Show and Tell

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Saundra and I are both humbugs when it comes to the holiday merchandizing hype that goes on these days, especially Black Friday, advertizing, and setting up displays earlier and earlier each year. With that in mind, what we are offering may seem just a bit hypocritical, but let me explain:

While we aren’t normally open on weekends, we will make an exception on Saturday, October 25th. We will open from 10:00 until 6:00 to help our customers get a jump on their Christmas imaging needs. Many of the photo products we offer, especially scanning and Christmas card design, take time to produce.

So you see, it’s not that we’re eager to jump on the pre-holiday bandwagon. We’ve been doing this for over 25 years, folks, so we know how crazy it will get closer to Christmas, and we’re trying to make things easier for workers and customers, alike.

Here are some of the options you might consider when giving the gift of photo memories this year:

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Many of our customers have been begging for a break on our scanning, so on October 25th, we’re offering a one-day special. For that one day, every scanning order (with the exception of our “Think Inside the Box” promotions) will be discounted by 25%. Our “Think Inside the Box” promotions are already heavily discounted, we’re talking about scanning of heirloom photographs and vintage medium and large format film that take extra TLC. That’s right, those old mounted photos and odd-sized negatives that can only be scanned via our flatbed scanner and copy systems. We have never offered this before, and it is unlikely that we will offer it again any time soon.

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In case you’ve missed my previous posts, we’re now partnering with Fuji to offer a line of great photo gifts. From brag books to photo ornaments for the tree to photo magnets and more, there’s something here for everyone in the family. We still print greeting cards, too, from templates or customized to your specifications. And if you have a Jacksonville history enthusiast in your family, we are the official printer for the Jacksonville Historical Society. Scroll down for some examples of these and other offerings.

 

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Puzzles FB

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And of course we always have our traditional photo prints, but consider getting an early start on them, too. Getting your orders in before Thanksgiving is the most sure way to have them finished well before your holiday deadlines.

We hope to see you soon.

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.

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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

No Stranger to Change

FotoTechnika's Big Changes

FotoTechnika’s Big Changes

 

Just because FotoTechnika is no stranger to change doesn’t mean that change comes easily.

Since 1981, when we first incorporated, there have been countless changes in the photo industry. This post is dedicated to our most recent changes. Changes that happened at FotoTechnika in past decades would come under the heading of “evolution,” but I can honestly say that changes since early 2013 are more accurately characterized as “revolution.”

One change is this new blog format, not revolutionary, but since we are now using WordPress, you will have the opportunity to respond and share, whereas before, it was merely a read-only journal.

The biggest change by far was moving from our original location, the venerable old house on Lomax Street near Five Points, to the last remaining Art Nouveau retail shopping center in Jacksonville.

Moving from a location that had been our home since FotoTechnika first incorporated back in 1981 was one helluva change, and almost daily someone asks, “So why did you guys move?” To put it simply, the old house just got to be too much. For years we wanted to upgrade technology, but more often than not, we had to forgo new machinery and software in favor of repairing an aging building that wasn’t well-suited for the type of equipment we use or need. Many customers thought it was “charming” to wind up the stairs to visit Brian in our fine art printing department – to us it was a little different. Since the majority of our staff is AARP-eligible, hauling supplies and equipment up and down stairs took its toll on us. We finally reached critical mass in early 2013 – one system after another started failing. Changes could wait no longer, but we realized it was unrealistic to upgrade in our present location, and it was better to move sooner rather than later.

Last March, as we were on our way to the Mudville Grille for dinner and to discuss changes in menu design with owner Louis Joseph, we noticed that there were two adjacent spaces in the plaza that were empty. When we inquired, Louis told us that they were indeed available and that we needed to speak to his dad, the property’s owner, Joe Joseph. Scarcely a week later, we were shaking hands with our new landlord, becoming the newest arrival to the St. Nicholas landmark.

In April, we spent evenings and weekends painting the first half of our space at 3119 Beach Boulevard. Early May marked the first big move of equipment and file cabinets, and in the middle of the month, we had Konica Minolta move and re-install our C6000 digital press. In June, Joe and various contractors gutted and completely remodeled the space at 3115 Beach, modifying his plans along the way to suit our needs. In August, I opened the new store daily from 11:00 till 2:00, but the really big moves took place in September, so that on October 1st we officially moved front counter operations. By the end of the month, all of the equipment was out of Lomax. The move certainly helped me tone up, but being in my late fifties, I bruise a lot easier than I used to, and pulled muscles take just a bit longer to heal – one might think I was auditioning for Fight Club 2.

Another change was the equipment we didn’t bring with us. In Spring 2013, one of our most reliable workhorses, my Noritsu 3011 minilab, suffered a laser burn-out. We determined that we would be better served acquiring another minilab than to spend upwards of $7000 for a laser on a machine that might fetch $1000 on the used equipment market and for which the manufacturer no longer offers service. After quite a bit of weighing the pros and cons, we also decided not to move our 30” ZBE Chromira silver halide printer. Plumbing, space, and pressurized air requirements made it unfeasible in our new location, so we used the machine until the last possible minute at the Lomax location. We also decided to retire our 26-year-old E6 processor in favor of sending the film to a sister lab in Gainesville that still has enough volume to keep chemistry in balance.

In early November, the equipment upgrades started when we took delivery of a Noritsu 3300 minilab. In essence, it is the grandbaby of our 3011. It produces prints from wallet size to 8”x16.5” on Fuji Crystal Archive paper, and it has one feature that our old minilab lacked – the ability to scan and print mounted 35mm slides. On the 22nd of November, our first Canon printer, a 60” wide iPF9400 was delivered. With the help of Allison Spooner, a color management goddess who trained us on our Konica Minolta digital press, we got the Canon set up in record time. Good thing: we had some massive jobs that had stacked up in the three-plus weeks we were without a printer. Toward the end of December, our ailing Roland printer finally died, so Brian inherited the Canon 9400, and we purchased a 44” Canon, which arrived on January 3rd. Talk about learning curves….

But we haven’t just changed equipment: in many ways we are changing or at least augmenting the way we do business. We’ve had a web presence for a decade, but until 2009 our website was of the “read-only” variety. Some folks loved it because it offered so much information, but some said it was an everything-you-never-really-wanted-to-know waste of cyberspace. In 2009, we added a second website specifically to allow customers to upload their jpeg image files over the internet for printing; since then, it has grown in popularity every year. With all the physical changes to our operation, we decided it was high time to consolidate our website into a more functional, up-to-date reflection of who we are. We asked the folks at Dakis (who created our second website) to help us, since the bulk of their business is creating sites for independent photofinishers and camera stores all over the world. They allow us to take creative control of our website by furnishing us with numerous template options, so Saundra, Sarah, and I can come up with design, content, and photos. We lay it all out in Photoshop, then send files to them so they can wave their magic wands and miraculously make our designs a website. The big changes on the updated website are several DIY features, which allow customers to create their own art and photographic gifts. Visit our Photo Factory to get started.

Over the years, our most successful marketing has always been by word-of-mouth – no need to change that, but isn’t word-of-mouth what social media is all about? So I’ll wrap up this post by asking you to share this blog and our website with your friends, family, and colleagues. We have products and services to offer just about everyone. If you are in the St. Nicholas area, by all means, drop by and see the changes for yourself.

John

John and Saundra Howard founded FotoTechnika in 1981. To find out more about their history, see “About Us.”

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