Hufford in front of his Epson 9600. Both of the images in the photo printed on canvas sold in high-end galleries. Panorama titled "Makena Beach" is from a Better Light scanning back with a panorama adapter; it sold for $3,500. The French horn was captured from an Olympus E-1 studio shoot.
At PMA 2004, equipment vendors continued to improve their printers in ways that could broaden demand for large-format imaging services this year.
Large-format imaging continues to advance on several fronts, delivering higher-quality images, faster print speeds and the versatility to print on a much broader array of media than at any time in the past. If you are a photo lab, whatever direction you want to take your large-format services, there's a new printer (and company) behind it, eager to partner with you to establish new and improved large-format services. One user in particular who is having a lot of success with Epson printers is Randy Hufford, owner of Maui Custom Color Lab.
Hufford started shooting pictures, processing his own images and printing at the age of 10. At 18 he chose Olympus as the camera of choice for an international project named Night Moves, swimming unprotected into the shark-infested Hawaiian surf at night to capture surfers, frozen in motion, with a strobe in a custom-built water housing. The editorial Night Moves project brought him overnight international acclaim, from which he was able to set up Hawaii's premier photo lab. For nearly three decades he has managed, supervised and has turned it into the largest producer of art reproduction and commercial large-format printing in the Pacific Rim. As both a master photographer and lab technician, he understands the complex issues of the changing digital marketplace from both perspectives.
"We ran one of Hawaii's largest photo labs for 23 years. The transition to digital started to happen when we started doing fine-art reproduction and large-format printing a few years back," he said. "When our roll counts began to drop, we then sold off most of the conventional equipment and became an all-digital photo lab with our main business being fine-art printing. We then caught the eye of Epson when we started speaking and teaching at some of the conventions and shows. Epson took notice of what we were doing and liked what we doing with their products. We wanted a printer that would give us the best possible quality, and we chose Epson. We first started with the Epson 1200 and 9000 printers. Now we have the 7600, 9600 and 10600," Hufford added.
"We also chose Epson because they listened to our needs. They expanded their product lines with the end user in mind. The new UltraChrome inksets are fabulous and give smooth colors and skin tones. We can also have the option to output images on their specialty media. It opens up more doors for us with our clients."
Always on the cutting edge of new technology, by having his own commercial photo lab, Hufford is also in total control with his commercial assignments. He has been creating special effects and other high-tech imaging before the inception of Photoshop. His client list includes such luminaries as Mercedes-Benz, Time Magazine, Sheraton Hotels, Hyatt Regency and Surfing Magazine.
"I believe that we are going through one of the biggest technology changes in the history of photography. And I still believe there are still more opportunities for the photo lab in the digital world of today. The emphasis has just shifted. More people want prints now than before. We just have to be aware of these other opportunities. More people are shooting more on their digital cameras. Digital has renewed my love for photography and my vision for images and creating more unique stuff.
"We are located near the town of Lahaina. Lahaina's main drag, Front Street, is packed with nightlife and dining opportunities. Among other things, it has the highest concentration of art galleries in the state. And apparently they are number two in the world in art sales. A good part of our business comes from this area."
Hufford is currently producer and director of educational tools for Epson. He recently produced an educational interactive DVD for Epson, which provides finishing touches for prints that he learned over the years as a lab owner. "It's a real benefit to dealers and users of Epson products," he added. "The format is similar to the TV show, showing hands-on solutions and techniques. It is set up in chapters so it can be viewed a little at a time. The main purpose of this DVD is to inform every Epson Prographics user of new and current technologies available to them that can be used to improve their workflow, as well as end up with a classy finishing product."
In addition, as a guru on color management and large-format printing, Hufford is an internationally sought-after speaker. Last fall, he was also named to the prestigious Olympus Visionaries program. The program was established to provide a venue for professional photographers to realize their creative vision through digital photography.
Hufford also opened an educational resource center at his location, where they hold many of their workshops. "This educational and resource center is a compilation of 25 years of research and experience in the photographic industry. In it we embrace the transition from the traditional photographic market into the new digital age. You will find solutions that have been applied to a working photographic lab and studio."
"I am a firm believer that photography is a craft and that control of the whole process from the photograph's inception to the finished piece is essential," he said. "What got me into the photo lab arena in the first place was that I wanted to have control of my own photography from the beginning to the end. I really believe that the greatest change in the history of photography is happening right now. Epson has made it affordable enough to make prints better. There are still opportunities for the photo lab. But more of them should be jumping on the digital bandwagon and trying to find different new niches in the market to capture. Digital has given me a new love of photography. Epson has helped me take that love of photography to new levels."