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  1. #51
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CatLABS View Post
    Printing / processing = not the same thing. You can get perfect 4X6 prints in seconds at any wallgreens printed on a dry fuji/nuritsu/epson machine for next to nothing. Optical printing is long gone anyways so what difference does it make?

    Most costco and 1hour desks at stores no longer have wet anything, no minilabs no film processing.

    Photo finishing is not doomed, its just transformed into something that is different.
    The concept that one is a "pro" photographer, as opposed to someone who is just a plain old photographer is whats doomed, and for good reasons, none of which are the fact someone is grinding down the price (after all thats the basis of free market capitalism) and a natural occurring thing in all aspects of life.
    If you do a test and send the same file to Walgreens, Costco and then to a good lab like Millers or White House Custom Color, you will see a remarkable difference in the side by side comparison. We have a Walgreens literally ½ mile from my house, and I wouldn't send a picture of a sidewalk to be printed there. It's just awful. I know they have a Fuji machine, but it just isn't being used or maintained properly. No good.

    Costco has remarkably decent output, although color can be spotty, usually trending red. Good enough for family snapshots, quick 4x6 proofs, etc. Once you get to the 16x20 size they actually use large format inkjet which is quite good.

    The price for an 8x10 at Millers or White House Custom Color is usually 4x what it would be at Costco, but the attention to quality and finish is remarkable, along with the customer service. (The competitive nature of the industry is such that if you don't have sparkling customer service, you will perish.) These two labs get 90% of my work, and for the finest art prints, my local large format Epson guy handles all of that. My lab bill last year was $12,000, and I could cut that considerably by using Costco, but with lower -- to me unacceptably -- quality.

    The debate about "professionalism" in photography goes all the way back to the Daguerreotype days. The popularity of and demand for Daguerreotypes was such that the market was suddenly flooded with fly by night Daguerreotypists! There was a vigorous debate about who was a "professional" Daguerreotypist. This has been repeated over and over for decades.

    The compression in the photo printing industry is primarily a result of people not printing their digital files. Too few customers + too many labs = lots of players going bankrupt. I can't tell you how many labs I've worked with over the years that just one day weren't there! Last year we lost our last E6 lab:

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    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

  2. #52
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    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.

  3. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carnie View Post
    Sample case

    Photographer sends film to a mini lab that processes via roller transport, but then scans and applies Digital Ice program to hide dust and scratches.
    (Digital Ice programs were available to the large and mini labs for over 15 years.)
    They then pull off brilliant 4x6 proof prints or even 8x10 prints, photographer is very happy .
    Two years later , photographer comes to me with their cherished images, and ask me to make a series of 16 x20 silver gelatin prints.

    I make the prints on my condenser enlargers, with Apo lenses, with level glass carriers resulting in beautiful prints with heavy scratches due to scratching in process.
    Client thinks I am a shit, because the proofs were lovely but the prints are scratched , and I have already charged them for my services.
    Very early in my printing for others day this was a common occurrence , if it wasn't scratches from other labs it was improper processing that usually resulted in poor shadow detail.
    What is a poor boy to do, WELL I started to refuse foreign film negatives (film processed by others) , I was called arrogant, snobbish, reclusive,, ***Dinesh can add a few more names***.
    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.

    I really admire these boutique labs that still produce beautiful handmade silver and platinum prints. As they say, there's riches in niches...
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

  4. #54
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    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.

  5. #55

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carnie View Post
    The results were clear and concise,,, the mini labs blew away the custom labs in colour accuracy density and contrast.
    I think this pretty much sums it up.

    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!
    CatLABS of JP
    Darkroom resources and service

    www.catlabs.info | https://www.facebook.com/CatLABS.of.JP | www.jobo-usa.com

  6. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carnie View Post
    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.
    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.

    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.

  7. #57
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    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.



    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Bill View Post
    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.

    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.

  8. #58
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    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:
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    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...
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

  9. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by CatLABS View Post
    That must be a southern thing. I have never heard of that, at ANY pro lab, yet.
    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.


    BTW, I send Millers some scanned files and got their free 8x10s and I'm impressed.

  10. #60
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mweintraub View Post
    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.


    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.
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

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