Creative Printing for . . . the Holidays

Creative Printing for . . . the Holidays


Nothing says holidays like family, and in photo retail, it’s the months leading up to the holidays that are critical to a successful season. While consumers are considering this year’s Christmas cards and shopping for gifts, you can help them create the perfect memories with mini portrait sessions provided by your lab.

If you have portrait experience, find the right location and set aside a weekend for your customers to book short professional sittings. These sittings can generate new customers, as well as additional sales and good will. Here are some examples of successful holiday promotions.

Full Color, Inc., a photo lab catering to professional photographers in the Dallas area, is promoting metal prints this holiday season. Display prints are available in four surface options as well as eight Artistic Edge metal prints.

“Some of our most popular holiday gift products—in addition to press-printed greeting cards—are metal Christmas ornaments, iPhone and Galaxy S III phone cases, and Full Color’s exclusive standUP metal prints designed for desktop display,” said Amanda Fuller, marketing director. “This year we’re adding iPad and iPad mini cases.”

Full Color also offers dry erase memo boards and calendars that are printed on high gloss steel. The boards are fixed with magnetic strips for mounting on refrigerators and other metal surfaces. When ordered through Full Color’s ROES Plus ordering software, photographers can choose from several free templates designed to showcase one or more portraits.

Bay Photo Lab, in Scotts Valley, California, services a broad base—from professional portrait and wedding photographers to young up-and-coming photographers and individuals getting into photography as a second career.

The 35-year-old company sets itself apart with quality service and innovation: it offers professional-quality photographic printing and high-end four-color and six-color press printing, which makes it possible to offer high-end holiday cards and ornaments using a variety of papers, templates and decorative edges.

“There are lots of ways for photographers to express their images and for customers to express themselves for the holidays,” said Glen A. Clark, sales manager at Bay Photo. “Press-printed Bay Books, Image Folios and metal photo ornaments are great gift items that can be added to portrait session sales.”

Metal ornaments are growing in popularity; printed either one or two sided, they’re given as holiday gifts or used as gift tags. “More and more people are realizing they don’t have to take them down after the holidays,” Clark added. “They use them as home or office décor, hanging them on ceiling fan pull cords, lamp switches or attaching them to refrigerators.”

Bay Photo also experiences a huge increase in greeting card orders and traditional print products, like wall portraits and framed prints, during the holidays. Other popular photo gifts include BayBoxes for storing albums and prints and miniature Wave Books, which are 2.5×3.5- or 3×3-inch accordion-fold books with 10 image panels.

“Our Wave Books are very high quality and durable, with an over-laminate protection on the cover,” Clark explained. “They make great photo gifts and stocking stuffers.”

Fullerton Photographics, an imaging boutique in Fullerton, California, employs various promotions to draw in customers. Listed under the banner “Hip Happenings” on Fullerton’s website, preholiday events range from Do It Yourself (DIY) Nights when customers create metal wall art from their Instagram images to Classic and Hip Holiday portrait sittings.

Formerly a full-time portrait photographer, owner Gaby Mullinax draws on her marketing experience to build interest in her lab. Last year, she rented a red velvet sofa to take out to a park—offering customers 30-minute “Hip Holiday” mini portrait sessions. They sold out Saturday and Sunday—booking 10 to 15 families a day.

“It’s important to include something with the photo shoot that’s going to entice customers to book with you,” said Mullinax. “We’ve always had amazing success offering mini portrait sessions with printed holiday cards included.”

After the sitting, you have an opportunity to sell high-profit-margin products to customers looking for the perfect Christmas gifts. “In my experience, the biggest holiday sales opportunity—besides cards, framed prints and holiday ornaments—is the home décor market,” she added.

Metal prints are one of Fullerton Photographic’s specialties. The surface of the metal is infused with dye to create a stunning image that looks like a glossy photo. Metal Art prints are images pressed on a single-coated aluminum surface; Metal Art2 prints include a single layer stacked over a larger metal background, which is also sublimated, as well as other variations. Backgrounds can be aluminum, galvanized steel or frosted or black acrylic. Learn more about the process by viewing a metal art seminar hosted by Conde Systems Inc. (Search “Metal Art Seminar with Gaby” on YouTube.)

White House Custom Colour (WHCC), a professional lab headquartered in Minneapolis, prepares for its busiest time of year right before the holidays. “We’re known for our fast turnaround times,” said Lacey Lewis, marketing specialist. “So we hire seasonal staff in the fall to keep up with the higher volume.” With satellite locations in Texas and California, that adds up to nearly 500 people during their peak season.

The lab’s primary clientele is professional photographers—many of whom give their customers White House photo products as gifts during the holidays. Among the most popular are Boutique Christmas cards, which are press-printed designer cards that come in more than 50 boutique shapes; and Mini Boutique frames and frame ornaments, which are available in four decorative shapes and colors.

“Family portraits are big in the fall,” said Lewis. “So photographers order a lot of wall display products.” Popular White House hangings include Gallery Wraps, Standouts (photos mounted with one of five color edging options) and Float Wraps.

While outdoor natural-light portraits are popular for holiday family portraits, Lewis sees a big demand for classic studio backgrounds, too. White House sells its own line of studio backdrops called Backdrops by WHCC, which come in a variety of designs, patterns and colors that complement high school senior, children and family portraiture.

“Chevrons are a very hot pattern for backdrops right now,” Lewis said. “And they come in trendy colors for the holidays, like mint green. Solid colors in neutrals, grays and tans are also popular.”

EZBackgrounds of Port Townsend, Washington, markets digital backgrounds that can be layered behind your subject, using an image-editing program like Adobe Photoshop. These are geared for retailers who want to try a more high-tech approach to holiday portraiture, said owner Clive Dexter.

Dexter began creating digital backgrounds for professional photographers in 2003. “I needed a background for a project I was doing,” he recalled. “At the time, digital backgrounds were extraordinarily expensive. They were all stock images. I thought I could provide the same service for significantly cheaper.”

Today, he has an extensive collection of themed backgrounds for portrait photography—from draped muslin and wedding archways to indoor Christmas scenes and snow-covered forests. EZBackgrounds are sold on DVDs or as digital downloads. Each file is 24 megapixels (4,000×6,000 pixels).

“The primary benefit is economic,” added Dexter. “A photographer who is just starting out may not have access to multiple backgrounds. With digital backgrounds all you need is a solid-color backdrop (or wall) and a very basic studio setup: two lights and a camera.”

You can also remove individuals from other backgrounds and combine them with a plain or themed digital background, he noted. While it’s more time consuming, it could be a service offered to customers who have great pictures of their families that they want on a more attractive background. The EZBackgrounds website,, features three instructional videos that cover everything you need to know about combining digital backgrounds with portraits.

Whether you choose studio or environmental portrait sittings, classic or trendsetting products, look to your customers and community to help guide your direction. You can also give back to the community through nonprofit organizations like Help-Portrait. Established by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart, Help-Portrait offers free portraits to those who may not have the opportunity for a professional photo. Retailers interested in participating in this year’s annual Help-Portrait event, scheduled for December 7, can find information at