Magazine Article


BWC: Taking Black-and-White Into the Digital Age

Chuck Drobena, Dan Foster and Lou George
Chuck Drobena, general manager, portrait division, and a part of BWC since 1980; he headed the startup of the portrait division in 2001; (c.) Dan Foster, IT director, who is better known as the "Network Man": he makes everything digital communicate; and (r.) president and owner Lou George. She has worked closely with Chuck and Dan to transform the portrait division into an entity well-known for 24-hour service, quality products, and one-on-one customer service. The single largest advantage BWC Photo Imaging held in 2001, when the portrait division was started, was the educational background that team members had acquired during the commercial years of this now 32-year-old company. That digital knowledge brought into the portrait business gave BWC a jump-start on people labs that didn't have the commercial experience.
BWC Photo Imaging

Edythe Blackwell and Dan Olson
Executive portrait account reps Edythe Blackwell and Dan Olson discussing flush-mounted albums.
BWC Photo Imaging

Robert and Francis Michelau
BWC provides extensive mounting and framing services to online clients, as well as novelty items such as mouse pads, statuettes, fridge magnets, T-shirts, key chains, etc. Team members Robert and Francis Michelau not only work together at BWC in the mounting department - they're also married.
BWC Photo Imaging

Customer service team at BWC
Customer service is still the number-one hot spot for BWC. They want every client to have such a great experience working with them that they’ll tell others, and BWC will grow through word of mouth. Team members (top row, l. to r.): customer service rep and ROES trainer Ross Bateman, Larry Gray, customer service director Anthony Aguirre; (bottom row, l. to r.): Edythe Blackwell, Layla Yeates, Kyle Powell. Customer service at BWC rules, rocks, and rolls!
BWC Photo Imaging

Glenda Adams and Marisol Anguiano
Glenda Adams, senior quality control leader and a 23-year team member, teaches new team member Marisol Anguiano the fine art of quality control - and quality control is, indeed, an art.
BWC Photo Imaging

Front to back: Lynn Clay, Darrel Park, and Paul Strangeland
BWC runs production 24/7. This group of experienced machine printers works in volume printing and fulfillment. The work is usually shipped within 24 hours, and all fulfillment is provided at BWC. Team members are all Professional Photographic Technicians. (front to back): Lynn Clay, Darrel Park, and Paul Strangeland.
BWC Photo Imaging

Sam Escobar
Sam Escobar, in his 20th year as a black-and-white film processor with BWC, takes great pride in continuing to process film for the quality-minded niche photographers who prefer things the old-fashioned way. BWC can scan this black-and-white film once it is processed and have the best of both worlds: traditional film processing with the advantage of a digital workflow.
BWC Photo Imaging

BWC logo
Lou George
Lou George
Will Crockett

"Obviously, we were quite pleased with our decision to spin off the business," she continues. "Looking back, it was a rough five years. September 11 had a major impact on our company and on the industry as a whole. The dotcom bust was another big hit for us, because many of the companies that went out of business were our clients. During that time our trade-show business was way down, but we had our other services to fall back on and keep us going. We weathered those storms, and today we are a much stronger company for it."

Another good move for BWC was bringing the portrait business into their mix of services. "During that time we became immersed in the portrait market," she says. "Over the years, we have made every effort to stay on the cutting edge of new products so our clients can differentiate themselves."

George also has a museum exhibit business called Museumscapes ( "This business specializes in museum work for high-end operations," she adds. "We have work lined up in museums for the next several years."

George says that 2007 should be a banner year for BWC. "Our portrait business is up about 30 percent, which isn't the norm out there," she explains. BWC's list of clients includes high-end portrait studios, wedding photographers, and sports event photographers. They also offer online printing and fulfillment for outlab services from larger national retailers.

Digital Equipment

When Durst and Ilford Photo announced the availability of the Durst Theta 76 BW printer, made specifically to handle IlfoSpeed RC Digital black-and-white paper, there was much speculation over which prolab would be the first to install this remarkable system. With no surprise, that honor went to BWC.

"We have printed black-and-white for most of our 32 years in business, primarily on Ilford RC paper for PR and agency work, as well as for newsletters and high-end weddings [for clients who] wanted the traditional look of black-and-white," says George.

"Although the ratios of film to digital, and black-and-white to color, have seesawed over the years, we have maintained our involvement in all areas," she adds. "Above all has been our commitment to quality—you only get one chance to impress a new customer. We are perfectionists. We make sure we get our clients' work right the first time, every time."

George sees no immediate end to black-and-white work. "There are clients who recognize the purity of printing black-and-white images onto black-and-white paper with no hints of green or magenta, which can occur when printing black-and-white images onto color paper," she says. "There will always be a demand for this format."

Lou George's dedication to high-quality black-and-white printing prompted her to be first in the queue to see the incredible print quality of the Durst Theta 76 BW, the first digital LED system for true black-and-white printing. This is now achieved with the new IlfoSpeed RC Digital paper, for which the printer was designed.

The system uses the proprietary Durst Fiber Optic (DFO) printing technology for continuous printing on black-and-white papers such as IlfoSpeed RC Digital. This fully extends the qualities of this unique photographic paper, seamlessly creating a bridge between digital imaging and the benchmark quality of real silver gelatin black-and-white prints.

"The results achievable from the combination of the Theta 76 BW system and the IlfoSpeed paper are incredible," says George. "We predict that demand for quality enlargements up to 30 inches, point-of-sale material, and corporate imagery will be high on their list.

"The Durst Theta 76 has really helped revolutionize our business," she continues. "With this product, Durst has come through with 30-inch capability of real black-and-white, and real black-and-white chemistry that provided us with a printer/processor that enabled us to offer all the advantages of digital but [with] real black-and-white photographs."

They also have a Theta 76 that prints color as well. "The productivity of these two printers is off the scale," she says. "My motto has always been to get the jobs back to the clients as fast as possible so they can make more sales. That's why we try to provide a 24-hour solution for them. The two Thetas help us get that done."

BWC also runs two new Fuji Frontier 570s. "These units also offer pretty remarkable quality," she says. "We have been able to offer services that were not available before with instant turnaround."