By Nader Anvari

Digital printing businesses continually look for new ways to expand their customer base and increase their revenue. A popular consumer driven trend --utilizing personal digital images to create a variety of specialty photo applications—presents a growth opportunity for digital print providers.  

Specialty photo applications include personalized photobooks, calendars and greeting cards. Illustrating the popularity of photo products, a report from Photofinishing News projects that the number of consumer photobooks printed worldwide will more than double from 30 million in 2007 to 80 million in 2010. Digital print providers that establish a photo services business are poised to take advantage of the phenomenal growth in photobooks and other specialty applications. 

Electrophotographic printing technology enables digital presses to deliver the consistent color and image quality that consumers have come to expect, making them an ideal solution for printing photo applications. With the ability of digital presses to produce two sided prints on a wide range of substrates and also add variable data, consumers can create unique personalized photo products tailored to the recipient. Recent enhancements, such as the ability to place texture on the surface of a print inline on the press, extend the value added options that digital printers can offer customers.

To further extend your differentiation and meet the requirements of the photo application, there are several capabilities, in addition to the digital press, you need to establish a photo services business. Photo authoring software allows an end user to build personalized photo applications with their digital photos, and put it in the hands of your customers. For example, a travel agency could make the software available to its clients for designing calendars, photobooks, or other products using their vacation photos. The customer then places an order, which will be received by the commercial printer, who prints, finishes and ships the completed photo products.

You’ll also need finishing equipment for coating, cutting, folding, creasing and binding. With increasing creativity, finishing options are used to produce new and exciting photo products that meet a broad range of consumer preferences. Coating, such as a glossy finish, adds a high impact appearance and enhances the product’s appeal. Finishing options such as in-line booklet making or perfecting capabilities both enhance the quality of the photo product for consumers and increase productivity for digital print providers.

An electronic infrastructure for receiving orders and accepting payments facilitates easy access to the print provider and improved turnaround time. Using an electronic storefront, a website would allow consumers to place an order, upload images, and pay for their products. As the last step in the process, a system for managing and fulfilling orders is needed. 

Once you’ve decided to get into the photo services business, establishing a sales and marketing strategy to determine your best prospects and how to reach them will lead to a greater likelihood of success.  

Photo services provide another opportunity to differentiate their businesses and increase their revenue potential.