For photographers of any age, but especially those without an established list of clients, print on demand services can be an invaluable way to generate income. They’re the new media equivalent of taking your prints to an art fair or flea market and setting up shop.
There are many print on demand options and each one has its pros and cons. It pays to do a little investigating to decide which is the right one for you. We’ve picked out three that we think are the best options right now.
This is one of the older print-on-demand sites around. It’s also one of the best. There are options for both a free account and pro, but, for my money, the pro is worth it. The free version caps out the number of images you can sell at 25, while the pro version (which costs only $30 a year) lets you sell unlimited images. In addition, pro offers additional marketing features and your own site.
Fine Art America is about as no hassle as it gets. They do all the printing, include options for mounting and framing, send you the profit after the sale, and will even handle customer service issues for you.
They also have a Facebook app so that you can sell directly from your Facebook profile or page. This is excellent for the more social photographers among us, who have built a loyal following by sharing their photos consistently.
Fotomoto is a “print order management service.” Instead of uploading all your images to a third-party service like Fine Art America or a SmugMug, Fotomoto is an add on to photographers’ websites that acts as a storefront for your images. You only need to upload images if you decide to have Fotomoto fulfill your orders, which it does through BayPhoto.
The great thing about Fotomoto is how lightweight it is. All you do is sign up and add one line of code to your portfolio website into a selling platform in no time. You can set all of your own prices and the products that you want available. The only discernible difference between the free version and the pro version is that with the pro version, Fotomoto takes a lower commission (12% as opposed to 22%), although that does come with a $10/mo charge.
Fotomoto built its reputation on exceptional customer service, so it was suspect when, earlier this year, photographers were reporting that orders were going unfulfilled and their typically great customer service had become horrible. It turns out that was because they had been bought by Livebooks, who was experiencing cash-flow issues at the time. BayPhoto recently acquired Fotomoto and it appears the everything has gone back to normal. The Bayphoto/Fotomoto partnership couldn’t be a better fit. Now that they are owned by one of the best labs in the business, Fotomoto will be very hard to beat.
Instaproofs is a service that I wrote about in my Seven Essential Marketing Tools feature for the November issue of Rangefinder, so you know I hold it in high regard. Like Fine Art America, Instaproofs is a customizable gallery and checkout system. Where it differs is how focused it is on serving photographers’ specific needs. Here’s what I had to say then:
[Instaproofs] includes marketing and branding tools, security for your images (dynamic watermarking and password protection), and the ability to fulfill orders however you want. If you want to print your photos for clients, go ahead. You’ll never be locked into one lab for prints. You can export directly from Aperture and Lightroom and use Instaproof’s iPhone app to check on your orders. It’s free and easy to set up an account. There are no start up, monthly, bandwidth, hosting or transaction fees—just a 15 percent commission on your orders. An online storefront may not sound revolutionary, but when you make it this easy and do it this well, it’s nothing short of a revelation.