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Studio Rentals Give Labs More Profit Opportunities



Zeff Photo Supply of Belmont, MA, has been in business for almost 70 years, serving the needs of professional and amateur photographers as a full-service photo specialty store with a lab. Oldham in Zeff Photo's 400 square feet of studio rental space. As more full-service labs look to invigorate their businesses, a few labs have taken their success with digital imaging services as a springboard to new service areas. We are seeing more and more labs offering different types of services such as equipment rental services, as well as renting out studio space to photographers. More digital photo labs and service bureaus are finding out that an in-house digital photo studio not only works nicely into their digital workflow, but it can also offer money and time savings to photographers with the advantages of one place to go for all of their imaging needs.

Zeff Photo Supply of Belmont, MA, has been in business for almost 70 years, serving the needs of professional and amateur photographers as a full-service photo specialty store with a lab. "We have all the photographic equipment that anyone would need and the expertise to make it work," says Doug Oldham, rental, industrial and educational sales at Zeff Photo. "In addition to a full-service digital lab, we provide sales, service, repairs and rentals of all sorts of photographic products."

Zeff Photo has 400 square feet of studio space that they rent out to their photographer base. "We opened the studio about a year ago due to requests from photographers," says Oldham. "Our building used to be a creamery, so it's a big area. We even have additional space available if we want to add on. There's access to our secure interior loading dock so photographers can unload their equipment and props. For a flat fee of $200, photographers can use the studio space for the entire day."

Oldham points out that the studio also helps their rental business and can lead to an equipment purchase. "The studio gives photographers a chance to try out the equipment: They have a chance to demo it and see if they want to purchase it."

In addition to owning Pro Photo Connection, visionary Schorle is an award-winning photographer, as well as a designer of panoramic cameras. Schorle in his photo gallery, where he produces a lot of his own work.

Oldham notes that they also set up photo studios for new photographers looking to go digital. "We try to provide a complete digital education," he says. "Our philosophy is to staff our sales and rental departments with people who are experienced and willing to go the extra mile." Zeff Photo's rental inventory includes a full range of the latest camera backs, including the Phase One H 25 and Leaf Valeo. They also offer comprehensive traditional and digital camera systems from Mamiya, Hasselblad, Bronica, Canon, Nikon and Olympus.

"On the output side we have a complete digital photo lab that's capable of handling anything that comes its way," he continues. "We have a digital area that's integrated to our lab. We have successfully created a facility blending traditional methods with the newest in digital, meeting all a photographer's needs under one roof." Equipment includes a Fuji Frontier 370 and scanner.

Photographers can also rent a number of workstations fully equipped with a Macintosh dual-processor G4 with Photoshop, 21-inch monitor and Wacom tablet. "Our studio saves clients a lot of time by providing a one-stop serviceit brings new business into our location, and it's also ideal for photographers to get a good digital education on the new equipment out there," Oldham says.

Pro Photo Connection

Some 3,000 miles away on the West Coast, Pro Photo Connection is in the process of setting up their studio space, which they plan to open in June. Pro Photo Connection is a full-service camera store and service bureau located in Irvine, CA, offering digital services, a full-service processing lab, and the sale and rental of cameras and other photographic equipment.

Owner Kornelius Schorle, along with his wife, Janet, has been in business since 1987. In addition to owning the business, visionary Schorle is an award-winning photographer, as well as a designer of panoramic cameras.

When asked why he's opening an in-house studio, Schorle replies, "Because our customers asked for it. We already had a successful equipment rental business, so we wanted to take it to the next level. Everything we do here is driven by our customers. It was a no-brainer. It's like the line from Field of Dreams: 'If you build it, they will come.'"

Schorle says that when word got out that they were opening a studio, it created quite a buzz: "A lot of photographers don't want to make that big initial investment for digital, and some don't even have a studio," he says. "In addition, many of our clients come from Europe and Asia and come to the LA area for photo shoots. We're lucky enough that we can speak French and German and talk to them. They need a place where they can work on a project from start to finish. They need a place where they can shoot their images and FTP back to their country quickly. And, since we installed the wireless T1 line, we can FTP all over the world 24 hours a dayso we're totally connected to ad agencies and publications in Europe or Asia. Files that customers create will be able to be printed quickly, put on CD or DVD, or sent high-speed to any ad agency for soft proofing or for final delivery."

4,000-Square-Foot Studio

The totally equipped digital rental studio, called "live to print," will be about 4,000 square feet. "It's a huge area that offers a loading dock where trucks can pull in and out," adds Schorle. "If it's successful, we can expand it. The building that we own is 22,000 square feet with an upstairs. In addition, if we need to, we can get a permit from the city to make a rooftop studio as well.

"The studio is for photographers who want to come to a fully equipped studiothey don't want to invest in the equipment, they just want to rent and give it a test drive. We ask them what they want and what equipment they're comfortable with, and we provide it. Our studio will have a full line of digital cameras and recording devices like the Leaf Valeo and Canon D1, as well as the Fuji S20. Both Canon and Fuji are interested in this new venture."

Photographers can also rent one of 10 Macintosh workstations to use as an output and retouching station. In addition, Pro Photo Connection's digital department also provides photographers one-stop shopping for output solutions. "Our digital department offers state-of-the-art equipment and software to produce the finest output for photography professionals around the world," Schorle says. "We can output to our LightJet 5000 and the Durst Theta 50 using Fuji Crystal Archive and Kodak's Metallic paper, as well as Duratrans for backlit images." The department also features Creo and Imacon scanners, plus Iris and Epson inkjet printers.

"Our digital department provides a total turnkey solution for photographers," he reports. "We can scan or print it for them quickly, and they can turn around and send to their clients."

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