The Technicolor Bookworm

PrintAmong other family eccentricities, Saundra, Sarah and I (and even Sarah’s husband) are bibliophiles — we absolutely love books. My first job while in high school was at the Murray Hill Branch Library. If you know Sarah, you know that not only did the acorn not fall far from the tree, it’s producing a tree that will soon overshadow its predecessors. Some of my other idiosyncrasies  are stream-of-consciousness writing and a propensity for coming up with strange blog titles, so stay with me —

With our graphics background, Saundra and I have always wanted to expand into creating “coffee table” books to complement our photographic and fine art printing. In 2006 we started exploring the idea of creating fine art books on Crane’s Museo II fine art paper. Museo II was 100% cotton, coated on both sides for inkjet printing. We had been printing on Museo fine art fold-over cards for a couple of years when the notion of creating books popped into our heads. We found a company called Art Z in Bozeman, Montana that provided die-cut, scored and punched Museo II pages ArtZ bookthat could be bound in their scrapbook-style album using Chicago posts. Art Z’s claim to fame was their Italian leather binders which were designed primarily for wedding albums. With paper, binders and ink, the materials alone were going to exceed $75.00 per book. By the time we threw in freight, design, printing, binding and spoilage, the books would have cost at least $200.00 each to produce. They would have lasted for a century or more, but a quick survey of interested customers revealed that we would not have many takers.

We considered offering books printed by traditional offset methods in Asia, but customers would need to order large quantities and we would no longer have control over quality. For a more affordable, high quality option, we needed to find a way to create books using our existing silver halide papers: enter layflat photo books. The benefits of the layflat book is that images can span two pages without losing any of the image in the “gutter.” With Fuji Crystal Archive paper the image quality is outstanding and it’s almost as archival as fine art paper. I had read reviews about an Italian bookbinding machine years earlier, but it was not only expensive, it required more space than we had available. So in the search for more affordable binding systems, I was given the name of a company that, to our surprise and delight, was headquartered in Jacksonville. The company was just getting into creating layflat book equipment when we met. Over the course of the next two years we worked closely, beta testing several variations of layflat book systems.

Layflat Beta panoAs you can see by the samples, we made some really nice books, but here’s the rub: forget the designing the book — forget printing the book — the bindery time alone was more than an hour per book and that was with two of us working on it and if we didn’t make any mistakes. PeterBk BetaLayflatWedding BetaLayflatThere are machines made to do what we were doing by hand, but the really good ones cost well over $100,000. Unfortunately moving from the $200 fine art book to about $100 for a small layflat book could not compete with advertised internet prices, so the layflat project went on hold.

Fast forward to the summer of 2012 when I visited a Fujifilm exhibit at a trade show that was held at the Ponte Vedra Mariott. The Fuji rep told me that Fujifilm was getting into the photo gifting business in a big way and they planned to offer layflat photo books. Since we are longtime Fujifilm customers, they let us in on the ground floor, telling us we could order books similar to our beta test books; our customers could actually order books directly from our website if we set them up in our Photo Factory photo gift application. So in the Spring of 2014 we added the service and created some sample books which we have on display at our front counter. We were blown away by the quality. Rumor has it Fuji’s layflat binding system cost close to a million dollars, so it should be first class.

So now we offer three different size books, all with a minimum of 18 pages, and can be designed with up to 72 pages (in 6-page increments). 8×8 layflat photo books on Glossy Fuji Crystal Archive paper start at $49.99 with additional 6-page blocks for $6.90; 8×11.25 start at $57.99, with additional 6-page blocks for $7.50; and 12×12 start at $89.99 with additional 6-page blocks for $10.50. You can design your own book in the Photo Factory on our website, or if you’d like to select your images and have us design your book, we’ll be glad to create and order it for you for an additional charge. FujiPhotoBooksIf you would like a tutoring session for the Photo Factory or Photoshop we are available after regular business hours by appointment for $25.00 per hour. After your session we will give you a $25.00 gift card that you can apply toward any of our services.

Customized photo books make great gifts — we hope to help you  with one soon.


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!


“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..


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.

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, 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