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Posted: 3/14/2018 8:51 AM by
Sara Hill | with 0 comment(s)
Fourteen years ago, Christy Cohen, owner of CLT Photo, was a photographer looking for a way to give her customers more than digital files and paper prints. She spent eight years working as the production manager at a local photo lab and saw photo gift items offered to customers through Kodak. Wanting to offer these kinds of products herself, she researched methods of imprinting and found sublimation to be the technology that best suited her needs.
“I learned about sublimation through a user forum in the days before Facebook and followed it for several months before I purchased anything,” Cohen said. “I started with an Epson printer, upgraded to a larger model, then bought refillable cartridges and tried a bulk system. Because photography was just a part time side job, my printer clogged constantly. I spent a lot of time priming, refilling and cleaning heads.”
Just when Cohen was ready to give up, she learned that Ricoh printers had a better track record with sublimation production and decided to take a chance. She says, “It was the best investment ever for me!”
“I have periods of time when my printer can sit idle for weeks in my basement office,” Cohen said. “I just leave it on, cover it to keep the dust off, and don't worry if it will work when I need it. I don't have the time to spend refilling ink or cleaning heads. I would rather be designing or spending time with my daughter. Sawgrass ink gives me consistent color, so I would never think about using any other brand.”
Today, Cohen focuses her work on capturing weddings, events and location portraits. She also has a large collection of mostly local scenic images. Cohen has found a healthy local market upselling her customers with sublimated gifts and selling her scenic images at local craft fairs on tote bags, shirts, tile and neoprene coasters, magnets, FRP keychains, mousepads, cutting boards, mugs and more.
“I have one large two-day craft fair in my town that I have been attending for over 10 years. I gain new clients every year from this show. I was able to make back my investment that first year since I had more free time to press items and create more inventory. I have one new client that orders at least 20 ornaments for herself and family every Christmas.”
“My time is valuable to me,” she explained. “If I have to spend an extra hour fidgeting with my printer or trying to get the right color, it is costing me money. Pricing my products properly ensures this system pays for itself. I used to spend at least double my time with the previous setup. My printer sits in a cold, uninsulated basement office in New England winters, and is always ready to go when I am.”
Cohen also stresses that quality and consistency in producing her end-products is of utmost value to her.
“I want to present my clients with a high-quality product, so I only use high-quality inks and substrates to create them,” she said. “I know the Sawgrass inks will give me consistent, accurate colors, and they will always flow properly through my printer.”
To those considering getting into the sublimation business or adding sublimation to their existing business, Cohen urges quality and consistency over price.
“For those looking to start a small side business or just as a hobby, I recommend the Sawgrass system for ease of use and low maintenance. The print drivers created for the system give you consistent prints, and the self-maintenance of the printers ensures you won't be spending your day tending to your printer. I can send the exact same image file to my sublimation, inkjet or pro lab printer and have consistent results. When I create a custom gift for a portrait client, I know it will match the quality of their professional prints.”
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