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As if the to-do list of today’s lab and imaging services owners isn’t long enough—besides the everyday necessities associated with running their businesses—dealing with personnel issues, maintaining inventory, balancing monetary constraints, meeting and exceeding client expectations—owners and staff must also stay ahead of emerging technologies, study customer trends, and stay abreast of what may soon be coming down the pike.
Our Annual Lab & Imaging Services Directory features a cross-section of professionals offering their take on the current photographic marketplace, where it’s headed, and what they can do to take advantage of that trend—by helping their clients and their own businesses boost profitability.
One-on-one client attention has served AutumnColor Digital Imaging (Worcester, MA) well, with a noticeable upswing in individual consultations.
“Photographers want to make appointments with our digital guru, so they can come in for a few hours and sit with him to work on their files,” says owner Mark Doyle. “They don’t want to learn Photoshop—they want the benefit of an expert printer. They’ll sit next to him and make requests about burning, dodging, color, and so on.”
The results for AutumnColor Digital Imaging have proven spectacular: Repeat business is booming (clients come back every month, or every other month, to set up appointments), and the lab has received numerous referrals for the service, as well. “It’s the definition of a true custom lab,” says Doyle. “Our print orders have increased dramatically because folks are truly getting what they want from their images. It’s been a successful addition to our services.”
Protecting their assets is no small task, albeit a necessary one. “The most important aspect of our business is our client image archives,” says Doyle. “We have more than 60,000 images on file in our offices from the last 10 to 15 years’ worth of scanning and file work, so backup is extremely important. We have an off-site hard copy backup in a another town, and a computer system that backs up files on a daily basis. Even that system has a built-in backup in case one of the drives fails.”
AutumnColor also revisited and updated all its insurance policies this year, according to Doyle. “We made a comprehensive list of all our equipment, hardware, software—everything right down to the chairs and file cabinets,” he says. “Our insurance company came out to our location and did an evaluation. By updating all our policies, we found a bit of peace of mind.”
Canvas artwork, framing choices, backdrops, and lightboxes drew in customer orders for BigPosters.com (Farmingdale, NY). “Big murals reproduced on wallpaper were also popular,” says president Michael Karmatz. “We stay on top of new technology and strive to give our customers the best quality, fastest service, and best prices.”
Backing up customer files is done online, and a dual-location strategy helps prevent printing dilemmas. “We have two facilities, so unless New York suffers from widespread power outages or a natural disaster, printing will be the least of our worries,” he says.
Battling consumer misconception has been challenging for efotolab.com (Wilmington, DE). “Since the advent of inkjet photo printers for home use, the consumer’s perception of quality has been significantly reduced,” explains president Joel Plotkin. “This is not due to the quality of the printers, but due to the inherent differences between inkjet printing and silver halide–based printing, as well as the average consumer’s understanding of color space. We are a professional photographic lab, and it has been and will remain our mission to maintain high-quality standards for our customers. Based on this commitment to excellence, we are continuing to see growth in our photographic printing line.”
The online lab has also seen an “incredible increase” in requests for offset printed materials over the past year, so it is now in the process of adding printing and bindery services to its suite of products. “Traditionally, the offset printing industry ignored one-off printing due to the high cost,” says Plotkin. “New, affordable equipment like the HP Indigo line of printers has made high-quality, one-off printing a reality. Although I believe photographic printing has a solid future, enhancements like off-set printing are a perfect complement to our existing services. The bottom line: High-quality products and top-notch customer service keep our clients’ businesses and our business competitive and profitable.”
Servers in several locations and diligent nightly backup help keep Efotolab.com’s files safe and secure. “We would be able to be up and online shortly after any catastrophe,” asserts Plotkin.
Ken Lieberman Laboratories (New York, NY) has found that its most requested service this year was making exhibit custom prints digitally. “The introduction of printing black-and-white fiber prints directly from a digital file has created great interest among professional photographers,” says president Ken Lieberman. “It now means that the fine-quality fiber prints, which have always had the highest print quality, can now be made digitally.”