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 commercially 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.
One 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. Using 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.
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 majority 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.
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!