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First Hand Experience

Two End Users Discuss Their Photo Lab Equipment

Part 4 of 4

By Lorraine A. DarConte

Manhattan’s MV Photo Labs & Archival Supplies recently purchased a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF8100 printer. "We got it because we’re now offering digital services at the lab and wanted to include output with that," states Jason Knobloch, printer, MV Photo Labs & Archival Supplies. The lab enjoys the printer’s two user-serviceable printheads. "For instance," explains Knobloch, "if you come to the end of the printhead’s life span in another printer, you have to either send it back to be refurbished or replace the printer. With the imagePROGRAF iPF8100 printer, you simply replace the printheads."

Knobloch also points out the benefits of having 12 print cartridges—including blue, green, and red. "This includes a wider gamut than any other printer out there. It also prints in native 16-bit, so aspects of posterization are drastically reduced," explains Knobloch.

"I introduced digital to the lab about one and a half years ago," states Knobloch, "and we now provide services like archival inkjet, giclée-style printing, and posters for advertising." Knobloch notes that in order to get the best results from a printer, it’s important to have a background in traditional printing before going digital. Thanks to the addition of the imagePROGRAF iPF8100 printer, MV now accepts digital jobs it was unable to take on in the past.

Jim Megargee, co-owner and master printer, MV Photo Labs & Archival Supplies periodically takes advantage of his lab’s large format printer for his own personal use. He recently printed an image of a fogged-over store window containing three wedding dresses that he originally shot in the 1970’s as part of a series on a small, steel mill town in PA. "The series," states Megargee, "was about the changing social and economic climate that was taking place at the time." Today, he still receives requests for large prints of the image, which, along with other photos from the series, are on display at the lab.

Custom Backdrops
Chris Lui owns and operates 14 fully digital Yuen Lui Studios in three states—CA, OR, and WA—specializing in portrait, school, and wedding photography. "We’re a unique business," states Lui. "We’re large enough to have our own photographers and lab, so we only print work from our own portrait photographers—about 40. We service more than 40,000 customers per year."

The studio currently works with two Epson wide format printers, an Epson Stylus Pro 9600 and 9500, to print its high end family portraits. Both printers were purchased when the models debuted a few years ago. "We thought they were a great option as opposed to our chemistry machine, which only produces output up to 20x24 inches. The Epsons print up to 40x60 inches. We create a lot of photographic canvas prints here and use the Epson for that." Also popular at Yuen Lui Studios are 24x30-inch and 30x40-inch wall portraits. Once in a while the lab receives a request for a 40x60-inch print.

"We keep our eye on all the new equipment whether it’s Epson, Fuji, or Kodak. But at this point, I hope I don’t have to buy a new printer soon," confesses Lui. "We find Epson Stylus Pros to be relatively inexpensive, so every time a new model comes out we’re looking to upgrade. The prices, which range between $5,000 to $10,000, are a lot lower than $100,000 high speed machines."

In addition to portrait, school, and wedding photography, Yuen Lui Studios uses its printers to create custom backgrounds. "We prep all the artwork in Adobe PhotoShop," says Lui. "We print two sizes, a 44x90-inch background and a 120x120-inch background that’s pieced together with three prints." Lui typically uses a photograph as a base and then manipulates it in PhotoShop to "make it a little more artistic. We also design some backgrounds from scratch."

Whether a photo lab used digital equipment for years or just recently adopted this particular hardware, the end result is clear—variety equals profit.

Success comes in the form of choice. Instead of printing a flier on a standard piece of paper, print a 30x40-inch banner on high gloss that is sure to attract attention. Adapting large format digital printing capabilities into wholesale and retail photo labs provides options for the customer.

Jun2008, Digital Output

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Photo Labs Go Wide.
Click here to read Part 2 of this exclusive online series, Roundup the Equipment.
Click here to read Part 3 of this exclusive online series, Substrates Galore.

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