Business Trends
Business Opportunities Working With Your Lab Service Bureau

Business Trends

With the digital evolution in full swing we thought we'd take this opportunity to discuss some of the new business opportunities offered by digital labs and service bureaus. Note that most commercial or pro labs these days offer a host of digital services. Recent feedback to our editor indicates that many lab managers say that the greatest challenge they face is getting their photographers to understand just what could be done with digital. This column will explore some of the information on what can be done including the usual scanning, printing, retouching, manipulation, and output as additional "products" for the photographer's clients. For example:
· How will swapping of media and formats add to your sales? One type of media delivered can be interchanged with just about any other type of media, such as film to scan to CD, digital image to slide or all to print in black and white or color.
· Have you explored unique display print possibilities or multimedia CD authoring for client's events?
· Do you have a lab working with you as a team to sell larger jobs such as corporate fine art prints or museum sales?

Digital is not always the best solution for a photo shoot but with more information, photographers can help their clients make better choices. There is also a "project chain of command" in our business where you need to find your place. As we are still growing in this area of our industry, we don't have all the answers; maybe we can get you to ask more questions.

We talked with some industry people about their advice and thoughts on the pros and cons and business opportunities of digital. Our aim was to discover what would help photographers better use their labs and service bureaus to add more options for services they can sell to their clients.

Edward G. Finn, Vice President, Dodge Color, Inc.
"Our client, the photographer, is the person meeting with the client and is the one to make suggestions about how a project will take shape. Certainly a photographer should be aware of the wide range of digital and conventional methods to produce photography so the client can best be advised how to accomplish a project. So photographers should (and most do) stay current with new forms of image capture and output reaching the market. As soon as we install and test a new device, we begin marketing it (educating) to the photographers to help them understand its uses, features, and limitations. But mostly this means an output device and many times the decision of how the image is to be used is made before the photographer is brought into the project. So rather than selecting the product to be made with the image, the photographer is selecting the camera and lens combination to best fulfill the artistic vision and the production requirements." (Note: See Resources at end of article.)

Tommy Morgeson, Operations Manager, The Color Place
"We provide a range of services which assist along the entire chain of creating projects using digital technology. Everything is digital today in the graphics world and we scan every piece of film for photo printing and graphics. We create, or provide, with creation digital formats from all sources. I'm not sure clients will ever need to know if the photographer is using digital today. Unless the client insists on holding a piece of film in his or her hand, a majority of the graphics produced today can utilize a digital image. One good example is consumers buying event photography.

They simply cannot tell the difference between digital and film-based images in print sizes up to 16x20 (provided the photographer owns the right camera)." (Note: See Resources at end of article.)

Baldev Duggal, President & CEO, Duggal Visual Solutions
"Most photographers still don't realize the complete potential of technology in their work. The first step photographers can take is to implement good digital asset management software to catalog and archive all their work as well as send files for printing directly to their photo lab. The next step is to consider the numerous possibilities of printing that digital technology offers. With a good drum scan, even a 35mm slide can be made into a giant wall mural. Direct digital files can now be printed on materials as varied as silks, canvas, metals, and even carpets. There is a lot of hesitation in the photography world about the acceptance of materials other than photographic paper. But I believe that photographers need to separate themselves from the crowd and choose materials like silks and metals for presenting images; this can attract audiences instantly. Photographers should discuss with their client all possible choices in print materials prior to the shoot. Sometimes the final print output will determine whether the photographer should shoot digitally or with film."
(Note: See Resources at end of article.)

Ron Hughes and Robert Groh, Slide Service International
"It is our experience that most professionals will not print until needed. There still is an ingrained bias in photography against digital. Some of the work we've produced has rivaled that of the traditional print. Print film systems are so ubiquitous that it is so much easier for the casual photographer to `shoot and drop' than to shoot digital and deal with the steps involved in digital printing. When digital systems are developed to provide the same `shoot and drop' convenience, then digital will be more cost effective."
(Note: See Resources at end of article.)

Cyndy and Harry Geier, ICON Imaging Studios
"The Art Director, art buyer, and corporate advertising departments need results from their advertising, but with budget restraints they're searching for people with positive cutting-edge solutions to production--preferably ones that generate perfect final pieces. A photographer needs to gently educate the client toward their digital options, which, considering the current economic climate, they are more open-minded to than ever. You're not `telling,' you're helping by offering yourself and your contacts to be part of their team. The future is about teamwork. Aligning yourself with an image retouching house accomplishes many things; it strengthens your services, offers options to clients, and prepares material better for print, including digital photos that, originally in RGB color mode, need experts in imaging, pre-press, and printing to correctly convert your art properly for press. Although some photographers enjoy their own retouching, preparing an image for layout and press goes deep and eventually they find it very time consuming therefore taking them away from what will actually make them money--photography. A photography digital team is like car racing; a professional driver doesn't get out of the car to change his own tire. He has surrounded himself with experts he
trusts to change the tire the very best it can be done, while he goes on to win the race!"

Dodge Color, Inc.
4827 Rugby Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 656-0025
fax: (301) 656-0435

The Color Place
1330 Conant St.
Dallas, TX 75207
(214) 631-7174
fax: (214) 951-0278

Duggal Visual Solutions
10 West 24th St.
New York, NY 10010
(212) 924-8100

Slide Service International
123 E. Spring St.
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 461-1262
fax: (614) 461-5979

ICON Imaging Studios
1310 Logan Ave., Ste. #B
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 662-3244
fax: (714) 662-3888