SUCH A DEAL!

SuchADealA couple of weeks ago I hatched an idea necessitated by changing markets and buying patterns, but before I tell you about it, let me give you a little insight to my and Saundra’s views.

Saundra and I loathe Madison/5th Avenue marketing. We hate deception, especially in marketing. What makes this doubly bad is we are naturally observant – it seems like every trip to the grocery store results with some sharp advertising practice that gets under our skin. When they advertise, “Same low price,” we may notice the price is the same, but the customer is getting less product than before, or “New packaging!” distracts from the fact that the quantity is less and the price is higher.

So let’s start heading back to the idea, but not quite yet! The photofinishing industry was dealt a double whammy back at the start of the Great Recession. Not only was the economy in turmoil, resulting in less disposable income, but smartphones were being endowed with all kinds of wonderful digital camera functions and the cloud was fast becoming the repository for family archives via social media and cloud storage sites. The result: people are purchasing dramatically less prints than they used to.51 rolls 042916

Recently we have seen a tremendous resurgence in film photography. We still process color and B&W negative film in-house. Several years ago we contemplated dropping the service – we sure are glad we didn’t. We have even bought an extra film processor for insurance. Lots of young photographers are finding the joy and the requisite skill of shooting film, and lots of folks our age are finding old, undeveloped film in all sorts of nooks and crannies.New RichcolorSaundra Film

So….. here’s our dilemma. We have two high production minilabs from years gone by that produce chemically processed prints (silver halide prints). These two DSCF3800minilabs were built to handle large volumes of 35mm roll film. Today we use them mostly for scanning film, which they do better than any other scanners on the market, but without running a respectable amount of prints, the chemicals go out of balance, and needs constant tweaking or replacing.

So here’s our idea: For you 35mm film shooters, let’s make it worth your while to print.

For those of you who bring us 35mm film to develop and scan, we will print 4×6 matte or glossy prints with your rolls for 15 cents each. Our machines need paper running through them, and the labor has already been done when scans are made. Please understand, we can only do this for rolls we have recently developed, before they have been cut and sleeved, so you need to make this decision up front, since we are producing these prints at such a low price.Film

So knowing that Saundra and I hate marketing hype, here’s the straight up deal: between now and Halloween bring it on! For you folks who have been putting off dusting off the camera, we even sell film – come by and grab a couple of rolls – let us help you rekindle the joy of film photography and save more than 25% in the process.

Exciting Opportunities

This coming March FotoTechnika will celebrate its 32nd anniversary of full-time operation.

1987 Collage

1987 Collage

When we opened in 1987, one-hour labs were all the rage. That was before the drugstores, grocery and department stores had one-hour labs in-house, but even so, there were independent photo labs all over town, and they came and went in a hurry. We never intended to follow the transitory one-hour lab business model; we always wanted to provide more customized services, unlike other labs. During our first year, we were told that we would soon be history, but now we are the last lab standing in Northeast Florida. We believe the reason we have outlived the other labs is because of our original vision and philosophy for the business: to bridge the photo and printing industries, and to treat customers’ work as if it were our own.

PMA 1992_2009 2x5Over the years, members of our staff have attended Photo Marketing Association (PMA) and other industry-related tradeshows, from Las Vegas, New Orleans and Atlanta, to Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, and Orlando. The last time Saundra and I went to a PMA trade show was in Las Vegas, 2009. Alas, there are no more PMA shows; the camera manufacturers decided to focus their attention on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), so about six years ago PMA faded away. So, over the last decade, Saundra and I have watched technological improvements from afar.

imageIn the last half of 2018, we received a wake-up call when our longtime employee, Brian Wanta, and Saundra’s sister both passed away unexpectedly. As we and the business both get older, Saundra and I must consider how to keep FotoTechnika going long after we are gone. We’ve watched other photo-related businesses succumb to either sluggish economies or owners’ retirements or deaths, and we don’t want the same thing to happen to the business we have worked so hard to grow. We believe we can prepare for the future and create a succession plan by learning new technologies, investigating new markets, hiring and training additional staff, and by upgrading aging and inefficient equipment. We believe the best way to get that process going is to attend a trade show/conference that specializes in our industry, and luckily there is such an event coming up in March.  IPI-LOGO14-V-large

In 2008 we had become members of an organization called Independent Photo Imagers (IPI), a group of over 600 labs and camera stores, so we attended an IPI Pow-Wow (mini-conference) at the 2009 PMA show. IPI works out special trade arrangements with vendors, but more importantly members share information, techniques and technology with each other. IPI has offered an annual conference/trade show (IPIC) each summer in Henderson, Nevada, just outside Las Vegas, but because of scheduling conflicts we have never been able to attend. This year the event has been rescheduled for the first week in March (usually a much more pleasant time to visit), so we have decided to go. IPI members and staff have been begging us to participate every year, so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity. The IPI Conference is much more than a tradeshow – we will be networking with fellow members, sharing ideas and experiences; and we will also be attending at least a half dozen classes, for in depth training in areas that fit our needs. There are a host of technologies and equipment that we will be able to witness first hand, and they promise that we will learn new tips and tricks for production, in addition to learning how to enhance our web and social media presence. For Saundra and me this will be sort of like going back to college again (but just for three days).

While we’re at the show, the shop will be open with abbreviated hours from Monday, March 4th through Thursday, March 7th. From 10:00 am until 2:00 pm, Pamela Newton, Christina Cooper and Amanda Rosenblatt, our weekday employees, will help customers with orders on those days. They will be short-handed, so their time for scanning and printing will be limited. Orders for film processing, large format and fine art printing can be dropped off, but production of those services will have to wait until after Saundra and I return on Friday, March 8th.

Clock Shop Hours

March 4th – March 7th Shop Hours: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

We apologize for any inconvenience the adjusted schedule may cause, but we think the knowledge we will bring back will be worth the brief interruption in our services. Be sure to stay tuned to our Facebook page for regular reports while we attend.

Please Help Us Help You

 

I apologize in advance for writing a blog that isn’t as upbeat as I would normally write, but it is important, so please read.

The past four months of 2018 are certainly ones we don’t care to repeat. You might have heard that our longtime, beloved co-worker, Brian Wanta, was diagnosed with a non-treatable, aggressive form of cancer only a few weeks after his emergency visit to the hospital in June. When we found out that he would not be returning to work, we found someone to help at the front counter since Saundra would be adding giclée printing to her responsibilities. Then Saundra’s sister, Nancy, passed away suddenly in September, and Saundra and I spent several days away to attend a memorial service in Morgantown, WV.  Three days after we returned, imageBrian passed away, and only a little over a week later, our new-found counter person had to leave us; thankfully she had been available to help us through some extremely stressful times. Since it takes at least three months to train a new employee, though, it’s too close to the busy holiday season to hire someone new. Our primary concern is to continue to produce the high quality image products that both you and we expect, and at reasonable prices. That being said, we need to make some adjustments to facilitate our short-handedness in light of the busy holiday season that is upon us.

Here are ways you can help us help you:

If you need to send us digital files for printing, please DO NOT send them by email without asking us first.

Attaching images to emails may seem easy, but it is often a terribly inefficient way to place an order. Just because an email leaves your device, does not mean we receive the image immediately. Multiple images can clog mailboxes, spam filters could send the email to a junk folder, and if there is one letter missed in the address, the email may never arrive at all. Sometimes we may not see your email for hours, possibly not even during the active business day, either because we are busy in production or helping customers at the counter, or cell towers are clogged, especially with large size files, or large quantities. We’ll be happy to teach you how to use other methods, much more efficient and less cumbersome, to send us orders over the internet:

  1. Use the free online ordering app on our website to upload JPG files for printing:

https://fototechnika.com/online-printing.html

This service allows you to organize your order, answering the prompts that give us the instructions we need to produce your order efficiently, and gives us your contact information so we can let you know when your order is complete. Most orders sent by our online ordering app are printed the same day or next day, and there is no charge added to your print order for the use of the app.

  1. Send any type file, including TIFs and PDFs, by a free internet service such as WeTransfer.com (our preference, especially for large quantities), Hightail, Dropbox, or a number of other services. These are file transfer services only, with no automatic prompts asking you for additional information, so you will need to add a note or send us a separate email with your instructions and contact information.

Please make an appointment for extensive “image counseling.”

When we moved to our Beach Boulevard location in 2013, after weathering the Great Recession, we were really shorthanded (Saundra, Brian, and me, the three full-timers; and Laurie and Sarah, our two part-timers).

Crew 2012 4x4

The crew in 2012 just prior to our move to Beach Blvd.

We decided to move our opening time from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. so we could schedule morning appointments before we open, but we became accustomed to tackling other projects during those early hours. Even though we have increased our staff since moving to Beach Boulevard, we find ourselves short-handed again with the loss of Brian, and now see the need to return to our original idea. So, if you have a photo project requiring more than 5 minutes of undivided attention, it would be best to set up a morning appointment between 9 and 10, or ask if we can arrange a time to meet with Saundra on the weekend, when the front counter is officially closed. While devoting undivided attention to an individual customer is ideal, it may not be possible during regular lab hours, so if you decide to take a chance by not making an appointment, your time will most likely be interrupted; there may not be another customer at the counter when you arrive, but that can change at a moment’s notice. Also, we need to caution folks about knocking on the door before 10:00 without an appointment. We may be able to help you, but we do have additional production responsibilities before we open, like developing film and participating in training sessions, so it is important to schedule your and our time. Setting up an appointment is especially crucial for fine art customers. We are still printing fine art reproductions after Brian’s passing, but there is no replacing him.

 

BrianTheTeacher 061318

Brian’s last visit with the crew at FotoTechnika for some fine art scanning pointers. 

Thankfully he was a good teacher, but it now takes a team to produce fine art prints, and since all of the team members are also working in other areas,the process takes longer than it did when we had Brian to devote his entire attention to that work. We are currently concentrating on orders that are already in progress, and we will take on new projects as time allows, but we can only realistically guarantee Christmas delivery of new fine art giclée orders if they are received before November 15th. We can certainly accept artwork for reproduction any time the lab is open, but we need to set proofing appointments between nine and noon on weekdays (when some of our staff can provide additional counter help), or schedule a weekend appointment with Saundra.

 

Appropriate charges will apply for extensive image editing and counseling.

We can gladly give you 5 minutes or so of our time—that’s manageable—but culling, cropping, and Photoshop editing sessions that take longer will need to be billed at our standard hourly rate to cover the time necessary to satisfy the requirements of the order.

The final point to remember: Everyone who helps you at our counter is a production specialist—each one is doing double duty when waiting on customers. There is no one on staff whose job it is to sit at the front counter, waiting for someone to come through the door. Please respect our time, knowing that when one of us is standing at the counter, a customer’s work is not being produced… and sometimes that customer may be you.

Thank you for helping us help you,

John Howard

 

Film Assurance

New Richcolor

Fire insurance is a good thing, right? For us Film Assurance is also very important. We want to be able to assure our customers that we will be processing color and b&w negative film for many years to come, and Friday we were able to insure our assurance when we took delivery of a second Richcolor C41 film processor and dryer.

Several times over the last couple of years our 25-year-old Richcolor processor has had some issues, many happening because of power fluctuations, but most often from parts just wearing out. Richcolors haven’t been made for decades, so I have cannibalized parts from other Richcolor processors we picked up in years past, but last December, Harmon’s Photo in Gainesville shut down their film lines, and suddenly we were left with no regional back-up.  I started looking for an additional processor and found one for free in Dallas, TX — all we had to do was pay for freight. It took two or three months to coordinate the move, but it has finally arrived, and it looks to be really nice.

51 rolls 042916

If our volume continues to increase, we will try to figure out a way to run this additional processor next to our existing Richcolor. So bring it on — dig out those old rolls that have been sitting in the kitchen drawer for years, or dust off the old film camera, find a couple of rolls, and relive the excitement of shooting film. One of our customers said she always enjoyed being surprised by what the film gods did with her film. If you want to find out more about our processing, follow this link. Film Processing Services

We hope to see you soon!

Prayers for Brian

The following is from our FotoTechnika Flyer email newsletter from July 11, 2018:

Dear Friends of FotoTechnika,Brian1039 2009

In the 31 years since Saundra and I opened FotoTechnika, we have been fortunate that we have not had to deal with many health issues, either for us or our employees. That changed dramatically last month when, during the middle of the week, Brian Wanta, whom many of you know, told us that he really wasn’t feeling well and thought he needed to see a doctor (very uncharacteristic for one who had a history of “powering through” any aches or pains). That weekend, his wife, Jean, called from the hospital, informing us that Brian was suffering from renal failure, and the doctors were able to perform a procedure that restored partial kidney function. Initial tests had indicated that Brian’s lungs and heart were fine so the cause of his problem was puzzling, but during the procedure, cancer was discovered to have caused the kidney issues, and tissue samples were taken so biopsies could be performed. Answers were not immediately forthcoming, but a PET scan later revealed that cancer was evident in Brian’s spine and pelvis. Doctors and family were all dumbfounded because Brian had not complained of the pain that usually accompanies a condition as serious as his.

The long and short of it is that Brian is currently on medical leave, and his condition may force him into retirement. We hope that’s not going to be the case, but we must be realistic. He starts chemo soon and expects to undergo treatments for three months. If he has the energy, he has told us he would like to stay engaged with his work and customers, but that depends entirely on how he tolerates the treatments.

Brian is a very, very private individual, and we have always respected that. We at FotoTechnika, Brian, and his family solicit your prayers, but we ask that you respect Brian’s wish for privacy. Brian has always been exceedingly responsible with his personal finances and medical insurance, but no one can adequately prepare for this kind of illness. Jean’s colleagues have created a gofundme site to help defray some of his medical expenses:

https://www.gofundme.com/5bec67-wanta?member=336568

We ask for your thoughts and prayers for Brian (and perhaps your generosity).

We would also request your understanding as we transition to the possibility of FotoTechnika without Brian. This is very difficult for us. He has been our partner and friend for almost 30 years. If you are a fine art customer, please know that we will continue to offer fine art services, but it’s going to take several of us to handle what Brian has done so well for so many years by himself.

Thank you for your concern.

John & Saundra Howard, and the FotoTechnika Family

Is Photography Your Passion?

 

 

PrintingPassion

Okay — this blog is going to be short and sweet, but it could be important to you and to us if you make your living with photography.

We were hit by a perfect storm back when the “Great Recession” occurred. We lost a lot of business because of the recession itself, but concurrently, we lost pro photography business because of the huge technological shift from analog photography to digital photography. Many of the pro photographers we served quit using many of our processes because everything they needed to do could be done over the internet or by using digital media. Other photographers couldn’t adapt to all the changes, and sadly, several passed on.

When we moved to St. Nicholas in 2013 we thought that we might become more of a retail business, but we are finding that we are better suited to work with professionals, whether they are fine artists, graphic artists or photographers. We realize we have fallen out of touch with many who we consider to be our core market, and  we need to get in touch soon, especially since we have by default become the go to source for photography information by the general public.

We may serve many of you with our online ordering services, but others may not know us at all. We would like to get to know you, and know your specialties. We are compiling a list, sort of a black book of local photographers. Please respond to this blog, or touch base with us through Facebook, Linked In or email us at info@fototechnika.com. If we aren’t familiar with your work, we would love to see your portfolio. If you are a member of a photography group, and would like us to hold a workshop, or make a presentation at your regular meetings, please contact us. Maybe we can refer some business your way.

Hope to hear from you soon!

John Howard

 

 

Social Media Quest

JohnYelpBlogRecently I sat through a 45 minute webinar with a company that manages businesses’ social media concerns. Over the course of the demonstration, the presenter made some observations regarding our Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google profiles – none of which took me by surprise. But as she explained her company’s program (and the fees they charge) I started questioning whether social media can translate into revenue for the FotoTechnika Group. Sure I know it can generate good will, but will the people who frequent social media sites actually bring us business? I know that all the engagement in the world on social media isn’t going to drive me to purchase products, but then again, Saundra and I live a very utilitarian – yea spartan – existence. So this blog is different from my normal posts where I aim to share our knowledge and experience. This time I am on a quest for knowledge.

Currently we are most active on Facebook and with our weekly email blasts, but we are also on Linked In, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest and we even have posted some YouTubes. Part of what the social media management company offered was the service of having their expert staff respond to inquiries, and reviews, positive or negative, and generate engaging posts, but that really rubbed me the wrong way. I believe for social media to benefit us, it has to be our personal response, not some third party IT guy who has little or no knowledge of our services.

I am looking for constructive opinions and ideas – and most of all, let us know what kind of social media content would actually encourage and inspire folks to seek FotoTechnika’s assistance for their photo printing and scanning needs?

Looking forward to your ideas,

John Howard

Instagram

Pinterest

Flickr

Twitter

Linked In

Facebook

FotoTechnika Flyer sign-up

YouTube

Yelp

If You Like Something, Speak Up!

cockpitYou have probably heard the old saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword;” today it’s the keyboard. And don’t believe the old adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” The fact is, the written word is very powerful. These days the internet can make or break a small business or small non-profit, but maintaining a website and keeping up with social media is a time-consuming endeavor. One of the problems with social media is that there are no “etiquette filters” that society needs to maintain harmony. Some people might type or text something in a moment of passion that they would never, ever, say to someone’s face. Or if a business doesn’t respond to a message or email quickly enough, they might receive a damaging review. Once words are set adrift in cyberspace, there’s no erasing them. Even if they’re edited — or eventually deleted — once they have been seen, they can’t be unseen.

A couple of months back we had to deal with a negative Facebook review. It amounted to a misunderstanding on the customer’s part, not knowing what our standard practices are. They had sent an email outlining a complaint when we were having some network issues. The long and short of it is, when we didn’t respond to the email quickly enough, we had to answer a bad review on social media. Once we explained to the customer why we do things the way we do them, we received a huge apology, but the damage was already done. Taking back a bad review is almost impossible – all you can do is respond to it in a very measured, positive way.

penskeRecently, I had a debacle of my own making. I rented a Penske truck to pick up a piece of equipment, only it was the wrong truck for the job. Ultimately, I ended up renting a second truck to go back weeks later to finish the job. After turning in the first truck, the manager gave me a generous discount, and upon returning the second truck he gave me another discount. I didn’t ask for the discount, but I did relate to him how stupid I had been, and it gave him the opportunity to be generous. Hours after taking the second truck back I found their Yelp and Facebook pages and wrote some glowing reviews.

I have been told that positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Google and social media platforms like Facebook make a website more attractive to search engines like Google and Yahoo. One of the first things SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services do is to seek out a business’ loyal customers to ask for favorable reviews, and they charge big bucks to do it.

So here’s the point of my blog: If you value the products and services of a particular business, or you admire the work of a non-profit, please give them a positive review. Go to their Facebook or Yelp page, or go directly to the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. There are plenty of other sites that also offer review opportunities. By the same token, if you have a complaint, talk to a manager or owner in person, or on the phone. Don’t write a scathing review first – establish a dialogue with a person, or company, or organization first. If they are a horse’s butt, then write a negative review, but my guess is most owners and managers will go out of their way to do the right thing.

If you like us – first, hit the like buttons anywhere you can find us and if you have time, say something nice about us. Here are some links: Facebook Reviews    Yelp  Google  Locality

John

Being Observant Is Our Business

Recently I read an article about a trend in the printing industry: W2P (web-to-print) – totally autonomous printing from the customer’s digital upload. Many of the companies with television advertisements for DIY business cards, brochures, signs and even T-shirts make use of W2P technology. “What you send is what you get” (with virtually no human intervention) is a great business model for high volume, extreme automation, quick turnaround and low prices. The quality can be very good, but it is entirely dependent on the customer’s attention to detail when placing the order.

Being a small business, we can offer an alternative: human involvement and personal attention to detail on the production side. You might even call it “low tech” (personal attention) in a high tech (automated) world. Since the original FotoTechnika started in the days of analog photography, we had to develop the habit of seeing both the forest and the trees, and that has become even more important as technology has made photographic processes more and more automated over the years. We learned early that the general expectation for what was “commercially acceptable” was not necessarily the best that could be done. A good “for instance” is black & white prints. Nowadays almost all noritsuscancommercially available black & white prints are made using color materials, but it takes very deliberate filtration and color management to achieve a neutral black & white look. It takes observation: paying attention to what the customer wants, seeing details that others miss, knowing what is and isn’t possible, and being able to provide the service that meets the customer’s needs best. Yes, we can print digital files “as is” too, but our reputation has been built on our policy – and our ability – to produce pleasing color.

The fact that we normally review and color-correct prints, might lead one to think that printing photographic images is the only service that receives attention to detail, but in fact, our entire business centers around observation. It starts at the front counter, when we meet customers and find out what they need. Determining the best method to approach any particular job requires knowledge of the processes we have available to us, but more importantly, requires attention to the particular items provided by the customer: everything from vintage film, photos and documents to original artwork, to current digital images.

brianproofing-fbOne example is our fine art giclee printing: it is ALL about minutia. Creating a reproduction that is indistinguishable from the original is the name of the game, and our printmaker, Brian Wanta, has become an expert. (To get an idea how long we have been doing this, check out the Evolution of Solution video we created in 2007.) Our scanning services also get “the treatment.” When we scan film and slides, color-correcting is an integral part of the process unless the customer requests otherwise. restorationUsing Photoshop to digitally restore family heirlooms and historic images requires close attention to detail, as well as layout and design for digital printing that go beyond being observant – making sure we cover the “who, what, when, where, why and how” – and into the realm of being creative. The pursuit of excellence is a way of life for us; it governs the way we do things.creativeservices

A decade ago Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and that single invention really has changed a generation and the general approach to printing (and NOT printing) photographs. Attention to the fine detail of an image kind of goes out the window when one rarely views a picture on anything larger than a smartphone. Thus, a iphonemajority of millennials see little reason to make use of our core photo printing services. Sometimes I feel that successful surgery to separate Siamese twins might be easier than separating a millennial from his or her smartphone, but if we could, maybe, just maybe, we could show them the benefits and joys of printing photographic images, and why it is important to have a trained set of eyes overseeing their work. The truth is, some of the smartphones have exceptionally high quality optics that can render truly beautiful prints. The bigger problem is that there are so many images being created, that how to choose the few that really need to be preserved on paper is overwhelming… but that’s a subject for another blog.

We had an exceedingly busy holiday season that was compressed more than usual because of Hurricane Matthew in October, when the Christmas “rush” would normally begin. We do appreciate all the business, and especially your patience. We apologize to those who may have felt like they had to “take a number” to get in line for attention at the front counter, and we hope the results of your projects made it worth the wait. Fortunately, we do have online ordering available on our website, which bypasses some of the bottlenecks created at the front counter, and our “unique boutique” scrutiny is even available to jobs that come to us over the internet.

In closing, I’m back to asking my perennial question: How do we get the word out to those who appreciate our practice of being observant and paying attention to detail?

We are slowly and deliberately updating our website, adding more web-based services, and optimizing it so it is more easily found by internet searches. But over the years, personal testimonies and word-of-mouth advertising have always been our best method of reaching new customers. We need your help to spread the word, so please do one or more of the following:

Share this blog.

Encourage your friends to visit us on Facebook and Instagram.

Contact me personally on Linked-In and Twitter.

Invite others to subscribe to the FotoTechnika Flyer. Either send a note to email@fototechnika.com and simply put “Add Me” in the subject line or click on this sign-up link.

Visit www.fototechnika.com to check for updates.

And by all means, drop by the shop at 3119 Beach Boulevard in the Mudville Grille/Curry Thomas Hardware plaza, where Beach and Atlantic Boulevards meet.

We look forward to working with you soon!

John

 

A September to Remember

Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow….”

Do you remember that old Tom Jones song from the musical comedy the Fantasticks? As we wait out Hurricane Matthew at our home office we have some time to reflect….

hurricane-office

Well, our September 2016 was memorable, but hardly mellow. We had a particularly stinky summer – maybe it was because of the excessive heat. We wondered if all of our regular customers went up to the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee to get away from it, but when schools resumed in August, the floodgates opened – we went from scraping-to-get-by to being overwhelmed. If you follow us on Facebook or through our FotoTechnika Flyer, you might have guessed that things have been hoppin’ over on Beach Blvd. This blog is more like a journal entry (from both Saundra and me) that chronicles all the activity.

First of all, we took advantage of the summer doldrums in July to instigate some new marketing initiatives, most obviously, the weekly email blast we call the FotoTechnika Flyer.

fototechnikaflyer-logo

In August we received word from a fellow member of IPI (Independent Photo Imagers) up in Aiken, South Carolina, that he was retiring and selling the majority of his equipment and inventory. His last day open was going to be September 3, the Saturday before Labor Day. So Saundra and I got up early that Saturday and made the 4-1/2 hour drive to Aiken less than 24 hours after Tropical Storm Hermine dumped some serious rain all along our route.

chris-lydle

We loaded up an HP photo book printer, a kiosk, some film and some rolls of paper. The printer was most intriguing to us because, not only is it designed for photo books and cards, it can also print on envelopes, and could serve as backup for our other printers. We brought it back to Jacksonville to try it out for 90 days to see if it works for us… if not, we don’t have to keep it (or pay for it).

film-hp

While visiting, we also took advantage of close-out prices on several rolls of inkjet paper, Printfile pages and film. We haven’t decided whether or not to stock film again on a regular basis, but if the film we purchased moves well, that could definitely influence our decision.

We also opted to bring back a photo kiosk to try out as a DIY option for our customers. Once we had a chance to examine it, we realized we would need to modify it to make it work efficiently. It had an older XP computer that isn’t safe to connect to the internet, so we installed one of our Windows 10 computers that fit in the cavity where the XP was. We decided to load the kiosk version of our online photo solution software, allowing customers to work from their camera cards, USB drives, phones, and directly from Facebook and Instagram. The touch screen is an older model, so it does require some side-to-side scrolling, but the system works very well. If there is enough interest in using it, we will purchase a newer wide-format touchscreen monitor. There isn’t a printer attached to it for self-service printing, but we have decided to keep our minilab on standby and interrupt regular orders as needed to print any immediate photo orders in sizes up to 8×16. So please come in and take it for a spin.

kiosk-and-samples

Another really huge decision we made was to buy into the Marketing Solutions Program (MSP) of the IPI organization I mentioned previous. IPI is a network of photo labs, photographers and camera stores of which we have been a member since 2008. The MSP program makes thousands more templates for cards, posters, calendars, photobooks and gifts available to us. Last month I downloaded close to 2000 card templates to the Fotobilia section of our website and that’s just the start. In fact, the downloads are so voluminous, we purchased a 1TB portable hard drive to store them. And the neat thing is, any templates I load onto our website also become available on the aforementioned kiosk. So I repeat, maybe it’s time to give our kiosk a try.

fotobilia-banner-2x6

 

Last February Saundra and I took a day trip down to the Graphic of the Americas trade show in Miami Beach. We had one goal in mind: pick up a FastBind Express Pro binding station that will allow us to bind photo books we create on our various printers. We had called in advance, so the FastBind guys had one ready for us to pick up at the show.

binding-station

We received some instruction on the spot, and as we were completing our transaction, the salesman asked if we knew that Graph Expo 2016 was going to be in Orlando this September; the answer was “no.” Graph Expo is the largest printing and graphic arts show in North America. It usually runs in the three years between the big international show, DRUPA, which runs every four years and was held this summer. I had never heard of Graph Expo running anywhere other than the McCormick Center in Chicago, but I guess that since this year was the DRUPA show, they decided to hold a scaled down version in Orlando.

graph-expo-comp

We both wanted to get more information on the materials for our FastBind system. We have an online catalog, but we needed some face-to-face conversation to clarify the somewhat cryptic descriptions. So we decided to take yet another day trip, but this time only to Orlando. It is amazing how much more you can absorb when you can see demonstrations using the actual products. With our new-found knowledge, we decided to download templates for a variety of photo books on our website along with cards and such. We are still working on pricing, so if you see $99.99 listed as a price, that means “give us a call for a quote,” until we can upload all the proper prices. We will be offering a variety of Fotobooks — layflat, traditional with printable hard covers, flip books, and books with leatherette covers. Eventually we will also offer some soft cover varieties, but we have a little more experimentation to do, and want to get the hard-back versions down pat first.

booths

Another vendor we visited was Impress. They make a digital foil stamping system that can foil stamp on cards, books, stationery, and much more. For now, this is on our wish list – hopefully we can make this happen sometime in 2017.

We also spent time with materials vendors such as Mohawk, New Page and carriers of the Museo cards we offered back in the early 2000s.

While looking at some of the MSP materials, we revisited the idea of taking in film transfer and video duplication offers. One of the new features of the MSP program is a “Gather Box” – a box and checklist to help people organize their photos, film and video for digitizing. You will see more about this in upcoming blogs and FotoTechnika Flyers, but if you want to get a jump on the Christmas rush, feel free to bring in your work.

gather-box

And finally, September was a month to start the painful process of bringing all of our printers up to specs, making sure everything is ready for the Christmas rush. We are in the process of overhauling our Konica Minolta printer, and had hoped to do it in September, but scheduling the maintenance when it wouldn’t interfere with production kind of pushed that, and then but Hurricane Matthew had other ideas. Maintenance on our Noritsu dry minilab is an ongoing project, but our Noritsu traditional photo printer and wide-format Canon printers are crankin’ – SO BRING IT ON!