I think one of the most important things - and the most overlooked, in photography has to do with labs.
Most new photographers stick with giving/selling their digital images and leave a lot of cash, customer service and free marketing on the table.
I had the great fortune of asking Allen Sutherland of Atlantic Photo Supply a few questions from his point of view on the importance of labs in today's digitized age.
Michael: How important are physical prints/products in a photography business?
Allen: In the digital age, prints are still something physical and tangible that stand visible through time. Prints and products can be considered a value add to the Artist,always there for their client to see. The Photographer - to be successful, should be like any business; always willing to add new products to their wagon. The saying goes, you can't sell with a empty wagon.
Michael:What sets APS apart from other labs?
Allen: I think the big thing that sets APS apart is the dedication of the staff. I often look at the way they try to resolve problems. Like any human, they are capable of making mistakes. The difference with my coworkers is that they learn from that and often put procedures in place to try and prevent it from happening again. We have the same equipment as many labs, but a whole set of different procedures that help keep the quality and service high.
Michael: What would you say contributes to the success of APS when other vendors have slipped away?
Allen: I hate to repeat myself, but the success of APS has a lot to do with the last question. On top of our people, we also practice strict accounting and purchasing principals. Buying smart and growing at a pace that keeps the bottom line in the black instead of the red. Being involved with the community at large is important as well. Just because you have been in business since 1942 does not give you the right to ignore how you survived.
Michael: What should a photographer initially look for in a lab?
Allen: I think quality service first. Then I would also look at the products they offer. Price would be my last choice.
Michael: What are the majority of problems that photographers bring to you to solve?
Allen: The biggest problems go straight to color management. A lot of people have difficulty getting files to look the same on their monitor as they do in print. My job is often to look deeper into their workflow to try and resolve those issues.
Michael: Do you find the photographers who utilize printing services gain more work and success than ones who exclusively use digital means?
Allen: I think the true success of any photographer is how well he markets his talent. Many artists are very creative but poor on the marketing and fiscal discipline side. Prints are part of a product offering. How you weave them into your business plan will determine the success. Like any business, you get back what you put into it.
Michael: You have recently moved locations last month, can you tell me a little bit about that and how this will effect the photography community?
Allen: We are almost complete in our move. Our new store on Brownlow in Dartmouth will open September 10th. The big thing about the expansion for the lab is more efficiency, Everything on one floor, instead of 2 and 1/2. All departments from front to back have a better work space and better climate control. Having a more efficient lab helps with service and quality. Having two locations helps to serve our community better from a physical perspective. A lot of our out of town clients don't have to fight traffic to get to our Dartmouth store. We are able to have more inventory because we have more storage. New products and services. Someone has to keep Henry's in check.
Michael: Is there any pertinent knowledge you believe photographers should be aware of regarding prints, labs, etc?
Allen: I say to everyone new and old in the business: take time to understand the basic concepts of photography. The golden triangle, so to speak. Once you conquered that then work with your lab on the color side of things. Build a relationship. Take time to get to know them. Do your home work. Take a course and go to seminars.
Sorry it has been a while, busy things going on but that just makes more material to get right?