Magazine Article


Darkroom on Wheels
Little League Tourney Workflow Thatís Going Places

Jeff Montgomery

In the late 1980s, I started doing freelance photography, including my first sports photo shoots. Eventually, I ran the portrait division and was one of the top salesmen for a local camera store. In between managing a one-hour photo lab and working as the studio manager for the three stores in one company, I worked for a commercial photo studio, known as Positive Image Photography.

I shot weddings, commercial work, studio portraits, and on-location portraiture. After a while, I wanted to simplify things, and decided to concentrate on sports. Loving the outdoors and sports, it was a natural fit. I changed the company name to Sportraits Photography and never looked back.

With nothing more than a folding card table and a dry-erase chalkboard, we set up shop. Each photo shoot seemed to pay for a new piece of equipment. My first camera was a Minolta X-700, purchased in the late 1980s. I eventually purchased the Canon A-2 and A-2E with L f/2.8 series lenses, from 17mm to 300mm, then a Canon D30, then a Canon 10D. Today, I use the Canon 30D, which I absolutely love.

The first digital cameras were very expensive and no printer could output fast enough or at a reasonable enough cost to justify switching to digital. It was still faster for me to shoot film, run to the local lab and have prints made, since we were shooting at such high volume.

Mitsubishi Enters the Picture

Then, in the spring of 2004, we got the Mitsubishi 9000 printers, which I had seen at PMA. I ordered one, then another a couple of days later, because I was so impressed with the print quality, cost per print, and speed. Today, we have eight Mitsubishi printers: seven 9000s and 9500s and a 3020, an 8x10 printer.

During this past summerís league tournaments, we took four Mitsubishi printers on the road plus two Macs and three PCs and Epson Stylus Pro 7600 and 4000 printers, to output our poster prints.

The color quality from the Mitsubishi printers is extremely consistent so we printed our photos in one run.

While traveling to different baseball tournaments, a typical staff includes one top-notch graphic artist, who produces multiple-image posters we call ďReflections of the GameĒ posters (above); two sales people, who also help stuff photos in the display albums; and me, taking the photographs.

We print all the photos we shoot and donít post any online. I think posting images on the Internet delays purchases and creates more work for the photographer. We want to sell our images onsite and leave knowing practically everything is done once we leave the tournament.

I make sure we have all our regular season team photo orders complete and out the door before hitting the road. We all take time off before July 4th until the week after, so we can come back relaxed and ready to go to work.

We were on the road just 25 days this summer because we had an exceptionally busy spring and did some upgrading to our trailer. Previous summers, we were on the road four to six weeks, from mid-July to the end of August. The rest of the year, we worked out of our office, shooting primarily on location.

In Studio and on The Road

It didnít take long to realize we could print our regular season team photos with Mitsubishi printers and not have to wait three to four weeks for the photos to come back from the lab.

Because of our increased business, we keep three 9000s and 9500s printers in our office and take four plus the 3020 on the road for action photos. Itís nice to be able to dedicate a printer for wallets, one for 3 1/2x5s, one for 5x7s, and one (the 3020) for 8x10s and magazine covers.

While dye-sub prints cost more than prints from a package printer, the low costs and overhead of a Mitsubishi printer means the savings come at the time the printer is purchased. By saving thousands of dollars initially and making prints at a price lower than your local Wal-Mart lab, you win both ways.

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