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A Minilab Fraternity In Cyberspace: You Got Questions, We Got Answers



A Minilab Fraternity In Cyberspace:

You Got Questions, We Got Answers

by Jerry Lansky


Problem #1: "I have a color banding problem with an 1080-11 film scanner. It will show up in the middle of a roll on two or three images then go away." John Castrovillari, New Vision Photo, Stanford, CT.

Problem #2: "I heard we could export…a larger CD than the 72 dpi now created. Can you help. We have DLS version 3." Michael Fecchino, Michael's Photo Lab, Las Vegas.

Problem #3: "We've had occasional problems with our film processor jamming and it always seems to happen with those 39-exposure rolls from Kodak's single use cameras. Any tips?" Chris Lydle, Chris' Camera Center, Aiken, SC.

These are typical questions. (See the answers at the end of this article.) Where can you go for a quick insightful response?

If you're a member of "bestphotolist," an online service located at http://groups. yahoo.com/group/Bestphotolist/, you'll get answers to any minilab related subject ranging from equipment problems, pricing matters, store policies, and tons more from other minilab operators who are battling daily in the same trenches as you. Chances are, once you post the question on the site, you'll start getting authoritative answers back in just a few minutes and probably from multiple sources. It sure beats having to follow the instructions of a nameless voice saying, "Please press one; now press four" etc., and only maybe getting an intelligent response.

Bestphotolist has become an invaluable source for the minilab operator looking for no-BS answers to everyday problems encountered in the course of running his business. It's a true peer-to-peer service that makes the best use of what the Internet can provide to industry.

The father of bestphotolist is Bob Banasik.

Bob was one of the early movers into one-hour when he opened his lab in 1978 in Connecticut. He opened Best Photo Imaging Center in 1983 and through a series of bad circumstances was forced to close it last year. Along the way Bob has always had a strong feeling for the photo business and devoted much of his energy to industry concerns. He was a PMA territorial VP, president of the NY/Connecticut division of PMA and president of DIMA. More than enough contributions to the industry for one guy.

(By the way, Bob was recently hired by Digibug Express, Waltham, MA, as VP of retail services. This firm has developed a program for minilabs to participate in an online photo service network. Yes, Bob will continue to run bestphotolist.)

Yet, his greatest contribution, the one that will become his legacy to the industry is that he started bestphotolist, the namesake of his former business. That was on Oct. 2, 2000.

Why start such a list, Bob? At that point in the industry's history, digital was just starting to crank up and Bob had always been an early adopter. His lab was already filled with digital stuff and, like so many in the business at the time (some are still at this point) he wasn't sure what the business was all about and needed to confer with other in the hopes of getting much needed assistance. "We needed to talk about these things and there was no one to talk to," he said.

Bob understood the workings of Internet lists and was able to set up the bestphotolist as part of the Yahoo structure.

His mission statement is simple enough: "This list deals with photo and digital issues facing the independent photo lab, digital imaging center, specialty stores and their counterparts." A simple, straightforward mission statement that probably would have taken a corporate committee of 12 a full two months to agree on.

His first message, on opening day, read, in part:

"Hi folks…With this humble start I hope this will lead to something useful. The idea…is to share questions and ideas. I've only invited a handful so far, but I'm sure that will change."

Yes, it has changed. It took about 6-8 months, according to Bob, to get the first 100 members. "It was off to a very slow start." Now there are about 385 members. Considering there was only word-of-mouth going for it, no promotions, that's pretty good.

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