Magazine Article


National Photo Imaging Offers a Mixed Bag of Services

Steve Rubin of National Photo in Chicago.
The Chicago, IL-based shop offers large format roll and solvent inkjet printing, an Oce LightJet digital photo printer, a Gandi 10-ft roll-to-roll, an Oce flatbed, plus black-and-white long runs.

For over 50 years NationalPhoto has been recognized in the Midwest as a leading provider of Visual Graphics. Graphic designers, art directors, and marketing/communications specialists consistently expand their talents by utilizing our services. The Chicago, IL-based shop offers large-format roll and solvent inkjet printing, an Oce LightJet digital photo printer, a Gandi 10-ft roll-to-roll, an Oce flatbed, plus black-and-white long runs.

National Photo is a healthy imaging shop and is turning a profit with mixed services. It’s background is a second-generation family business. National developed transitional business plan. The principals devoted a lot of time and energy in seminars and trade shows in order to learn about new technology and equipment.

The studio photography service at National is a niche for shooting digital executive portraits, explained Barry Rubin, an accountant, who shares ownership with his brother Steve. Steve is a photographer in his own right and will continue to shoot as long as the market is there. National has an ideal location, minutes from Michigan Avenue and the Loop . Barry said that business men can grab a taxi and are in and out in 10 minutes. “There are executives who want it [their picture] to look right.” They may have a company digital camera, but not the setup and lighting.

“We could even shoot film. we have the processing, C-41, black-and-white, E6, but there is not enough b&w and E6.” Steve adds, “Film is starting to be a distraction.” The studio, however, is “profitable.”

National was always known for its ‘quantity’ services. Barry says that long-run printing is still a good business because, “We pay attention to the quality. “Good enough has done more harm to us than technology.”

All this said, Barry and Steve know that the above mentioned services are tenuous. “Large-format is our future. We made a decision to go in that direction to stay in business; other services have a minimal shelf life.”

National’s equipment is truly a mixed bag, a Polie printer for medium format, a Mühlersohn is used for head shots, a LIghtJet for clients who want photo murals. They even have some wedding business. “We have a Noritsu 3011. We scan, use film, make CDs. We don’t compete with Walgreens [on price]. There are people who make a distinction in quality. They [the equipment] are all working, but it’s a lot different than 10 years ago.

“Photo people are raising the standard [in digital graphics]. We try to compare inkjet to a photo and you can’t do that. We are blessed”

Barry, being a numbers man, has some good advice. First, make a business plan when you set out to reinvent your company. Use your traditional services and clients as a stepping stone. “Quantity printing financed a lot of our new purchases.” Barry and Steve took their profits from the old days and reinvested in the business. Barry believes that this is one of the ingredients for success. “Just reinvest in your business, and go out and find new clients.”