PetaPixel

Online Photography Marketplace ‘Crated’ Offers an End-to-End Platform Like Never Before

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When it comes to wanting to sell physical prints of your photographs online, there are but a few platforms. And of the platforms that do exist, many of them seem to fall short when it comes to offering everything you need in one, simple workflow.

Seeing this as a ripe opportunity, an incredibly talented team consisting of the co-founders of DNA 11, CanvasPop and dozens others have created an online marketplace that offers an end-to-end platform for artists to leverage. It’s called Crated, and it has the potential to be a game-changer for photographers who want to sell their work online.

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What is it?

Summed up quite nicely by the company itself, Crated is “an end-to-end online platform for digital artists and photographers to easily display, promote and sell their art pieces around the world.”

However, it’s not so much about what it is, as it is about why it’s different and what sets it apart from the other online marketplaces aimed at artists.

Why is it different?

It’s worth pointing out from that get-go that Crated has been designed with a focus on photographers. Whereas other online marketplaces such as Society6 and RedBubble are focused more on illustrations and graphic design, Crated focuses on the photographers from beginning to end, which leads me to the next point.

It’s an end-to-end platform. The team behind Crated has a history on both the technological side of things, as well as the manufacturing and logistics side of things — something you don’t often find in a company of its size. This means that rather than being a hosting platform that happens to sell prints, or a printer who happens to build a hosting platform, Crated was built from the ground up with every step of the process in mind.

The technical term for such an operation is vertical integration, but to put it in layman’s terms: because Crated controls every aspect of the platform — from the on-boarding process, to setting up your online gallery, to printing and shipping off the final prints — the quality is higher and the prices are lower, for both photographers and purchasers.

Without running through the entire platform though, I wouldn’t be doing it justice. So below I’ll briefly break down each aspect of Crated and explain why it stands head and shoulders above the competition and offers us photographers a platform to the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

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Website/Galleries

One of my biggest gripes as someone who dearly admires great design is the horrible, horrible web design of other platforms out there. After speaking with Adrian Salamunovic on the phone for a while, he left no doubt in my mind that this was something they meticulously researched and focused on when creating Crated. And it shows.

Crated’s web platform is designed to be responsive, dynamic and retina-ready — meaning that whether you’re looking at it on a 27” iMac or a 4” iPhone screen, the website is going to make sure all of the content is displayed exactly as it should be, without sacrificing any features or cluttering up the limited real estate of a mobile device’s screen.

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One major aspect of this that has been overlooked by every other platform out there is the dynamic grids that show the images in the galleries. As photographers, when we shoot an image and crop it in post, we compose it specifically how we want our viewers to see it. Upon uploading it to most online marketplaces where potential buyers, collectors or curators are going to actually see them, the platforms show only a square crop of the image, often centered.

This is frequently a side-effect of engineering laziness, as it’s much easier to create a responsive grid for perfectly square images than it is to do for images of different aspect ratios. But Crated didn’t skimp when it came to development. In fact, Salamunovic specifically shared with me that this was one of the most difficult aspects to perfect, as the development and technology involved in creating such an impressive display is something that takes months, if not a year or so to perfect.

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Not only are the grids that the images are displayed in gorgeous and fit for devices of any screen size, but the overall UI is extremely well done, presenting only what you need and nothing you don’t. The typography is clean, the overlays are subtle (but still very visible) and user profiles are simple, but precise.

Even the page where you go about viewing individual photos and ordering prints is extremely well designed — something that can not be said about most, if not all, other online marketplaces.

Curation & Community

As much as creating an incredible platform can help determine the success of said platform, without users who interact with one another and benefit from the platform, nothing will come of it. So, beyond the development and manufacturing aspects of Crated, the team has also integrated a solid community in such a way that this isn’t about individual artists, but the community as a whole, sharing, creating, selling and curating work.

They achieved this, first, through quality social integration. Most online marketplaces are directed towards only the artistic communities that visit them, not necessarily the “average joe/jane” that’s online. To fix this problem, Crated has added a simple but effective social element that allows for simple sharing of images through the largest social media platforms out there: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

The buttons for sharing content, be it a single image or an entire portfolio, aren’t overly invasive; and sharing to the respective social sites is done in a professional but friendly manner, with the inclusion of proper ‘featured images’ automatically being displayed.

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Not only is the obvious social integration there, but underneath the platform is SEO optimization that makes sure your work is getting the greatest amount of exposure it can, linking it straight to your profile/gallery. As search engines are becoming more and more picky about the content they create, this will help keep you on top of the listings.

The community aspect is also strengthened by the inclusion of curation in two forms. The first is curation by Crated, while the second is curation by users.

The curation by Crated is quite simple. They make sure to reward the photographers and artists who create stunning work by personally creating exclusive collections from a conglomeration of individuals within the Crated community. As of this writing, there are eight curated galleries featuring work from some of the most talented photographers out there, but as the Crated community grows, so will the amount of work and the number of quality Crated-curated galleries.

The curation by the users is the more interesting aspect, though. As you’re browsing through the work of other photographers and artists, Crated has included the ability to add pieces of art to your own, curated collection. How you do it is akin to ‘favoriting’ or ‘liking’ a photo on Instagram or Flickr, with the simple click or tap of a heart button that’s displayed on the photograph when you’re hovering over it.

This form of individual curation allows artists to follow and discover one another by creating collections using various work. You can use it as a ‘shopping cart’ of sorts for work you want to purchase down the road, or you can use it as a collection of inspiration, where you can pick apart certain aspects and aesthetics of other artists’ photography.

Too often we think that photography, especially the marketing and selling aspects of it, is a solo endeavor. An endeavor where other photographers or artists are competition. But in reality, it’s usually other artists who are most appreciative of the work that’s shared be most eager to share that work with others.

This thoughtful addition of curation for individual users by Crated makes the most of that, allowing you to not only privately make use of the collection, but share what inspires you with both outsiders and other Crated users.

Printing

I feel like I’ve said this for every piece of Crated, but I mean it every time I’ve said it and I certainly mean it this time: the printing and fulfillment aspect of Crated, in my opinion, sets it apart from every other option on the market.

Aimed mainly at photographers, but also catering to other artists, the team behind Crated put their five years of experience with CanvasPop to use making sure that the printing of your photographs and artwork is carefully done as to reflect the quality of image being displayed.

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The archival prints and canvases are stretched and framed by hand, personally signed by the crafts(wo)men who built them, and meticulously inspected in their North American facilities — one in Las Vegas and one in Canada. They use 300gsm matte fine art paper for their prints, acid-free mats and solid wood frames that come in three finishes and are paired with ultra-low glare plexiglass.

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As for the canvases, if you’ve used CanvasPop, you know that the quality is above and beyond what anything short of a dedicated printing company such as WHCC offers. 20.5 mil bright white poly-cotton blend with zero additives or agents means your canvases will look beautiful even a century down the road.

Topping the printing options off are the necessary details that will get your work up and on the wall: all framed prints and canvases come with a wire attached, protective bumpers and a nail/hook packet.

Sales/Costs/Profits

The pricing model and how sales work is probably the aspect of Crated that many photographers are going to be most interested in, and, in all honesty, it’s going to come off as extremely confusing when you first use the service. That’s because Crated uses a different system than any other service out there, but after playing around with it for a while, you’ll have to take my word for it that it makes sense for the sake of overall simplicity.

What Crated has done is absolutely brilliant, because it turns what is otherwise one of the most confusing aspects of print/canvas sales into one of the most simple setups there is.

Upon uploading a photograph to your gallery, Crated automatically takes a look at the aspect ratio and determines various print sizes that will be available to customers in small, medium, large and extra-large.

This means that, if you upload a 4×5 ratio image, your print offerings will be 8×10”, 21×26”, 29×35” and 35×43”; if you upload most DSLRs’ standard ratio of 2×3, your image sizes will be 8×12”, 21×32”, 29×45” and 35×54”. It doesn’t stop at just normal ratios though. You can upload an insane, 20-image panorama and Crated will automatically come up with the size offerings.

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Thus, to simplify the pricing process, since so much complicated math is going on behind the scenes, what Crated has done is utilize a mark-up method. Using percentages between 30% and 300%, you can choose the mark-up of your images — either as a whole, or individually — thereby determining how much you will make off a given print.

When you initially create your gallery, the default setting is a 30% mark-up. But by going into your gallery’s backend, you can change the settings for various products, as you can see in the image below. Right now, the numbers shown reflect the retail price that customers will receive, as well as “Your Margin,” which is what you will be making from each print sale.

If you want to know exactly how the pricing is set by Crated, this is how it works. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick with an easy number. The default markup put in place is 30% and the default retail for a small 8X10” print is $10. Half of every sale is what it costs for Crated to print/frame/wrap and ship the product. After that half is deducted from the retail cost, the photographer gets 80% of the profits while Crated only takes 20%. That means, with the default 30% markup on an 8×10” print, out of the $10 it retails for, $5 of it goes to the production and shipping costs, $2 of it goes to Crated, and $3 goes to the photographer.

Overall, a good bit of math that goes on behind the scenes, but it simplifies the process a ton for the sellers. All you have to do (if you want to change the markup at all) is change the percentage of the markup for each type of product and the algorithms Crated has implemented into their platform takes care of the rest. No more worrying about calculating how much printing from a certain lab will cost, no more having to deal with shipping, no more having to keep track of orders. All you do is share your work, determine the markup, and beautifully crafted prints will be on their way.

Backend

The back-end for photographers is stunning in its own regard. Set up similarly to many CMS (such as WordPress, Squarespace, etc), you have access to analytics, sales, tools for marketing your Crated gallery, and you can even order prints for yourself at wholesale costs.

By offering these analytics pages, you’ll better understand who is visiting your gallery, when they’re visiting your gallery, and how many image views end up converting into sales. It takes a nice, macro look at the interactions that take place, giving you more insight than any other platform offers.

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Summary

Honestly, it’s difficult to summarize Crated, because although the idea of an online marketplace isn’t something new, the underlying constructs and ideas that have gone into making this end-to-end service and platform are on a level that I’ve never seen before, even after three years of writing about companies who try to do just that.

It takes the hassle out of every step of the process. Every single step. Crated turns creating an online marketplace for your photography work into a process that’s more simple than creating a photo set on Flickr, which we all know how to do by now. The amount of time and effort that has gone into creating Crated is mind-blowing, which is why I’ve put so much effort into explain every detail as well as I can in a single article.

Our community here on PetaPixel is an incredible one — despite the occasional troll or ten — and Crated was kind enough to share their new service with us and our readers first.

As of this moment, you can head on over to their sign-up page, create an account, start uploading images to your gallery and play around with the back-end a bit to better understand what I’ve written above. No credit card is needed to sign up and there aren’t any transaction fees.

You can currently order products from the site, but it doesn’t open to the public until May 21st, meaning you have some time to set up your gallery, determine your markup, and get everything settled beforehand.

Go sign up, start uploading your work to your gallery and let’s give Crated a nice little bandwidth hug from PetaPixel, since we get first dibs on it. If you have any questions, you can check out their FAQ and keep up with them on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and/or Instagram.