Family and friends were surprised when I left my job at a prestigious technology company to start Lonnie Dawkins Photography, LLC, a portrait and wedding studio in Prince Georges County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. What was a part-time endeavor for 15 years has become a successful full-time profession.
But I had two major problems when it came to a digital workflow. One was producing color-corrected images. The other was having my black-and-white photographs "pop" like they do when printed in the darkroom. I swore that the only way to get brilliant black-and-white photographs was to spend hours in the darkroom.
I started working with a local lab, which provided a website and color-corrected my prints. They were doing an adequate job, but I didn't have the control over my prints that I require, including never seeing the actual prints. Maybe it's my paranoia, but I always like to see the final product to make sure it is up to my standards.
I also had no control over my website. and it was becoming cumbersome to request that the vendor make certain changes I wanted.
Recently, I attended an Epson Print Academy in New York City. For the $99 fee, I received a lot of valuable information about color correction and black-and-white printing, which I immediately put to use.
For starters, I learned that you can print really beautiful black-and-white images on the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer with the new UltraChrome K3 ink. The bottom line is I can now produce better quality prints in my studio than my local vendor and charge more for these large, custom-printed images.
Second, I found out that the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 Portrait Edition bundled with ExpressDigital's PhotoReflect.com enables me to do my own printing and create my own PhotoReflect.com storefront. With the Portrait Edition, once you have all your packages set up, just select "print" and the order goes directly to the printer of your choice. You are not locked into printing all your own work or sending all your work to an outside lab. You can set up the software to work with outside vendors for some of your printing and take advantage of additional products that vendors offer.
I attended ExpressDigital's Darkroom Regional Training in New York recently and was very impressed by Darkroom's capabilities, as well as the knowledgeable instructors. They showed us how easy it is to upload images to a PhotoReflect.com storefront with Darkroom, how the versatile software keeps track of all our orders and printing, and demoed a variety of packages that have proved very profitable. The training, priced at $95, also gave me an opportunity to network with other photographers, who were more than willing to share information.
One concern I had was being able to keep my current URL, www.lonniedawkins.com, because it was simple for my clients to remember. Using Microsoft's Expression Web software, I developed a website and built links enabling customers to visit my site, click on "Your Event," and seamlessly go to ExpressDigital to see and purchase their pictures.
I have had occasion to call both Epson and ExpressDigital's support, and while I haven't needed much help from either of them, their assistance was first rate.
I knew I had found the right solution when I took some of my prints to class at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Hanging alongside work that was created in a darkroom, my images were praised and passed the critical eye of some highly acclaimed photographers.
The Epson Stylus Pro 3800 Portrait Edition with ExpressDigital PhotoReflect.com has become the solution to my digital workflow problems. If you value high-quality black-and-white images, versatile output options, having control of your online storefront and purchasing, and quality training from Epson and ExpressDigital, this product duo may be the perfect solution for growing your business, too.
Lonnie Dawkins opened Lonnie Dawkins Photography, LLC (www.lonniedawkins.com), in Prince Georges County, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C., in 2004. Specializing in family and high school senior portraiture, as well as a limited number of weddings, he works on location and in his home studio.