[Updated June 8, 2011; see comments at the bottom]
I recently switched my website hosting to Photoshelter, a hosting company targeted at photographers. Photoshelter supports direct image sales on their hosted sites though a number of print vendors, and I’m now using BWC Photo Imaging to supply my prints. This means that when someone wants a print of mine (editor’s note: shouldn’t that be a very big “if”, not “when”?) they can peruse the options online, order what they want directly from my website, pay via PayPal or credit card, and have the print shipped directly to them from the printer1.
To test out the service I ordered a wide variety of prints, ranging in size from 4×6″ through 12×18″, along with a photo mug. Ordering was easy (click “buy” on the image’s page, choose size, choose cropping, lather, rinse, repeat), though there was an unspecified problem with my order after I placed it that held it up for a few days. I never found out what the problem was, but Photoshelter’s support looked into it quickly, and a week and a half after I placed the order it arrived on my doorstep.
The items came in three different containers: one for the mug, a roll for large prints, and a flat box for smaller prints.
The box of smaller prints was exceptionally well packed.
Everything survived the FedEx elephants perfectly; I’m extremely impressed with BWC’s packaging. And the print quality is great; my 30D’s prints look gorgeous even at the somewhat-pushing-it 12×18″ size.
A few things were a bit disappointing, though. While the black and white printed version of this Amoeba image came out perfectly, the mug printed up fairly soft / low contrast. The mug looks decent all by itself:
But when compared to the print, the difference is obvious:
Photoshelter described one product as a “4×8″ greeting card with envelope”, which got me pretty excited, since I’d love to have some custom printed cards to send to folks as thank-you notes. Unfortunately, all these turned out to be were 4×8″ prints on regular photo paper with 4×8″ envelopes included. While the printing was fine, they’re useless as greeting cards because the backs have a serial number printed on them and also have the paper company’s logo splattered across it (it’s just the back of a typical photo paper). I’ve now removed this printing option from my sales profiles, and Photoshelter has already changed the description of the product.
And, finally, Photoshelter’s shopping cart allows users to select the print size when they place their order. Since all of my images can be ordered at any print size, it’s likely that there will be mismatches between the proportions of a print and the proportions of an image (for example, an image sized to fit perfectly on a 5×7″ print will not fit perfectly on a 4×6″ print). So, Photoshelter gives purchasers an option: either have the image cropped to fit the paper precisely (cutting off a portion of the image you see online), or have the image printed at its original proportions, leaving white bars around the image; purchasers can even customize the cropping themselves in the Photoshelter cart. Oddly, though, even though I selected to have a few images printed uncropped (with white bars around them), all of the images I got were cropped.
Overall I’m happy with my first Photoshelter-mediated BWC order, and hope I can get the mug printing and cropping issues solved soon.
1 While this should theoretically require no input from me, the problem is that there’s currently no way to specify different sharpening values for each image. So, since I also sell images digitally for use in print works, I upload my images with relatively little sharpening. But for printing, especially matte printing, the images need additional sharpening. So, right now I’ve got Photoshelter set to alert me when an order is placed, at which time I’ll upload a properly-sharpened image to send to the printer.
Update June 8, 2011: Photoshelter’s customer support on this issue has been excellent. They report that they’ve determined what caused the items to not be printed at the original proportions when requested, and they’ve placed a full replacement order for all the items that weren’t cropped correctly. Apologies were profuse, and they’re looking into the mug printing issue as well.