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Setting the bar too low?

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  #11  
Old 01-20-2002, 04:03 PM
Jim Conway's Avatar
Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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For final prints, yes Jill we are printing mostly traditional fiber base. It's print longevity that is at the heart of our sales and digital prints are just starting to reach the point of fitting into our business plans. My best exhibit is a group of 1870 toned prints in mint condition - next to a group of 1970 "natural color" prints that are in all shades of fade - and next to that, a group of inkjet prints I made a few years back on the Epson 700 when it first came out (faded so badly now that they are now are barely discernible). The exhibit is labeled simply "Progress?" The explainations are all there as well and it creates a great deal of interest for people coming in for the first time.

As far as retouching is concerned, anything goes - from chalks to subdue cracks to airbrush for overpainting - conventional art or computer imaging - whatever tool can do the job the best and in the least amount of time.

I make the "how to do it" decision after we take the job in. I have the good fortune of working with my wife (40 years in April) who handles a great deal of the showrom sales and she is quite good at estimating.

For digital retouching I'm using Corel Draw but we outservice a lot of the computer retouching (I'm not really good at it yet) and most of the artists are using Photo Shop. BTW to stay on topic here, our outserviced digital retouching is being done in New York at the present time and they charge me $65 an hour and up, that's why I was so surprised at the pricing in this group.

Jim Conway
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  #12  
Old 01-20-2002, 09:33 PM
Jill Jill is offline
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Thank you Jim for your detailed answers. You bring a whole new viewpoint to this forum. You must have quite a nice business. Your lucky to be able to work with your spouse
It sounds like you have the sales tactics down pat! My downfall, I like to do the restoration,enhancement,graphic designs end.
If you don't mind another question...How do you choose the restorers you hire? Do they come from a larger business or freelance like me?
The way I figured out my fee is researching other restorers pricing and deciding if it is what I think is a fair price that I would payas a customer. I have a low overhead so I don't need to figure in office space etc... I send out my digitally restored work(on a cd) to be printed as a traditional photo (there is a thread on this in this forum)....and for myself I am very happy with my printers quality. I have prints hanging on my wall I did 2 years ago with no glass (eeekkk, I know) and no fading (I think the inks and papers have come a long way)....but if/when they fade, I have my work saved on a cd so I can reprint if ever I need. I save all my customers work on a cd for them and one for me.
Are you using DVD to save...did I understand that right?
Thanks!
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  #13  
Old 01-21-2002, 05:49 AM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Jim,
I think I see what your're saying about the "sizzle".
I'm wondering though, if Elmer Wheeler's comments included the use of web sites. I'll have to look up his work.
I'm just not sure those theories apply to the net.
Unlike you, most of us here don't have an actual shop that people can walk into, ask questions, and browse around. So our websites need to be more detailed than a mere flyer or brochure. (I seriously doubt people will just take my word, over the phone, that I can do a good job). If no one gave details or examples, a customer would have to call every potential restorer for details before they could make a decision. Unless your business is nationally known, or locally available, you're asking people to put a lot of blind faith in your word.

About the pricing you've noticed on this website...For the most part, most people here do not consider themselves professionals yet, and therefore do not feel justified in charging professional fees. However, if you surf the net, you'll see that these prices seem to be the standard. I think as more and more people learn or teach themselves how to do this, prices will fall. This is good and bad. The way I see it, if restoration was more affordable, more people would have the work done professionally. But, as long as the prices for digital restoration are out of people's reach, the more likely they will be to do it themselves - and be satisfied with their work. (As an indication, I receive hundreds of visits to my site, per week, from a link from Katrin Eiseman's site). And you, too, are learning to do it yourself. I believe that high priced restorers, although doing digital restorations, are still charging at "traditional" restoration prices . I think they will eventually price themselves out of businesss. Digital vs traditional usually doesn't matter to the average customer, as long as the work looks good, and they can afford it.

More questions. Who, in New York, does your restoratiosn? Why/how did you choose them?

More to follow.......
Vikki

Last edited by Vikki; 01-21-2002 at 05:54 AM.
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  #14  
Old 01-22-2002, 02:40 AM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Catching up

Hi Vickie and Jill (combining answers here - is that ok?)

Elmer Wheeler books are long out of print however if you are lucky you may find some in the used section at Amazon.com. Good sales presentations DO apply to the net. It's unfortunate that so many bought into the idea that the local retail store was stone age thinking (along with shopping centers, druggists and pet shops) and wouldn't stand up against the power of the Internet! It was an expensive lesson for many. There are a lot of reasons for Internet failures and the one that is MOST important in this field is personal contact. People want to tell you the story that goes with their precious photos. Set yourself up where you can't listen to that story and you lose!

If you don't have a location to showcase your work, perhaps you can work something out like one of my competitors here in Portland. They moved in with a Framer in the Portland Historic District. It's a great combination! I know because we get lots of our referrals from Framers. Another competitor here closed her own shop in the antique district and moved in with a wholesale pro finishing lab where she has an outside corner entrance and public access. Antique Malls are another possibility for showcases - all combinations that let you set short hours to be there to talk to people and still handle your appointments by home phone.

Just suggestions that may or may not fit your business plan, but I feel if you are selling in RETAIL you are up against a stacked deck and a lack of credibility unless you are showcasing your work in your own trade area. Our local clients are usually 50 plus and seldom use a computer for much of anything except e-mail to their kids (most of them with the kids old 486's and a AOL account) Maybe that has a lot to do with prices (and the turnover of businesses) on the net!

About location, location, location - Doesn't apply. This is a "destination business", it's not a spur of the moment purchase so any location where people can find you will work.

How do I select "digital" people to work with? First of all it has nothing to do with their prices. I expect any supplier to be fair and that's all I ask. I went through more than a dozen to find the people in New York (I think that was a Light Impressions exec's suggestion, I'm not sure).

They do the best work I've found to date. Others that we tried just lacked the skills to create the look that I need. Faces flat with no modeling, contrast that I can't stand (usually to cover up poor shadow work) - lack of attention to detail or going off on some "artistic tangent" and making changes I didn't ask for that lose the authenticity. I'm a photo historian (by virtue of age if nothing else) and again it's my cry for professionalism in this field - if you are going to work on historic artifacts learn something about their history. As a "buyer" as well as a seller believe me it's not easy to find qualified people!

Jim Conway

PS A special thanks to the several others here for the kind personal notes that I've received for information in these posts that they feel has been beneficial. I appreciate it.
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  #15  
Old 01-22-2002, 11:12 PM
Jill Jill is offline
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Thank you for combining answers, we ask alot of questions!
It is interesting to hear how a business finds restorers. Thanks
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  #16  
Old 01-23-2002, 05:53 AM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Jim,
Your ideas for matching up with a similar trade are a great idea. I work with a local camera shop (the only one in our area), and the marriage is a nice arrangement. I know from experience that the web is not all it's cracked up to be, especially in this business. I do however, think it's a great way to display a portfolio of one's work. I think our wires got crossed, as I totally agree with you about the internet vs retail shops. (I thought we were discussing the properties of a website, not the pros and cons vs retail.)

I also find that most of my customers are older, and not computer or internet savy. My younger customers have looked at my web portfolio though, and that has been the convincing factor for them.

Your critique of potential restore's is perfect, and in my opinion, the most important nugget of advice for restorers. (we had a similar discussion in one of the other threads here).

I just want to mention that, although I may argue a point, I appreciate the opportunity to do so. It's been great having this discussion with you. Thanks for taking the time and interest.
Vikki
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  #17  
Old 01-23-2002, 11:28 AM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Reciprocation!

Thanks Vikkie ...I wanted to know how you all are doing ...and have it make sense to me! In sharing some insights as to how a restoration business can succeed with a traditional lab product mix, it's good to get some info in here on the pure digital businesses.

At $30 and hour and under, it seems to me that it would take an awful lot of jobs to make a decent living. Do you get your work from numerous people or just a few accounts (like wholesale) - do you offer any product mix or just restoring + color prints?

And, if that's all there is to it, how do you bring in enough volume to survive with everyone doing the same thing and all pushing for the lowest price advantage? It appears to me that each of you would have to have some unique advantages that you are offering clients, it was just hard for me to believe that an extensive web site and low prices alone would do much for growing your businesses. ????

Jim Conway
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  #18  
Old 01-23-2002, 06:44 PM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Jim,
I'm only guessing, but I don't think the majority of people here are earning their living from restoration work. That wouuld be an interesting poll though.....

I don't make a living at this, but then I'm not trying. I don't advertise and I don't pursue customers. But don't get me wrong, I have a plan.

As for the low pricing - I'm constantly steering you off, but there is a thread /debate about that as well. Although many people charge around $30 for minor work, I'd have to say that most of the work I receive is in the medium to extensive range. Possibly a higher margin there. Call me cheap, but if it takes me a half hour, or less, to do a $30 minor job, I don't think that's too shabby. The hitch, of course, is to get enough work.

It seems that you have quite a bit of competition in your area. From the minimal amount of research I've done in my area, I've found that there is very little local competition. Of the local people I've polled, the majority don't know where to go for the service, other than Walmart, or a camera shop. So, for me, the advantage I offer is a local service, quality work, at an affordable price.
I should mention that this is a rather depressed area, and the larger segment of the population are just not able to afford high prices.

Currently, my customers come from either the camera shop, or by word of mouth. It is not a large volume of work. About the time I finish one, another comes in. A perfect pace for me at this time.

I wouldn't think my laid back style of doing business is what you have in mind for yourself, but I thought I'd make an attempt to answer anyway.
Vikki
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  #19  
Old 01-24-2002, 12:16 PM
Jill Jill is offline
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Vikki, I hope you don't mind me jumping in here...I love your "layed back style of doing business" that is me to a T. I am strickly part time and this is just xtra income and a great learning experience for now.
I can sure use Jim's selling points later when I do want to get going in a full time career. This is a very informative thread!
Thanks,
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