By Cassandra Balentine
Digital printing and fulfillment technology enables the modernization of photographic output. This comes in the form of both products offered and efficiency. Companies in the photography and photo printing business look for color and quality to ensure customer satisfaction and repeat customers.
Based in Cedarburg, WI, Visual Image Photography is a third-generation, family-owned business that started from a studio out of Shorewood, WI from 1950 to 1970. From there it evolved into a high-volume school and sports photography outlet.
It offers photography services and prints for local schools, groups, and organizations with ongoing photography needs as well as individuals and families. In addition to shoots and photo prints, the company offers photobooks, banners, photo booth rentals, plaques, and team posters.
The company’s corporate office and print operation is out of a 12,000 square foot facility. Additionally, it has two studios, one 2,500 square foot studio in Wauwatosa, WI and a 7,000 square foot studio in Wheeling, IL. The company staffs 50 full-time and about 150 part time/seasonal employees.
In 2015 the company decided to invest in a digital production press to replace its outdated silver halide technology, expand its service offerings, and bring more work in house.
Before selecting a device, Visual Image Photography performed comprehensive market research to determine the best option for its specific needs. It settled on an HP Indigo 6500 digital production press. At the time of the investment, it sought a solution that provided high quality and a good service reputation.
According to Courtney Hayes Lutz, president, Visual Image Photography, the company performed an extensive study of the cost to run its work on its silver halide technology compared to the predicted cost of the same work using the HP Indigo 5600. This practice proved that the savings were enough to make the move. In addition, they felt the quality was excellent.
“We had a blind sampling of those photography prints judged by several members of our team against our traditional silver halide prints,” says Lutz. The team decided to go with the HP technology.
On top of the purchasing points the HP Indigo 5600 met, the shop was impressed with the capabilities it would offer, opening new business as well as bringing work in house that was previously outsourced. “This work includes a lot of marketing materials, business cards, almost all of our yearbook business, playbills, brochures, and sports and play programs,” says Lutz.
In addition to the HP Indigo 5600, the shop relies on an entire portfolio of finishing equipment to produce its varied applications.
Among its finishing line up, it employs the Duplo DC-645 Slitter/Cutter/Creaser, which is programmed to slit, cut, and crease most of its products and the Duplo 660 guillotine cutter, and a Duplo 350i Digital Bookletmaker system with square spine.
The bookletmaker collates its booklet work using a barcode and/or page count for accuracy. It also stitches, folds, and trims. “The square spine finishing produces a nice, flat book,” says Lutz.
The shop runs a Tec Lighting Tec-21 UV coater. Lutz says all of its prints are UV coated for antiquity value and finish.
The Next Level
To help with the learning curve from its new equipment line up, the company took advantage of vendor training. “This was very helpful since we promoted completely from within. There were challenges related to understanding digital print, which we leaned heavily on HP service to be successful with,” shares Lutz.
She notes that after doing a color ramp up with HP, the shop continued internal training and HP service, which aided in their success with the device.
Since books and booklets represent a large portion of the company’s revenue stream, it was careful in selecting finishing solutions that would provide the needed quality and productivity to support its new digital printing capabilities.
“We first saw the Duplo equipment at Dscoop in Washington D.C. in 2015,” recalls Lutz. “We liked the capabilities it offered for our specific needs as well as the price point.”
Before investing in its finishing equipment, the shop traveled to a peer business site that also ran Duplo finishing devices. They received excellent feedback on the products and decided to proceed in acquiring from the manufacturer.
Since implementing its new equipment, Visual Image Photography has gone from one to two trained operators on the HP Indigo 5600. Additionally, its level two operator is more versed with the planned maintenance needs of the press as well as troubleshooting techniques.
Overall, Lutz says the biggest benefits of its new digital line up include the efficiency, quality, and capabilities it brings to both its booklet delivery method and added service offerings.
Lutz says its most popular product is now delivered in book format.
“The speed of the equipment and the book as our new delivery method has really helped the efficient delivery of our flagship product, especially in peak seasons,” says Lutz.
For a typical photobook, a staff photographer sends images to prepress. The artwork is then taken into Kodak DP2 for any necessary cropping, color correction, and retouching. Ordered products are selected and the program generates a book based on the number of pages. It then adds covers as well as any pages to make the proper page count.
After DP2, a PDF of each book is created and sent to press. Books are RIPped to press using a ticket template specific to the shop’s imposition needs, and a proof is generated.
Photobooks are printed on Felix Scholler Photo Lustre 225 gsc C2S and coated inline on the HP Indigo 5600 with the Tec Lighting Tec-21 UV coater. The coated prints are sent through the Duplo 645 to slit the top and bottom and crease the spine. They are then collated on the Duplo 350i using the barcode reader, and stitched, face trimmed, and the spine is squared for a flat finish.
Visual Image Studio produces more work in house and improves efficiency since investing in a digital print and finishing strategy. Extensive research and utilization of vendor training enabled a successful transition from silver halide to digital photo printing.
May2017, DPS Magazine