Screens/canvases, direct-to-glass prints, posters and merchandising – these are all common products in the online print business. But where do the motifs come from? You either lack the right skills, the right motif – or simply just the talent or rather you don’t have that eye for a great picture to be a good photographer. That is reason enough for me to examine this fascinating topic.
Feel like taking that exceptional Arctic landscape picture yourself – no thanks. Yet there are photographers that do so, indeed a substantial number. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat et al are full of interesting photographs – but these are either copyrighted or of such poor quality that they are useless. A really good solution would be so-called photographer webstore systems, docked on to the online print providers.
We are all familiar with the phenomenon and every so often we come across motifs on the Internet that appeal to us immediately. But liking them is initially as far as we get, because the effort involved in getting access to the photograph, downloading it at the right level of quality and then assigning it to the online print provider and uploading it again is really complicated. But why not grab the customer’s attention at an earlier stage?
So-called photographer webstore systems enable customers to purchase their favorite images and to have them printed directly on the items of their choice at the right quality. But is it really that simple? Absolutely, in my opinion! Webstore systems of this kind are not exactly new, but hardly any photographers are aware of the fact that a fully automated system enables them to earn extra Euros from their photos that get “liked” hundreds or thousands of times, and that’s to the benefit of the print production process. A win-win situation, which it is worthwhile taking a closer look at.
If you consider this topic more closely, photographers do no more than act as resellers for the online print providers – they just use their own motifs! But who are the current providers of these webstore systems?
On the one hand we have got Pictrs. ”You take the pictures, we do the rest –you take photos, upload them and we take over from there.” is a headline you will find on this webstore provider’s website. It has been competing in the market for seven years now and enables its users to set up their own photo webstores in their own designs and with their own specific pricing. And it‘s all smartphone-compatible! A voucher generator, customized watermarks, worldwide shipping, statistics & analytics and SSL encoding represent just a fraction of all the functions provided. As soon as a potential buyer has selected the image they want from the gallery, they can simply purchase it to download – or have it delivered directly ex-gallery to their home as a print product! So it’s not surprising that Pictrs users include not just photographers but also entire fan clubs.
Presumably the whole shebang is incredibly expensive? On the contrary! And here is the showstopper! It does not cost a cent! The webstore, all functions as well as 2GB of picture memory, hosted in Germany, are available to customers without them having to pay any extra. Of course Pictrs also benefits, because the service provider earns money on each print order placed via the photographer webstore – 20% in fact. Pictrs calculates as follows: a print on a 20x20cm canvas selling at 39.95 € has production costs of 19.90 €. The difference is 20.05 € – 4.01€ goes to Pictrs and 16.04 € to the photographer. However the user can determine how high the actual profit will be, using the self-set pricing function. Should the 2GB of web memory not be enough, or if you wish to link the gallery with the white-label version, value-for-money upgrade options are available. Incidentally the print products are produced by Orwo, the well-known print service provider PosterXXL as well as in photo labs in Leipzig.
Potraitbox.de on the other hand, waives commission, but it bills a monthly rent, depending on the package selected. Providers like Fastpixel, fotograf.de, Allcop.com, Fotoportopro.de or Pixtacy.de are also webstore providers in this segment, but the latter still to some extent cannot provide additional functions or do not feature more modern and therefore confidence-inspiring screen design.
“Especially in the age of Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook et al, docked-on print production should no longer be a vision of the future, but should be another sales channel to be taken seriously.” – Bernd Zipper
Unitedprint/Easyprint “Partner program: share designs & photos and earn money”
easyprint.com enables those folks, who want to market their pictures or put them on canvas without having their own webstores, to have pictures taken at the in-house Easyprint Gallery. In other words the consumer may not yet even know what motif they want to have on their product of choice and can easily select the motif they want from the Easyprint picture gallery. It’s up to the customer whether they choose an Easyprint freebie picture or for-sale pictures by one or more photographers. Of course the same picture can be purchased several times over by different customers, meaning that the photographer earns money in parallel, without having to put in extra marketing effort.
However there are no details on the initial information pages as to what profits photographers ultimately earn. Further information can only be requested using a contact form. The definite advantage here is that either way you can draw the attention of a wide customer base to your own pictures without having to set up and maintain your own webstore. On the other hand it is not the artist as such that is the focus of consumer attention, but rather the online producer. Everybody has to decide for themselves where their priorities are – or perhaps they prefer to have several irons in the fire.
As far as picture rights are concerned, Easyprint states in its GTCs (§ 23 Ownership of Print Media, Archiving, Copyright) “(…) the customer shall grant Easyprint a usage right to the extent required by contract performance. In this respect Easyprint is entitled to undertake duplication of images for the purposes of caching and data processing. Furthermore the customer shall grant Easyprint additional usage rights to be agreed on a case-by-case basis.” What this actually means in practice should definitely be examined beforehand – and that should not just apply to Easyprint, but also to any other provider, where photographer-owned pictures form a key cornerstone of print product manufacturing.
My take: the photographer webstore or rather docking this facility on to a print company is basically an exciting option for the industry and for photographers. There are certainly a wide range of opportunities to access print motifs on the Internet. Perhaps there are sometimes too many. But how long is it before we order our print motifs sourced from Facebook, Instagram et al as products from our online print provider via Click-&-Order? To my mind that is at any rate no longer a vision of the future.