While the huge industry-wide shift to digital capture is fast becoming old news, the workflow software being employed at labs across the country remains, for many, cause for celebration. For the full-service labs that continue to offer traditional optical photographic printing as well as state-of-the-art digital imaging services, the benefits some of workflow software packages are delivering to their bottom lines have been boundless.
Reedy Photoprocess Corp.
A case in point is Stan Reedy, president of Reedy Photoprocess Corp., based in St. Petersburg , FL. A general service lab, Reedy's business has been in business some 25 years and services the wedding portrait, schools and sports markets. Reedy notes that while they are still running optical, and about 85 percent of their work is being done digitally, they are looking to become a 100 percent digital environment in the near future. DP2 Version 6.1 software from Kodak Professional is helping to make that possible.
“It’s made us much more profitable,” he points out. “And, the DP2 software has also helped us reduce labor and increase productivity about four to five times from what it was on the optical side. This translates into greater profitability and a healthier company.”
DP2 has enabled us to offer a wide variety of products in a completely integrated workflow. Everything moves through the lab in days versus on the optical side, where it would take seven to 10 days. DP2 now runs our entire production workflow.
Touting this latest version as representing “yet another improvement to the software product that is fast becoming the standard for professional portrait labs,” Kodak asserts that they’ve listened carefully to their customers and added new features and functions that make DP2 even more powerful than before.
Mike Fraser, Reedy’s lab manager and vice president, agrees. “Kodak has become even more responsive in the past 12 months,” he attests. “What you’d think would take 12 months to achieve, they’re accomplishing in one to two months. Our customers expect us to be flexible, and we don’t know what kinds of challenges they’ll throw at us. But, we know we can make it happen with solutions from DP2 - it gives us that flexibility.”
This latest version of DP2 is designed to provide new support for the Kodak Professional DCS camera line at an advanced level. It applies the embedded “Look Profiles” that are input at image capture as well as the tone curve and white point settings made in Kodak Professional DCS Photo Desk v3.2. This means that now, when you receive digital image files taken with Kodak Professional DCS cameras, you can increase your first print yield in ways that weren’t possible before. DP2 continues to provide powerful editing tools for digital files, including gamma and LUT curve adjustments, but now allows for even more automation with new macros in the Macro Assistant and new support for DVD writing on Rimage CD writers.
As lab manager, Fraser is loving the new features. They give him more creative control, he says, as well as more choices for his wedding photography customers. “We can composite up multiple images on an album page and create different shapes and orientation of the images. We can vary the rotation and the opacity of images without going into Photoshop to create that.” Another perk he cites is the ability to pull up any order and review it with the customers to see when the order was printed and where it is in the lab. Reedy can have the prints in front of him to review with clients and do additional work on and solve any problems they may have. From where Reedy sits, he sees other benefits – benefits that impact his bottom line.
“For less than the cost of one employee, the DP2 software more than pays for itself. We’ve gone from 38 to 20 employees over the last three years due to increased productivity and workflow. And, our customers are happy with the decrease in service time. We’re extremely pleased with DP2 – it’s a world class piece of software.”
H&H Color Lab
But, like most everything else, software is subjective. Programs of choice vary from lab to lab. At H&H Color Lab in Kansas City , MO , a full service optical and digitalphotographic lab serving the professional photography market, FujiFilm’s Studiomaster PRO 3.0 is the handpicked program for their networked studio environment. Christina Boda, H&H’s MultiMedia graphic artist, states that H&H Color Lab has worked with Studiomaster PRO since its first version was released. ”Over the last four years,” she notes, "there have been four major version upgrades, each one adding new and helpful functionality to the software. Fuji ’s newest release, Studiomaster PRO V3, has added networking abilities, slide show export to CD, custom logos and the ability to work through image editing applications such as Photoshop to retouch images.”
A steady force on the lab landscape since 1970, H&H knows how to roll with the punches successfully. They scaled the hurdle from B&W to color film and are just as skilled at transitioning from film to the digital era, growing into one of the industry’s largest single facility professional people labs. H&H offers a complete product catalog for both traditional optical printing and the latest digital lineup of printing and finishing services. They meet the needs of studios ranging from Mom & Pops to some of the largest independent school and specialty studios, and service customers in every state of the union.
“The ability to use Studiomaster PRO in a networked studio environment has made it feasible for many more of our customers to begin using the software,” Boda explains. Many studios have three to five computers networked together, using one as a server that stores the original camera files. It’s now possible to browse across the network to the server from a client computer to import images and create jobs.” Boda points out that a common frustration among studios is the need to use many different pieces of software to accomplish their entire workflow from shooting to final print delivery. “Studiomaster PRO is helping to alleviate that problem by incorporating advanced slide show presentation features. Slide shows may be exported in order to burn a CD that the studio’s customer will be able to view.”
Demand from portrait and wedding photographers, combined with a desire to keep the lab current with the latest imaging trends, was the catalyst for H&H to create their own suite of software ordering programs to make ordering digital prints fast and easy.
They’ve forged working partnerships with several software solution providers. In addition to Fuji ’s StudioMaster PRO, these include Kodak’s optical and digital ProShots, Collages.net and LabPrints. Other digital partners are always being researched, tested, and added to the growing family of software and digital service providers.