PMA did a North American Wide test in the early to mid 80's as a result of the mini-lab company's popping up and taking away the big custom labs business away.
They sent identical negatives to a huge cross section of professional labs, and then a huge cross section of Mini labs.
The prints were requested at 8x10 size and leading colour correction experts were blind testing the results and picked the winners.
The results were clear and concise,,, the mini labs blew away the custom labs in colour accuracy density and contrast.
The fall out was a lot of technicians lost their jobs in the big labs , every major lab bought mini lab equipment ,and the internal so called colour experts were fired for incompetence and or job redundancy.
History repeats itself , in this industry every 20 years.
Today the move is to buy the Fuji type dry labs, wet is dead, Costco will soon follow if not already.
Thanks for your thoughtful input Bob. One of the biggest challenges for any business is finding the right type of clients. In our portrait studio business (lower volume, higher price) my wife can tell in the first ten seconds of a phone call if a client is right for us. We actually tell people that they can expect to invest $XX on their portraits. If they say yes, they are our clients. If not, then we've just screened them out and saved us both a lot of time.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
I really admire these boutique labs that still produce beautiful handmade silver and platinum prints. As they say, there's riches in niches...
We do the visa card test within the first minute as well to see if the client is going to value our services, or if sticker shock puts them into a cold sweat.
Very good lesson to learn in small business.
I think this pretty much sums it up.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
Proofs are proofs, not pieces of art. If you only want to see what you have a zerox print would do.
E6 labs are gone because E6 film is gone, and so are its users, save a few nutcases here and there. As largest number of E6 films were shot by amature photographers, who moved to digital cameras, this makes the whole who is a professional and what impact that might have a non issue.
When i worked for the AP, photos were more important then anything else. Pro or not did not matter, and if the photo was useful even talent had little meaning. Being a pro is not derived by what camera you use, or if you are at all good at what you do, its just a function of station and circumstance.
Bob runs a Jobo, and other "small time" labs run similar processes for color and BW, and offer superb if not superior results to the best of Pro labs, just as you can do on your own with your very own machine.
And - at the very bottom line - as far as i can tell millers has no customer service, and at least none that i would ever be interested in.
Attention to detail and finish does not equal great detail and or finish.
I am happy to hear that you in your business have the option to screen potential clients/work. That means, in my book you are doing well!
Bob, this is a bit hard for me to swallow. I've got quite a lot of lab background as well as some knowledge of 1-hour labs. At one time, the large outfit where I worked also owned a chain of mini-labs. I occasionally worked with the mini-lab people on certain types of problems, so I know how much variation there was in process control among other things.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
Anyway, with our mini-lab chain, it would have been ludicrous to suggest that they could compete, quality wise, with a competent custom (pro) lab. Especially on a pro film (VPSII or III at that time), as our labs didn't generally even have printer setup (slope) negs for same. (Why set up channels if no customers ever bring in that type of film?)
Anyway, I'm very skeptical about the test and results you described. I should also point that you said, "The prints were requested at 8x10 size...," although most mini-labs could only produce 4x6 inch prints, or thereabouts. (Although we had 8x10-capable "enlargers" in some of our busier locations, this was not a standard piece of mini-lab gear.)
I wonder if you're mis-remembering a test Consumer Reports once did on 1-hour labs, perhaps around 1990 (?), which might have also included large amateur (not pro) labs.
Last edited by Mr Bill; 01-27-2014 at 12:28 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
All the labs I worked during this period were PMA members, No I am not mis-remembering, the size may have been 8x10 or it could have been 5x7, the test was to prove that the mini labs were not providing good colour density, and this was clearly not the case.
The pro labs of the day were full of incompetent technicians with not a grain of colour theory and as well lousy eyes. The breakthrough of the mini labs was helped by this.
Dig deeper and you may find someone from the day in your area who remembers this as well.
Originally Posted by Mr Bill
Back when I started my portrait studio almost 9 years ago, I was using a local lab for everything. When White House Custom Color got my attention, they did a free set of five 8x10 prints for me, and once I compared them to the prints produced by my local guys, I switched. Most labs will do this for new accounts.
I'm kind of sorry that I brought the word "pro" into the conversation. "ProLab" is really more of an industry term meaning portrait and wedding specialist labs. That was never to imply that a local lab can't do great work. I think the problem is that margins are always so tight for the local guys, and with their lower volume they really have to make up the difference, and that usually comes out of customer service.
it's like this:
Professional photographers are the ones who scrape a living out of the hard packed dirt where nothing but weeds grow. I've been doing it for 17 years and it isn't always fun or pretty but I don't really know how to do anything else, so...
I live in Dallas and the "Pro Lab" here (BWC) didn't require an account. Maybe things have changed since "creating an account" so I can just be charged and not have to deal with calling in my CC number.
Originally Posted by CatLABS
BTW, I send Millers some scanned files and got their free 8x10s and I'm impressed.
BWC does great work. Creating an account probably makes it all sound like more of a hassle than it is. Name, contact info, credit card on file, let's make some photos.
Originally Posted by mweintraub
My point was that I didn't need to make an account to view prices or even get film processed there at first.
Originally Posted by ParkerSmithPhoto