(The following is excerpted from 99 Ways to Make Money from Your Photos , by the editors of Photopreneur.)
New inks made of food dye and special paper made of rice flour mean that it’s now possible to print photos that are edible. You might not want to serve one up as a meal — but they can be placed on the top of cakes as a special form of decoration.
The printing systems used to produce edible images were originally intended to enable families to print pictures of their loved ones and place them on birthday and wedding cakes. But this medium is now increasingly being using by cake-sellers to produce eye-catching goodies for all manner of events and parties.
Take a look at your local cake-sellers to see what kinds of cakes they produce and who might be interested in selling your images. Once you’ve figured out your potential market, it’s time to create some edible images.
Edible images are a novelty product that is all about fun. So think out of the box; here are just a few ideas:
- Scoop out the middle of a cake, photograph what’s left from above and place the image on top of a new cake.
- Take a picture of a hand reaching out of the center of the cake to help itself to some of the icing.
- Shoot eight different images and Photoshop them into slices so that people can choose which picture they want to eat.
You can also produce a standard range of landscapes, animals and specialized photos to see what sells for you. At least one cake craft company, for example, offers a mixture of decorative textures and clip-art style cartoons.
Because printing quality tends to be fairly poor, make your images bold and high-concept, rather than intricate and nuanced. Focus on the extent to which your image can help to raise a smile and encourage a customer to buy the cake.
Producing Edible Images
Usually it’s the marketing that causes most of the headaches for photographic products, but in the case of edible images, the production can be a little tricky, too.
The simplest way is to order the prints through a company like Icing Images . Upload your photos and they’ll mail the printed sheets back to you.
But they’re not cheap. A standard sheet costs $13 plus a $5 delivery fee, although additional prints are half price. That still means that a print run of 50 images, for example, would cost $6.73 each. You might be able to negotiate lower prices for bulk orders, but you’ll still be left with a hefty addition to the price of a cake.
A less expensive choice is to produce the images yourself. Icing Images sells production kits as well as the inks themselves, suitable for Canon printers. A complete system, including printer, starts at $399 and runs to $899 for a wide format. Kopykake  also sells edible printing equipment suitable for both Canon and Epson printers, allowing you to produce your own images from home.
Still, with cartridge sets starting at around $50 and rising to more than $100, and the sheets starting at just over a dollar each, it’s important to track the real price of each image to ensure you’re making a profit on each one.
Marketing Your Work
The marketing should be fairly straightforward. Choose some images, print them on rice paper with edible inks, and then take them to a local bakery and ask if they’d be interested in including them as options on the cakes they sell. Stress how much more attractive your images will make their cakes appear and point out how profitable the sheets can be.
You can also supply them with a catalog that they can show clients and print to order.
Add a healthy mark-up to the cake and both of you will profit. Event photographers, too, can offer unique cake images as part of their services.