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4x5 Negs - the heart of a business system

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  #31  
Old 05-31-2002, 07:02 PM
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Jakaleena Jakaleena is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jim Conway
Jak ...the first question we ask when someone calls or comes in to our showroom is; "Are you looking for museum quality work?" Then we go on to "show and tell" explain our cleaning the originals, the 4x5 negs and the reason we use that as a starting point
Yes, but if you'll pardon my saying so, it sounds to me as though if they answer "no" to your question, you have nothing further to offer them other than educating them to your viewpoint so they may say "yes" to the question if asked again.

Or, they may abandon your idea of restoration, perhaps in favor of using the digital guy down the street...

What exactly IS your reasoning for making the 4x5 neg immediately after cleaning the original instead of restoring the image digitally and THEN making the negative from a finished image?

You didn't actually go into why it wouldn't be feasable to clean the original, make a digital copy, restore the image digitally, and then output to film afterwards... You would still have a restored image. You would still have a 4x5 negative that is human readable and traditionally printable.

When I first started learning to do digital imaging, I had to adjust and adapt in order to incorporate digital effectively into the way I was previously doing things. Perhaps you want digital to fit into your old methods and are less willing to adapt to a new way of doing things?

But, to remain completely traditional without finding that way to incorporate the best of both worlds is, IMHO, heading toward professional suicide. In the last 2 years, I have watched several labs go under, mainly because they seriously underestimated the damand for digital services and didn't keep up effectively with the new digital technology available. I completely agree with Tom that digital is not going to go away, so I believe it is worthwhile to find a way to adapt my procedures to take advantage of the digital possibilities. I can make repairs and restorations MUCH more quickly, accurately and cost effectively now using digital methods than I ever could using traditional ones. I would never think of going back to traditional repair methods now. But, I still want to give the client an end product that is better than an RC print. That is why I said I'd like to do things in the order I stated above - a quality end result but with a digital process in the middle...
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  #32  
Old 05-31-2002, 08:22 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Jac - Let me assure you that if they say no, I send them down the street to a friend with a one hour shop that does the job for them - he in turn sends just about everything that is out of his league to me.

The rest of your questions are too complex to answer but the basic idea is that you will never get the quality going from a computer to a film recorder that you can get directly from the original and I don't care if you use a digital back or you use film that will always be the case. That is the "starting point" as far as I'm concerned and I'd never change it - in fact, I'll often make a negative BEFORE I even do any cleaning or anything else. That's part of professionalism - you leave nothing to chance if it's avoidable instead of living on the edge with Murphy's law.

The demand for my services is in 6 figures and growing at about 20% a year without me wanting any more - so I'm not overly concerned about going under if I don't get a lot of digital work - and I could look at the businesses you talk about and am willing to bet that the reasons they went under is a lot more complex than any case of sticking to "old methods".

The digital in the middle - front - or on the side is ok with me - there is much too much emphasis here being put on how - all of the tools are available to all of us, and like Tom said it's all experience and in knowing how to use them. I love doing airbrush work most people don't or can't. I think it's odd that people who use a computer for retouching think that everyone should, while those of us with traditional labs and artist skills can are are willing to try just about anything.

Jim
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  #33  
Old 05-31-2002, 09:38 PM
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I have to disagree about the quality of negatives produced by a film recorder...from what I have read, the output from high end units is as good as negatives produced in the traditional manner, but the key here is top end units run by highly experienced operators. Now by high end I am talking about units which will cost well over $20,000 with the various camera backs ( 35mm, 120/220, 4x5).
I think the blending of traditional and digital is perhaps best seen in this type of confluence. A photo can be scanned in at very high resolution, then transfered,as is ( warts, scratches etc.) to 4x5 and archived. Next, the scan can be retouched to remove blemishes, adjust tone etc., the finished product transfered to 4x5 film, then prints made in the traditional manner or the negative may be scanned by a third party ( perhaps the owner) and copys made for whatever purpose the owner wishes without the need for darkroom work. Some folks will prefer a traditional print, but many are happy with the "instant gratification" of having the print avaliable immediately ( providing, of course, that the print is done on proper equipment by an experienced operator), although in some cases, all that is needed or even wanted is just a quick print to give to relatives or whom ever.
Those folks who do high end work, are going to be more skeptical of anything new, and this is good...jumping in without close examination of the facts is a perfect recipe for disaster. But, most of the digital work done is not high end and most of the demand is not for perfection but perception...as in, " that looks good". It is a truism that popular demand is what drives the markets and determines to a large extent what technologies are refined and polished and which are allowed to die from lack of interest. Digital facinates and captivates because if the immediacy and power it brings to photography, and places that power in the hands of anyone who can push a button..( although as folks quickly learn, there is a whole lot more to it than just pressing buttons)..and Digital is able to be done without darkrooms, chemicals and such...thus again its appeal...ready avaliability, ease of use, and the industry is moving in step with popular demand.
That is not to say traditional is dead...far from it. But more and more it will move to the specality and high end markets as digital claims more and more of the "work-a-day-world" clients. Combining the two makes a lot of sense, but not every traditional photographer/retoucher will want to...nor will every Digital photographer/retoucher want to blend with traditional methods. But at least having an understanding of the strong and weak points of each process, not colored by personal views but simply " the Facts", is going to become more and more necessary...as is being able to redirect a client to someone who can better fill the clients needs, rather than "scrambling" for business and making misleading statements or claims.
Like Jim pointed out, if the person who walks into his shop wants something he is not prepared to do, he refers them!
Sorry for the longwinded diatribe...Tom
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  #34  
Old 05-31-2002, 10:48 PM
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Ron Ron is offline
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Talking

On a more serious note...

I'm impressed with the depth of information in this thread concerning Restoring/Archiving a photo/negative of Abraham Lincoln "Eating Humble Pie" to the year 9595 and beyond, but what about kindly Joe Lincoln the neighborhood butcher.

He walks in the door with a stained and creased color 4x6 print of his mother-in-law done in 1967 (no negative). Now he doesn't particularly like his mother-in-law but it's his wife's birthday so he wants to surprise her with a special present. Yes he's willing to fork over twenty-five big ones for a retouched 8x10 enlargement in a gilded frame.

We know what typical future is in store for this print. It'll sit on some simulated wood corner shelf for the next 35 years, to be occasionally dusted by the wife. Then, when a drunk driver kills her and her husband New Years Eve 2037, the estate, c/w household contents, will be sold by the state. This photo, of some nondescript woman, will then find it's way to the local landfill 3 months later.

What is the life expectancy of the average photo? I would suspect that the life span of the average photo wouldn't extend beyond three generations. Only in exceptional circumstances would anyone be interested in preserving a photo of their Great Great Grandpa. Most often, I believe, photo work is requested for some relative that remains in "living memory".

In the world of regular people the most important consideration remains cost. Any improvement is appreciated as long as the price is affordable. It also seems reasonable to assume most customers want a print to take home. This could mean farming out digital images to a photo lab, but digital printers and paper are getting better every day.

Sure we all know that negatives contain the most information, produce the best prints and archive the longest without deterioration, but is it pertinent to the average customer?

In the words of a current talk show host….
"That’s my opinion -- I could be wrong."

Ron
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  #35  
Old 06-01-2002, 12:16 AM
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G. Couch G. Couch is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jim Conway

I think it's odd that people who use a computer for retouching think that everyone should, while those of us with traditional labs and artist skills can are are willing to try just about anything.
I have never had that impression. In fact, most of the people I know who avidly use computers for any type of graphic work, still have a great deal of interest and respect for "traditional" methods.

Just because something comes labeled as "digital" does not make it better...but you chose to get into this with a 10k investment. My only point in this thread is that your investment does not match what you want to get out of it. In order to get the quality you want, you need the proper equipment and trained individuals to run it...just like with more traditional methods.
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  #36  
Old 06-01-2002, 12:22 AM
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G. Couch G. Couch is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ron


Only in exceptional circumstances would anyone be interested in preserving a photo of their Great Great Grandpa. Most often, I believe, photo work is requested for some relative that remains in "living memory".


I'm not sure I agree with that first sentence, especially given the huge increase in interest in genealogy. I have had several people who were VERY interested in preserving images of relatives they had never know.
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  #37  
Old 06-01-2002, 01:01 AM
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Jakaleena Jakaleena is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by G. Couch


I have never had that impression. In fact, most of the people I know who avidly use computers for any type of graphic work, still have a great deal of interest and respect for "traditional" methods.
I agree wholeheartedly with that! I have had a love for beautiful black and white fiber prints for years. When I get prints of my own art images to hang on my walls, they are usually fiber prints. I often hand color them traditionally with oils.

But for my clients, I prefer to work digitally. I hate using an actual airbrush, and get much better results from a computer than I ever did by airbrushing. I can work more quickly, more efficiently and with less mess digitally too. And, I don't get that artificial "spray painted" look. The RC prints I have made are ones I'm proud of and happy to sell to clients.

One other thing to consider. Portland (and it's surrounding suburbs) is a large metropolitan area with many affluant pockets. Having lived there, I would say that getting clients for the type of work Jim does would not be difficult...

I live in an EXTREMELY rural area where the main source of income is farming. Average yearly income around here is probably around $20-30K - give or take some... Often it's less... There are small pockets of affluency, but they are not nearly big enough to support the kind of business Jim has. There's just no way I could operate on the kind of premise Jim operates on, even if I did attempt to educate people about the fine attributes of museum quality prints. Most people around here have never been to a museum and really don't care about museum quality. If the print is fixed, they can buy a frame at Wal-Mart and stick the picture in it, and it will last their lifetime, they're happy campers.

Most would no more pay good money for that "high falutin'" stuff than try to fly to the moon...

I do have one question though...

Here's what I'm not sure I understand - why would someone go out and spend $10K on digital equipment without first fully researching it and knowing before purchasing it exactly how it would be integrated into any existing system...?
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  #38  
Old 06-01-2002, 06:39 AM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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I've been enjoying the dickens out of this thread, so I guess its my turn to contribute.

In the entire restoration process, if done properly, the lowest resolution document is the original print. You could point a 20x24-inch view camera at that sucker and you're not going to get any more data than a good-quality scan.

The second lowest will be the final print. There's not a wet or dry output system made that can match the tonality and resolution of a good negative or scan.

So, again if done properly, wet or digital, you're not going to be able to tell the difference in quality of the output.

That does not mean they're interchangeable, though. Or that one is superior to the other. Stored negs and digital files both have their pros and cons.

The most important thing is that you're comfortable with the tools you use, both in practice and in theory.

However, this is all in the abstract. In the real world we have to make allowances for the perceived needs of our customers. And the more educated they feel they are, the quicker you'll lose them by trying to re-educate them.

I've shot cases of prof. copy film, along with polaroids (they made a nifty instant negative film), and 35mm. I've attempted airbrushing but didn't have 'the wrist' for it, so good airbrushers have my undying respect. I've also done more than a few scans. I can honestly say I can see room for both.

I've also spent man-years in a darkroom, and now I do inkjet prints. I can also see room for both there.

My own preferred arsenal would have analog/digital options at the beginning and end, but would have to be digital in the middle, due to my own limitations, not that of any particular process.

Again, in that darned real world, choices have to be made. So, since I need that digital middle, I start and end digitally as well.
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  #39  
Old 06-01-2002, 07:33 AM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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I have to say Jim, although you have said that you don't want to debate the issues of which is better, your statements are to the contrary. Sometimes, as I'm reading your posts, I think, does he really want help, or does he just want to inform us about how crappy the whole "digital" thing is.
Not sure how this statement fits in:
Quote:
I think it's odd that people who use a computer for retouching think that everyone should, while those of us with traditional labs and artist skills can are are willing to try just about anything.
Only my opinion, but, I think your "attitude" towards digital is probably what is hindering you the most. There must have been something, initially that made you believe that digital would be advantageous to your business.
I have to ask the same question Jakaleena asked:
[QUOTE]why would someone go out and spend $10K on digital equipment without first fully researching it and knowing before purchasing it exactly how it would be integrated into any existing system...?[QUOTE]

Finally, it doesn't seem as if this thread is providing you with any good solutions to your dilema. (Have we?)
All is not lost. As many of us are unfamiliar with the process you currently use, we may not be able to provide you with the answers you are looking for, but it doesn't mean the answer isn't out there.
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  #40  
Old 06-01-2002, 10:44 AM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Vikki - After numerous interviews, I brought in a "photoshop expert" as an "associate" to set up the digital end of the business with no intent on my part to learn any more than I already know. - I gave him the money to get what was needed (a business transaction not really a gift, the workstation was suppose to pay) and I ended up with what I have. Others who have been into the shop seem to think it is a rather elaborate work station, not as shabby as this thread would seem to indicate. All of this has been covered in posts over the past year - I guess my problem is that I didn't repeat it all here.

The objective was not for me to change my business plan just add the digital to it, bring the associate up to speed to take over the business by letting him learn on the job and he would "inherit" several thousand high end accounts in a going concern when he took over.

Everybody is telling me what I need to "change" or how I can do better with more expensive digital equipment. Do "what" better I guess is my question?

This thread was started because I was requested to give some info on MY use of 4x5 negatives .... not an inquiry for me to learn how to make them some other way.

Now, the fish are still out there ...and I'm still trying to get down to the river! So if you will please excuse me - Bye! :-)
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