The Power of the Print Prevails

February 8, 2017

By Lindsay Comstock

Brian Greenberg says fine-art prints are always in demand. Photo © Richard Photo Lab/Image by Jose Villa

From wedding albums to books to fine-art prints, business for the printed image is doing just fine. Six photographers from around the country discuss how they pitch print to customers and what types of products are in demand.

Annie K. Rowland Photography
Santa Cruz, CA

Annie K. Rowland does it all in her Santa Cruz, California, photo studio: family portraiture, newborn, seniors, wedding and engagements, and pet photography. The power of print resonated with her after hearing a Japanese photographer speaking about documenting the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. “He had this one photo of prints on a line drying out,” Rowland says. “People were coming to look for photos of family members, even after everything was destroyed.” She reminds her clients of the importance of the printed photograph because with just one stroke of the keyboard that history can be gone, she says. While Rowland says she sells mostly wall portraits, gallery wraps, and prints on metal and canvas, one way she ensures print sales is by setting a minimum print order before her clients are able to purchase digital files. “One of the problems I have with selling digital files is that they don’t look the same depending on where [the client] has them printed. This is only my third year selling digital files. I don’t shoot and burn. I want to produce professional products that look beautiful. I’m looking for people who really want something they can treasure on their walls.”

Bay Photo’s metal-framed, flush silver print. Photo © Annie Rowland

Captured Moments Photography 
Owensboro, KY

Kate and Jason Higdon of Captured Moments Photography have built their reputation over the past 12 years selling prints and wall portraits. “We rarely get asked for digital files,” they say, “and we think it’s because prints and products are showcased in our marketing pieces, highlighted on social media, displayed in our studio, set up at charitable functions for silent auctions, highlighted in other businesses and more. Setting an expectation for prints and products is key to selling them. If you only show images online, especially on social media, people will think that’s all you sell.” (For their family/senior clients, they offer digital files to purchase after a $1,200 print order and of “already purchased” images.)

For family sessions, Kate says canvas gallery wrap wall clusters are very popular. “People want to enjoy as many of their images as possible and clusters are a classy option.” One thing they’ve also noticed is that clients aren’t as interested in getting prints for relatives. “We’ve had to create options that are unique and that clients cannot just make on their own. Bevel mount images (which include an easel) and Skinny Mini framed images are a perfect fit. Our children sessions have been more successful in selling creative wall portrait products such as artsy acrylic prints. We’ve also seen a rise in these sessions for ordering image boxes to showcase multiple images (all images are mounted and sprayed.)” 

Where the couple has seen the most change is in what their clients are buying. “Parents are purchasing multiple prints for family and friends, wallets and then a small wall portrait (11 x 14 or 16 x 20). The trend has become about four things: 1) Parents want something more substantial to have on their wall to remember their child by, 2) parents and seniors want as many of their images as possible, 3) they want all their friends and families to see them, and 4) they want something that not just everyone has. Albums or image boxes are purchased by 80 percent of our clients, and most are ordering custom products such as graduation invites and thank-you cards.”

With the help of ACI, the Higdons, of Captured Moments Photography, offer everything from canvas gallery wrap wall clusters to wallets and small wall prints. Photo © Kate and Jason Higdon

William Innes Photography
Santa Clarita, CA

“If there was a fire in their house, prints or albums are what people are going to grab,” says William Innes, a full-time wedding photographer for the past ten years. For wedding albums, he says, “keeping it simple and timeless” is the best. 

Innes offers custom-designed albums with classic designs and lots of white space so the images shine. “The most popular now is the mounted, matted album,” he says. “It should just be about the images—clean and simple.” Innes does offer his clients digital files, adding a flat fee onto every package, which allows for personal printing rights. But he always keeps the copyright. He says he usually sells albums to two out of every three couples.

“You have to show them albums and talk about albums. I show them how important albums are.” He also offers clients time to decide if they want an album, giving them up to a year to come back to him for the package pricing on albums instead of the à la carte pricing. “From the sales point of view,” Innes says, “the secret is the follow-up.” The only reason his clients are resistant: “Budget,” he says. “Getting married these days is crazy expensive. Most people end up spending 20 to 30 percent more than they thought they would. Some people take a wait-and- see approach.” 

He’s seeing a resurgence in print, however. “I think people are wanting something tangible,” he says. “Someone once said, ‘Photo albums are technology your grandmother can use.’ Technology is great, but there’s definitely a downside.”

H&H Lay-flat album. Photo © William Innes

Carrie Wildes Photography
Tampa, FL

When it comes to pushing print, how do Carrie Wildes’ clients respond? “There’s usually three types of responses to this,” the wedding photographer notes. “The first, (my favorite!) is they have had other experiences with professional photographers, and prints are what they came for. The second is that they haven’t really thought about it beyond the digital, but totally get it once I educate them. The third group is generally basing their decision on price and usually isn’t going to hire us because they do just want the digitals. It’s so important to price yourself appropriately and stick to what you want your business to do.”

When Wildes talks to a potential client, she describes the planning process for both the session and the unveiling after the wedding or portrait shoot. “We have them come to our studio to view their images (or screen-share if they aren’t local) and then they pick both their favorite images and the artwork they are going to order. They know all of this from the beginning, and I’ve learned communication on walking people through the process is the most important part.”  

In terms of what sells, Wildes says most of her wedding clients order a main album and generally smaller copies for parents. “For engagement sessions and portraits, our most popular items are albums, canvas prints and groupings, 5 x 7 fine-art print boxes and save-the-dates. I like to offer a few options that I absolutely love, so I do keep it simple. I haven’t seen what I offer change significantly over the years, but my sales process has significantly changed.”

KT Merry Photography
Aventura, FL

Destination wedding photographer KT Merry says while it is convenient to view images online, “you can see how the images and colors translate on photo paper, and [you can] make connections with images in a different way than you can on a computer screen. After my own wedding, we sat around with our family and passed stacks of proofs around, reliving the moments. It was a wonderful way to experience the images with the people I care about most.”

Currently, Merry offers lustre and matte photo prints as well as fine-art Hahnemühle Photo Rag prints. “I prefer not to offer other printing methods that I feel are less timeless and more trend-based, and aim to not overwhelm our clients with too many options. We strive to offer printed material to last them a lifetime in both quality and style.”

While Merry concedes that there are unlimited resources allowing a consumer to print their own photos, albums or large-scale prints, she is offering her guidance and expertise to oversee the printing process from start to finish. “From fine-tuning the image and selecting the best printers and papers, to personally checking every print before it reaches our clients’ hands,” she says, “we offer fine-art heirlooms of the best quality that will stand the test of time.”

Vanessa Joy Photography
Freehold, NJ

“I always tell my clients (subtly) that they get the digital images with most packages, but their grandchildren and generations after will never plug in that USB,” says Vanessa Joy. “Thankfully with today’s technology, prints will well outlast us and be cherished heirlooms for those who come after us.”

Joy adds that canvases have always been a big seller, but “ever since Miller’s came out with their gorgeous acrylic wall pieces,” she says, “my clients go nuts over them. They’re just jaw-dropping, and not something consumers can typically get on their own.”

Joy says the biggest challenge is convincing clients to “print through the photographer rather than an online service or local CVS. I overcome it by noting the difference in the print quality and longevity. When I see them posting a picture of the final art piece hanging in their home, I know that it’ll be there for years.”

Industry Insights
Fifteen labs across the country share what’s selling best now, and why.

Bay Photo Lab
“We offer the majority of our most popular Wall Displays in sizes up to 4 x 8 feet, including Metal Prints, Maple Wood Prints and Acrylic Prints. Photographers are also looking for effective ways to market their services, so we are excited to introduce Xpozer to the U.S., which features a revolutionary new mounting system that is lightweight and is easily transportable.”   
—Aaron Freitas, Marketing Manager

Richard Photo Lab
“We’ve seen a ton of growth in popularity of our fine-art prints and display prints (like canvas wraps and frames) over the last year or so. In general, we see a lot of photographers becoming more attuned to the value prints have that digital files don’t—things like noticing extra details in an image that you can’t spot on a screen, realizing a final artistic vision through print choices like size and paper type/finish, creating a physical archive that’s not susceptible to changes in technology, and the stirring impact of seeing a larger-than-life print in person.”
—Brian Greenberg, Owner

“Our albums and books are selling really well. I feel like these are doing so well
because we have an amazing, high-quality hand-made product that is produced in a three-day turn time. Our customers say they cannot get that anywhere else. We also see our metals selling really well. This, I would say is due to our quality, price and turnaround time. All three factors are awesome.”
—Len Searfoss, Marketing Manager

“Globally, we are witnessing a heavy demand in the Young Book, which was originally created for a new generation of discerning brides looking for a wedding album featuring both elegance and style. The GoBook is another highly successful product as a result of our new ordering system that allows you to build, see and share your book with your clients. It features a lay-flat continuous binding and two cover options: matte laminated photographic paper or GoColor leatherette. It can be ordered with or without a matching GoBox through the integrated and intuitive online ordering system.”  
—Maureen Neises, U.S. and Canadian Director

H&H Lab
“In addition to our photographic prints, we have seen an increase in sales of our Canvas Gallery Wraps due to their archival quality and the impact for the money spent. They are custom-built by the inch to your specs and printed on your choice of canvas inkjet paper or pearl photographic paper. They are completely finished on the back with black paper, bumpers and a tooth hanger that allows the print to hang flat against the wall. We have also seen strong sales for our albums, with one of our most popular album lines being our Gallery Lay-Flat line. Customers love the attention to detail given to each album.”
—Sarah Higgins, Marketing Project Manager 

Wood Wall Print. Photo courtesy of Nations Photo Lab 

Nations Photo Lab
“Our Metal Print collection, popular among landscape photographers, is printed directly onto aluminum—they’re a beautiful way to display photos in crisp, ultra-high definition color. We expanded our line this year to include striking, gallery-sized pieces and smaller, tabletop pieces, so they are a great option for every type of photographer. Our new Wood Print Wrap also does well—real maple wood grain shows through the lighter areas of the image, which gives each piece a fine-art feel.”
—Emily Ward, Senior Director of Marketing

“Gallery Wraps, even Framed Prints, are a classic choice that looks great in any setting. Plus, it’s easy to sell in multiples to create a timeless display. Offering a product that can be passed down for generations really shows the importance of one’s legacy, and that’s easy to represent with the high-quality canvas WHCC offers.”  
—Lacey Lewis, Marketing Coordinator 

Metal wall print. Photo courtesy of Simply Color Lab

Simply Color Lab
“Simply Color Lab has seen the biggest growth in products that are custom and exclusive, including our Art Walls, Image Pops and 3D Collages, and our Heritage Wood Prints. While we’ve carried traditional wood prints for a while, some customers had concerns with the wood grain showing through and the slight wood colorcast. Thanks to an idea from customer Jolie Molino, we developed Heritage Wood Prints, fine-art prints mounted directly to wood, with two finishes available: Legacy, for a more modern look with straight front edges, and Heirloom, for a slightly distressed feel with sanded round front edges. Problem solved!”
—Merrie Casteel, Chief Operating Officer

“WhiteWall’s signature product is Photo Under Acrylic Glass. The product adds brilliance and depth to the photo, and its contemporary look offers a unique alternative to traditional photo displays. Many customers will add one of its hundreds of custom-cut wood frames to accent the acrylic print for added depth or to match the décor of a room.”
—Lou Desiderio, Synergy Communications

Photo under Acrylic Glass. Photo © WhiteWall 

Fundy Software
“Our Album Builder is our leading product, however, with the launch of our new studio sales tools, we’re seeing an increase in demand for that product, too. We’re excited for the buzz around the power of print because our customers are not only providing family legacies to their clients through albums and wall art, but are becoming more profitable from selling them as well.”
—Andrew Funderburg, Owner 

Miller’s Professional Imaging
“Photographers are head-over-heels for the dreamy, fine-art look of Deep Matte Prints from Miller’s Professional Imaging. With rich colors and beautiful tones, this paper is perfect for lovers of that vintage analog style.”
—Paul Rotter, Marketing Coordinator

“Our best-selling product continues to be our metal prints for dye sublimation. Our metal prints offer a combination of image vibrancy, durability and archival qualities that cannot be matched by any other photo medium. At Art Basel Miami, dye-sublimation metal prints could be seen from the likes of Jay Maisel, Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramovic and Collier Schorr.”  
—Steve Flores, Brand Manager

Duggal Visual Solutions
“Duggal can print Digital C-prints up to 72 x 120. So many of our artists and photographers prefer (and are selling) larger-sized pieces. The improvements to digital cameras is opening up these larger sizes for our customers, and with 15 Digital C-print machines 50 inches or wider, we are able to meet the speed and pricing needs of our customers.”
—Michael Duggal, CEO 

“Our Reveal matted slip-in album and our Xhibit Fine Art Matted Prints in Design Aglow frames are selling the most these days. With the need for photographers to differentiate themselves from the services and products consumers can buy themselves, we find that matted products are popular for their timeless elegance.”
—Harold Jankowiak, Director of Marketing and Public Relations

Renaissance Albums’ SoHo Book. Photo © The Image is Found

Renaissance Albums
“Our most popular items are the SoHo Book and the Fine Art Album. Photographers love the flush look of both books and appreciate the enormity of options we enable them to offer their clients. You can design to the very edges of the pages to maximize image impact and enhance storytelling.”
—Ken Liu, Owner

To read this article in the digital edition, click here.

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