Prolab, the Brisbane-based professional lab, has emerged from the Covid pandemic with an innovative new Wall Art business, leveraging its hard-won mastery of colour management and premium printing to offer the general public an astonishing array of custom prints in canvas, acrylic or metallic substrates.
Prolab was established as a professional laboratory in 1976. It is one of the few Australian pro labs using the industry-standard ROES software from Softworks. ROES offers the user the ability to select a lab ‘product’ and precisely specify crops and rotations on their images within that product. The user simply chooses a folder of images, and starts selecting from listed products in which to put them.
The new Prolab Wall Art business has launched with a comprehensive – make that massive – range of image content and printing options. Prolab has stepped beyond the photographic millieu to offer images in fine art categories such as Impressionist, Contemporary, Abstract, Beaches and Landscapes. Photography is a standalone browsing category, as well as there being photographic content sprinkled among the other categories.
Adobe Stock is the source of the hundreds of thousands of content options. The new business was enabled through tight integration (via an Adobe API) with both Adobe Stock for artwork selection; and the finely-honed Prolab printing workflow system for fulfilment.
‘The construction of the core architecture of the new site utilises an Adobe API, with the licencing fee factored in at the point of purchase,’ explained Prolab’s digital services manager, Brian Peel.
‘The content is virtually endless and changes dynamically on a day-to-day basis. We have included some curator filters in the back-end development process to ensure that the search criteria better cater to our prospects queries.’
If there’s a gripe, it’s that the customer is almost overwhelmed by choice, but it’s easy to whittle options down to a more manageable range using Search and a selection of Filter tools. And of course there’s an option of uploading your own digital image file.
Once the Wall Art business is established, Prolab sees it as having potential to provide a monetizing platform for its professional photographer clients, and perhaps win new ones even beyond photography. ‘Eventually, we would like to explore hosting our established clients’ images on this platform to sell on their behalf as an attractive inclusion.
‘One of the principal aims was to develop a website that attracts a large audience and leverage this to seduce established fine art prospects to exhibit their works on the platform.’
He said Prolab’s reputation as a high-quality production house with a strong focus on consistency, quality, and detail should assist in attracting a broader spectrum of artists looking for a premium platform.
Rearing to go
The new Wall Art business is equipped with all the ‘bells and whistles’ required to encourage and engage customers. Ordering a print from Prolab Wall Art is a creative process in itself, as customers not only have a deep well of content from which to choose, but a (dare we say ‘unprecedented’) range of tools and techniques at their disposal to create a unique item of wall decor – every product is a ‘one-off’.
‘That is the beauty of wall art and part of the specific core functions of the new site,’ explained Brian Peel. ‘We have taken a strong focus on pivoting to what the consumer wants.
‘How can we provide them with the ideal wall art print to address their unique decor requirements? One of the convenient functions of the site is the user can curate their search by specifying the type of picture they are after, whether it is a picture, illustration, or vector graphic and choosing to have the image set up as panoramic or any other aspect ratios.
‘They can select the orientation of the image either as a horizontal, vertical or square format and decide (via a filter) whether there are people included in the image or not. If their requirements are for large format printing, the file size selection tool is essential for printed wall murals.
One of the more sophisticated tools is a colour picker to match artwork to the environment in which it will be installed (pictured right): ‘It will help to identity colour matching to suit home decor applications. They can use the colour picker to find suitable coloured photographs, vectors or illustrators artworks for the colour scheme of their home or office.’
He added that there was a selection of supporting articles on the website to assist customers in the ‘dark arts’ of colour matching, complementary and contrasting colours, etc.
Customers can even take a smartphone snap of their wallspace and upload it to the website to get a more exact idea of what the finished artwork will look like in their home or office.
‘The application will superimpose the selected wall art print right on their wall, so they can get a feel for the ratio, sizing, and suitable matching colour scheme before ordering,’ Brian explained.
The notion of incorporating a wall art business into the infrastructure of an established professional laboratory seems obvious after it has been made reality, but the Prolab initiative is unique within the current professional photographic laboratory domain.
‘Others provide a similar service, but not with the quality and collection of products that we plan to offer,’ said Brian.
‘Essentially this came about by the desire to broaden our audience,’ Brian explained. ‘We felt this could be an exciting avenue to explore, to showcase our products and services to better facilitate new prospects without alienating our existing clientele.
‘We conducted extensive market research and talked to various industry representatives about trending services. We also noticed a steady increase in the desire of customers to produce a particular picture, but not necessarily having a good version or any image asset of that subject.
Having built the Prolab Wall Art business with, to borrow architectural jargon, ‘good bones’, the immediate challenge now is to get the word out.
‘Initially,that will mainly be via online enquiry, as there is a vast array of search criteria on wall art and other relatable products that is activity queried on a month to month basis, which has assisted in integrating this service into the business,’ said Brian.
Audience-building tools will include ‘social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, followed up with direct email marketing and combined with SEO and affiliated targeted sponsorship arrangements.’
‘Our convenient location in Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, will also help to play a pivotal role in attracting potential clients to view our showroom and see first hand the level of quality of our products. We still see this as an essential aspect to secure business, as customers generally like to know the quality of a finished product before purchasing.’
Prolab is heavily invested in Epson wide format inkjet printers, ink and papers, with other options includinbg Hahnemuhle German Etching and Photo Rag and Ilford Photo Rag. Canvas Prints come either as unstretched or stretched gallery wrapped canvases, and Prolab also offers Custom Framing, Floater Frame and Block Mounting finishing options.
Acrylic and Metal prints are produced on a SwissQ UV flatbed printer directly to substrates, allowing for a more efficient workflow without compromising quality. It’s able to produce finished artwork as large as 2.5 x 2m in one piece – with big wall murals among the Wall Art offerings.
If you’ve read this far, you will have noticed the pricing in a few of the screen shots he have featured above. Brian said this ‘falls within the mid tier of pricing for professional print products within our industry. ‘
‘Our objective will be to provide some attractive entry-level products to not discourage most users from making a purchase. However, our flagship products, such as our Metal Prints and Acrylic Prints, are competitively priced for their respective class.’