Since I’m at this for a long time, I thought I’d write a bit about my favorite suppliers.
Stuff I regularly buy: Cardboard, cardboard and more cardboard. Fragile Don’t Drop stickers. Tons of packaging tape and dispensers. White gloves. Mailers and more mailers.
What I like about them I can say in a few words: If you place an order before 5 p.m. you are almost 100% sure it will arrive via ground the following day. The web site keeps track of the items you’ve ordered, so for me, that’s a great plus as I’m basically ordering the same stuff over and over. The strategy they use is having warehouses all over the country, so this cuts down on shipping costs, and enables the ultra quick delivery.
They tell you how much the package will weigh, which is a big deal for me since the UPS guy often begs for help schlepping it up the two flights to my apartment; and it’s nice to know ahead of time if I’m going to be schlepping with him.
It’s not a place to order five cartons. In fact I don’t think you can order five cartons. Most cardboard is going to be 40 or 50 items at a time. They get five Beckerman stars and have no faults that I can see. During the recession they began to waive UPS over-sized shipping prices which was a time for me to stock up on stuff that normally costs a lot to ship.
Archival tape (to tape the back and front of mats together). Archival tabs for attaching the print to the backing. And of course, mats. They are only missing one size mat that I need, 7.5 inch x 11.5 inch opening on 16 x 20 mat. But I’ve only found custom places to do that, so I ended up buying 7.5 x 11.5 opening on 12 x 16 mat which seems to be the standard that everyone has. Clear bags. And other odds and ends such as blades, erasers for removing a smudge on a mat, yes they also have white gloves, and their website is easy to use and keep track of your orders. Nowhere as fast in terms of turnaround time as ULINE but nobody is that fast.
They are expensive. I only use them for some archival item that is a one-time order only. But on the other hand, they have a wide selection of easy to assemble frames, and once in a while I’ll point a customer in their direction.
All my paper and ink comes from them. They are located in Jersey and for me, this means that I always get next day service even with Fedex ground. Their customer service is the best. They regularly have sales, and the owner informs me when new beta fine art papers are coming out, which is how I ended up being a beta tester for the Crane/Museo silver rag.
Given that they are shipping expensive paper, it’s important to note that I have never received a damaged shipment from them (and I’ve been with them now for a long time). Best thing – is when they have a paper sale. Example, when they did a sale on Epson Fiber Gloss F paper a few months ago, they had limited it to two sizes. It was a nice juicy sale price, something like 40% off, and I called and asked if there was any way they could offer the same discount on the larger (24×30) paper, and sure enough, they got back to me within a few minutes and said – no problem. I really stocked up then – though I’m going through the big paper faster than expected and hoping they’ll have another Epson paper sale soon.
They also get five Beckerman stars. Both for turnaround time, and for friendly customer service. They are geared towards the fine art printer – rather than the typical consumer of inkjet paper. So they are a good place to check when new fine art papers are announced.
And when I get an order for a print that is larger than I can do (my printer can go up to 24 inches wide by whatever length), I use West Coast Imaging. Again, I can only say that they are professionals who are used to dealing with finicky artists (myself included) and I personally like them because they are perfectionists. Example, just recently I had to do a 40 x 60 inch print and I also needed it rushed. They turned the thing around in a few days (on silver rag paper) and called me to say that the print they had done the night before had some flaws in it, and that they were going to reprint it. I mean – that’s what I’m looking for. A lab that will take the time to do it right because frankly, half the time I am drop shipping the print directly to the customer who may have paid a thousand dollars or more for the print. And after several years with them, I’m confident enough to have them take the last look at it before it goes to the customer.
Once you get into pro labs, I’m sure there are many that are equally good – but they are worth mentioning because I have had nothing but good experiences with them; and if you want an example of professional packaging – order a large print from them.
It’s taken a long time to learn which suppliers to use, and so I just thought I’d pass it on to you. Feel free to add other suppliers that you’ve used and are very happy with. I’m not including places like B&H for the obvious reason that they are well known and not really in the supply business; though of course I get all my camera gear from them.
And of course since I wrote this about vendors, I have been using Fotomoto for most of my selling and printing. Fotomoto offers a simple way to add a cart and printing capabilities to an existing website. I have my ups and downs with them. When you outsource your printing, there are always going to be some issues. With Fotomoto (as of this writing) I am still waiting for them to offer the ability to have the user send the print to the photographer for his approval, stamp, signature etc. before sending it on to the customer. I feel that once this is working, many of my issues with them will go away and I’ll be a happy guy.
The reason this is so important is that I am mostly selling “fine art.” I’m not selling wedding photography. And I’m selling mostly black and white images and these are by far the most difficult to get printed correctly. So I really do want to see them before they go to the customer.