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4x5 Negs - the heart of a business system

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  #51  
Old 06-03-2002, 05:12 PM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Jim
I'm not sure of the details of your past associate, but I guess if I were in your shoes, I'd find someone that was digital media* savy, and teach him your complete traditional process. Once this person learned your process, and the quality requirements, then direct the individual to investigate the digital options available that would meet your standards. If the digital thing isn't feasible at present, you would still have someone who knew your process, and could carry on for you.
*I say "media" savy as opposed to Photoshop, as I think you need someone who is aware of technology advancements, not just Photoshop.
Have you thought about local universities (photography departments)? There are many that have mentor/co-op/temp programs, that would let you work with some fresh minds (and ideas), at reasonable prices, without committments.
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  #52  
Old 06-15-2002, 01:31 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Reading responses is as much fun as fishing!

This thread went far enough off track that I think it may be appropriate for me to try to clear up a few mistaken ideas created by assumptions along the way.

Every business has to have a central theme - like "Ford Tough" or it won't succeed. In Timemark, it's "Museum Quality". And, the central "technical point" (or heart) of that theme is the 4x5 negative. Being against something because it's "old fashion" or "for something" because it's old or new has little merit in a workable business theme over any period of time.. You'll have to define your businesses in billboard terms to raise awareness or fall into that 90% that fail in the first two years or even worse, hang on for years on starvation income. Think about it!

Why do we use negatives and not scanners. We don't! That is an unwarranted assumption made by a few here - we make negatives FIRST. The reason is simple, it's so that I'm not restricted by the size or shape of the original. It opens business opportunities because it allows me to take in a very wide variety of work - 40x60's are as easy to handle here as a sub-wallet size print. If your choice is to use digital printing instead of using a wet lab, negatives offer a very consistent source of data for scanning. I don't think you have to do it, it's just an option you should be aware of if you are in this business..

My being a Conservator has nothing to do with this either - this is coming from the business side of C&R work. - the simplicity of handling a wide variety of work with the repeatability of the successes is what is important!. The longevity of the negatives that I can hand my client is a bonus! The Mylar base on sheet film that is virtually indestructible by time is "conservator talk" - so is "human readable" and "silver fast toning" and they add to the sales theme, but the question from the customer is always the same - "Do I get to kept it!" Yes Virginia, they do care!

Everything we do here is NOT "traditional" art. I don't think there is any way that you can beat computer retouching when you are mixing text with an image (such as photos of the old battleships in WWII.) . As I've told some of you from private inquiries, ScanForce in New York is doing most of my digital retouching and any of you that have read my help wanted ad in this forum know what my specs are for out-servicing assignments.

On when and what negatives? In traditional work, it's neg to work print, the art work on both, then a 2nd gen neg is made for final printing. The system that started in 1840 still works well! If you want top quality, make the work prints larger than the intended final prints. If you are using the computer for retouching, it's negative to scanner, the art work and back to a negative via a film recorder or, as most of you are doing, skip the film recorder and go directly to printing. Big files for neg to negs, smaller for printing, even smaller for screen viewing. Nothing new here, visualize your Grand Dad and his 8 mm movie screen, Ansel Adams and his fine art prints. Would either of them have gotten what they wanted if you switched film sizes on them?

On digital backs - I would be using the same camera and the same lights, have the same labor cost in the same amount of space. The difference in adding a digital back at a cost of around $30,000 amortized over a 36 Mo. period would be to increase my expenses by about $1,400 a mo. requiring somewhere around a $6,500 a month increase in sales. (excluding cost of buying market share) to break even. With it, I could close one 10x10 darkroom and with the darkroom gone, I would cut my options on the type of prints that I can offer my clients while I'm trying to pay off that loan! They are great and I would love to own one but, in the here and now, they are not a viable option in a small copy business.

It's too bad we do not have a separate section in this forum for traditional methods. Perhaps it would end the urge to mix apples with digital oranges to look for useful tools in their own place. Many of you would be surprised at the "old" ways, how successful the techniques can be employed with the new electronic aids we have today and how much your own work could be enhanced by knowing a little more about them. Without it perhaps Jennie is right, I may be in the wrong place!

And finally, the REAL SECRET to my success? I'm next door to a real old fashion bakery (in business since 1932) and the aroma of fresh home baked bread, donuts and apple pies fills the building! Now what does that do for nostalgic instincts? My clients always come in smiling! :-)

Jim Conway
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  #53  
Old 06-15-2002, 05:53 PM
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thomasgeorge thomasgeorge is offline
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Jim, what would you estimate it would cost an individual to get the equipment to begin taking and developing 4x5 copy negatives, cameras, lighting,what type of stand, what type of darkroom equipment and so on, and what is an average charge to the customer on a per negative basis?
Plus, what about color vs BW...cost differences, developing cost differences and amount of skill required? Thanks, Tom
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  #54  
Old 06-15-2002, 08:14 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Try this link on Ebay

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?

or do a search for Item # 1359583187 That MP4 will probably go for under $300.00. Then add the cost of a 12 sheet 4x5 tank a few holders and chemistry and you are in for about $45.00 more and no upgrades ever needed in your lifetime! :-)

I would recommend this as a starting point - and sticking to your digital output for the rest if that is what you are doing now. If you want to add fiber base printing, farm it out until you see if you get enough business to justify another $7K for a complete lab setup (and probably a remodel on a portion of your house).

About color - no different - I still make 4x5 negs but farm out the processing. I'm also experimenting with color separation with black and white negs and going to the computer for combining the final result - interesting possibilities there!

I use the 4x5 neg as a leader and only charge $14.95 (low in most places). Prices go up up when the job is complex - and I charge $39.50 for a color neg. Skill level required to make negatives? Not much talent needed once you zero in on your exposures and film types. It's all time and temp developing.

Jim Conway
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  #55  
Old 06-15-2002, 08:19 PM
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thomasgeorge thomasgeorge is offline
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Thanks for the link and info. Tom
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  #56  
Old 06-15-2002, 10:19 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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That link is a long one and I only got the first part of it in my post.
I'll try again ...

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...tem=1359583187

It will be up for another two days and is worth a look by anyone who had an interst in this thread.

Jim C
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  #57  
Old 06-22-2002, 02:30 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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No spin zone?

For anyone who digs into this thread at some future date, I want to add another note I think may further reduce the apparent conflicts in opinions. It's about money! I had my attorney son check D&B for "Photo Retouching and Restoration" firms doing more than 100,000 annually and apparently there are not more than a hand full that have a D&B rating. Also checked on those doing over a million annually (who could actually afford to buy or rent the type of equipment suggested earlier that is needed for HQ digital work) and the only ones that are rated high enough are in the motion picture restoration business. (mostly going film to film not prints to film) Perhaps others here know of others that would be of valid interest to restorers, I for one would like to hear about them.

On the use of negatives, I found this to be a very simple explanation (excerpt's borrowed from the article) - "The only purpose for film is to be enlarged. Photo prints and print grains were not designed to be enlarged. The negative being the "master" version and the print being a relative poor copy of the master. If you have to start with the customers print as most photo restorers do, the reason for making a negative is to retain the pertinent detail of the original and add whatever "missing detail" that you intend to reestablish into the image to an enlarged version of it. The reason you should deliver that negative directly to your customer is to assure that, if they want additional prints in the future, they don't have to start the process all over again with anything less than a master."

So, just an opinion, but if you don't like the idea of making real negatives and you don't have a high end scanner you are still capable of doing high quality work with the majority of distressed original prints that I see. In fact, using an expensive scanner at it's optimum performance would be overkill (like making photo murals for traditional art work prints), collecting more garbage than image detail. Scanning film is the miracle you seek, but it's not film that you have! (can anyone post a small section of an image from a distressed old wallet size photo scanned on their 30K machine that proves otherwise?) If I'm right about that, you can substitute "large digital file" for "negative" in the writers statements in the paragraph above with little problem so most of us end up very close to being on the same page after all.

Jim Conway

BTW fishing is great - best in decades!
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  #58  
Old 06-22-2002, 03:00 PM
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G. Couch G. Couch is offline
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Jim - Good point about scanners. You certainly do not need a high end scanner if you mostly just scan small prints. The extra resolution would be overkill and even low end scanners can see all the detail in a print. The only limitation is size. You obviously can't scan a large photo or painting with a small flatbed. Your only option then, is to either purchase a scanner with a larger bed, shoot a negative or use a digital back camera. The question of which option has a lot to do with the type of business, expertise of employees and the nature of the other equipment in the work-flow. Certainly for your business, the 4x5 negs are the best option, given your familiarity with the format, high quality level your customer's demand and the low cost (compared to a "high-end" digital system).

As far as businesses doing photo restoration and retouching, I doubt there are many out there doing only that. At the lab I worked for restoration was just a small part of a larger business. (that did close to 1 million a year in sales). The high end equipment they had on hand certainly was overkill in some situations but there were times, when for example the local museum needed large images copied, that the equipment was a necessity.

Glad the fishing is good!
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