is on-site printing really the way to make money?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by lesterphoto, Nov 8, 2010.

  1. Been reading about on-site printing and am wondering if that is the best way to make money these days. Can on-line ordering/printing make money? If I was to set up an on-line system (where people view images/order on the web), what would be the best way to make it worth my time? I'm familiar with on-site printing, but it sounds like it can be a gamble. Any thoughts would be welcome.
    Thanks,
    Les
     
  2. Without some more context, this is impossible to address. Are you talking about shooting at a formal event (like a prom, a reception, etc), or are you talking about youth sports? Dog shows? Marathons? Who's your demographic? Do you work by yourself, or with one or more assistants? Are your clients going to be credit-card-minded, or cash-and-carry types? Are you being paid to shoot and want to sell prints, or are you only going to make money from prints? Will your customers be more (or also) interested in JPGs for social media, or is print-one-for-grandma type stuff?

    You'll get lots of opinions and advice, but none of it is worth anything unless we're all talking about the same sort of actual work/venue/market etc. The "best way to make money these days" is to provide a service or product that someone is willing to pay for. If you're providing a non-necessary service (like selling people pictures of themselves), you want to make it as easy as possible for them to spend that frivalous money. Whether that's on-site, or on-line, or both - depends on the sort of stuff mentioned above.
     
  3. You can use an online site like Photoreflect (Express Digital) to easily set up events and sell photos.
    It is hard to get folks to buy stuff after the fact but if you have sports teams committed/under contract it can work. Again, I would agree with Matt, depends on the specifics of the event.
     
  4. I have been asked several times to do 'print-on-site' projects. Usually at social functions (ie. company events, civic activities, etc). What I've found after several of these events is that I don't make much money on the events themselves. Usually between $45-60/hour after all expenses (including paying 25% of gross sales to a friend's teenage son who does the downloading, printing and sales).
    What I do find, is that I get alot of contact with potential customers for weddings, family portraits, commercial work, etc. On average, I'll book one event (wedding, sweet 16, etc) and at least a family portrait session for each day I do an on-site printing event. Therefore, I look at these events as more of a marketing event rather than a big money maker. I tried once to direct people to my website after the event and I sold nothing. I took over 100 portraits and had only 14 hits on that gallery. I would not do that again. Hope this helps.
     
  5. is on-site printing really the way to make money?
    That's easy. No.
     
  6. I disagree. Depends on the event. I started off ding on-site printing at night clubs in SF. People start drinking and have a lot of fun taking pictures witht there friends at the clubs. I made good money over the Halloween Weekend doing local prints for contests. Many people are impulse buyers and will spend extra if they can have it right now when they got the money in there pocket and can have immediate gratification. Valentines, Birthdays, Christmas, etc. are all great times for this kind of work. And, yes it is a great way to generate additional business for people who may be looking for a photographer.
     
  7. M.P. - what type of printer / software are you using? Dye-sub and limited size prints? Do you print all photos you take or just the ones picked by a customer? Thanks!
     
  8. Lester,
    Yes, you need to provide more information about what you're contemplating.
    The easiest, no-risk way is to take the photographs, hand out cards with information regarding ordering online and go home. You'll also probably get NO orders. Online sales are like most sales. You'll only get back what you put into it. If you collect email addressed and notify everyone via email with a link in the site, you'll start to get some hits. This is only ONE way to market online sales, but it'll take more.
    If you want to get mre and larger sales, print on site and offer some easy products that can be assembled on site. Also, I prefer the SONY SnapLab, but whatever you decide, you want to print dye-sub for on-site and NOT with ink. Dye-sub is fast and it's dry when it comes out of the printer.
    Kindly post more information so we can help, thanks.....-TED :)
     
  9. Hi,
    I make a lot of money doing on-site printing. That said you have to do it right or you will lose your butt. I have been doing it for 9 years. A few tips for you. You have to use pro grade dye-sub printers, Use good software like Express Digitals Digital Darkroom, and do not try to do it by yourself! I have a enclosed trailer that has all our equiptment mounted in it with a Honda genarator if you end up somewhere with no power. I can easily do 150 5x7 per hour shot and printed. The avarage charge for that two hours on site is $1200 to the person hosting the event. I have invested around $24k in gear over the years and it has paid its self off over and over again. Do your research adn do not cheap out on equiptment. I have made up to $6k in one day so it is worth the effort!
    Eric
     
  10. Eric: What sort of event can make you $6 K in a day? Would love to know what events you do and how you determine whether they will be profitable. Do you charge the $1200 to the host, with 'profits' going to the host? How are the 5x7's priced? Do you "value-add" any photoshopping or effects? Yes I'm pretty nosey, but had to ask! :>) Thanks!
    --Kim
     
  11. Lester, here is my take on this...This really depends on your business model. Are you doing this as your main source of income, or secondary? Something on the side to supplement income? If you are currently employed, and just looking for secondary income, then the BEST way to earn secondary income, (in my opinion) is to offer on site printing at events if you are considering doing this. Online sales are just not profitable, I don't care what anybody tells you, or how much marketing you put into it. You see, to me, it's flabbergasting. You got photographers who will tell you that you need this and you need that in order to make any serious income, They will tell you that you need to consider hiring assistants, and you'll need more than one photographer, and printer, and the whole process is just a nightmare. Take it from me, I've been doing this for a while, and was curious, just like you when I started. YOU CAN DO THIS BY YOUR DAM SELF, TRUST ME! Here's my equipment. Nikon D3000, (yes, an entry level dslr) you don't need an 5-7K camera just to take some snapshots at events. A nikon external Flash, A backdrop kit, to hold your backdrops on, and of course, the printer. Now, me personally, I choose Hiti P510si wireless printer because, for the most part, I work alone. This printer allows me to print from my camera via pictbridge thru the wireless transmitter. The printer automatically prints every pic I send over to it. This allows me to focus on shooting and printing, and makes it easy for me to collect the $$$. As far as a viewstation, I purchased a small LCD Led HDTV monitor, "22 and I mount it on a tripod and place the tripod next to me as i'm shooting. I have a special nikon cord tethered from my camera to the tv, and as soon as I take the pic, bam, it pops up on the tv. The customer sees the image right as I take it, say yey or ney, and once I got the approval, bam! print it from the camera and if no one else is in line, mount the pic right quick and give it to them. People will tell you that you need assistants, they have to be paid, you need this, you need that, you need that, you need this in order to do this. Let me encourage you in this season. THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF EVENTS. BIG EVENTS, SMALL EVENTS, MEDIUM SIZE EVENTS. There is a market for a one man show, beside you can always have a buddy or a family member come along with you to help. Depending on the events you choose to photograph, will determine what kind of backdrops you should purchase. For me, I do alot of club events. Events catered to my culture. So I buy backdrops for those purposes. That will be your only other expense. Outside of overhead costs (photo folders/mounts, and consumbles for the printer) The printers I recommend is Hiti p510si, Hiti P510k, (mini Kiosk) Sony Snaplab 10upcl and Sony new Snaplab 15upcl. Them the only printers I would look at, the rest of them cost too much, or you would need a laptop to connect it too in order for them to work. So, your investment. (Camera - stick with a entry level dslr) External Flash, for low light situation, Lenses (make sure you get some wide-lenses), backdrop kit, printer, and whatever you niche is, the actually backdrops to compliment it. That's it. Any business will have overhead cost, and your overhead cost will be the consumables. Any of the above printers can handle events up to 800 people. Trust me I knowwww, i've seen it. Me and my wife usually take on events together, but with the birth of our son, I've been operating by myself for sometime now, until the baby gets alittle older. Be encourage, stay away from online sales, you'll be waisting your time and money building a website. I would tackle impulse buyers. Focus on on site printing. Look at the printers mention, research it yourself. But from a business stand point, depending on online sales only is a quick way to lose motivation about running the business, as sales are just not consistent enough.
    Let me give you a little sample of an event I recently went to.
    Name: Blazers, Jeans, and Boots Cabaret. Mostly African American Event.
    Dress code; Casual affair, blazers, jeans, with nice boots.
    This event had about 800-900 guest in attendance.
    Photographer on board was a husband and wife team. Printer was a Sony Snaplab. I know this because I purchase a picture, because I was interested in testing the quality of a snaplab print. The husband snapped the photos (he had an entry level Canon) with no external flash, and hands the card to his wife, who printed from the snaplab and collects the money beforehand. $10 for 4x6 is all they were offering, and they used TAP 4x6 black tango frames. She stapled a flyer inside the card, and stapled the picture inside the frame. They did this all night. Line stayed busy. I'm positive with the amount of people in attendance, and how long the lines were, and how fast and sufficient the snaplab was able to keep the line moving, they probably clocked in about a good $5000-$7000 that one night alone. Now imagine you already have a 9-5 job, and you doing this on weekends only, for secondary income. Your take home check every week is about $1100-$1200 from your job, and you book a gig of this caliber. I'm sure anybody in their right minds would love to see an additional 5-7k on top of there take home money from they 9-5. I say all of this to try to encourage you because most of these photographers wouldn't. One last thing, THE BEST WAY TO MARKET YOURSELF AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, IS WORD OF MOUTH. I DON'T CARE WHAT ANYBODY SAY. GET YOURSELF SOME UV COATING PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS CARDS, and pass them out as you book gigs. Talk to people, mingle, express yourself as you go from gig to gig. These will be your potential future customers, and have your business cards in hands to pass out, so they can contact you. This business is very lucrative, but you have to know what to invest in, and what not to invest in. I thought about buying a nikon D700, good for low light situation, because I mainly target night clubs, but with an external flash on my D3000, I discovered that that's enough. On site printer; yes, online website; no. Printers above; yes! Any other printer, inkjet; no.
     
  12. Hi Kim. Sorry I had some email issues and just saw this. Sporting events are easy to make $6K a day if you are choosing very large events. Usally you are looking at multi day events. Normally I am doing party or find rasiers that are more of the $1200 in two hours thing. I do add logos or borders to most of the images. I price the 5x7's in a package based on volume. I quit giving setup and per print prices a long time ago. If you say you are expecting 100 images well that is going to cost X dollars, it is easier to understand and a lot harder to try to barter over price. When I am selling at a sports event or such the price varys a bit due to what the attendees will pay. I have kind of learned through trail and error over the years. The host pays the bill for private parties and fundraisers and they can charge whatever they want I dont get involved in that. As far as how do I know if it will be profitable..... well the truth is that it is not always profitable. I have learned over the years what is most likely to do well and certain things to avoid. But there is no hard and fast rule on that.
    Eric
     
  13. Eric: Thanks a bazillion! Very helpful indeed. Could you help me solve one last mystery? All the portable dye sub printers I have seen do 4x6 max, and I really want to offer 5x7 onsite if possible. What printer do you suggest for that? Others please chime in if you can!
     
  14. Thanks for keepin' it real Valdez. You're working it the "old school" way. I do the same. I've been doing it with a Nikon D2X and a D200 for backup and a couple of Canon ip100s. I cover everything from weddings at city hall to private parties and Halloween parades. I live in NYC so there's always something to do, especially on weekends. My business cards are everywhere! Thanks for the info and keep doin' what you doin'.
     
  15. Bring Out Your Dead...

    6 year old post. Relevant anymore?
     
  16. Nope. The OP blasted a cryptic post out his backside and never returned to the discussion. Was not relevant then... :p
     

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