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

George is very happy with the Frontier minilab system, but she doesn't call it that. "We call them ‘digital laser printers' and tie them to the digital world," she explains. "It definitely challenges the traditional ways of printing on any other printer processor. Between the Frontiers and the Thetas, we produce more units with digital prints than ever before."

They also have a Noritsu 3101 Pro, as well as two Epson printers. "We are producing some nice giclée work on our Epson wide-format printer," she reports. "That area of the business has doubled for us over the past year."

Roll With the Changes

While digital has provided many challenges for labs over the years, it has also provided them with opportunities. "Although I still enjoy dabbling in the traditional world, it is quite evident that digital does rule," George says. "Digital is better—it allows you to take images beyond the next level."

As for the future of the industry, George sees more opportunities down the road, but she says savvy imagers need to stay on top of changes in the market and in technology.

"To stay successful in the market, you have to be prepared for change, because this business is all about change," she says.

"Technology is changing every day. The next step is identifying what markets you can serve the best. In our case, we split the business into two parts and tackled both of them with an absolute vengeance, and it turned out well for us."

"The impact of digital was huge and made us change the way we did things and reinvent ourselves," she adds. "So be prepared to make some major change in how you deal with clients and team members. In some cases, be prepared to start all over again. We did. It was a tough five years, but it's behind us now."

"I believe as an industry we can produce an image today better then we were able to produce in the analog world," she says. "I think our business has every potential for greater growth, just because the usage of the images today is more powerful than ever before. Together with our new AIE organization, we are poised for a good run, maybe one similar to the one in the early '80s."