Old Versus New: Print-on-Demand Technology (or Why I Love Zazzle)

A “hot” journal or notebook

*Note: The photos and designs featured in this article were all created by Developing Focus and can be purchased at our Zazzle store: www.Zazzle.com/DevelopingFocus

When I went to college for training in photojournalism, we were trained “the old way”. We learned the ropes of photography on fully manual cameras, used slide film, dark rooms, and had an entire class on the art of searching online via “Boolean”.

Just a few years later, the world of photography switched to digital, and everybody went online. I missed out on learning new technologies from school, but dreams I have had since Jr. High (that’s right, I went to a “Jr. Highschool”, not Middle School) about my photography are now much more attainable.

Jigsaw puzzle

Twelve years ago, in order to get your photos featured on greeting cards, calendars, magnets, etc. you needed to cold call and then mail printed photos to stock agencies and card companies and wait for a month or more to hear back that they were no longer accepting unsolicited art. If you wanted to feature your work as fine art, you had to have it professionally printed, mounted, and framed (VERY expensive), and then cold call various galleries, restaurants, etc. Some places even required the artist (some still do) to pay a fee to display their work to the public eye.

We have a whole collection of “Famous” products

With the advent of print-on-demand companies like Red Bubble, Zazzle, and Cafe Press, artists can create their own galleries and shops for free, design to their heart’s content, and in some cases like Zazzle, set their own royalties. The downside of course, is that you still have to market your online shop and competition is fierce, but I absolutely LOVE seeing my photos and designs come to life on products that people will use and enjoy daily.

I also love the idea of print-on-demand technology, which simply means that the printing company (i.e. Zazzle, Red Bubble, etc.) makes a product only when it is ordered by a paying customer. This equates to far less overhead for artists, freeing them from the high costs of personally paying for printing, framing, etc. as well as the costs stemming from maintaining and storing an inventory. This method of print-on-demand enables the artist to experiment more, honing their craft while not straining their pocketbooks or the environment with waste, not to mention the savings to customers from all that decreased overhead.

A customizable greeting card

You most likely won’t make a ton of money with these companies, and like any business off or online, you have to build them slowly over time. Still, it is a labor of love for me when I create my “practical, printable products.”

So what do you think? Are you an artist who has succeeded using one method or another, or maybe both? Are you a customer who prefers to shop online or offline for fine art, calendars, and cards? Leave a comment below.

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