Event photography has gone from being a specialty niche of an exclusive group of photographers to a more mainstream strategy for generating new revenue streams. With applications ranging from sports tournaments and family reunions to more upscale occasions like bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings, photographers are continuing to use high-end thermal printers, but are also starting to tap into smaller inkjet units previously used only by consumers, thanks to improved image quality and versatility.
Digital workflow has changed the face of professional event photography, according to Leonard Marano, product manager for the Kiosks, Imaging Division, Fujifilm U.S.A. "Onsite printing enables professional photographers to streamline their workflow and eliminates the time and expense of spending hours in the darkroom developing, organizing, and mailing photos to customers in the days following an event."
What photographers are looking for to meet their printing needs in the onsite, event photography arena is finally starting to merge with what's actually available, without sacrificing image quality or longevity. "In the past, the onsite printer was often a compromised unit that focused more on compact size over quality output," explains Canon marketing specialist Justin Joseph. "Today, the pro photographer has far more options without the compromise."
Versatility has become the name of the game for printing photos at special events. "Photographers can now offer their customers a drastically expanded product offering without having to purchase additional equipment." Eric Lin, general manager of Hi-Touch Imaging Technologies (America), says. "The general trends for the onsite printing market place we observe is a strong demand in 5x7-inch-format printing solutions and growth in the 8x10-inch format printing solution demand. We have also observed a growing demand of onsite printing for security purposes."
"There has certainly been a trend with event photographers leaning toward more versatile printers (like our ASK 2000) that can produce 4x6-, 5x7-, 6x8-, and 6x9-inch prints," concurs Fuji's Marano.
Theresa Alesso, vice president, Digital Photofinishing Division of Sony Electronics Inc., notes that photographers and retailers are both looking for ways to capitalize on shifts in the market and deliver onsite, on-demand photoimaging to grow their business.
"Our new UPX-C100 passport system, designed in light of the surge in demand for passports, and the UP-GR700 printer, offering lab-quality, instant printing, are clear examples of how technology can create new revenue streams for customers in the changing marketplace."
Kristi Fox, assistant product manager, Consumer Imaging, for Epson, agrees. "Onsite photo printing is growing as more consumers demand the convenience and superior quality of prints," she says. "Epson's PictureMate, for example, is a great way to introduce photographers to onsite printing as an extra service."
In addition to using portable printers to print proofs on location to test their setups (e.g., evaluate lighting, composition, exposure), Hewlett-Packard's Jim Ruder, vice president, Digital Photography & Entertainment, HP Imaging & Printing Group, notes that a growing number of event photographers who use the company's HP Photosmart Pro B9180 photo printer are producing photographs for resale during events.
"Youth sports photography is a prime example," Ruder explains. "The event photographer will spend the weekend at sports tournaments taking photos and then turn around and sell final photographs to athletes, parents, and relatives. The immediacy of digital photography and digital printing technology makes this ‘instant' turnaround possible and desirable."
Kodak's Christopher S. Van Zandt, general manager and vice president, Paper and Output Systems, Americas Region, Film & Photofinishing Systems for Eastman Kodak Company, is excited to see that photographers are going out and building the event photography market—not waiting for it to come to them.
"So many pros are inventing new ways to get into that intersection of immediacy, quality, and the special occurrence," he says. "They're truly working at increasing the public's awareness of opportunities through modern marketing techniques, e.g., using their websites; conducting innovative grassroots campaigns in their communities; and developing specialty, niche fields of expertise that are widely appreciated and can be promoted across geographic boundaries.
"Most importantly, through professional associations and message boards, including Kodak's own ProPass, photographers seem to be enthusiastically encouraging each other, and sharing messages with their colleagues to find new types of events."
The times of year when onsite printing gains momentum shouldn't come as a complete surprise. "Trends for onsite production are tracking similarly to traditional wholesale lab production: major holidays and vacation," says Rob Miskelly, Kanematsu USA's business manager.