One Hour Lab Primerin Photography Business
By 4353.v1/Patrick (293)
on April 23, 2002 1:48:01 PM CDT
One Hour Lab PrimerAfter working for 14 years for a one hour photo lab, I have just a few tips for you.
My first area concerns the name itself, "One Hour Photo Lab". Follow this rule of thumb when at all possible, just because the sign says they can, does not mean you should. When you ask for photographs back in a hurry, and I know that sometimes that is unavoidable, you are sacrificing some quality. The processor him/herself is not going to do it intentionally, but they have to go fast in order to get the prints out. Credible labs, and they are not as rare as some people think, have an advantage. They are keeping up their equipment. (I will go into that a little later.)Still, when you are dealing with print film, we all know that different films come out differently on the paper that the lab is using. At a fast pace, the printer only has about 5 to 8 seconds to quality check each photograph. At that pace things can get missed. So give them time. A good lab will do your film during slower times and keep putting them back through until they are satisfied that you will like the result.
Shop around for a lab that you like. Run several rolls through them to get a good feel for how they print and how they treat you. Make sure that the rolls represent a good cross section of types of work that you do. Tell them what you are doing and ask questions. Good labs will want to take the time to talk with you. They will be eager to tell you all about their services and reputation. Ask about quality control and preventative maintenance steps. Ask weather or not they check their chemicals and their color balance every day. They should keep a graph of how the chemistry quality is holding, ask if they do. I would not go so far as to ask to see the graphs themselves, but rather ask if they graph the chemical quality. Ask them point blank about mechanical problems they have had in the past. If they have older equipment (and most labs do, nothing wrong with that) then they have had some problems. Ask what their policy is when film is damaged. Prints and be reprinted, but negatives and slides are a whole different thing, so find out. Simply put ask, ask, ask. That is the only way you will get all the information that you need.
Once you have a lab that you like, get to know the people who work there very well. They can be a great resource for information. Most photo lab technicians are also photographers themselves. They love to talk about photography,and because they know a whole lot of other photographers (your not the only one they deal with you know) you can pull from others experiences. Use it. Just remember that your friendly neighborhood photo lab person is just that a person, they do mess up sometimes, take it easy on them. By the way, this is a good time to mention that bribbing a lab tech is perfectly legal and a cup of coffee is always welcome, so is the occasional donut! Point is, the better you know them, the better they know you, and more importantly, how you shoot and like your photographs.
Last tid bit of advice. When you know that you need something in a hurry, call before you drop off the film. This gives the lab a heads up and lets them start to plan things out so you can get your film in a hurry. If you know you are shooting a large event that will generate a large number of rolls, let the lab know as far in advance as you can. Talk to the lab manager so that he or she can schedule more manpower if you have to have it back the same day, or perhaps order extra supplies to cover the increase work load. Try very hard not to drop off work on Mondays. Mondays are heck for labs and most techs are crankiest on Mondays. If you have to drop off on a Monday, don't go empty handed, take coffee and let the coffee go in ahead of you. Sodas are a great substitute when they are really busy or during the summer. OH, jokes, I forgot, have a good supply of jokes, techs love good jokes and humorus stories.
Follow these and I bet you'll find that you don't worry as much about getting your film processed. Happy Shooting
It was suggested to me to add something about having digital prints made at "mini-labs". At the time I left, I had not directly used any of the new equipment, but I will give you what I can on the subject. The new mini-labs are equipped to print from: negatives, slides, prints, 3.5 disks, CDs, and most media cards. These new machines use lasers to print. This means a dependency on computer programing to interpret what your picture should look like. Most of these machines can print up to 8x12 but I think (for what that is worth) that there are some on the market that can print up to 12x18. Anything larger and it will more than likely be printed using a high end computer printer (laser or ink jet type). These industrial printers can print up to mural size prints. When you are giving the lab a print on a media card, CD, or disk, it should be a higher resolution and good quality file. If you did any work on the print in Photoshop, be sure to flatten all layers. They usually want TIFF or Jpeg files. Mainly, like I said above, TALK TO THE LAB TECHS. They are your best source for information about their equipment. They can help you get the best print possible. Just remember to plan on spending some time with the lab techs and working out the bugs on your end. Digital is just like silver halide, both take practice practice practice. Don't you just love that kind of advice. Well take it and go have more fun.
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