"Connecting the Dots" to a Successful Photo Specialty Business There’s really no other way to describe what’s happening in the photo specialty business. It’s just growing like gangbusters. Here’s a little data to back that up. Worldwide revenue from custom photo specialty merchandise was reported by IDC at $1.4 billion in 2007—a 64% increase over 2006. And many believe that those numbers really represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the long-term growth potential. With the opportunity still on the upswing, you may even be thinking about taking your own shot at this lucrative business. If that’s the case, you naturally want to take your best shot. And that means having an integrated solution to connect all the critical dots—including the user interface for customizing merchandise, taking orders, printing, finishing and binding. Let’s take a quick look at the players, the range of choices, and how it all comes together. “Hanging the shingle” When you’re ready to take orders, it’s time to hang the proverbial shingle for your business and start welcoming potential customers. That’s how you’ll provide prospects with a quick look at their options for photo specialty products, such as cards, photo books, albums and calendars. Not surprisingly, that requires software that enables customers to see your menu, make a selection and lay out their photos in different templates. The software could be your own solution or a commercially available application that lets you customize your “look and feel” and user interface. Other options involve how your customers connect to you. The most common choices are: In-store kiosk Web-based application Desktop application Each solution has inherent advantages and disadvantages and may be targeted to different types of customers, such as consumer, high-end amateur or professional photographer. The more you know about your end-users—what they do, what they want, and when they want it—the better your solution will fit their needs and yours! Go with the flow In dynamic digital photo specialty environments, easy-to-integrate, scalable workflows are critical to efficient production and business management. The ideal environment uses a tightly knit configuration of commercial web-to-print applications, photo creative tools, color management and prepress solutions, finishing equipment and business management tools. Job creation applications: If you decide to purchase a job creation and order submission application, versus designing your own, here are several proven, best-in-class solutions you may want to consider: Pixami Digital Print Production System. The Pixami Digital Print Production System is a complete web-to-print solution for online order creation and delivery. It drives orders to digital presses while significantly reducing cost of sales. The Pixami system is configurable for custom products and accepts custom content with a brandable user interface. www.pixami.com Digilabs. This easy-to-use software makes fully customized and professional looking photo calendars, cards and photo books. Materials may be printed in home offices, studios or labs, or through Digilabs printing services. www.digi-labs.net ip.labs The Internet Photo System (IPS) application supports all types of photo products, including prints, posters, photo gifts, calendars, photo books and many others, as well as back office and CRM solutions. www.iplabs.de Workflow solutions: Ultimate Impostrip Book Stacker. This robust solution offers automatic optimization of imposition and production of short-run and personalized books. It includes a full featured, client-server, multi-user solution assuring predictable, continuous printing flow to your presses. It also simplifies preparation, eliminates repetitive set-up and performs flawlessly with variable data. www.imposition.com Press-sense Omnium. This JDF-based Business Flow Automation ERP solution has been created especially for printers. It enables planning automation, scheduling and full production floor automation. www.press-sense.com HP SmartStream Photo Enhancement Server. A fast, automated tool, this solution offers image sharpening, smoothing, contrast improvement and shadow enhancement. www.hp.com/go/graphicarts HP SmartStream Designer. A flexible, easy-to-use application, this solution enables the creation of full-color personalization. www.hp.com/go/graphicarts Digital Front Ends: HP SmartStream Production Pro Print Server. This productive, highly automated DFE is engineered to manage large print volumes, as well as complex variable data jobs. www.hp.com/go/graphicarts HP SmartStream Ultra Print Server. A completely automated workflow and high- performance RIP solution, this DFE accommodates high-volume, short-run, image rich print production. www.hp.com/go/graphicarts Digital printing: the picture perfect print solution Given the nature of photo specialty products—typically produced in short run batches and quite often individualized—digital printing is uniquely suited to this booming industry. And, of course, true photo quality is paramount to pleasing the customer. With its proprietary ElectroInk technology, HP Indigo digital presses feature the quality and productivity that has made them the press of choice for photo specialty providers worldwide. HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press. With high productivity and low total cost for high-volume printing, this new HP digital press (launched at drupa 2008) offers striking photo and offset quality. It prints 120 4-color 8.5" X 11" size images per minute (two-up) or 240 2-color or monochrome 8.5" X 11" size images per minute (two-up). www.hp.com/go/graphicarts HP Indigo press 5500. Combining high productivity and profitability with photo and offset quality, this HP Indigo press delivers 68 4-color letter images per minute (two-up), 136 2- color letter images per minute (two-up), 272 full monochrome 8.5” X 11” images per minute. www.hp.com/go/graphicarts Apply the finishing touch Whether your product line includes photo books, albums, calendars, and/or postcards, you have numerous options for finishing equipment. The good news is that commercial printers often already have much of this equipment in place, which can be applied to photo specialty production. Duplo Digital System 5000 Booklet Maker. The Duplo 5000 Booklet Maker produces full- bleed, trimmed booklets ready for delivery with JDF workflow in one pass. www.duplo.com Duplo DC-645 production color finisher. This near-line JDF enabled solution automatically slits, cuts and creases a sheet into fully trimmed documents in one pass. www.duplo.com Horizon APC 6111 Guillotine Cutter. A programmable hydraulic guillotine cutter, the APC6111 provides highly accurate cutting, durability, and simple operation. User-friendly touch-screen display, simple-to-use controls. www.horizon.co.jp Morgana AutoCreaser Digifold and CardMaster. Both of these automated creasing and creasing and folding solutions use a creasing rule and matrix that creases the substrate before feeding it into the folding unit. Eliminates the problem of cracking while folding digitally produced output. www.morgana.co.uk Morgana DocuMaster. An intelligent document finishing solution, the DocuMaster includes fully integrated feeder, creaser and booklet maker for precollated digital print jobs. Each element may be used separately for maximum flexibility. www.morgana.co.uk Horizon BQ-270 and BQ-470. These fully-automated, JDF compliant, perfect binders enable superior-quality short-run book production; up to 1300 cycles per hour. www.horizon.co.jp Horizon HT-30, HT-70, and HT-101. Three JDF compliant, low to mid volume three-side trimmers are designed for book feeding, trimming and stacking with full automation. www.horizon.co.jp Horizon HCM1/HCP1. Case maker and casing-in solutions, these Horizon tools are tailored for on-demand short-run environments. They produce up to 40 hard cover books per hour. www.horizon.co.jp Kolbus case maker DA-260 and Kolbus Casing-in BF-512. Engineered for high volume short-run hard cover book production, these Kolbus tools produce up to 30 cycles per minute. www.kolbus.com MBO Digifinisher. This highly effective saddle stitcher combines buckle fold and plow fold in one unit for high volume production. www.mboamerica.com RENZ punching and closing solutions. Ideal for Low to high volume double wire binding punching and closing solutions for producing double wire bound documents with RENZ RING WIRE®. www.renz-germany.de GBC Lamination solutions. Designed for low to high volume lamination solutions. www.gbc.com Rollem Jetstream. Jetstream is the ideal solution for slitting digitally printed business cards post cards and other multiple-up flats. Sheets are edge trimmed, slit and cut in one fully automatic system. www.rollemusa.com ODM On Demand Machinery. On Demand Machinery offers a range of products to address every aspect of casebook binding. www.odmachinery.com HP Indigo UV Coater. This advanced near-line or in-line solution is designed to optimize production on HP Indigo sheet fed presses, including the HP Indigo press 5500 and HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press. www.hp.com/go/graphicarts Clearly, the tools have had several years to be perfected, the solutions are tightly integrated, the quality is outstanding, and the market is primed. If you’re ready to give it a go, there’s really no better time like the present.