"We have full-service optical and digital processing departments to handle any of our clients' printing needs," he says. "We feel our employees make the difference—they all bring a unique talent to our lab that they put to work to give our customers a creative edge."
Business at this portrait and wedding lab is running about 70% digital. On the digital side, they have a Fuji Frontier digital minilab that does all of their 10-inch and smaller work. For larger prints the lab utilizes a ZBE Chromira, which produces their 11 x 14–inch to 30 x 40–inch jobs.
"With digital cameras getting easier to use, we're seeing that more consumers are shooting more of the event-type photography situations such as anniversary or retirement parties rather than hiring a photographer as they had done in the past," he says. "This has cut into their business a bit. Photographers are using Walmarts and Costcos because of price issues because their business has been cut into."
"We've become a bit of a commodity because photographers have had to cut their costs," he continues. "So to address this we've had to become a little more price competitive. Just last month we stated offering $0.29 proofs off of our Frontier. That hopefully should bring some of the proofing work back to the lab. We aren't looking to compete with the Walmarts of the world, but we need to be a one-stop shopping place for our customers."
One of the things the company is doing differently is trying to be a little more price-conscious to the professional, because they're having a harder time on their end. "We're also trying to give added benefits that other competitors can't give them, such as finishing services," says Newbanks. "That includes a huge array of new embossed textures and fancy borders."
The company also utilizes an online FTP site where photographers can send their orders. "We have an FTP site located on our website (www.nctricolor.com) where customers can send their digital files," Newbanks says. "About 20–30% of our clients currently use the site. The rest of our clients send the orders in on CD because they don't have high-speed Internet access."
"We've been using Fuji StudioMaster PRO since it was first introduced," he adds. "We were one of the first labs in the country to offer it our customers. StudioMaster PRO helps us with the order entry process. It totally eliminates about 90% of all order entry at the lab. The photographer is putting the entire order together, so when he packs the order with sizes and quality, we are able to utilize that information when it's loaded in the system. This helps eliminate errors. They can send us the packed CD or they can FTP the info to us."
Once the order has arrived, employees can then go into PIC to color-correct files. The PIC takes over the job and automatically prints everything the photographer asked for in the order.
New features with version 3.0 include package software, where they can create packages for proms or sports. Another new feature allows photographers to burn a slideshow to a CD to use for marketing purposes. "The software has been pretty seamless in helping our business run smoothly," states Newbanks.
Ensuring Repeat Customers with Digital
"Workflow software is crucial to your business—you can't process digital without the correct software," says Dan Wilmoth, CEO of United Color Lab, Memphis, TN.
Wilmoth is starting to see a big shift in digital. "Currently, about 50% of our jobs are digital," he says. "The way things are going, I think that by the end of next year we will be 100% digital."
One of the challenges of digital imaging is proper education. "There's a leaning curve for photographers—they need to be computer literate," he adds. "They also have to learn to properly shoot digital."
United Color Lab has been in business for over 12 years and is now located in a state-of-the-art 25,000-square-foot facility. They have two Polielettronica Laserlabs in their Memphis facility. Together they can print 2,000 high-quality 8 x 10s (or equivalent) per hour. United Color is also equipped with a Noritsu 31 Pro Turbo package printer, adding 700 8 x 10 units per hour to their lab capacity. This printer also offers back printing. "Every image is video analyzed and individually color-corrected to ensure the highest-quality print available," says Wilmoth. "Each job is then custom packaged for shipment to our customers."
UCL specializes in high-volume, true photographic digital prints. The lab runs on OzE workflow software from Digital Photography Innovations. OzE is a modular software series that provides a total digital workflow solution for professional labs and photographers. OzE Lab integrates the order information coming from OzE field units into the lab production practically without human intervention. It applies the roster information, and the Custom Retouch function not only easily cleans up photos, but also updates your image previews.