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Thread: Online print lab and marketing: interested ?

  1. #1
    Jack Flesher's Avatar
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    Online print lab and marketing: interested ?

    I have been thinking about something and am wondering what others here would think about it.

    What if there were a website that you could upload a full-sized print file to (scan or digital capture) and order a true "custom lab" print, light-jet or ink-jet for reasonable prices? By reasonable I mean you could get an 11x14 for $10, a 16x20 for around $14 and a 20x24 for $20. Mounting, matting and framing would also be offered at similar wholesale pricing.

    1) Would you be interested in using a service like that and if so, how many prints do you think you would order over a one year period?

    Now assume this site also offered as an additional service, a personalized web storefront for your images and automated the order fulfillment for you, including credit-card processing, paypal, etc, using the above printing and framing services. Additionally you could have the option to "opt in" to an online "stock" photo agency where your posted images were offered for sale to commercial buyers needing decorative art (the kind of art that might be purchased in bulk to decorate a large new hotel).

    2) Would you use the personalized website feature if it were free?

    3) How likely would you be to use the opt-in stock feature IF there were a nominal member fee charged to offset the costs of marketing to commercial art buyers? (say $99/yr)?

    Thanks in advance for your input!

    Cheers,
    Jack Flesher

    www.getdpi.com

  2. #2

    Re: What if?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    a true "custom lab" print, light-jet or ink-jet
    May we assume that this means scrupulous attention by the vendor to maintenance of stable profiles, calibrations, etc., so that once you work through your initial trials, you really do know what you're going to get?

  3. #3
    Jack Flesher's Avatar
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    Re: What if?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    May we assume that this means scrupulous attention by the vendor to maintenance of stable profiles, calibrations, etc., so that once you work through your initial trials, you really do know what you're going to get?
    That is precisely what I meant by "true custom lab".

    Cheers,
    Jack Flesher

    www.getdpi.com

  4. #4
    Ted Harris's Avatar
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    Re: What if?

    Not a bad idea bu tthe pricing is, I suspect off by a good bit. If you want top quality then the prices are too low by a good bit. For example, a quick off-the-top-of-my head tells me that my materials costs alone for an 11x14 or 16x20 including the paper, ink, packaging and shipping materials (NOT the actual shipping) are approaching $10 so add a bit for labor and then add some profit and you are at a minimum of $30 at least I would guess. If you rethink the pricing then I would guess it is doable.

  5. #5
    Jack Flesher's Avatar
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    Re: What if?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Harris View Post
    Not a bad idea bu tthe pricing is, I suspect off by a good bit. If you want top quality then the prices are too low by a good bit. For example, a quick off-the-top-of-my head tells me that my materials costs alone for an 11x14 or 16x20 including the paper, ink, packaging and shipping materials (NOT the actual shipping) are approaching $10 so add a bit for labor and then add some profit and you are at a minimum of $30 at least I would guess. If you rethink the pricing then I would guess it is doable.
    Thanks Ted: I have already carefully worked out the pricing. Obviously shipping is not included in the above pricing. To be more specific, the prices above are for light-jet. Ink-jet would run a bit more: $12, $22 and $33 for the same size prints on surfaced papers, more for rag or canvas.

    For now, I am trying to get feedback on the concept using those prices for the prints themselves. What I want to know, is if folks here would use a service like that at those prices and if so, how much would they use it.

    Thanks in advance,
    Jack Flesher

    www.getdpi.com

  6. #6

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    Re: What if?

    If it is a business that you would run, then I'd sign up for it and use it as part of my business strategy for sure.

    As for the quantity I would use? Probably not that much... 20 prints a year maybe, just for personal use. Maybe more if you proved to be really good and I was doing a show.

    But I would like to use it to drop ship prints to clients and also build a stronger stock photo business, especially if your site targeted a few vertical markets.

    For instance, if you tied in with a hotel or restaurant chain's interior architecture firm you would give your members a ready market.

    And it would be great to send a client or model a nice framed print after the job if wasn't so expensive and time consuming... even for potential clients it would be worth it at those prices.

    A couple of points:
    Give me a larger percentage of the stock revenue since your online services will be so darn efficient. It should be more efficient -- you don't have the huge technology costs or UI development that Getty/Corbis evolved.

    Keep it selective at first, then tier the membership. You need to start out with quality content.

    Build it like you did with Omni-blog so it is W3C valid and easy to find via Google.

    Put some personality into it, don't make it another bland online company without a human face. Build a community into it as well. Blog a little about customer successes and promote us.

    Shared Ink has a pretty good model I think, with user forums, personal human-based attention, great FAQs, premium membership levels for pros, etc. Their front-end could stand a good face lift design and marketing wise however.

    Tell us exactly what printer and materials will be used... I don't begrudge you making a healthy margin. Some people will say you're always too expensive but they are never good customers anyway.

    Get enough money and talent to build the site properly from the get-go. I am really hesitant to keep trying start-ups that never quite implement things to their promised potential. Let the flakes experiment on someone else.

    Good luck!

  7. #7
    Jack Flesher's Avatar
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    Re: What if?

    Hi Frank:

    Thanks for the encouraging feedback! Seriously though, can you give me an honest idea of how many prints you might order over a years time? I need this data to assess the model.

    Thanks,
    Jack Flesher

    www.getdpi.com

  8. #8

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    Re: What if?

    I'd base it on only 20, not 100. $500 per year per member to start. You know, be conservative and make it scalable.

    If you could afford to do the start-up carefully, you might cherry-pick and invite 50 really good photographers who might not be your strongest paying customers but they would promote it to all the "guys with camera" who will pay. Same model as ski companies giving deal to the pro skiers so the amateurs buys in.

    Get a John Sexton to partner up with and your business is golden. Or go slumming down a notch and invite us

    So you need hundreds of members...

  9. #9

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    Re: What if?

    My problem with the model is that I need to make prints to see what a fine prints look like. No matter how well I am profiled, a light emitting screen is not a print.

    So I have to have a printer to make the prints, so I am already well into the cost cycle, so it makes no sense for me to buy prints unless they are bigger than I can make on my own system.

    Thus the service only makes sense for big prints, which become attractive because of the pricing compared to running a big printer. But few will order many big prints, so your pricing has to go up, which means that they become less attractive.

    I think there are two critical issues. Frank raised the first - can you become a trusted intermediary for the whole client transaction? I could image using the service as a turnkey to provide prints in response to orders, assuming I ever get an order.:-) Just handling shipping and fixing prints that arrive damaged would be worth a lot.

    The second is how many people are printing their own larger prints these days and what size is bigger than say, what 50% of folks can do themselves.

  10. #10

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    Re: What if?

    I use ezprints.com for colour prints in sizes larger than I can print myself. Once I had learned how they printed my files, I got very good results. A test print costs next to nothing, and it arrives quickly. They print on FCA at the kind of prices that Jack is talking about, or slightly less. The additional services that Jack is talking about would be an advantage. If you were to offer a similar service for Ilford fibre-based silver prints and high quality B&W inkjet prints, even at moderately higher cost, that would be a great attraction.

    I'm really bad at shipping things and, much as I prefer to print my work myself, the service that Jack is suggesting would be very attractive, even for giveaways.

    Best,
    Helen

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