Today, event printers provide a wide range and variety of on-site image fulfillment, regardless of the event. Event photography has been a staple of the imaging industry since the first portable camera was invented. People have long turned to event photographers to document their weddings, corporate events, parties and even visits with Santa Claus.
Their images provide a third-person aspect of important milestones that help write the histories of our communities, families and lives. But it is printed images that preserve our memories of these events. So the question we face is: has the digital revolution disrupted this long history of photographic documentation?
“Most photographers in our generation were raised with the perspective of selling the print,” says Steve Behen, worldwide sales manager of Imaging Spectrum, a digital printer sales and consulting company in Plano, Texas. “That’s how you made your money. Nowadays photographers sell technology and the wow factor of instant gratification. They do not really understand the value of the print. The good people do though, and they do it very well. That’s the difference.”
The Event Photographer: A Case in Point
Sports and event photographer Jeff Gump (Cr.Photog.) is one of the good people. He’s been photographing high school and youth sports, as well as corporate and social events, since the 1980s.
His passion for photography and his gift for marketing have allowed him to expand his business to include everything from corporate golf outings to Santa Claus photos. Gump has proven that it’s possible to sell the wow factor, instant gratification and high-quality prints, all on-site, while the event is taking place.
As an event photographer in Jacksonville, Florida, Gump offers his team sports customers quality photography, exciting graphics and mutually beneficial incentive programs to help them raise money. The programs and printed products are advertised on the Studio City Sports website at studiocitysports.com.
In addition to his photography business, Gump spent the last 10 years mentoring aspiring photographers and speaking about volume print sales at various educational events. He has presented for the Texas School, Professional Photographers of America, Wedding & Portrait Photographers International and many other professional organizations.
Rather than asking customers to place orders for prints they’ve never seen, event photographers like Gump can create a printed memento for every team member to bring home with their order form or sell additional prints on-site the same day. Depending on the printer model, they also can create a strip of wallet-size photos, team player cards or faux magazine covers for an entire team of Little League players before they finish playing a game.
Choosing Event Printers
Imaging Spectrum receives lots of calls asking about the differences between printer models. “As consultants, we ask customers questions and get them to tell us what’s important to them,” says Behen. “Some buyers say, ‘I want the cheapest printer you’ve got.’ Others will say, ‘I want the best printer with the best quality and the best of everything.’ Then you have photographers who’ve been in the business awhile and want a printer similar to one they’ve already had. All three of those discussions are very different.”
Most event photographers start out with a dye-sublimation printer. “Dye-sub printers are the standard in event photography for a couple reasons,” says Behen. “They’re fast, they’re portable and the media is resilient, water resistant and dry when it comes out. They also offer a low cost per print and the quality is awesome.”
Imaging Spectrum provides a printer comparison chart as a guide for consultation calls. The chart breaks down the most important printer features, including the costs of operating each printer: imagingspectrum.com/printer-comparison-chart.
Event printers range in price from $400–500 to approximately $1,900. Dye-sub models typically print either small to midsize prints (4×6 to 6×8 inches) or large-format prints (8×10 to 8×12 inches). Most are incapable of producing both size ranges because they’re restricted by paper size. All provide a minimum 300-dpi resolution.
DNP Imagingcomm America Corporation
DNP IAM makes a complete line of professional dye-sublimation printers for on-site event photography, photo booths and amusement park attractions.
Their DS40 printer outputs 4×6-, 5×7- and 6×8-inch prints. Its speed makes it ideal for ride photo systems, photo booth applications and other attractions where customized souvenirs are desired. The DS-RX1HS provides additional print sizes up to 6×8 inches, including 2×6-inch photo strips and 6×6-inch square prints.
In addition, the DNP DS80 and DS820A make images as large as 8×12-inches. The DS820A also features the latest generation thermal heads and handles multiple print sizes from 8×4 to 8×12 inches. The DS80 prints only 8×10 and 8×12 images, with a protective lamination layer to resist fingerprints, water and fading.
DNP’s flagship printer, the DS620A, measures only 10.8×14.4×6.7 inches. Its small footprint makes it easy to stack additional printers for higher print volume. The printer produces 2×6-inch photo strips and up to 6×8-inch prints, including new 5×5- and 6×6-inch square prints.
Hi-Touch Imaging Technologies
With U.S. offices in Walnut, California, Hi-Touch Imaging promotes two of its newest dye-sub printers for photo booth applications and on-location event photography. The HiTi P525L is the first photo printer to use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to recognize the RFID media chip. As a result, it is not necessary to change the media key when changing paper. Each media roll yields 500 4×6-inch prints. Photographers can print wirelessly from their computer or smartphone using the HiTi Printbiz app.
In addition, the HiTi P910L prints 8×10- and 8×12-inch photos. The printer combines premium quality images and high speed with more options on print sizes from 8×4 up to 8×12. m
Fujifilm North America
“The requirements for a good event printer include compact size, light weight, portability, reliability and good quality images,” says Steve Vallario, Fujifilm North America’s director of product management, Hardware Solutions. “Depending upon the venue, speed is also an issue. Fujifilm offers multiple portable printers, including two exceptionally popular models—the ASK-300 dye-sub and Frontier-S DX100 dry lab.
“The ASK-300 is a dye-sublimation printer that handles 2×6-, 3.5×5-, 4×6-, 5×7- and 6×8-inch prints at a speed of 12.3 seconds per 4×6 print,” says Vallario. “For other events, we offer the Frontier-S DX100, which goes well in those markets where the emphasis is on quality. They’re both excellent printers and they’re both great for the event market. However, there are certain advantages with one over the other, depending on the type of output desired.
“Photographers are able to achieve better quality prints with the DX100. And there are advantages with regard to consumable pricing—especially with the larger print sizes,” Vallario adds. “The DX100 is also more versatile. For example, on 6-inch wide paper, you can print everything from 4×6 to 6×6 inches, as well as print 6×20 panoramic prints. You can also print any combination of that width.”
Fujifilm sells roll paper for the DX100 in 4-inch, 5-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch widths. Therefore, it’s also capable of printing 8×10, 8×12 and banners up to 8×39 inches.
Unlike aqueous inkjet printers sold for home and office use, the DX100 employs a Piezoelectric inkjet system, which is faster than aqueous and produces instantly dry prints. The print speed is 10 seconds for a 4×6 and 30 seconds for an 8×10. Print resolution is 720×720 dpi or 1,440×720 dpi in HQ mode.
Mitsubishi Electric Visual and Imaging Systems
MEVIS additionally has a popular series of dye-sub printers for event imaging. It ranges from the CP-K60DW-S—a compact, lightweight model capable of printing five print sizes from a single roll of 6-inch media—to the CP-3800DW. The latter is a three-color progressive dye-sub printer with an 8-inch roll feed, surface lamination and large-format printing capability up to 8×12 inches.
Mitsubishi’s CP-D80DW is a step up from its best-selling CP-K60DW-S, with the same basic features but higher print quality and print capacity per roll. The D80DW incorporates the company’s new rewind function. It allows operators to go back and print on the unused portion of a 6×8-inch ink ribbon when making 4×6-inch prints. It prints two 2×6-, 4×6-, 6×6- and 6×8-inch prints all from the same roll of media.
Moreover, the CP-D90DW is designed for photo booth and event photography, with a compact footprint and multiple connectivity options. Small, low-powered devices and computers like a Stick PC, tablet or smartphone can provide wireless printing and build a cost-efficient print station with the company’s SelFone Wireless Print Station. Features include built-in image processors, auto image optimizers and the rewind feature.
Headquartered in Somerset, New Jersey, Sinfonia Photo distributes dye-sublimation printers by the Japanese manufacturer Kanematsu Corp. Among the company’s most popular printer models are the Sinfonia CS2 (originally Shinko Color Stream CS2) 6-inch compact printer. It is capable of producing 4×6-inch prints in less than 11 seconds. Its CE1 8-inch compact printer outputs 8×8-, 8×10- and 8×12-inch prints in about 30 seconds.
In addition, the Sinfonia S3 6-inch high-capacity digital photo printer produces 4×6-, 6×6-, 5×7- and 6×8-inch prints, as well as 2×6-inch strips. The S3 is the next generation of Sinfonia’s CHC-S2145 digital photo printer.
As an early adopter of on-site digital printing, Gump tried several printers, including dye-sublimation models. However, he felt limited by the print sizes available from each.
“I needed something that I could print packages with,” he says. “You know, an 8×10, two 5x7s and eight wallet prints. Then I was introduced to the Fujifilm DX100 inkjet printer. It had everything from 3.5×5 inches up to panoramic 8x24s, which was what my clients were asking for. I finally had a printer that would do it all. Four years later, it is still my go-to printer. I keep it on my desk and when my clients request an 8×10 reorder, or a panoramic print, I print it up and send it out the same day.”
One of the most notable new products for event printers is DNP’s new Metallic and Silver Pearl Luxury media for the DS620A and DS820A dye-sub printers. “Inkjet media suppliers struggled to create a metallic paper that would produce the same high-quality look as Kodak’s Endura Metallic color negative paper,” says Behen. “No one ever thought that a dye-sub paper company could do it, and it’s incredible. DNP’s dye-sub metallic paper very much rivals the original paper Kodak came out with years ago.”
Panoramic printing on dye subs is another significant improvement in event printers. “The Mitsubishi CP-D90DW-P and the DNP DS820 both do panoramic printing,” says Behen. “It’s awesome for group events like a family reunion or a corporate event, because now you can print group photos on-site with a dye-sub printer and they look beautiful.”
“The event photography market is growing. It’s healthy, and there’s still significant demand for on-site event photo output,” adds Fujifilm’s Steve Vallario. “Photographers are realizing there’s money to be made by not only capturing the image but providing that customer with the output.
“We so often hear of photographers providing their customers with digital files and leaving it up to them to go out and create output elsewhere. We’ve found that it’s more sentimental to see your child’s image printing right in front of you. You’re more likely to purchase it on the spot rather than take that digital file home and fulfill it elsewhere.”