Recommended Printing and Framing Service for a Website

Recommended Printing and Framing Service for a Website
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(Chris Baker) #1

Hi Fellow NPN-ers,

I would like to have the option for folks to be able to purchase prints directly from my website. I’m using Format to host my site, which has been wonderful. They have an option to set-up a store, but not an option to have it hands-free, which interests me. Can anyone provide recommendations for linking my site to a printing and framing service that would leave me out of the loop? I ran across Darkroom, which looks appealing, but I don’t know anything about them. They take a 15% commission, but that seems standard. I’m also not opposed to leaving Format, but so far, they have served me well. I also consider myself a hobbyist photographer, so I’m not willing to spend a small fortunate on a custom website. Feel free to hit me up with any questions. I appreciate your time.

Thank You,
Chris

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(Jesse Smith) #2

I’m sorry that I don’t have a solution for you, as I print and specialize the print when an order comes in. The problem with the automatic prints is there’s SOOOOO many variables to a good fine art print that it’s nearly impossible in my eyes to have it all automated.

What if someone wants a 30x20, but the image is only enough pixels for 18x12? Then you’re allowing the printing service to both upscale your image, but now you also don’t have it sharpened correctly.

As nice as automation sounds, I don’t think it’s beneficial in the long term because people may get prints that aren’t up to your standards.

Just something to think about!

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(Max Waugh) #3

Chris, I’m not going to be able to answer your question directly either, but one thing you may want to consider if you’re interested in making extra revenue from matted and framed prints is FineArtAmerica/Pixels.com. I’m not necessarily suggesting them as your main vendor (I believe they offer ways to plug their interface into your site), as the print quality may not be on par with some of the professional labs out there, but if you’re not too picky you could set up a site over there as a secondary selling option. I’ve never had a customer return a print ordered through their site, so people seem satisfied with the quality to date.

I do offer prints on my website (tied to WHCC’s photo lab), but for pre-matted/pre-framed online orders, I sometimes send people to my FAA/Pixels store as a faster alternative. They can choose a number of different print and framing options using the online interface. As an added bonus, random customers find my work over there conducting their own searches, so I gain extra revenue without having to put in much work on the marketing end (and, obviously, the fulfillment end).

Max

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(Chris Baker) #4

Hi Jesse,

Thank you for the response and for the information. What you said makes sense. My knowledge of printing is very limited. So much to learn, but that’s what makes it interesting and fun.

Cheers,
Chris

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(Chris Baker) #5

Hi Max,

Thank you for the recommendations. I will take a look. Printing is a completely new realm for me. Jesse had some good points as well.

Thanks Again,
Chris

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(Jesse Smith) #6

Anytime Chris.

And I agree that it’s difficulty and such makes it a bit more spectacular when you nail the process. Nothing beats printing imo. Good luck and don’t hesitate to ask any other questions. I’m no expert yet, but I’ve spent ridiculous hours figuring out a lot of this stuff. It’s hard! Haha.

Have a good one!

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(Craig Marvil) #7

An alternative could be linking to a Smugmug account that could be set up with Bay photo or other labs to handle the printing. It could give more exposure to your images and shift the responsibility of print results to a third party. I’ve had good results with this approach. If anyone has had problems with this avenue, please let me know, I’ve only had a dozen or so prints sold this way.

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(Matt Lancaster) #8

Very interested in this conversation as I am also presently without a portal for buyers to order and buy prints, so thanks for all the great ideas. I, too, don’t have the funds right now to invest in a custom merchandise portal. However I’ve read an endorsement of Smugmug elsewhere by a well-known photographer. There seem to be plenty of options.

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(Chris Baker) #9

Thank you for the advice, Craig! I don’t expect to sell a ton of prints either, but having the option there would be great!

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(David Kingham) #10

I’ll try to sum up my experience without going too deep on this! I have used nearly every service out there (zenfolio, smugmug, photoshelter, squarespace, wordpress (nextgen), artstorefronts, and I just tried out darkroom) I also have seen the backend for WideRange Galleries so I have a little bit of experience there.

In short, there is no perfect solution but there are some very good ones.

Zenfolio

Meant for wedding/portrait photographers. It works well but is expensive and has a somewhat high commision on prints sold. They use mpix for prints which is an okay lab, not top quality for landscape photos, but decent. You can also self-fulfill prints using your lab of choice, but they do take a commision. It looks pretty good overall, images display well, cart works well, back end is user friendly. I used zenfolio for years and was quite happy with it, but the price is a bit too high now.

Smugmug

It is fairly customizable but you will need to implement some html/css to get it looking just the way you want it. You can only sell prints through bayphoto and whcc which are good options, but you are limited to their labs, you cannot self-fulfill. Their commission on sales is insanely high at 15%, plus the annual fee is high too. The backend is very good at organization, etc.

Photoshelter

This is targeted at stock photographers largely but can be used. I haven’t used this for many years, but back in the day my images did not display properly on this platform, I would hope this is fixed now. They are also very pricey and take a large commision. The backend is powerful but not user friendly.

Squarespace

This is what I’m currently using and it is terrible for selling prints, it’s only sort of okay for a displaying a gallery. It is not setup for selling prints or using labs, you have to set up individual products for each print you want to sell and self fulfill. The backend is nice, but very limited and clunky after you do anything beyond the basics.

Artstorefronts

I used this for a year and it creates a professional looking site for selling prints. It has a feature where you can preview the print in different rooms/sizes and the backend works fairly well. There are some labs you can tie into that use ASF as well, but then you are limited to only their products and nobody else’s including your own. The biggest downfall to ASF is the initial cost, they will set you up with a high pressure salesman who will promise you the world and tell you how much money you will make, eventually they will pressure you in to the initial set up fee, I think it was $2000, and then a yearly fee on top of that, and a 10% commission on top of that! While it’s a good product, I absolutely HATE how sleazy they are with their sales tactics and money grabs.

Wordpress

Using wordpress requires a plugin, the best one I have come across is NextGen Gallery. If you’re looking for ease of use, this is not it. It is highly complex to set up. I am fairly versed on wordpress and want to move to this, but I haven’t found the time to devote to fully learn how to use and set up this plugin because it’s so complex. I have reconsidered my decision to move to this after hearing that it is one of the slowest plugins for wordpress, I haven’t tested this myself, but I can believe it.

Darkroom

This one was new to me so I gave it a quick try. I have to say I’m impressed at how sleek and simple it is to set up. If you want to get up and running selling prints with next to no effort, this is amazing. The prices are very good, commission is high on the free plan, but what a great way to test it out and see if you sell anything. The plus plan is very cheap and the commission is quite low, especially considering they are fulfilling the print for you. I reached out to them to see what labs they use and they were reluctant to share, but they did tell me. I won’t share it with the world, but they do use good quality labs similar to what smugmug uses. The customization options are extremely limited, but the interface is quite nice looking. You cannot self fulfill with this platform.

Fine Art America

I used this for a while and wasn’t terribly impressed. You are mixed in with a sea of other artists and they use algorithms to bring some to the top. The thing is unless you got on this bandwagon early on, it would be very hard to get anywhere with it now. It’s not terribly professional looking and it’s not something you own. I did get some test prints done and the results were quite good surprisingly.

Wide Range Galleries

Long time NPN member @Jack_Brauer does his own web development and design and this is what many of the big name landscape photographers use. This is the best option around, Jack designs it specifically for you using his very powerful backend. You have to self fulfill everything, so it is great for people who do their own printing or want to use a specific lab. The backend is very easy to use, it looks very professional. The only downfall is the initial price, you are paying for a professional web developer to create a site for you. The setup cost starts at $3000 and goes up from there, but after that it’s only $240/year. For professionals this is the way to go, not for someone starting out.

How’s that for too much info? I should write blog post on this, sheesh! In short, Darkroom does sound like a good option for you, haha!

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Zenfolio experience
(Chris Baker) #11

David. YOU ARE THE MAN! I actually thought that this was a blog post when it showed up in my inbox this morning. =) I greatly appreciate your detailed comparisons. This helps me out tremendously. Now I just need to figure out how to prepare my images for print. Do you, or does anyone else have any recommendations for videos, books or instruction covering this topic?

Thanks again, David! Can I buy you a coffee or a beer?

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(David Kingham) #12

I’m always up for a beer :beers: glad you found this useful, I may have to make this into a full fledged post at some point.

As for printing, @Mark_Metternich has some great tutorials and workshops. He is insanely detail oriented, you have to be a geek and want to dive into the intimate details of printmaking.

@Kerry_Gordon mentioned that he went through this workshop and may be able to give you more feedback

http://creativepathworkshops.com/landing-pmc

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(Kerry Gordon) #13

Regarding Robert Rodriguez’s Printmaking Masterclass, all I can say is that I bought my printer (Canon Pro-1000) at the end of December and didn’t know a thing about printing except that I wanted to be making my own prints. Robert’s course is superb. His is a vision-centered approach and covers everything you need to know about preparing for printing, colour profiles, choosing paper and soft proofing - he even covers matting and framing. He works specifically with Lr as a printing platform and prints with both the Epson p800 and Canon Pro-1000 but this course would apply much more broadly. Every print I’ve done since taking the course has come out brilliantly and exceeded my already high expectations. Nothing you can see, even on the most carefully calibrated monitor will prepare you for the look and feel of a print. Just for comparison, I did try another course prior to signing up for Robert’s, one that was available on Lynda.com. With their policy of a month’s free trial, that course was free and worth every penny I paid for it. In a word, it stunk and left me more confused than when I started. That being said, I can’t say enough about Robert’s course. If you are considering buying a printer and learning to make your own prints, this is the course for you. The thing about making your own prints, aside from the cost savings and convenience, is that you are in complete charge of the results and get instant feedback. The only draw back that I can see is size limitation. But 17"x24" is a pretty big print and the Epson p800 takes paper rolls for making panos of unlimited length (still maxes out at 17" wide.) If you have been thinking about printing, just do it, you’ll never regret it.

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(Mark Metternich) #14

Huge THANK YOU David for making mention! I find nothing more satisfying than helping people master fine art printmaking!

Yes, I agree, you have to be serious about jumping into a whole other learning curve if you want to truly master fine art printmaking and the art of perfecting the enlargement. Anyone interested in that process, Master Print Guru of gurus Robert B Park (innovator of Lumachrome HD - the new best Supergloss photo paper in the world, and owner of the Boutique Fine Art Print Lab - Nevada Art Printers - Las Vegas) and I do what we call “THE ULTIMATE FINE ART PRINTMAKING WORKSHOP” where we are guaranteeing the most comprehensive and cutting edge curriculum in the industry (two full days) or your money back! We only have 1-2 spots open for March 30, 31. This year (along with everything else) we are going to unveil a new way to upsize photos and sharpen and maximize detail that has been innovated by us (not merely a new algorithm or software) that is a GIGANTIC leap forward from the previous best way! It is SO HUGE it is hard to believe. I just took a 15-megapixel image that was not ideally shot (not lowest iso, shot out of a helicopter handheld, and not with the best lens) and made an 8-foot print, some might think is Large Format! I do not know of a single person in the industry doing it.

I’m not sure if links can be posted here but because people are inquiring, I will post 2. If I am not supposed to, please let me know and I’ll take them out.

Have a great day!

The ULTIMATE Mastering Fine Art Printmaking Workshop

Video Tutorials

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(Mark Metternich) #15

Also, if anyone wants to hear about printmaking I just was interviewed by Matte Payne:

Mark Metternich Returns to F-Stop Collaborate and Listen

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(Chris Baker) #16

Thanks, Kerry for the information! I have actually been thinking about picking up the Canon Pro-1000 or an Epson. I looked at Robert Rodriquez’s Printmaking Masterclass and the on-line version is reasonably priced. It sounds like a great class. I have to keep this old mind active, so I may sign up.

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(Chris Baker) #17

This sounds like a great option too, Mark and David! I have to master my camera and composition first though. :grin: I will consider it in the future for sure. Mark, I enjoyed listening to you speak on the first F-stop episode that you were on. I will definitely check out Matt’s latest with you. Cheers to printing! :beers:

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(Mark Metternich) #18

Cheers! Thank you Chris!

I have to say that we are sharing some new stuff I can confidently say no one in the industry is teaching that is an amazingly large leap forward. That may seem like a pretty audacious claim but I can back it up. It is astonishing. HUGE jump forward in quality of detail in enlargements by innovating/pioneering some new techniques that are not simply some new software or algorithm.

I’ll have a video on Youtube in the next day showing it. I’ll try to remember to drop that link in here.

Have fun out there!

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(Bob Falcone) #19

I’m going to chime in here about ZENFOLIO . I think some of David’s information is a little out-dated.
You have the choice to use either MPIX or MPIX PRO for your photo processing, so there is the choice for the customer. When it comes to print sizes, they only will print what the file you upload will support. You can’t order a 20X30 from a file that will only support an 8X12.
Also, they offer many options for the customer: metal, canvas, etc. I only wish they offered Duraplaq, but I offer to coordinate that for my customers.
As far as pricing goes, you set your price, which can be either a percentage or a fixed amount over cost, so you can make as much or as little as you want. You have complete control over how much you make. Zenfolio has recently adjusted their pricing to be more inline with MPIX’s direct prices.
The down side is that the yearly fees for Zenfolio are high, so you do have to work a bit to recover those.

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(Bill Chambers) #20

Thanks Kerry for the recommendation. I am unfamiliar with Robert, but after reading the long list of recommendations from former students, I am interested in taking his class.

Bill

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