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My New Photo Restoration Business

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  • My New Photo Restoration Business

    I am a 42 year old stay-at-home dad. My wife Viola and I and our 3 boys
    live in the Finger Lakes Region of NY State, a land of long deep glacial
    lakes, vineyard, and waterfalls. Viola is a physician, and I have been
    home full time with the boys since '95.

    I have a BFA from SUNY Purchase. I want to pursue my Masters in fine art
    after my one-year-old gets a little older. After 20 years, I have kicked
    the commercial art habit, and I am starting History Builders Photo
    Restoration Service. I will have a website, but I want to work locally.
    I don‚t like the idea of one of a kind family treasures going through
    the mail. For the past year, I have been planning and plotting the start
    up. I have a graphics workstation on a G4, and I use Photoshop to do the

    My big issue these days is what I am going to offer my future clients as
    my printed product. I have been surfing the web, and trying to educate
    myself on the issues of print archivability. I have Checked Wilheim
    Institute and FLAAR.

    Are you doing restoration as a business? Are you on a Mac or a PC? What
    about this metamerism issue? From what I see, the Epson 2000 seems to be
    unique as a low cost (under $1,000) pigmented ink printer. I think I
    just need to go see one of these in action. I am planning to go to a
    trade show soon.

    As a basic production strategy, I am planning to send jpegs to a photolab in Utah
    (Replicolor). From 400 dpi jpegs, I can offer b&w prints on Kodak
    Polycontrast or Illford Multigrade. (These are actually really nice
    photo papers). I can offer color prints on Fuji Crystal Archival Photo
    Paper printed on a Chromira Printer. Fuji uses the exact same name for
    the paper used in a photolab setting with a slide or film positive. From
    what I am told, the Fuji Crystal Archival Photo Paper used to print the
    digital files on the Chromira printer is not as good, and I think Fuji
    is trying to pull some wool.

    I want one good photo quality printer. Epson 1270/1280, Epson 2000?

    My biggest concern is that all of the archivability ratings are based on
    such ridiculous standards. I mean, who is going to keep a photo in the
    light of a 15 watt bulb at 70º F. What is a 50 year print worth in real
    life. Do sentimental picture owners really care? Or do they just want to
    know their restored photo is as good as any RC Color print from the
    1970s on?


  • #2
    Hi Gerry. I'll let the pros handle the questions. But I want to wish you luck in your endeavor. The name you picked for the business is great !!



    • #3
      Wow - great questions Gerry! I wish I had some answers, but I'm grappling with the same questions right now. (So, I'm very anxious to see the answers you get.)

      One thing that I've found (at least for myself) is that I've been sending my digital files to an online photo printer - and I'd say that 90% of them come back looking like they did on my monitor. However, I've discovered that there are some things (usually flaws) that show up in the print that I didn't see in the photo when I viewed it on the monitor. Perhaps it's just a matter of training my eye, but the printer I have now as GOT to go! (I've got some strange banding of tints going on.)

      The problem with finding a flaw AFTER I get the printed photo back is that I (and my client) have already waited 5-7 days, so if I need to redo anything, I have to delay even longer. That lag time is driving me crazy - which is why I'm looking at a decent printer. But, I'm concerened that my clients won't be happy with the archival quality of the 1280 on glossy paper. That's not a problem for older black and white photos which I think look better on matte paper anyway, but so far about half of my work has been glossy photos that are about 30 years old - so I want to recreated the look of the glossy photos for my clients. Don't know of any inkjet yet that will really stand up to that - and I'm not sure what the pigmented ink looks like on glossy - not to mention having to deal with the metamerism issue!!

      Guess you can see why I haven't actually bought a new printer yet!



      • #4
        My 2 cents...

        I try to drag my clients kicking and screaming into the digital age and explain to them that the most important thing is NOT the print, but rather the digital file.

        Obviously you do not want to give someone a print that will fade in 1 year, but most people seem content with 15 to 20 years under proper conditions. From everything I have seen and read the 1280 will easily produce prints that last that long or longer. The color is also more vibrant than the 2000 and cost of materials is less. The only real reason I can see for the 2000 over the 1280 is if you are producing fine art prints of some sort.

        Regardless of the printer you decide on, I would include a small note on care and handling with each order. Something to the effect of - Any print whether photographic or inkjet needs to be displayed under glass and displayed away from direct sunlight... etc..
        I usually provide a cd with the restored photo as well.

        By the way, I'm not sure if you have CompUSA in New York, but my local store has both the 2000 and 1280 set up side by side and will let you make prints on both. You might want to check them out if you have one nearby.
        Last edited by G. Couch; 04-21-2002, 10:15 PM.


        • #5

          One other resource that I don't see mentioned in your post is
 They have a ton of great information on their site and though I've never called them, I probably will before deciding which printer to buy. They seem to have a lot of knowledge about the Epsons and have done a lot of research.

          They also offer a service where they will make test prints on various Epson printers for you. You tell them which printer and what type of paper you want the test printed on and they send you the results a day later.

          Hope this helps,


          • #6
            good luck

            Hey there. I also own a photography and restoration service and own the Epson 2000p in addition to lots of other printers. I've had pretty good to stunningly good results from it, but its finicky, and somewhat frustrating to use. If you are really interested in the inside scoop to the printer, there is a yahoo group setup just for it


            Its great to hear the good, bad, and ugly from users all over the world.

            The printer I like the best is definately the Olympus P-400. Its a dye sublimation printer that prints pics that are virtually identical to traditional photo papers (and is cheaper to buy and operate than the 2000P). IMHO that printer is the inside trade secret to digital photography. The only drawback to it is that it doesn't print as large as 8x10 (more like 7.75 x 10). But most of the restoration jobs I get are smaller than that anyway.


            • #7
              Boy- this is the kind of dialogue I was hoping for. To answer G.Gouch, yes, I have an interest in "fine art" printing. Thanks for the link to very useful.


              • #8
                It sounds like the 2000p might be the way for you to go, especially if you are creating art prints. I get most of my digital art produced as Giclee prints on Arches watercolor paper. Most galleries are more than happy to accept and sell a giclee and the service I use guarantees them to resist fading for up to 75 years. If I printed to glossy photo however, they only guarantee it for 10 years.

                I think the 2000p printing to good quality, acid free paper is about as close as you can get to "archival" from a desktop printer.


                • #9
                  Re: My New Photo Restoration Business

                  What is a 50 year print worth in real life. Do sentimental picture owners really care? Or do they just want to know their restored photo is as good as any RC Color print from the 1970s on?

                  Gerry [/B][/QUOTE]

                  Good Luck in your new venture!!! ...And to cover just one of your questions, yes the clients do really care! Giving them the option of a product that will live up to true archival standards is one way to set yourself apart from the vast majority who talk about their product in terms like "It's as good as any regular photo finisher will do", "this is the way that everybody else is doing it" etc. etc.

                  Repeat business will come from the job YOU do. The new business you build will come from the clients and friends of the clients who went to the guy who told them mediocre was "good enough". And BTW, we work to a minimum 150 year standard rather than the 50 you mentioned. If you use traditional archival materials that can easily be accomplished in one printing - if you use digital, it will require providing a backup for any print you provide on a gold CD with a fairly large file along with counseling the client that it will still take at least one transfer to meet the 150 year criteria. Promising too much is a good route to oblivion and the people promising longevity for their inkjet prints are on their way out of business even if they don't know it yet!

                  Jim Conway
                  Timemark Photo Conservators


                  • #10
                    What do you base your 150 year claim on? Do you have documented test results or is this an estimate? The projected life of prints from the Pigment based inkjet printers is based on hard data from the Wilmeilm( not sure of spelling) Institute which conducts rigorious testing under highly controlled settings. Tom


                    • #11
                      150 year print life estimates are tricky

                      Hi Tom et al.
                      Yes, it is interesting to hear of all this research into print life being made by all of these manufacturers. Even the Willheim Institute claims are based on such a narrow band of criteria. I believe it is something like 450 lumens at 70ºf. From what I am told, 450 lumens is something akin to a 15 watt lightbulb. Anything more than that degrades the printlife considerably. Again, any time the print spends over 70ºf also speeds up degradation. If the print spends a few weeks in a room which gets in the 90's, the years come ticking off the life expectancy by the week.

                      I think, if nothing else, I intend to educate my client on this matter, and hopefully, they will see that the prints from my new Epson 2200 are of a very high quality, that can be enjoyed for their lifetime. I agree with Mr. Conway that offering clients the ability to get negatives made which can be taken into a traditional darkroom for real museum quality prints is going to be my top tier of services offered. After that, I am going to offer the pigmented ink prints (I am waiting for the release of the 2200 in July). Then, as a third tier, I will offer the Fuji Crystal Archival Prints (25 year prints) and the Kodak Poly & Illford Multigrade B&W prints.

                      I have been spending some time on the Kodak Website. They are making a great effort to promote the concept of "Darkfastness" in this discussion. This refers to the effects of nonlight environmental degradation on photo prints. I see it as them cutting themselves slack at every chance. I can't say I blame them, they have lowered the quality bar so much in terms of what they market to the popular culture as a photograph, that they are just covering their butts.

                      Thanks for the feedback, it is soooo helpful.



                      • #12
                        Personally speaking...

                        My biggest concern is that all of the archivability ratings are based on
                        such ridiculous standards. I mean, who is going to keep a photo in the
                        light of a 15 watt bulb at 70º F. What is a 50 year print worth in real
                        life. Do sentimental picture owners really care? Or do they just want to
                        know their restored photo is as good as any RC Color print from the
                        1970s on?



                        Personally speaking I can assure you that archival quality is verrrrrry important.

                        I've been researching our Johnston family for 26 years now. Early on I found out that 1, possibly 2, fires had destroyed the first homestead consuming the family bible, photos and legal documents. 26 years of searching all across and up and down North America produced only 1 image with a second generation Johnston, my ggrandfather. No one could come up with anything else. Last week a distant and heretofore unknown cousin contacted me about a Johnston family album that she had discovered in her Grandmother's effects. Writing on the backs of some of the tintypes verified that they were our family and that many of the images were from the 1870's. 2 images, those of my gggrandparents had evidently been displayed at one time. They were much more noticeably faded and will require more retouching. How I wish that they had been done on a more archival material; however, even after over 130 years I'm ecstatic about at least having something to work with.

                        I've always "sold" the archival qualities of my portraits because most everyone has faded color photographs, and they are disappointed that they have faded. Now I've got even more reason to do so - about 40 more images worth. I'll guarantee you though that my gggrandparents didn't even give it a thought as they sat for their portraits. Thank goodness her daughter, and her daughter and her daughter kept the images "sealed" from the light in a family album for most of those 130+ years. With color historically being so fragile, archival becomes even more important, IMO.

                        Just my 2 cents worth.



                        • #13
                          G00d luck Gerry

                          Hi Gerry, You should post something for us all to see never know, you could get a start on your Business in RetouchPro........Good luck


                          • #14
                            I am just getting started with photo retouch and I don't know anything about printing photographs really. I was mostly in graphics the last 20 years and just before deciding to learn to be a retoucher as well, I bought an OKI Color Laser Printer C5200. Is this a problem? Everyone is talking about Epson Inkjets so far, does this mean you can't get a good photo print from a wonderful color laser printer? Is there anyway I can? I have glossy laser paper and the prints don't look so good, but mostly I notice the blacks/grays print too brown, so that must be a calibration problem (I have yet to look into that). But the tone, sharpness and detail, can a laser do it or do I need a Epson inkjet? I have an Epson Stylus C82, just need to get more ink....or should I bother, do I need a newer printer? I am on a zero budget due to a survival lifestye at this time. Is there anyway to be able to print with what I have or what is the cheapest soulution for me.

                            This is the part that I find hard to learn and feel overwelmed by. Any help would be appreciated, even a different paper. I have a HammerMill OfficeOne Business Gloss. I do have three sample packs of techniSource coated, cast-coated digital papers.?????


                            • #15
                              I too am considering starting a restoration business and find this discussion VERY interesting. I am at the other end, 58 yrs old, not wanting to do the corporate thing any longer, and looking for something that I could do from home or a small store. I heard about the Epson printers once before at a Ben Wilmore seminar. How are they better than say the newer HP inkjets, like the 8450 using the Vivera inks? HP is quoting Photo life of 100 years with these new inks. The repro quality of a photo is pretty impressive when viewed. What kind of cost is associated with the Epsons? I know I will need to buy some equipment (although I am a computer nut and have computer, scanner, digital SLR, Photoshop CS2), but what level of scanner and printer are acceptable for this type of work?


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