Today, gallery-level photographs are just a click a way with a number of high-end, professional photo labs online. But at a certain point, the convenience and affordability of printing photographs right from your studio or home office starts to look much glossier than the long ship times and high prices of professional printing companies. But, the printer itself can cost several thousand dollars, not to mention ink and paper. At what point does it make financial sense to print your own photos? Here are four signs it’s time to start printing in-house.
You’re sending a large volume of prints in every month or even every week.
Without a large volume of prints, you won’t cross the line from investment to profitability, since the cost of large format printers is so high. But, for photographers continuously ordering a large volume or photos, you could save money with an in-house printer. Take a look back and write down the number of photos you ordered and the total cost — including the shipping.
You could pay for your printer with a few months of photo orders.
Add up how much you’ve earned on photo prints, then subtract how much you spent on photo printing over the same time period. That’s how much you are currently earning from prints.
Next do a bit of research and find out how much each print would cost from an in-house printer. Most manufacturers include an estimate of the ink costs in the details about that printer. If you’d need help running the print, factor in the costs of adding an assistant too. Assuming you keep your print prices the same, how much higher would your profit be on those same print orders?
If your profit from those prints would pay for a new printer within a few months, an in-house printer is likely a very worthwhile investment. If your volume of print orders means it would take a few years — or if you’d have to hire additional staff to tackle the actual printing — you may be better sticking to a printing house, at least financially.
Turn around time is a struggle.
Besides the potential cost savings, one of the biggest advantages to printing in-house is time. There’s no shipping and you don’t even need to wait for high resolution files to upload to that print ordering website. If print turnaround times is a complaint among your customers, printing in-house could be a viable solution.
You crave more control.
The process of turning a digital photograph into a physical one leaves many potential pitfalls along the way. By using an in-house printer, you gain more control over that final output. By choosing the printer and the paper, you have control over those little details that might make all the difference in your shots. The physical process of making prints can also be enjoyable to the photographers that miss the hands-on process of the darkroom.
Purchasing a large format photo printer is a big investment — and while smaller businesses may be better off with a print service, for professional photographers with large print orders, printing in-house often makes sound financial sense.