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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Archive for the ‘Photo Books’ Category

Custom Printing: New Photo Book Printing Equipment

Monday, August 21st, 2017

I wrote a blog posting recently about advances in photo book production that allow for lay-flat binding of books up to 18” x 18” in format. This essentially means that you can produce photo books with every page spread a full-bleed 18” x 36” double-page image and with no image area lost into the gutter on any page spread.

This reflects the powerful emotional attachment of individuals (and hence corporations and advertisers) to physically printed photos. In the era of the Internet and smartphones that give almost everyone on the planet a camera to carry wherever they go, we have an overabundance of images. However, people still want to physically print the few images they love.

My friend and colleague who sent me the information on this particular binding equipment (the fastBook Professional by Imaging Solutions AG) just sent me another article. This one references a deal between HP, the maker of the HP Indigo digital press, and Shutterfly, a major photo publishing service.

HP and Shutterfly

Before we get into the press release, here’s some background on HP and Shutterfly.

To the best of my experience, nothing beats the color fidelity, color gamut, or overall quality of the HP Indigo, a digital electrophotographic (i.e., laser) printer that uses liquid toner. In my print buying work, I always look for commercial printing establishments with this equipment because I know that if my client’s job does not fit the press run length of an offset print job, she or he will still get offset quality custom printing from an HP Indigo. (That said, I’m sure there are other digital presses of stellar quality out there now.)

Now, for Shutterfly. Wikipedia says the following about this company:

“Shutterfly is an American Internet-based image publishing service based in Redwood City, California. Shutterfly’s flagship product is its photo book line.

“Shutterfly’s revenue derives from ‘turning digital snapshots into tangible things.’

“Shutterfly enables users to create personalized photo gifts (including photos and text) such as Samsung Galaxy and iPhone cases, photo books, wall art, and home décor.”

The Deal Between HP and Shutterfly

“HP Wins Five-Year Shutterfly Deal—Accelerates Digital Print Momentum” (published on 08/17/17 as a press release by HP and Shutterfly) references the second phase of Shutterfly’s adding HP Indigo 12000 digital printers to its equipment for the photo products it produces and sells. The article notes that HP is the preferred provider for this multi-phase rollout of digital custom printing equipment and that this initiative retires the digital presses that Shutterfly had been using for their photo books.

From a product-oriented perspective, the press release notes that Shutterfly will use the equipment to “produce a range of high-quality, personalized products and gifts including photo books, calendars, custom stationery, cards, and keepsakes.”

The article then shifts to the output quality and flexibility of the equipment, saying, “The 29-inch format HP Indigo 12000 Digital Press enables production of these products through offset matching digital color with true photo quality, high productivity, and wide versatility on an unmatched range of media including synthetic, metalized, and canvas applications.”

What’s the Emotional Hook Behind the Products and Quality?

Enrique Lores, President, Imaging & Printing Business, HP Inc, notes that “People click on what they like, but print what they love.”

The press release encourages companies to use the technology to engage with their customers and to help people explore their creativity, connect with other people, personalize their photo products, and “share life’s joy” (Dwayne Black, Senior Vice President, Chief Operations Officer, Shutterfly, Inc.).

At the same time, there’s a good business case for this partnership, since Shutterfly and HP have between them a huge base of image production knowledge, digital printing acumen, and awareness of customer photo imaging needs. Moreover, the HP Indigo equipment lends itself to printing substrate flexibility, personalization, quick job turn-around, and cost cutting. (This is in addition to superior image quality, reflected in HP Indigo’s work with such discriminating global corporations as Coca-Cola and Mondelez International/Oreo.)

Finally, the HP Indigo 12000s are B2 machines, which means that their maximum press sheet size rivals that of many offset commercial printing presses: (19.7” x 27.8”), allowing for larger press signatures and/or larger overall job trim sizes.

How Can This Benefit You?

In concert with the earlier PIE Blog post about ISAG’s fastBook Professional, this joint HP and Shutterfly article makes it clear that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and service providers see increasing customer interest in printed photo products, whether photo books, calendars, cards, or other mementos. The manufacturers have made the commitment because the customers have shown sustained interest.

Therefore, it behooves you to understand the technology involved (digital electrophotography, also known as xerography or laser printing) as well as the differences between a desktop laser printer and a liquid-ink HP Indigo or similar high-end digital press. Get printed samples. Find vendors with this equipment, and decide which kinds of digital equipment you prefer. Closely check the color gamut, the resolution, and the color fidelity. Select your preferred vendors, if you are a graphic designer or a print buyer.

Also, learn how to design for digital commercial printing. Ask your print provider about any limits his digital equipment has, in terms of color builds, treatment of photos, and evenness of large ink solids.

If you’re a printer or a print sales rep, explore whether your client base has an interest in photo products. The article I described relates to flat prints on calendars or photo books produced via liquid-toner laser printing. But images can also be printed via inkjet technology (or even die sublimation technology), and you don’t have to limit yourself to print books.

You can print your photos on practically anything, including wood (think about the flatbed inkjet presses that accept thick, rigid substrates); fabric for drapes, wall coverings, bed sheets, and covers (think about die-sublimation printing on fabric); or even vinyl appliques that can be heat transferred from a paper sheet to a t-shirt. For that matter, while you’re researching fabric printing and garment printing, stop by an oceanside clothing store, and you’ll see any number of bathing suits and other sunwear printed with inkjet or dye-sublimation technology.

The “take-away” is that people want to print their photos. Not all of them. Just the ones they love. And there is no shortage of technologies (printing equipment and ink formulations) and substrates (everything from a book to a pen to a mug to a t-shirt). If you’re a commercial printing professional, this can be a stellar opportunity for you.

Custom Printing: New Photo Book Binding Equipment

Monday, August 14th, 2017

A close friend and colleague in the commercial printing business recently brought to my attention an article about new binding equipment for photo books. So I did some research online and discovered another area of growth within the custom printing arena: ultra-high-quality short-run books of photographs.

The Context

I think the popularity of such products is an outgrowth of our always-on business and social environment in which everyone has a camera in their phone. I know this is counterintuitive, but we now are awash in so many photos and videos that none of them are special. Think about it. Of the hundreds or thousands of images on your smartphone, how many have you printed? How many exist in physical space?

At the same time, as a culture we have few rites of passage anymore. Decades ago we had rituals (even if only social rituals) marking childhood, adolescence, marriage, childbirth and child-rearing, and retirement. The list goes on. We marked these rituals with printed photos, which we collected into photo albums, and it was a social experience to share the memories with friends and family by paging through these photo albums together.

Now we have fewer opportunities to celebrate our place within a larger social matrix and along a series of milestones in our lives. We may even have the photos, but we tend not to have printed, physical copies. In addition, our busy lives leave precious little time to even review the photos in our smartphones.

The Opportunity

I think this void provides an opportunity. Clearly the makers of photo books agree.

As I was researching the binding and photo printing equipment referenced in the article my friend and colleague sent me, the first thing that struck me was the kinds of photo products that had become both accessible and popular. They fell into three categories. The first supports my theory noted above (the need to record and share memories and/or social rituals). Let’s call these “familial,” or “social,” photo products: the celebration of the fact that we’re not alone.

These include the wedding photo books, the photo books documenting family events such as family reunions, and the Bar and Bat Mitzvah photo books. In essence, these are all about the place of an individual within a larger group.

The second category I would term “aspirational.” This is less about gratitude for what we have and also less focused on personal interactions. As a category it highlights what we want, and it would include the high-end “look books” produced by advertising agencies. These photo books comprise the luxury goods and services market for trips to paradise (exotic locations around the world) and purchases of fast cars, small jets, and such. Advertisers rule this venue of photo books.

A third market niche for this technology would be the leisure market. This would include photo books that focus on such pastimes as cooking and the fine arts.

But the bottom line is that producing ultra-high-quality printed—and bound—books of photos is fast becoming a growth industry within the commercial printing arena.

The Equipment

The article my friend and colleague sent me, “ISAG launches the fastBook Professional for Luxury photobooks,” released on 08/07/17, describes binding (specifically binding, not printing) equipment that provides economical but especially high quality binding services within this market segment.

ISAG stands for Imaging Solutions AG, which is a Swiss company that makes both imaging and binding equipment for photo books. One of their main markets for this equipment is photo labs (the contemporary equivalent of the 1960s drug store photo printing service—but of much higher quality).

First of all, the fastBook Professional binds big books. Your photo books can be anywhere from 8” x 8” to 18” x 18”. To put this in perspective, on the large end you could produce a book with full-bleed, double-page spreads throughout that are 36” wide by 18” tall. That’s big. Think of how a virgin beach would look in that format—or a Lamborghini.

In addition, print books produced on the fastBook Professional lay flat. The pages float slightly away from the spine, so the open book lies completely flat on a table, and each double-page spread is also completely flat. (That is, no part of a page spread is lost in the gutter of the print book.)

Furthermore, you can bind multiple kinds of paper into such a book, and you can glue paper to paper. More precisely, you can have book pages that include thicker stock (like cardboard) laminated between two sheets of printing paper. Since the feel of a print book is what makes it qualitatively different from images on a computer screen, the thick (composite) pages you can bind into the photo books lend an air of luxury to the overall experience of paging through such a “look book.”

If you have been alive for a number of decades, you probably remember back when photos were printed and “developed” rather than ink jet printed. Silver halide was the chemical on which photo printing depended, and photo printing was a chemical process, not a physical inkjet process. Now, with the fastBook Professional, you can print and bind both silver halide and digitally printed papers into your photo books (reaping the special benefits of each).

Benefits for the Photo Printers

From a business perspective this equipment makes good sense as well.

According to “ISAG launches the fastBook Professional for Luxury photobooks,” “The entire book block is produced in a single operation – with creasing, folding, pressing and gluing. Very little hotmelt glue is required which reduces the material costs and permits the next processing steps to happen right away. So the photobooks can be shipped the same day. ”

Translated into the language of business, this means that you can buy this equipment and then produce a lot of work quickly for less money. The operation is quick and automated, and the reduction in hotmelt glue makes for not only lower materials costs but also quicker throughput. You can bind more books in less time. You can take in more work, make more people happy, and make more money. Not only the customers (individuals and advertisers) but also the printers will benefit.

More precisely, here’s a statistic from the press release referencing one of the largest Turkish wedding book manufacturers, Chihan Exclusive Albums:

“Chihan Exclusive Albums produces an average of 100 wedding albums a day in various formats. In the peak wedding season, they can ship up to 200 books a day.”

According to the managing director of Chihan Exclusive Albums: “The fastBook Professional 1000 is the machine that for the first time surpasses the high quality of careful handwork. It is fully automatic and extremely fast.”

On this equipment, book binders can produce a photo book in one tenth of the time required for a hand-bound book.

What This Means to You

If you are a designer, this can be an opportunity for you to find new clients: both corporations/advertising agencies and individuals who want to memorialize their personal family rituals. If you are a commercial printing supplier, you can address the same growing market, using the increasingly efficient equipment available to produce ultra-high-quality photo books.

And if you are specifically a yearbook printer, you may just be in the right place at the right time in history.

For those of you who want to see what Imaging Solutions AG offers for printing the pages you will want to bind with the fastBook Professional 1000 (and/or the other binding equipment ISAG offers), here’s the link to their photo printing equipment:


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