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Photo Face Mask Round Up: A New Potential Revenue Stream for Photographers

Back in March, Globe Newswire reported that the global facemask market is expected to reach $21.2 billion in sales by 2026. For many photographers, this represents an opportunity to try out a new revenue stream as other sources of income dry up. So, how do you get started selling face masks featuring your photos? We’ll take a look at a few vendors on the market.

In the days since Coronavirus first hit, masks have been one of the most talked-about lines of defense. While highly politicized in the US, countries around the globe quickly latched on to pro-mask campaigns, suggesting that wearing masks was one small thing citizens could do for each other to help protect communities against rising COVID-19 cases. Plenty of research and guidelines have been released over the past few months expressing the extent to which masks can help protect us from catching the Coronavirus and actually decrease the severity of cases by limiting exposure. One recent study actually suggested that with proper mask use, air travel is one of the safest things you can do right now.

Early on, masks were hard to come by in the US, as CDC officials urged Americans to save the limited supply of N95s and surgical masks for frontline workers. Small cottage industries popped up to help supply communities with hand-made cloth masks. I pulled out my sewing machine and started making reusable cloth masks for family, friends, and high-risk members of the community using flannel and cotton leftover from previous sewing projects. For many of us, sewing masks felt like one small thing we could do to help protect our communities against the pandemic. Etsy became the new front line.

Eventually, mainstream suppliers like Fruit of the Loom, Old Navy, Cotopaxi, and many others shifted manufacturing to help supply the country with masks. Now, it’s hard to find a retailer who doesn’t carry cloth face masks. While many consumers are happy to source their masks from trusted brands, many still prefer to support small businesses, a sentiment that has the potential to help a lot of struggling photographers as their other sources of revenue dry up. 

Now, there are lots of vendors offering photographers an opportunity to sell face masks printed with their images, but as we’ve learned in the past few months, not all masks are created equal. I created this list of a few photo face mask vendors I’ve found along with the specifications of their masks for easy reference:

Smugmug via EZ Prints

In a recent monthly email from Smugmug, they announced the availability of photo printed face masks through all Smugmug sites. Photography businesses’ customers can customize and order two sizes of masks direct through a photographer’s site. As a Smugmug customer, this is by far the easiest option for me. All I have to do is add the masks to my price lists and anyone browsing my site can purchase masks with their favorite photo from a session or from my fine art image collection.

Mask Specs

  • Made from dual-layer polyester cloth
  • Sizes: Small (4.529” x 6.526”), Large (5” x 7”)
  • Machine wash cold, gentle cycle, no bleach
  • Recommend line dry or machine dry low heat
  • Includes two (2) grommets for ear loop adjustability
  • Not medical grade

Assessment

The CDC recommends facemasks have at least two layers, so this dual-layer mask fits that recommendation. Some studies have suggested that cotton is preferable to polyester, so these masks may not be as effective because of the material. A well-fitted mask is important, so offering two sizes is a great way to make sure masks are sized appropriately. These are machine washable, but only on a cold wash cycle, and a heated dry isn’t recommended, so that may limit how much disinfecting can be achieved in the washing process. 

Zazzle

Photographers can easily set up a merchant account with Zazzle and upload photos to start marketing their images on a variety of products, including face masks. By setting up a merchant account, your products will be available to anyone perusing the Zazzle website, so this is a good opportunity for a bit of passive income. Zazzle offers a few different masks, but two stand out as the most effective.

Type 1: Polyester Mask With Insert Specs 

  • 100% Polyester
  • 2 layers of fabric with optional 3-ply insert
  • One size fits most (7″ x 3.5″)
  • Pleated mask design
  • Over-ear design
  • Adjustable nose wire
  • Machine washable
  • Not medical grade

Assessment

Two layers plus the added option of an insert is great. Again, this mask is 100% polyester, so it may not be the most effective material, and it likely cannot be washed or dried with heat. Nose wires are a great feature for the comfort and fit of a mask. The pleated design is popular, but for photographic printing, it will result in a weird look for images that are representative (family photos, landscapes, etc.). This style might be best suited to an abstract or a pattern photograph.

Type 2: Cotton Polyester Blended Mask Specs

  • 2 layers of fabric. The inside layer is 96% Cotton and 4% Spandex. The outside later is 100% Polyester.
  • One size fits most (7″x5.5″)
  • Pleated mask design
  • Over-ear design
  • Machine washable
  • Not medical grade

Assessment

Two layers fulfill the CDC recommendation. One cotton layer, plus one polyester layer is a better option than 100% polyester masks. Machine washable is again a plus, but with polyester in the mix, it’s unlikely that you can wash or dry with any heat. This mask can be printed edge to edge, so it will work well with most photographic designs.

Threadless

Threadless has been an option for artist merchandising for over 20 years. They’re known for a quality user experience in selling and for high-quality printed products. While most of what you’ll see on the site leans more towards illustration, it is possible for photographers to print their work on merchandise as well. Threadless is donating a portion of mask proceeds to an organization called MedShare.

Mask Specs

  • 100% polyester
  • 2 layers
  • Over-the-ear elastic loop design
  • One size fits most (7.5″ x 4.5″)
  • Sewn in the USA
  • Hand or machine wash in cold water, tumble dry low. For additional cleaning, a steamer or steam setting with an iron is recommended.

Assessment

Two layers fulfill the CDC recommendation. 100% polyester has been shown in some studies to be less effective. Machine washable is again a plus, but the lack of heat in washing is less effective toward sterilization. The option of steaming is a plus. This mask can be printed edge to edge, so it will work well with most photographic designs.

Redbubble

This is another vendor offering easy to set up merchandising for any photographer. Early on in the pandemic, Redbubble was only offering two-layer polyester masks. Recently, they have upped their game and are now offering a cotton option as well. Both options are discussed below.

Fitted 3-Layer Mask Specs

  • 3-layer fitted mask (two inner layers made with soft 100% cotton, outer layer made of 100% polyester)
  • 2 sizes available (regular and small)
  • Nose wire for snug fit
  • Elastic ear loop design
  • Washing with hot water recommended in the FAQs

Assessment

With three layers, this is the best mask yet. Nose wire is a great option for fit and comfort, and the adjustable ear loops will also be helpful. The option to wash in hot water is also a big plus. Because this is a fitted mask, the design isn’t seamless across the front. This design will work best with abstract or patterned photos. 

Flat 2Layer Mask Specs

  • 2 layers (95% soft polyester and 5% spandex)
  • 2 sizes available (regular and small)
  • Elastic ear loop design (7″, non-adjustable)
  • Washing with hot water recommended in the FAQs

Assessment

Similar to other polyester designs, two layers are good but not necessarily the best protection. Because the mask is a single flat piece, any photo will look good printed on this design.

Conclusions

There are plenty of options for photo-printed masks on the market, but the best choice for photographers is the choice that they can most easily fit into their workflow. Smugmug users will have the easiest time incorporating masks into their existing offerings for customers, but the most impressive (based on specs and design alone) is the Fitted 3-Layer Mask by Redbubble. Other options on the market are good, but for the best peace of mind knowing that I’m putting a quality product that fits CDC’s most recent guidelines out there for my customers, I think Redbubble is the way to go.

What about you? Have you started offering photo face masks featuring your work? What vendors do you love? Let us know if we missed any great choices in the comments!


Source
FStoppers.Com

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