need a Visa merchant account to get started.
To see what it looks like, I set up a little Studio (http://www.printroom.com/pro/Imaging-Resource/) with just a few test shots made by Imaging Resource's Stephanie Boozer with the Sony F707 digicam. There are two galleries, one "public" (no password required) and one protected (the password is "IRNEWS"). The two galleries have different print prices and even different sizes available. Pretty slick, huh?
HANDLING LOTS OF PHOTOS
Of course, this sounds great until you stop to consider what it might take to upload the hundreds or thousands of photos a busy pro can easily generate in team sports or senior-photo shooting. Oh, my aching modem! Even with the automated bulk-upload capability offered by Printroom's great little "Shoot 'n Share" application, the time required to upload all your photos could constitute a major barrier to using the service.
Fortunately, Printroom's thought of this, and has a solution: CD-ROMs! With CD burners widely available, and CD-R media going for literally pennies apiece, CD-ROMs are a great way to move lots of data quickly. If you mail (or more likely, FedEx) a CD-R to Printroom they'll upload the contents to the appropriate albums for you, potentially saving dozens of hours of uploading.
Of course it costs something to set up your online studio, but not much -- especially thanks to a Dave's Deal I negotiated for our readers. The normal startup cost is a pretty reasonable $398, which includes a year's rent for your online studio (with up to 300-MB of online photo storage). The Dave's Deal cuts this in half though, with a $200 credit, making the total start-up cost only $198. (This deal was originally offered only to our newsletter subscribers, but Printroom has agreed to extend it to all of the Imaging Resource community.)
A single event could more than pay for an entire year's service! And if you're a pro, not only do you save time by not having to handle all the order processing, but your customers get faster, more efficient service than your staff could provide working around the clock. (And far-flung relatives can easily view and order prints for themselves, expanding your market.)
Here's what you do:
- Visit http://www.printroom.com/proFeatureBenefit.asp
- Click the "Sign up for a Pro Studio account" button at the bottom.
- Enter your billing information.
- Type "detchells" in the "Discount Code" field and hit "Recalculate with discount" to remove $200 from the total.
- Click the "Sign up for a Pro account" link and
customize your own Pro Studio.
Then sit back and enjoy automated, efficient print order fulfillment.
Have more questions about the concept? Feel free to call Printroom for no-pressure answers to your questions. Ask for Jude Kanogart at (510) 580-2377 or Carlton Osborne at (510) 413-1247 (or email Prostudio@printroom.com). Jude's in charge of business development, Carlton is the Main Man. I count them both as friends, so know you'll be treated well when you call.
Let them know you heard about it here and tell them Dave sent you, to get your $200 discount. Also, if you do call, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know what you think of the concept.
I really think this service could revolutionize the event photography world by making it possible for a lot of "little guys" to have the advantages of "big guy" order fulfillment efficiency and convenience. Check it out, and let me know what you think!