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.

Redoubling Our Efforts

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I started our blog to communicate our business thoughts, creativity, crazy ideas, humor and even share some of our challenges. Right now our biggest challenge is to figure out what kind of marketing is the most effective for us. Sometimes it seems we meet ourselves coming and going trying to think of new ways to reach people. Recently we have doubled and even tripled our efforts, but even that’s not enough. At best marketing is a percentages game — if you present your message to a sufficiently large pool of people, and if your product is worthy, eventually you should find success. We know a lot of people, but not nearly as many as the collective YOU who read my blog and Facebook posts.

Our move to our new location in St. Nicholas in part was to make use of a more retail-friendly location. Although we have never turned down consumer business, the old house on Lomax Street was zoned for professional services, such as those for commercial shooters who primarily used slide and transparency film for publications. Not only have markets, demographics and buying patterns changed over the years, but technology has changed too, and there’s no going back to the kind of business we were before the 2008 recession. We needed to reinvent ourselves, taking the best of the old FotoTechnika while adding fresh, new services that are attractive to everyday people. We wanted a location that was more accessible, had good visibility with plenty of windows for signage, ample parking and a floor arrangement that is flexible and convenient for both customers and employees — all on one floor, with no stairs. We lucked into our location in the Mudville Grille plaza, which has the potential to be an ideal long-term home. We have a wonderful landlord and great neighbors, but we are about to enter the summer doldrums and we just can’t afford to wait for the holiday season to fill the coffers.

With the proliferation of social media and smart phones, folks aren’t using our signature service – photo printing – nearly as much as they once did. So we’ve broadened our services in order to be relevent to more people. We expect that you, your friends, colleagues, or your own business can use one or more of our services. Just take a look at the list; maybe there’s something you didn’t realize we do:

List of Services Rack Card

The counter card above is one of the many individualized cards we have created (and an example of our in-house graphic design), targeting specific products we can provide.

There are still so many who have never heard of us who could use our services, and we need to know where to find them. Here’s where you come in: we need your help with good ol’ word-of-mouth advertising. There aren’t many things that can bring a smile to our faces quicker than a customer bringing in a friend for introductions, but we also need business contacts. Saundra and I will be glad to present ourselves and our services to various groups and organizations, either at their location or ours. But the two of us are still very much involved in day-today production, so we need to make every visit count — specific contacts are what we need. So please continue to talk us up to your friends, but also think of contacts with businesses and organizations whom we can help with their more commercial needs. See our list of potential customer types – perhaps you can think of others.

• small businesses and retailers
• manufacturers
• hospitals and clinics
• banks and lending institutions
• galleries
• retirement communities and assisted living facilities
• interior designers
• schools and colleges (especially art and photo departments)
• churches
• non-profit organizations (especially music and art)
• restaurants
• attorney’s, accountant’s and doctor’s offices
• architects
• funeral directors (especially for memorial portraits for display)
• genealogists
• historians and historical societies
• entertainment venues and attractions
• big box and chain stores (especially those that are eliminating photo services)
• dealerships of all sorts
• realtors and developers
• sports organizations
• corporate offices and regional headquarters

The rack cards that explain all of our services aren’t the only thing we are creating; we are installing window signage as quickly as we can come up with clever ideas. The internet is great as long as someone knows our name or does a Google search, but in some ways it hampers us because, no matter how hard we’ve tried, the old location info is still “out there.” In addition to finding new customers, we need to get the word out to customers who only use us occasionally that the empty house on Lomax Street does not mean we’ve gone out of business.

As the last independent lab in our area, we are unique. We have some great ideas for expanding our services, but we need to increase our volume substantially before we can purchase more equipment or inventory. Please continue to support us with your patronage, and help us expand our customer base. As you chat us up, don’t forget some of our new signature specials:

Think Inside the Box Rack Card

(Click here to read our Think Inside the Box blog)

Photo Gifts Rack Card

(Click here to read our Introducing… FotoTechnika’s Photo Factory blog)

We want to be slammed all summer. If that happens, we have a couple wonderfully talented folks who would love to become the next generation of our production team, and we would be thrilled to hire them. In order to do that, we must have enough business to support them. So start sharing the word that FotoTechnika is alive and ready for new creative projects and please share your contacts with us so we can reach out to them this summer.

We look forward to seeing or hearing from you soon.

John

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

Introducing… FotoTechnika’s Photo Factory

Photo Gifts (canvas prints)

Photo Gifts (canvas prints)

Many times over the years, we’ve received phone calls from people who wanted us to put their photos on t-shirts or mugs. I always scoffed at the idea. Puh-leeze. Go somewhere else for that. We print for real, good quality photos, man. But as one of my favorite fictional characters, Albus Dumbledore, says at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: “the best of us must sometimes eat our words.” I think it took me having children to realize that items with my favorite photos really aren’t so dorky after all. I have photo magnets on my fridge, and for Christmas, my husband received a travel mug with our elder son’s artwork printed on it. Everyone who sees that mug thinks it’s the coolest thing. In fact, they want to know where we got it, so they can do the same thing with their kids’ artwork. It would be silly not to take advantage of this kind of service, I thought. Especially if you consider that we have a top-notch partner in Fuji. So we at FotoTechnika have spent a lot of time choosing items that we know our customers will love, some of which are produced by Fuji, but many more of which we create in-house.

Custom Greeting Cards

Custom Greeting Cards

For years, we’ve printed greeting cards, usually for Christmas but occasionally for baby announcements or thank you cards. We have a number of ready-made templates available, but there’s so much more we can do with our imaginations and a little PhotoShop magic. Many of our fine art customers use this service to print their art on note cards, which they sell as sets or use for their own correspondence. But it doesn’t have to stop with artists. Do you want to create your own personal letterhead with a logo of your creation? Would you like to give monogrammed stationery to a couple who’s about to get married?

Custom Note Cards

Custom Note Cards

Or do you want something a little more permanent? Since everything has gone digital, fewer and fewer people actually print their photos, relying on smartphones and computers to view their images. “I need to get around to making one of those photo books,” you might say, but you don’t know where to start. Here it is – and you don’t even need to leave your house to check it out: the Photo Factory tab at www.fototechnika.com, where you will find several options. You can print a mini book (moms and grandmoms, this will fit in your purse and makes the perfect brag book) or a soft- or hardback photo book to set in a place of importance at home.

Flip Book

Flip Book

All of our other products are listed under the Photo Factory, including those t-shirts I used to scoff at. There’s a gift for every occasion, not to mention collages, canvas prints, and even Instagram-ready templates for your favorite Instagram pics. If you’re interested in something you don’t see, give us a shout. We’re always open to new ideas – even if it means eating our words. Creatively yours, Sarah

Think Inside the Box

"Think Inside the Box" Deals

“Think Inside the Box” Deals

Over the next several months, Sarah and I (and maybe Saundra) will write several blogs devoted to services and products we offer that will appeal to those of you who may think that we cater exclusively to professional photographers, artists, and business customers. The truth is we have never turned away consumer business; in fact, we enjoy serving individuals who just want excellent pictures printed by someone whose next task isn’t restocking diapers on Aisle 4.

Our former Five Points lab was a destination location, a bit off the beaten path, and our zoning with the city didn’t allow for retail operations. With our move to 3119 Beach Boulevard last year, that all changed. With Curry Thomas Hardware right across the parking lot and the Mudville Grille just down the sidewalk, everyday folks walk past our windows all the time, and guess what? Unlike Lomax Street, most probably don’t have a problem finding a parking place.

Saundra and I are baby-boomers, and as such we have lived in both the analog and digital world. My mom, who’s 84, never really made the digital transition (except for recording soap operas on her DVR). She’s our only surviving parent, and after several recent extended stays in hospitals and rehab facilities, we have made a conscious effort to spend time with her and try to put our family history in order. Some of you have similar issues, and sadly, some of your parents may have already passed, leaving you with the task of sorting out the family images by yourself. Most of us have relatives who can help with genealogy, but it isn’t practical to send them boxes and boxes of photos… but what if those images were in a digital format?

Since we own a lab, we jumped on the scanning bandwagon, but it wasn’t until we started scanning images for the Jacksonville Historical Society that we developed a passion for preserving history. We started scanning and archiving our important family images years ago, but many of you don’t have that resource. Aha, maybe he’s finally getting to the point.

At FotoTechnika, we have quite an array of scanning devices. We don’t only do the high-resolution scans for those great big art prints and photos; we also have scanners that specialize in handling volumes of prints, slides and film. We know that quite a few of you have rather large family collections. Some may be in excellent condition, but I’m sure anyone as old or older than me has some photos or film that are changing color. It’s time to scan those images before they fade more, but it has always been so darn expensive. Well, we want to help you by offering several deals that can save you money and at the same time let you do a little of the organizing that so often falls to us. We’re thinking outside the box encouraging you to THINK INSIDE THE BOX.

We are offering two deals for scanning volumes of prints and slides:

Deal 1 – Print Scans

Shoebox Kit

Shoebox Kit

We will sell you a Shoebox Kit for $200. You fill the box with up to 1000 prints, from wallets to 8x10s. We will scan those prints and create 300-dpi jpeg files capable of producing prints the same size as the original photographs. We can save the images to a CD or to your USB thumb drive or external drive, and we will create an 8.5×11 booklet with thumbnails of the images. All you do is put the photos in the box.

The prints do need to be flexible enough to bend easily, and if you want them in a certain order you need to stack them accordingly. PLEASE, no badly torn photos or ones that have sticky stuff on them, unless you want us to scan those separately for an additional charge.

Deal 2 – Slide Scans

Slide Box Kit

Slide Box Kit

For $50, we will sell you a box that can hold up to 200 35mm slides. We will scan the slides at a resolution sufficient to make proof-size prints, and we will save jpegs to a CD or to your USB thumb drive and provide 5×5 index prints. (NOTE: This offer is only for 35mm slides. The square Instamatic and small 110 slides must be done on another device that is not designed for volume scanning.)

In both cases, you help us by sorting your images into the boxes we provide. Sure, we can scan from your scrapbooks or pull slides out of carousels, but then we are doing a lot of the sorting. When you put the slides or prints in boxes, you are rewarded with volume pricing. It works out to be $0.25 per slide and $0.20 per print – all scanned with the TLC FotoTechnika is famous for.

(If you have negative film, I’m sure we can work out some volume pricing, too, but finding the right box is harder than you might think.)

AND… for those of you who have already gone totally digital, we have made a box for you, too, just so you won’t feel left out. If you haven’t already figured it out, hard drives and smart phones crash – shoeboxes don’t! So you need to think about printing your more important files.

Bonus Deal – Digital Prints

Everything Goes Box

Everything Goes Box

For $75, we will sell you our “Everything Goes” box. Select your favorite images from your various CDs, DVDs, USB drives, camera cards and computer hard drive, save them on digital media, and bring it to us in the box. Make sure the media only contain files you want printed. We will fill the box with up to 300 proof-size prints on Fuji Crystal Archive photo paper. (NOTE: The quality of the image is dependent on the quality and resolution of the digital files you provide.)

These boxes make perfect Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduation gifts, so get them now, and let us help you preserve those family treasures.

Until next blog,

John

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