Labs, Prints & Products: Q&A with Allen Sutherland of Atlantic Photo Supply

By tangentpath in photography halifax atlantic photo supply allen sutherland interviews

Hey Peeps,

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.

I'd like to thank Allen for his unique insight into the industry in this interview.  You can check out their website here:

Sorry it has been a while, busy things going on but that just makes more material to get right?


Michael Carty


My Run-In With Backroads

By tangentpath in photography backroads fun times interviews bikers canon 5d mkiii

Hey Peeps,

It has been quite busy this past week and continues to be in the coming one, I was scouting out the Bear River Vineyard, photos below:

I noticed a van and a load of bicyclers at the vineyard.  The van was labelled,"Backroads: The Worlds #1 Active Travel Company".  

Needless to say, I was intrigued.

I'm a runner at heart but I got a sense that bicycling was similar in the nature of comraderie and non-competitiveness.

I grabbed my camera and started shooting while asking a few of these nice people about Backroads and bicycling in general.  They told me that they were from all over, Toronto, Pensilvania, Oklahoma just to name a few.  They were also different groups, some married, some single, some friends, some parents and adult children.  It was impressive and uplifting to see so many different people from different walks of life come together in an activity that was both beneficial to their health and connected a variety of minds.

Gary and I hit it off right away.  He is a photography enthusiast and carries his Canon 5D MkIII - yes, the MkIII - and a 28-300mm lens with him as he rides.  I offered to give him my cam and everything in my gear bag for it, but Gary is a smart man, and refused my offer. :(  Next time Gary, next time.

The Canon 5D MkIII/28-300mm... oh, and Gary lol
Amy and Eric are husband and wife.  They are a sweet couple who seem to have a real partner/team atmosphere about them which can only enhance their cycling and their marriage.

Eric & Amy

Among other things, they told me that this is the 4th of their 6 day ride through Nova Scotia, which started in Halifax, NS.  That they all enjoy the different scenes of beauty, cultures, foods and friendships they encounter and make while on their trek.

It all sounded so similar to running to me - but with wheels, and much farther(for the most part), I realized that it was the social activity in general that brought out all of the goodness in these people and not just the specific activity itself.

Well their trip has been over for a few days now and most are back home, off on another ride or relaxing on the rest of their vacations.  

I hope to see them again next year.  

Especially Gary.  

With his Canon.  *DROOL*


Michael Carty

Michael Carty Website
Michael Carty Email

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

By tangentpath in photography vision direction

Hey Peeps,

You have no doubt heard this villanelle, it is considered to be among the finest works by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

I've always loved his writing and I find it is appropriate for this post.

It's expressive idea is the desire and even need to fight with all of one's life against the spectre of death.

That no matter what walk of life we come from, that shadow is always present and close at hand.

That it is a bond we all share as human beings and from which we should struggle against it regardless of the futility.

There is another shadow that lurks in the hearts of creatives.  A fear, a doubt, a frustrated apathy that makes one feel like a sham, a fake and an untalented poser.

If you have ever tried to be creative, especially for a living, you have felt this.

I have felt this.  BIG TIME.

I am not naive enough to believe that this feeling will ever pass permanently.  It is a major element towards keeping the truly determined creatives in the game while pushing the less ambitious to other venues.

It is a scary, daunting, lonely and hopeless feeling in it's full form.

It can cripple a creatives mind completely. 

It has no conscious.  It has no morality.  It is an act of nature with no more malice for you than it does remorse for what it does to you.

But I can promise you one thing.

If you stay in the game, if you keep learning, keep practicing, keep working at your craft.

I promise you will be evolving creatively.

I can't promise that you will be rich or famous or recognized by your peers.  I can't promise that you will be greeted on the streets by friends and fans for your outstanding work or offered multi-international deals from the biggest conglomerates to work with the brightest stars.

I will promise that you will be doing what you love. 

I will promise that you will get better and better at it. 

I will promise you that when that doubt slips into your mind, it's okay to take some time off. 

Go lie down, watch some tv, whatever, because you are putting your time in when it counts.

But always get back to it, it whatever form or scale you can.

Keep doing this and I promise that you will be the creative you want to be within if not without.

You are working it out.  You are learning your craft.  You are making it your own.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 


Michael Carty


Michael Carty Website
Michael Carty Email

Are You Touching All Of Your Touchpoints? Unrated Version

By tangentpath in photography business vision wisdom organization touchpoints

Hey Peeps,

I'm sure you have all heard the term touchpoints, and if you haven't - well get to it already!

The simplest definition for a touchpoint: where your clients and business connect, and having a business means you have them:  lots of them.

Here are just a few:

Each of them should be well thought out in design, congruent with each others design and highly effective towards inviting and welcoming potential clients into your business.
And yes, things like pricing and face-to-face are touchpoints to your business.  They are just two of the many contacts that your clients have with you and your business. 

You have to understand that every one of your touchpoints is a message to your clients about who you are, what you do and where you fit in to their needs.  Not only that, but the message also tells your clients where they fit in with your business.

If you think this list is a lot to go over, you're right.  Yet this is a relatively small list and is only a summary of what you will actually cover.  

Let me show you.
You build a website.  Check.  You have a welcome page, some of your work, contact info, maybe some fun music playing and a slideshow of your favorite work.  

Great!  You're done with that touchpoint right?  WRONG.

How did you design it to create the message you are trying to convey?  You must go over things like colors used, branding, presentation, navigation, product placement, welcome and a minutiae of other information that is crucial - but worth it.

My website has bothered me in the past.  Something was always missing until I sat down and actually started asking myself the right questions about this important touchpoint(Sidenote:  All touchpoints are important).

First I corrected the color scheme.  My branding colors are white, black and vibrant green.  I knew that I liked the green because it was vibrant but I didn't want the site to come off too "green & grey" feeling, so I decided right away that other colors would eventually be used and those other accented colors would have to be as vibrant as the green to keep the style and feel the same.

That's when I looked at my slideshow.  The website has a built-in slideshow at the top.  Normally I would put in some of my best work, but after watching the images slide by I realized that there was subject matter there that I was no longer looking to shoot - and therefore irrelevant to the slideshow.

I decided to remove all of the slideshow images and do something different.

Realizing that my slideshow was a touchpoint within a touchpoint (confused yet?), I decided that I wanted to use it to show my clients specific products in an attractive way without directing them to a sales pitch.  Luckily, I know Photoshop quite well and within a few minutes I had 3 different images for my slideshow (so far) that show work from each of my relevant genres and display them within multiple products on consistently vibrant colored backgrounds.

Check them out:

For portraits

For lifestyle/commercial

For weddings
How did I feel after these subtle - yet crucial changes?


It's true!  I haven't felt this good about the stability and focus of my website in a long time.  Of course it isn't perfect, but it is getting there and I can actually feel the change of moving forward as I go through these steps.  

One great thing is that when my site needs an update, I won't be floundering on which direction to go with it because I know which questions to ask myself.

Oh, and there was another advantage to this - it made me more creatively inventive.

Right after the update, I began to think of an image that I had shot earlier in the year.  It had always reminded me of the story of Dorian Gray.  

So I took that image and created a movie poster out of it - fun and creative!  Exactly why I got into this business!!

Model: Spencer Robertson.  Also click for a larger view and see who stars in the production.

So check out your touchpoints.  Methodically.  Patiently.  Let them wax over your mind for a while until you can use them best to your advantage and then execute.

What are some touchpoints that are bigger struggles to overcome?  Do you have some unique touchpoints?  Tell me about them and let's try to figure out how to make them work!


Michael Carty

Michael Carty Email

You Lost Me With The Ramble

By tangentpath in photography business vision wisdom focus

Hey Peeps,

I ramble.

Yes, I do.

You know it and I know it.  I can't help it - sometimes.

Trying to get out all the information to each other, be it family, friends or clients is not always the best way to get your message across.

Something gets lost in the process, it's what's called:  their attention.

You lose their interest and eventually become a sound machine where nothing is retained in the mind of your audience.

Sure, some people need more than a simple, rounded message.  But if they need more info, they will tend to ask for it.

Otherwise, don't waste your breath and their time.

So next time you have an idea for a promotion, or a meeting or whatever, take ALL your minutiae and condense it down into the blocks of specific - yet simplified, messages that you are trying to get across.

Keep it Simple - Keep it Specific.

I think I've heard that somewhere before, and it's a good idea to remember it from time to time.


Michael Carty

Michael Carty Website
Michael Carty Email