Digital Passport Photos are
Gateway to Going Digital
By Diane Berkenfeld
Lost are the good old days when film was all there was and you
didn't have to hit the books [manuals] to learn the difference
between JPEGS and FireWire. Do you look at the shelves of digital
cameras in your display cases with trepidation, fearful of taking
one out to try, willing to let the kids sell those new gadgety
digicams? Then go digital one step at a time.
Whether you have room for a full sized portrait studio in your store or only offer passport and other types of ID photos, you can now go digital easily and relatively inexpensively. Digital passport systems incorporate digital photography with an easy learning curve to put more money to your bottom line.
With a digital passport system, your customers preview the photo before it's printed, saving the waste associated with analog photography. Your customer blinks and the shot has to be taken again. This cuts into your profits. Not so with digital. The preview feature in digital passport systems provides the biggest savings. When the customer can preview and okay the image before it is printed, he comes away more satisfied, hence an overall positive experience is had.
"Passport and ID photos are a growing market—over seven million U.S. passports were issued last year. The switch to digital solutions has raised the bar in both profitability and customer satisfaction," stated George Tun, New Business Development manager for Olympus.
Olympus' Camedia TruePrint Digital Passport ID System
Olympus debuted its Camedia TruePrint Digital Passport ID System ID-200 at PMA 2002. The system consists of the passport version C-3030 digital camera, passport version P-200 printer and SmartMedia memory card with templates for passport and INS photographs. The C-3030 features a zoom lens and built-in flash, and can be used with external studio lighting. Olympus also offers sticker papers for added print sales. The retailer simply uses the templates as a guide for proper subject placement when composing the photo. Because the templates are on a SmartMedia card, Olympus can easily distribute updated templates as they become available. After the subject is photographed, the retailer simply protects the frames to be printed and the passport version P-200 printer prints only those so indicated on the card.
Wayne Esty, owner of Peterborough Camera, Peterborough, N.H., saw the Olympus system at PMA and purchased one. He's been delighted with the results. According to Esty, all of his employees use the system and have been turned onto digital photography as a result. Even the ones that are die-hard film users. His employees have become more proficient with digital cameras as a result of using the C-3030 to take passport/ID photos.
Esty explained that once customers see the preview, they are at ease and often browse the rest of the store while their photos are printed. Another feature that Esty found useful is the fact that his employees can keep the same subject to camera distance when shooting other types of photos, such as for certain permits and simply print them smaller. "This saves money as there is less waste and customers receive a better product overall,"
The Studio Polaroid Digital (SPD) 360 is Polaroid's latest ID/passport camera system. The SPD 360 utilizes the same Type 679 color peel apart Polaroid film that retailers have been using for years. The difference is in the digital capture of the image.
The SPD 360 allows a number of different print formats, increasing print sales as well. One, two, four, five, six, or nine images can be printed on one sheet of film. The camera can be used with the built-in flash or studio lighting. The SPD 360 can archive or print one portrait while the retailer composes another, saving time when photographing multiple customers at one time.
"Retailers are used to dealing with film and are quite happy with it," explained Pam Mayer, Group Marketing manager for Polaroid's Document/Passport Products. "The SPD 360 offers a marriage of digital capture and output with traditional Polaroid prints." Another key selling point to the system is the added print sales of different sizes that the unit can produce. The camera doesn't have to be just for passport and INS photos but can cater to other markets as well.
Dick Chapell is the owner of Andover Photo in Andover, MA and has been offering passport photography in his store for years. He originally used Polaroid analog passport cameras and has since switched to the digital system. Chapell has found the addition of the zoom lens helpful, allowing the person behind the camera to stay in place while framing the subject correctly. The preview feature is not only beneficial to his customers, but Chapell as well.
"We've always wanted to make sure customers had a passport photo flattering to them," he said. Previewing the image before printing means that everyone is satisfied with the outcome.