Power of Print

Leading Lab Trends for Presentation Products

February 8, 2016

By Aimee Baldridge

Wedding albums and wallet-size prints may never go out of style, but that doesn’t mean the world of photo printing doesn’t have its fashions. New materials, the latest crazes in home decor, and even the growing tendency for clients to request image files sans prints are driving new trends in professional photo presentation products. We spoke with five major print and display vendors that serve wedding and portrait photographers to find out what’s most popular now. 

We weren’t surprised to learn that the traditional square album remains at the center of the wedding photography universe, usually in a 10 x 10 or 12 x 12-inch size. But customers are bringing an increasing number of other bound presentation products into their orbit, often ordering several for family and friends. “Typically what they want to do is, if they order a 10 x 10 for the bride and groom, they want a 5 x 5 for Mom and Dad,” explains Len Searfoss, marketing manager at American Color Imaging. “They typically want it identical, with the same amount of spreads and images, just in a smaller size.” 

Clients are also buying more press-printed books and book-style products that include just a few images as gifts. Glen Clark, sales manager at Bay Photo Lab, says the company’s Image Folio product is popular with wedding and portrait photographers because it’s like a mini album that also stands like a desktop frame, and more than one vendor told us that small accordion-style albums are enjoying a moment of popularity both as promotional items for photographers and as gift items purchased by their clients.

While wedding customers most often stick to classic papers like Kodak’s Endura Premier for their main album pages, more are moving away from traditional leather or linen for their album covers and choosing materials like acrylic, metal and wood with a photo printed on it. Metal and wood options are usually available in versions that reveal the underlying material as well as ones that are coated with a white base. The variety of materials and finishes caters to a wide range of tastes, from contemporary to rustic, but all of them accommodate a desire to depart from more traditional options.

Metal prints from AdoramaPix can go almost anywhere—they’re durable and waterproof. Plus, “Everything’s included, so you don’t have to do anything—it’s ready to hang when you get it,” AdoramaPix social media manager Michelle Libby points out.

Those newer materials are also going up on the wall in a big way, continuing to displace framed paper prints. Vendors who have started offering prints on wood during the past couple years have seen their popularity surge, and some have seen metal print sales outpace even canvas wraps, which remain popular items for all vendors we spoke to. As AdoramaPix social media manager Michelle Libby points out, one of the big reasons customers will opt for a product like a metal print is its simplicity and durability. “Everything’s included, so you don’t have to do anything—it’s ready to hang when you get it,” she says. “It just makes people’s lives easier. You don’t have to worry about framing, glass, or your kids running through and spilling juice on it. It’s OK, it’s going to wipe right off.”

If consumers like the simplicity of photographs printed on durable substrates, it’s partly because they’re doing more complicated things with their wall art. Instead of just buying one large print to hang, more wedding and portrait clients are ordering several at a time in various sizes. “Putting together multiple photographs for wall groupings is a growing option for photographers to present their clients, to let them tell a story with the images,” says Clark. “Whether it’s a simple triptych with three images, or more complicated with five or six images in a grouping, those are a way to display a story and decorate a room at the same time.” The sweet spot for wall art sizes is still in the 16 x 20-inch to 24 x 36-inch range, with customers usually ordering several smaller pieces as well when they want to create a gallery wall. “They also do things like split the image,” Libby says, “where you take one image and split it into two or three sections so that it makes one big one on the gallery wall.”

Bay Photo Lab’s Cluster Split. “Putting together multiple photographs for wall groupings is a growing option for photographers to present their clients, to let them tell a story with the images,” says Bay Photo Lab sales manager Glen Clark. Photo © Jim Garner

For consumers who like the multi-image trend but aren’t curatorially inclined, vendors are also selling more products that are made to display sets of images, such as prepared collages and triptychs. Guile Elias, the sales and customer service manager at Acrylic Press, says the demand for custom jobs with multiple connected acrylic block prints recently led the company to add a three-block product to its standard offerings.

The increased interest in using photographs as elements of home decor has also been helped along by the use of durable materials like wood, metal and acrylic. Vendors have seen increased sales of items like ornaments, coasters and decorative boxes. “Traditionally people have thought of ornaments as being for the holidays,” Clark says, “but as we’re coming out with more ornaments, people are realizing that they’re cool all the time.”

Custom USB drives and boxes from Miller’s Professional Imaging accommodates photos and logos. Photo © Harper Point photography

In some cases, decor and gift items have almost replaced standard prints entirely. Photographers who are providing clients with digital files only have driven the market for decorative USB drives and boxes. Miller’s Professional Imaging sells several USB options that are incredibly popular. “We offer a wood USB drive along with a wood box, and we also do an acrylic USB drive with what we call a custom slide box,” says Miller’s marketing coordinator Paul Rotter. “They can print both on the wood and on the slide box and customize them.”

Eco Friendly + Environmentally Aware

Last november, Lush Albums, a new eco- and animal-friendly line of photo albums, hit the market, headed by photographer Tamara Lackey in collaboration with Fundy Software and Finao Albums. Albums are assembled using pure-quality, all-natural photo glue and each page substrate is 100 percent plant-based cellulose. In addition, 10 percent of all proceeds go to BeautifulTogether.org, Lackey’s foundation that helps support children in foster care waiting for adoptive families. 

Albums from Lush Albums are assembled using pure-quality, all-natural photo glue and each page substrate is 100 percent plant-based cellulose.

Preservation & Creation provides prints and custom photo services, but at the heart of the company is a bigger mission—one that focuses on living a life for others. “We put words into action from our partnership with Living Water International, where a percentage of each purchase is donated toward the funding of water wells for communities in poverty, to our preservation efforts in Bastrop, Texas,” says the company’s CMO Bao Huynh. “As a company who works with paper goods, we are committed to upcycling and repurposing, which is why our Bastrop Woodblock, a handcrafted and burnished photo holder, is made of 100 percent reclaimed loblolly pine sourced from the Bastrop County Complex forest fires—the worst fires in our home state of Texas.”

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