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Digital ID Photos Help Brighten Profit Picture in a Big Way



By now it should be common knowledge among imaging service providers that the ID photo business is a reliable profit center. For decades, those who have offered this service via instant film photography have found it to be that rare service that pays for itself, adding healthy revenues as it boosts traffic.

What many may not realize is how much easier it is to quickly profit with ID photos with one of today's digital ID photo systems. By giving subjects an opportunity to approve an image on a camera's LCD monitor before printing, these systems guarantee customer satisfaction and thereby eliminate the costly waste that went with film-based photo ID systems. When you consider the media costs of $1 or less and that this service can be sold for $10 or more per subject, it's easy to see how quickly the profits can add up.

The TruePrint Digital Passport ID Solution ID-220 from Olympus. Larmon Photo's store manager, David Porter, hands a finished passport to customer Kris McKinney, taken on their Olympus TruePrint Digital Passport ID System.

No More Remakes

"The biggest advantage to the digital system is there are no costs associated with remakes because you never have to do them-that saves time and money," says Randy Harrar, vice president of the Larmon Photo chain of seven stores based in Abington, PA. The company has offered ID photo services for years, but last year it upgraded the capability in two locations with the Olympus TruePrint Digital Passport ID System.

"With digital so popular now, we wanted to be more cutting-edge with our services," he explains. The new systems replaced older film ID systems, which had done their time, although the company still uses instant film ID systems in other locations.

"The ID photo business is a nice profit center that always brings people into stores where they might buy something else they see," notes Harrar. "The digital system just makes it a better service. It's easier to do, and the pictures we get are sharper with better color than we were able to provide with film."

The Olympus system comes in under the $1,000 price point, giving buyers an inexpensive way to add ID photo services. The latest version, the TruePrint Digital Passport ID System ID-220, bundles an Olympus digital camera with an Olympus P-200 digital printer. On the camera side, buyers get the company's C-4000 Zoom, a high-resolution camera with a four-megapixel sensor, 3X zoom, built-in flash with red-eye reduction, and a 1.8-inch LCD. The camera's LCD gives users an opportunity to view and select images, or it can be linked to a full-sized monitor for more comfortable viewing.

Built into the camera's software are silhouette templates to guide users in setting up ID photos. "One of the nice things about the camera is that it's so easy to get a sharp picture," notes Harrar. "The screen has outlines of where the subject should be as you set up the picture. All you have to do is move the camera until they fill that area and it's right."

The software includes templates for shooting American, Latin American, Canadian and Japanese passport photos, as well as INS documentation photos. After an image is selected and saved to the camera's SmartMedia card, the user removes the media and inserts it in the system's P-200 dye-sublimation color printer for printing.

To help retailers get started in the digital portrait business, Olympus offers promotional aids as well as a pair of bundled kits. The $1,100 switchover kit combines the camera, printer, flash, SmartMedia card, paper and folders to help those who are migrating from film-based to digital ID photo services. For retailers who have never been involved with ID photography before, the $1,500 starter kit includes the camera, printer, flash and SmartMedia card with two packs of paper, photo folders, a paper cutter and seamless backdrop.

Michael Seraderian from Nanor Prints with their Polaroid Digital MiniPortrait System. Photo by Rodger Kingston. Polaroid's Digital MiniPortrait system.

A Vital Service

In Belmont, MA, Michael Seraderian, owner of the Nanor Prints minilab, is now on his second digital ID portrait system. He purchased Polaroid's Digital MiniPortrait System last year after the vendor of his original system stopped supporting the system he'd been using for years.

"They wanted me to buy a new system rather than help me with the system I had," he relates. Since he didn't like the feeling that the company was trying to force him to upgrade, he looked around for other options for this vital service. "The ID photo service is something I have to offer; my customers have been coming to me for years for their passport and ID photos," he notes.

Eventually, he chose the Polaroid system for the combination of compact design, ease of use and price it offers. "It's a good starting point for digital ID portraits," he says. "It's convenient to use, fast and is set for the most popular ID photo sizes, including immigration, green card, and American and Canadian passport photos."

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