How to set up your own Profitable Photo Book Making Service
By Daniel Roberts, Ink Cartridge Technologies Ltd
The market for printed and bound photobooks is increasing at a phenomenal rate. People realise that a well presented compact hard copy record of a wedding, holiday, or school, club, commercial or personal event is more satisfying and memorable than an on-line file. They also make quality short-run books on many subjects. What’s more they provide a valuable additional income for professional photographers and anybody who want to self-publish a pictorial work.
Over the past few months we have had several enquiries from people who want to set up an in-house photobook production service. These are generally people who have used factory type services in the past but are not happy either because of the speed, security, lack of personal service or the quality of output.
The good thing is that you can make your own high quality photo books in house with an up-front cost of a lens. OPUSalbums.com supplies everything you need - from an inexpensive yet strong binding system from Unibind, through a range of album, photobook layout software, to the covers and paper to make books that you or your clients will be proud of.
Agreement me start though with a word of warning. If you think you can compete on price alone with the mass market Photobook making services such as Apple, Jessops, CeWe or Photobox, forget it. These companies run totally automated services with standardised products using lower cost laser technologies. The results are quite good, but lack the personal touch and quality of the work that you can offer. They are also useless where fast – even overnight – service is required. Furthermore, in my opinion the laser printed results look flat. Some have a restricted colour gamut too, so that detail, particularly in the shadows is lost. There is much more than price.
The only exception is – and we have had several sales – are in very small economies and remote areas, particularly island economies. These mass market services are just not available there.
What you have to sell is the personal service. You are not printing a mass-produced document; you are creating a work of art – designed with your customer in mind. The result is a product that they will cherish. And of course a memory they will want to go back to. Your name will be on the product – so they will come back to you!
You will be charging more – but it is the price of customer satisfaction.
So what Services can you Offer
Album and Photobook Layout and Design
You can print single photos per page with borders using Photoshop or whatever editing package you want. These packages are full of photo manipulation tools – colour, cropping, item selection, cloning, masking, effects etc – but generally not well equipped for laying out multiple photos creatively on a printed page.
If you want the best in page design, with backgrounds and artistic layout then you need as specialist album and photobook layout package. We use Dg Foto Art, a product in which we must declare a commercial interest. Other good products are YSI, Fotofusion and Alnum Design 4.
Dg Foto Art is from PXLSoft, the company which has supplied some of the largest factory book systems. Of course these can afford to ‘give’ you their (usually restricted) form of the software because they know you will be paying for the printed albums. But if you have your own software you are totally in control.
Dg Foto Art comes in three versions
Dg Foto Art Essentia – for the casual user – templated, resizable album pages – choose from 250 templates. Price £79 plus VAT.
Dg Foto Art Gold – our main product – for professionals and regular users – full control of your templates and a complete workflow system with 1700+ templates on both Windows and Mac systems. (I use this myself on Mac-OSX Lion). Price £224.50 plus VAT.
Dg Foto Art Enterprize – incorporating Organizer, Krafter and Xpress – for people offering services round a number of contributing photographers and many customers. Configurations tailored to your needs from £3000.
For more about these see OPUSalbums.com’s website.
Album and Photobook Printing
You need a good printer. Do not be fooled by the low selling price of printers. Especially at the consumer end they are sold below cost so that you will spend far more on consumables.
We do not supply printers or ink, so we have no axe to grind, but personally would recommend Epson, mainly because of the availability of bulk feed and other systems to reduce the cost of printing.
And use the right paper. For long lasting results with high quality vibrant photos then a good archival acid free paper is essential. My favourite (commercial interest!) is Innova’s Smooth cotton-high white 205gsm double sided.
You should have your own profiling capabilities (e.g using the Colormunki system). Indeed time spent on understanding colour management is not wasted.
Album and Photobook Binding and Presentation
You need to produce a book which is as professionally presented as factory produced offerings with hard covers and clean bindings. The leading producer of thermal binding systems for this sector of the market is Unibind, and OPUSalbums.com are a distributor for this company’s products.
If you are in the business of procuring between five and 100 books a month then I would recommend the Unibind Photobook Creator. This is part of an album and paper programme from opusalbums.com which we call Pics Book.
This is a thermal binding process whereby you have a small machine which can take bindings up to A3 (landscape) size. Covers have a metal strip and glue in the spine. By placing the cover in the machine for about 90 seconds the glue melts and adheres to the cover resulting in a professional-looking bound book. You will see from the video that producing an album is really that simple.
Unibind’s photo book covers have high quality hard cover leather look boards, with optional windows and metal corners. Covers are in A4 – landscape and portrait, A3, A5 and 12x12in/30x30cm. There is a range of colours and biding widths too.
If you are serious about this business then I recommend the investment. However, if you do not want to invest in any binding systems there are some good post-bound offerings, the main being the OPUS and Hahnemuehle ranges, both available from opusalbums.com. There is also the Unibind staple bound system (marketed by opusalbums.com as Pics Book Jr )
Where can I get advice?
If you have straightforward questions you are at liberty to e-mail me – mailto:email@example.com. Give a telephone number so I can call you back. If you would like a visit and a more formal study of your needs feel free to outline your objectives.
Production of your own photobooks and albums for resale may not be the best solution for every photographer and publisher – but for those who need a fast response, a better quality result and a personalised service then the investment in a little time could be very profitable. It is for you to judge.
© Daniel Roberts - 2012