Our 11 portrait studios in Texas and North Carolina are mall-based private studios that offer our clients-typically mothers shopping in the mall-quality images with the extra touch of seeing the images moments after a photo session. Powering our business is ExpressDigital's full Digital Everyday product line.
Using the ExpressDigital Darkroom we make most color, size, and other enhancements right in front of the customer. Our own lab provides fulfillment for our 11 photography studios, with Labtricity managing the function. If a studio customer crops in 20 percent on an image, turns it B&W, and adds a border or vignette, that's exactly how it arrives at the lab. We make any necessary corrections, then the software routes the file to our Durst, Kodak, Gretag, or Konica printer.
If there are any retouching or surface notes, the software knows on the Labtricity side to put the file in a "retouch in" folder, which holds a JPEG of the original file and instructions for what to do with the image. When we're done, a "retouch out" basket on the desktop automatically populates a Labtricity program.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
Our first studio opened about eight years ago. Some three years later, digital started coming on strong. We went digital so our photographers could hold the cameras and get on the floor with customers. Right about that time we started doing our own processing. It all just came together.
We were on the front end of the learning curve and had some issues to work through. Even then, Express was head and shoulders above the many vendors out there.
When we were getting into the lab business we talked to other photographers, and found out that one of the major obstacles for their going digital was Photoshop. While we use it at the lab for retouching, colorization, and other enhancements, the studios don't use it at all. Everything is right there in the Express software.
They can pull up the image, push a button to turn it B&W, add a border, scroll the mouse to enlarge it, grab the image and move it around within the frame, choose the crop they want, and see what the image will look like. To send an image to the lab to print, they hit "order" and it automatically goes over the Internet to our lab, where it pops up in front of our lab operator.
While Photoshop is a great program, it has a huge learning curve. With ExpressDigital, you can use the software for five minutes and understand 80 percent of it.
The Express package also takes care of online orders, with www.PhotoReflect.com. Every customer is published to the Web, whether they purchase or not. With www.PhotoReflect.com, they can email the links to their images to friends and family, which drives business back to our website, creating future business as well as a good source of passive income.
You don't have to set up your own e-commerce account. Just right click on a customer's name, hit "publish," and put in a password for them. They go to your site, view the photos, click on their name, enter their password, see their images, and place an order. When PhotoReflect gets a credit card number, they email advising you which customer placed an order and where to ship it. Within a couple of weeks, you receive a check minus their e-commerce fee.
WOWING THE CUSTOMER
Our studios are designed to look like what our customer thinks a studio should look like. They're large, bright, visible to the public, with 16x20 or 20x24 prints on the walls, like in a gallery.
Our specialties are kids, families, and glamour. Glamour is a growing part of our business. I used to be the largest glamour franchisee in the country. I left that company and started Studio One to One because I wanted a full-service studio, one that caters to families and children. That's where you find the repeat business.
Some years ago, I started seeing maternity prints coming in to our lab. Today it's a large part of our business. If you do maternity portraits well, mothers will treasure them because they're of a time they'll want to remember forever.
As you can see from our images, we're not a prop studio, we're a personalty studio. We capture personalities, expressions. We take a lot of pictures, sometimes 30 or 40, to able to capture the five or six a mother will want to keep.