FotoTechnika’s October Surprise

Moving is not something we take lightly
Barnett’s Art & Frame Gallery 2017

Normally I might use the reality TV formula and make you wade through a lot of backstory, building to a climax (but not before a couple of irritating commercial breaks), but it’s more important to drive home a very important message: FotoTechnika is moving! The last week of October, we will move to 2025 Blanding Boulevard (32210), the home of Barnett’s Art & Frame Gallery.

Believe me, this is not a sudden notion. We started our due diligence in February 2017, when we were encouraged to think about our future. We approached Drew Derrick-Bisbee, the owner of Barnett’s, aware that he had a large warehouse space available in his building. Drew, a regular customer for over 20 years, was very interested and saw all kinds of opportunities for “cross-pollination.” He was already planning some major infrastructure changes to his building, along with a cosmetic makeover, so the timing was right for us to add our considerable amount of build-out. In fact, when we move, the transformation will still be a work-in-progress.

The Barnett’s warehouse
Installing new windows

So now that you’ve had the cover story above the fold, let me give you pages 2 and 3. Remember when I said we were encouraged to think about our future? For a long time, we’ve been in talks with our close friend, Tim Ware – a commercial printer and owner of DP&M (Digital Print & Media) – about joining us, but of course, we needed a much larger space than either of us had. Tim has been supplying us with digital equipment and ancillary printing services for several years, and like us, he is outgrowing his space. With space in short supply at our current Beach Boulevard location, Tim graciously stored some of our commercial printing equipment at his location downtown, but traveling back and forth between locations to complete printing jobs has been a real drain on our time. Our work ethics are so similar that we work together very well. We decided to merge our operations at Barnett’s because the space was a little too large for either of us separately, but not when you put us together. So in December of 2019, we formed a new joint LLC called FotoTechnika Warecraft, where FotoTechnika stands for the photo lab and Warecraft stands for commercial printing. The original slogan under the FotoTechnika name when we opened the lab full-time in 1987 was “Creative Graphics and Photographics.” Now we will adopt that slogan again, and it will be truer than ever.

As usual, we’re moving from one vintage building to another, but many of you know we have a passion for historically relevant buildings. There’s plenty more story, but I’m so busy with the logistics of the move and the continuing build-out that I’ll need to catch you up later. We will move into half of the space available at Barnett’s at the end of October, and Tim will bring his printing business over by the end of the year. So stay tuned!

To assist in the transition, we will maintain a minimal presence at Beach Boulevard through Christmas. We are excited about the opportunities ahead of us, and we hope you’ll love what we’re doing, too.

Cheers,

John

COVID-19 Update April 5, 2020

So here I sit, typing away on Palm Sunday morning. Normally we would be making our way to church to prepare music for worship, but we recorded our remaining Holy Week music on Thursday before the “Safer at Home” mandate went into effect. If you want to see Saundra, Sarah and me doing our music thing, check out the rpcjax.org website or Riverside Presbyterian Church on Facebook. Sarah sings in the Palm Sunday and Good Friday services, while all three of us participate in Maundy Thursday and Easter. We hope all of our friends of faith will find opportunity to “feed the spirit” during this ongoing crisis.

SaferAtHome sign 040620 4x5

 

As for FotoTechnika, the doors are locked – we are not allowing any customers inside – however, we do go in daily to check phone messages and check the mail. (The shop is definitely a place where Saundra and I can practice better social distancing than at home, given the medical and caregiver personnel who attend to my elderly mother’s special needs.) Also, we have upgraded our film drop at the front door: it’s loaded with plenty of envelopes, and we even have pen and pencils so that film customers can fill out their order envelopes. If you have a non-film order that will fit through the slot, feel free to use the dropbox and envelope(s) for that, too. In any case, make sure you include instructions and contact information so we can call for more details as needed.

mailbox1123 3x3

If you have orders you would like to drop off that won’t fit in our film drop, you could mail your order to us (if you’re comfortable with that), or arrange a way for us to receive your order without  person-to-person contact – just call (904) 356-2503 or email us at info@fototechnika.com. We are taking extra precautions….. cleaning film canisters with wipes and handling other jobs with nitrile gloves, and ask that you do the same. PLEASE, whether you suspect you may be infected or not, observe COVID-19 hygiene and social distancing according to CDC guidelines, including quarantine!

We have a huge investment in equipment and expensive photo chemicals, so while we are at the shop to check messages, we will develop film and print prints. We want to make sure we chemically process some jobs several times each week because oxidation will ruin inactive chemicals, and allowing that to happen will require their complete replacement, compounding the financial pain this closure has already created.

We plan to call customers as work is completed, will accept credit card payments over the phone, and for the duration of this crisis we are offering free shipping by US mail for orders over $25.00. Additionally, we will take advantage of this slow-down to finish some long-term jobs that have been hanging around.

15cent DEAL

Lastly, I want to remind you of our special “Such a Deal!” promotion…. And don’t forget — free delivery by mail for orders exceeding $25.00. Watch for future blogs where I’ll highlight some equipment upgrades. Saundra may even jump in with some tips for gathering and organizing your memorabilia for digitizing and safe archiving.

Stay safe – stay well – and have a blessed Palm Sunday!

John

Such A Deal II

Yeah, me again! Yes I know I just posted yesterday – during this time of Corona Virus turmoil you might as well get used to it. As my grandmother used to say, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop!” so I’ll keep my fingers moving across the keyboard.

This is a time when we all need to come together to help each other. In our industry many shops are suggesting folks use some of their downtime to organize their photos and files, and perhaps bring old photos and videos in for scanning. That’s great, but I know if you aren’t already cash-strapped, you may be soon – and I also know that you need to observe social distancing. So, we’re making this special deal for printing your photos. Just click here to go directly to our printing app.

15cent DEALIf some of your photos will brighten the life of someone in assisted living, give us the address on the order and we’ll pick up the delivery charges to send them there.

We hope to hear from you soon – wishing you good health and prosperity,

John Howard

COVID-19 Update

It’s been quite a while since my last post – it troubles me that my need to write comes at such a dire time for our community and world. First let me say that so far the FotoTechnika crew is well – I guess the personal hygiene necessary for film handling has served us well.  I want to pass along some guidelines we have come up with to work through this crisis:

TFG Workaround 8x11

Saundra and I have endured many upheavals over the years, but never anything like COVID-19. We have decided to come to work daily – we will figure out how to best serve our customers depending on the choices the authorities grant us. Because of the drop in volume, we are working with a skeleton staff, so please be patient — and some of our traditional minilabs will not be running all the time since the chemistry needs to have a sufficient amount of paper run through to stay balanced. So call ahead at 904-356-2503 if you need prints produced quickly.

Please use our online ordering on our website – stay safe, and stay tuned for some ideas about how to organize your photos and digital files to pass the time.

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