by Mike Antoniak
Lab owners and store managers can transform a few feet of idle floor space into a new profit center with any of the latest generation of digital ID/passport portrait solutions now available from several vendors.
Unlike previous generations of ID/passport photo solutions, these digital solutions virtually eliminate the costly waste which once cut into profits from these services. Since the systems are digital, subjects have the opportunity to preview and approve their photo before the photo gets printed.
"With a digital system, there's less room for printing error because you only end up printing what the customer already knows he or she wants," notes Carlos Stevenson, owner of Mosher Photo in Vineyard, MA, a camera specialty/photofinishing center. "When you can eliminate the cost of the waste, there's definitely going to be more profit."
Old Service, New Technology
Like many retailers, his store was already offering portrait services with a film based system before he explored the possibilities of taking the service digital. As good as the results from the film system were, he never knew if the finished photos would be acceptable until after the print was ready. If the customer wasn't satisfied with the image, he had to eat the cost of the film, and take another picture.
"Now you just shoot the picture, and make sure the customer is happy before you print. And if they aren't happy with one pose, you can take their picture until you get it right, at no additional cost."
Stevenson delivers these profitable services with the Sony UPX-C21 Digital Passport system. In addition to passport/ID prints, the $1695 system can be used to create mini portraits, postcards and stickers in the customer's choice of color or black and white.
The digital camera included with the system captures images in three resolution modes and saves them as a jpeg file. The camera itself has a 1.3X autofocus zoom lens, built-in flash, battery recharger and an optical viewfinder. Other components include a 1.8-inch LCD monitor where subjects can preview their photo before printing, and a dye sub color printer.
In addition to the built-in LCD monitor, the system also features a composite video out jack and parallel interface for viewing images on a monitor or PC system. The printer produces images at 310 dpi resolution, and the initial print is read in less than two minutes. The system has the capacity to store up to 30 images for repeat use, or images can be uploaded to a PC for archiving.
"Customers have been blown away with the results," notes Stevenson. "They really like the idea they can see their picture before we make a print."
For the store owner, it's a quick and easy solution for a profitable service. "It's a piece of cake to use, true plug and play," notes Stevenson. "It's simple to set up and doesn't take much time to figure out how to use. We're happy, and our customers are happy, with how the photos look."
Olympus Enters the Picture
Earlier this year, Olympus also entered the market with an instant portrait ID system of its own. The Olympus TruePrint Digital Passport ID Solution ID-200 is a turnkey solution, with everything the retailer needs to get in the passport/ID photo business.
System components include the passport version of the Olympus C-3030 digital camera; an Olympus SmartMedia card with passport photo templates for image capture; and a passport version of the Olympus P-200 portable dye sublimation color printer. The camera has a video output jack for external connections, allowing subjects to preview images on its LCD screen or a larger monitor before selecting and ordering the prints.
Once the customer selects the best shot, two copies of the photo can be printed on the sheet for use as a passport photo, or four copies can be printed on a page for use as other types of ID photos. The system carries a $1499 suggested retail price. Olympus estimates that if a store does just two prints per day at a cost of $7 each, the system will pay for itself within four months after it is installed.