It’s About Time

Yes, it’s about time, but it is also about time management. I’m well aware my last blog was all the way back in June, but things have been really crazy in the Howard household, and I just haven’t had opportunity to write. Unlike my daughter Sarah, I can’t just pop out a blog on demand, especially when I am mentally and physically drained. Hopefully I have pulled my wits together enough to give you an intelligible update, so prepare yourself for an information barrage.

First, have you seen our new signs? It took a year to select the right person to do the job, but we are very happy with the results. Grant Thornton, a mural artist who paints signs between mural commissions, painted them for us. We discovered Grant during a conversation with a former (and favorite) server at the Fox Restaurant. He did a great job, don’t you think?

Signs collage

Next, let me update you regarding previous posts:

Rack Card DisplayBack in June I blogged about our newest marketing tools – rack cards that highlight all of our services. We finished our rack card display and are adding new cards as we continue to expand our services, so drop by to browse through them.

In June I also created a post about Saundra’s and my involvement in choral music. Our series of summer choral concerts went extremely well. The River City Men’s and Women’s Choruses raised over $10,000 for the Dreams Come True organization. We are also well into our fall season with the Don Thompson Chorale, and several friends we made this summer have joined us. This spring the Don Thompson Chorale will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Sometimes it seems like yesterday when Saundra and I helped form the group, but when I think about how many risers I have lugged around and how much artwork Saundra has designed, sometimes it feels like our 50th. As our avocation and our passion, choral music provides the balance we need to do what we do at FotoTechnika. We both hope you will have opportunity to attend a concert this season.

Choral Collage

Now for more recent happenings:

Saundra and I have taken on another responsibility; we have moved in with my 85-year-old mother because she needs someone in her house overnight. That’s right, we have moved our residence again, and let me tell you, we are reminded daily of our age. Now do you understand why I haven’t had much time to create new blogs?

The Howard Family Mini Warehouse

The Howard Family Mini Warehouse

To facilitate our move, we have turned my mom’s garage into a storage unit by building four floor-to-ceiling, 12-foot long shelves to hold all our stuff.

We decided that we needed a satellite Photoshop workstation that will allow us to spend more time with my mom and still stay on target with customer retouching and graphic art deadlines. So for Saundra’s 60th birthday, the family went all out and set her up with a fabulous Mac workstation. Since our daily trek takes us practically to Orange Park and we spend a fair amount of time in transit, we also opted for a beefed-up MacBook Pro so we could do work in the car, too.

New Home Workstation

New Home Workstation

Getting back to business:

The holiday season is looming, and we have some exciting new offerings this year. We are always improving our selection of greeting cards – they can be printed on our digital press or our digital minilab. We have ready-made templates if you want to drop by to select one, or you can do it yourself online: just click the Photo Factory tab on our website. Of course, our forte is custom cards, but you will need to get your orders in early.

Xmas Card Collage

8x8 Photo Book

8×8 Photo Book

We also have a wide selection of photo gifts available online, many produced by Fuji. We offer canvas prints, metal prints, puzzles, mugs, blankets, coasters, and much more, but the product that has us most excited is Fuji’s selection of lay-flat photo books printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. We have samples at the shop – the quality is excellent, and prices are very reasonable. The books are available in sizes 8×8, 8×11.25 and 12×12 with a minimum of 18 pages and a maximum of 72. If this sounds interesting, but you’re a little gun shy with regard to putting all the images together, never fear: we will be offering workshops over the next several months to turn you into an expert bookmaker.

And don’t forget our “Think Inside the Box” scanning and printing specials, and if you have some of those fragile family heirlooms that need scanning, please get them in early – these jobs take time.

Think Inside Box

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to get back to work!

John

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“We Have the Tools, We Have the Talent…”

Winston Zeddmore, Ghostbusters

So… How can we help you? Let us show you our wide range of services. Enter, the Rack Cards..

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But first, the back story that explains why diversity of services is so important to us and for you:

All our business life, well-meaning people who know very little about our market or capabilities have said, “what you really need to do is…” and advised us to specialize, usually in the one particular thing they wanted. Being a local “mom and pop shop” based in Northeast Florida, the challenge with specialization in photo processing is that there isn’t a large enough or dense enough population base to support a single-dimension shop. If we were national in scope, maybe. Specialty labs have to make huge annual investments in equipment and software, and they also pump loads of money into maintaining a sales force.

Years ago, Saundra and I realized that bigger is not necessarily better. For one thing, a variety of services allows for one revenue-producing department to bolster the others when its “season” is “off.” Besides, we discovered that our joy comes from the creative side of the business, and that our personalities are best suited for working with a small group of very talented artisans, who have become our extended family after decades of working together.

When I worked for Allied Printing in the 1980s, it was one of the largest print shops in Jacksonville. I started as an estimator and eventually moved into sales. Back then – and even more so today – the main competition between print shops was to see who could low-ball the big color printing jobs. But Allied’s owner didn’t want to play that game. Instead, Allied was a true one-stop shop with the most up-to-date typesetting equipment available, presses for all occasions and a bindery that was only rivaled by the trade shops. When I was in sales, I could go into almost any customer’s office confident that we could satisfy the most diverse printing needs.

When we opened FotoTechnika full-time in 1987, we adopted the do-everything philosophy I learned at Allied. We offered film processing, small color and black and white prints produced on small minilabs, custom color and black and white enlargements from negatives, Cibachrome prints from slides and transparencies, matting and framing, copy work, slide duping, and even limited graphic art services (typesetting and layout and design). Back in those days, we catered mainly to professional photographers who were commercial, advertising and architectural shooters.

For years, FotoTechnika’s Five Points location presented no real problem for the pros. Sure, several wanted us on the Southside where their studios were located, but our quality and service made it worth trekking across the river. After 2000, however, digital photography started making real inroads into the analog processes, especially film processing and custom printing. Before long, the pros were shooting more and more digitally. To expand our market, we started offering fine art reproduction, but that wasn’t quite enough. We needed to take on more consumer business. We constantly looked for ideas to overcome the lack of visibility and the inconvenience of our location, so in 2005 Saundra, Brian, and I sat down with friends from a local advertising and design firm. One really good suggestion that never quite got off the ground was to create rack cards to explain each of our services.

At the time, the only way we could produce rack cards ourselves was photographically on our minilab. Back then our copier couldn’t handle card stock or digital files, but it was important to us to have the rack cards be actual samples of work we could produce in house. Until recently, the idea had long vanished from my consciousness until I came upon notes from that 2005 meeting buried in a file cabinet I was cleaning out for our big move across the river. With our digital press, printing rack cards is no problem at all. Let me tell you, I did some serious V8 head-slapping that day for not remembering the rack card idea a lot sooner. This really is a project whose time has come.

Take a look at the following cards, and you will discover everything you ever wanted (or maybe didn’t want) to know about FotoTechnika. This particular post will be “Rack Card Central” for the foreseeable future. We will add more cards to this post as we create them, so refer back frequently. Eventually, most of them will be on our website in PDF form. And look forward to future posts that explain particular services from the cards in detail and how those services will help you preserve your photographic memories.

John (with serious editing by Sarah and Saundra)

01 Visit List Rack cards02 About Us Rack Card03 Ask Us Rack Card04 Film Sign Up Rack Cards05 Online & Photo Gifts Cards06 Small AgX Photos Rack Card07 Large Inkjet Photos Rack Card08 Fuji Pearl Photos Rack Card09 Locket Memorial Rack Cards10 Print Rest Rack Card11 Historic Prints Rack Card12 Canvas Prints Rack Card13 Photo Giclee Rack Card14 Fine Art Giclee Rack Card15 Film Scan Rack Card16 Print Scans Rack Card17 Art Scans Rack Card18 Large Quantity Scans Rack Card19 Think Inside the Box Rack Card20 Creative & Writing Rack Cards21 Comp Card Rack Card22 Flat & Folded Cards Rack Card23 Custom Graphic Printing Rack Card24 Menu & Rack Rack Cards25 Poster Rack Card26 Display Media Rack Card27 Video Transfer Rack Card

P.S. Please contact us if you would like a printed version of one (or more) of our rack cards. We would be glad to supply you with cards appropriate to your business that you can share with your customers. And for goodness’ sake, if you would like to start your own line of rack cards, please contact us – we’ve gotten pretty experienced at making them.

Thanks for the Memories

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A recurring theme in my musings is our passion for preserving history, whether for individuals or organizations. For FotoTechnika‘s first twenty years, our next-door neighbor was Dr. Wayne Wood, optometrist and North Florida historian. Wayne’s passion for history, architecture and his connections with the Jacksonville Historical Society and Riverside Avondale Preservation introduced us to some wonderful people who are passionate about Jacksonville and its history, which in turn sparked our desire to help others preserve their own heritage.

 

Every family has at least one person who squirrels away photos dating back to the Dark Ages, and unfortunately many people find out too late, when going through the family estate, that they have no idea who the people in those treasured photographs were. I know because my mom keeps boxes of our family’s photographic relics under her bed. We’ve organized them some over the years, but some are so old that even she doesn’t know who the subjects are.

Cake Shot Composite

We started scanning and printing historic images in 2002, so we’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years – the associated processes have become a very significant part of our business. We’ve slowly been working on our own personal projects – like reprinting my mom’s and my own wedding albums, so that the photos are no longer discolored and are now on archival materials. Last Labor Day, weeks before we finished moving the business from our old Lomax location, I emptied some old slide carousels from an estate my grandfather oversaw as executor. Lo and behold, the slides weren’t from the Slidesestate but were a treasure trove of slides taken when I was in my early teens. Scanning them will be a trip down memory lane. We have so many more of these kinds of projects to tackle, and if you have similar projects looming, we have some good news for you.

On May 26, 2014, Memorial Day, the day the U.S. government has set aside to remember those who died in our nation’s service, we want to thank you for allowing us to help you preserve your memories through photos. And for those of you who haven’t had opportunity to use our services, we have come up with several specials to motivate you to get the ball rolling. We decided that since we usually end up working on Memorial Day anyway, we might as well open up and offer some one-day specials for those of you who might have difficulty getting by during the work week. (Check our Facebook Event here.)

In a previous blog, I introduced our Think Inside the Box program to offer folks a variety of ways to preserve images. The box program is an ongoing promotion, but for this Memorial Day, we decided kick it up a notch by running a “Film Amnesty” special. This special allows those of you who, for whatever reason, have hung on to undeveloped color (C41) or B&W negative film over the years to go ahead and get those rolls processed for half our listed price. We have sweetened the pot even more by getting our partners over at Easy Edit Video to  Video Transferoffer a special on transferring VHS tapes to DVD. Easy Edit normally charges $25.00 per VHS tape to DVD, but on Memorial Day only, we will accept orders for transfers for $10.00 per tape as long as you order a minimum of three. This deal is only good if you bring those tapes to us on May 26th.

If you have followed our blog or used our services in the past, you know there are all sorts of other services we offer that can be used to preserve family photos. Our new gifting service (access it under the Photo Factory tab here) offers personalized cards, photo books, mugs, puzzles, clothing, jewelry and so much more.

Don’t let your family photos remain a mystery under the bed or in the attic or wherever it is you keep them – let FotoTechnika use our digital restoration know-how and fine art services to turn very average or even damaged photos into heirlooms that your great-grandchildren can enjoy generations from now.

John