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Mastercolor Labs Blog
Writing a Blog for a business can be tough. Seems like every time I take the time to pound an opinion out the same topics pop back in my mind. If you have ever taken the time to read my previous Blogs it seems about every year I write one about backing up your data. And if I am not trying to instill the fear of God in you about losing your files I am trying to convince you that you need to PRINT PICTURES to ensure you never forget those special times in your life.
I am not lying when I tell you we have had dozens of ladies in Mastercolor’s lobby crying about all the pictures they have lost on their camera card. We have had iPhone’s from lakes and oceans put on our counter and usually from faces that we have never seen come through the doors. These lost souls usually act as though they are going to confession and admit they have never had anything printed at Mastercolor, but if we can save them now, in the future…ALL pictures will be printed here…yada, yada, yada.
We are always happy to help where we can, but usually we point them in the direction of one of the nation’s best data recovery companies, Drive Savers. However Drive Savers could not help the woman that put this reoccurring theme back in my head. Earlier this week I settled down to watch the new NBC hit program REVOLUTION that I had recorded. I am hooked on the show at the moment, but I am curious how long they will drag out the story line. I think this might be best suited for a mini series, but I get the feeling they are going to pull a LOST. For those of you that have not watched the show it is about what the world would be like if suddenly all sources of power went out. It does get you thinking about the every day life and what it would be like to not live with all the daily comfort items, and yes that includes the beloved iPhone. Imagine not being able to look at a picture of the ones you loved, and all you have left of those cute little faces is what you can see when you close your eyes.
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I doubt the world’s power will go out, or at least not in the near future, unless you are Mayan. But why risk it? Use the Mastercolor App “Photos 4 U” to print your favorites, but even better back your cameras and phones up regularly to your computer and order prints using the Mastercolor ROES software. You can use “Lifepics” through Mastercolor and host your images online fore free and share them with all your family and friends, and you can even order images you have been tagged in on Facebook. It really is not that hard, it takes a little time, but it is a way to secure the memories of those you love.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, and when Mother Nature gave Hattiesburg Mississippi a Hurricane, Leon Franklin turned it into something sweet. That's just the way Leon Franklin works, not much anyone or anything could get this gentle man's pulse to raise one point. I remember my first conversation with Leon back in 2006 like it was yesterday. He called just before I left to eat lunch with my father, and said he had found us when searching the internet for " Photo Labs." I must admit I did not think much would come from it, I mean how many other Labs are closer to Franklin’s Photography that could print school pictures for him in the 709 miles that separate us? Why would he choose Mastercolor? I am not sure how the stars lined up to pair this business relationship, but it was a match made in heaven. I have never spoken with a nicer, more caring person than Leon Franklin. I realize all of our professional customers are in it for a living, but Leon is in it for giving as well. He describes his clients as mostly lower income families, most single mothers living on a fixed income, but he wants them all to be able to afford pictures of their babies. Looking at his numbers, he makes thousands of families happy every year.
I called Leon last week and said I had not heard from him in a while, and I wanted to check in before his school season got busy, and before he could give the first response about his life, he was already asking about my family, and others he knew at Mastercolor. That is just the way he works. We joked that it would be great meet in person, and with his patented line he always says when we hang up, "sometime soon I am going to drive up there and meet you guys."
August 27th, 2012 the National Weather center has changed the projected path of Hurricane Isaac, and it is headed right for Leon's home town of Hattiesburg MS. Most would panic, run for sand bags, duct tape, and water, but not Leon. Instead Leon decided this was the best chance to take a drive to think, and as Chuck Berry would say "with no particular place to go", why not drive to meet his friends of Mastercolor Labs, a quick 12 hour drive over 722 miles according to his GPS. When Leon arrived it was the highlight of the week for everyone here. Leon is a company favorite, easy to print for, easy to work with. If there is ever a problem we contact him about, the response in Leon's soft voice "no problem." You could not design the more perfect customer and friend. Leon took a tour of our facilities, and learned how we processed his orders, and also had lots of questions about other items we offer. I am hoping Mississippi and Louisiana are going to be flooded with canvas prints rather than the water from Isaac. After the tour of Mastercolor and a great meal at Kick Back Jack's, Leon was ready to head back to Atlanta so he could be back in Hattiesburg by Friday for an appointment.
I am very sorry to all those that experienced flooding and loss with Hurricane Isaac, but I am very thankful that the storm sent Leon Franklin north to Greensboro North Carolina where I finally got to meet an old friend.
It seems like each year at this time Mastercolor is faced with the same delima we faced twelve months earlier....how to land more customers. Each year we ask our customers what services we need to provide to make working with Mastercolor a better option. We hear opinions from all over the board, some possible, some not so much, but the theme is constant: "Make digital photography easier for ordering, organizing and storing."
Since last August we have made quite a few changes to our customers online ordering experience. We launched a new website late last year. With new functions for ordering and a "check-out" system in place through our Easy 1-2-3 Upload option for enlargements and Canvas Gallery Wraps. We have received hundreds of orders in the manner, but still hear that "We want it easier" - hold your horses...Pixels Inc. (our web Designer) is on the way with a very user friendly option that will allow you to visualize your canvas before your upload. We heard that our image hosting option for Professional Photographers was not easy to use, so we have gone with another network website design firm that can design a website for you and a very easy to use check-out system. We are very excited to be a part of the Photo Shelter network.
The biggest change we made was moving from the ROES Pro to the ROES Retail platform. While the name is deceiving the ROES Retail actually allows more editing options than our original ROES.
- You can create your own templates
- Insert type wherever you choose
- You can store more than one order in the system before you send your images
- The entire store front is much more user friendly with helpful videos that can show your how to get started and how you can create greeting cards, calendars or edit your photos. You can launch our ROES software here to get started. Watch this short video to learn more about the new ROES.
With a new iPad App on the way to replace our curent free iphone app, revisions to our website, we are ready for even more change, but we can't change without your help. Email us and let us know what additional feature you would like to see to make your ordering experience even easier with Mastercolor.
While the ordering is getting easier, until internet speeds pick up in the United States, there are always going to be hurdles to overcome when trying to transmitt large file sizes. Organizing and storing have certainly gotten easier, especially for Macintosh products that sync together, often without your meaning to do so. Almost all digital products want to help you back-up your files whether it be to a iCloud, Google, Flicker, Dropbox, etc, but YOU ARE NEVER SAFE. Read this Blog entry from Mat Honan digital expert about how his files , his photo memories were comprimised:
How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking
It is something we have all heard for decades: " What are the first items you would take from your home other than family & pets if your hose was burning?" Answer by an overwhelming majority " MY PHOTOGRAPHS". I do not care where you have your files saved, nothing is 100%! And what fun are the pictures to look at in the lock box of your bank? Take advantage of our "101" 4x6 photographs inserted in an Album for $29.99 special. Available on ROES, and soon on our new "SPECIALS" page on our website.
Well it’s that time of year again, time to get out of the cold from winter, the breezy days of early spring, back to the hot days of watching hours upon hours of youth sports each Saturday. I guess I am more fortunate than some of my friends that are splitting their time between three sports, because this year for my youngster it is Lacrosse or bust! It also seems like a product of nature that each spring I find myself standing in a sea of parents and grandparents snapping thousands of images of these budding stars of spring with their high dollar cameras.
This year was particularly painful. I found myself standing beside a father who had a much bigger, more powerful lens, a lens that made my Nikon 28-200 feel just a little inadequate…..yep, I have “lens envy” . Is it not enough that as a photolab owner I have to witness millions of images clicked each weekend only to be deleted and never printed or shared? But now I have to wonder what it would be like to own equipment that big, and ohhh how I would print the images I would captured on all of those Saturday morning games if I owned a 400mm lens. As the season progresses it gets better as I field questions from other parents that know I am in the business, and always the same question…”So now I have all my images on my card, and most are saved to my computer now what do I do?” My answer is the same as I have posted in a dozen or so blogs before:
- Make Sure your files are taken off your memory card on a regular basis.
- Store them in a viewable program, such as iphoto or picassa.
- Save your original files in a folder on an external hard drive.
- Burn DVDs and store at a different location than your computer.
- PRINT your favorites before you push them to your external drive.
- Do not make it a chore, photography is suppose to be FUN!
With Mastercolor’s $5 minimum order, and easy to use from home ROES ordering software it really takes about 5 minutes to accomplish this task. The Roes software will allow you to crop images, change to B&W, make calendars, design greeting cards, build composites or even order a professional Canvas Gallery Wrap. The ROES software is easy to use, and if you have any questions, call us and we will be happy to walk you through the ordering process step by step. If you want to post images on the web for other families on the team to buy so you do not get stuck holding the bill, upload your images to our Lifepics service. Lifepics is a great service for free online image hosting and it will let you order any image that you may have been tagged on from a friend on Facebook.
I have always said that the best part about working at a small photography business is the chance to work closely with friends, and to create images of their families and from their memories. It seems like just yesterday that my friend Karen Kelly came in to Mastercolor wanting us to create a stretched canvas for her of a really fantastic shot she had captured while visiting Maine on a family vacation. At the time we were already printing on canvas, but to be honest, we really did not want to get into all the materials and space needed for creating Canvas Gallery Wraps. Well Karen is one of those special types of people that can tell you what you should be doing without coming across as pushy. Long story short Karen knew our business better than we did, and now Canvas Gallery Wraps are some of our most requested items.
After Karen convinced me how easy they were to make, told me where I could go to buy the stretcher bars, and how popular these would become, Mastercolor produced our first Giclee Gallery wrap with her image of the "Good Ole Buoys". Karen’s Gallery Wrap has been hanging in our lobby ever since .
The advice given to me by a close friend has really helped shape the future of our business. We even designed a separate website just to handle the volume of Giclees and Canvas Wraps we received, www.mastercolorcanvas.com.
On the weekend of May 14th there will be a fund raising event held in Karen’s honor to help fight the financial burdens that come with the daily battle against ALS. Karen was diagnosed with ALS or LouGehrig’s disease in 2010 and a group of friends have organized this event to help offset the cost of a lift van for the Kelly family. It is open to the public and is being held at Brixx Pizza on Westover Terrace in Greensboro. Cost for the event is $15 for adults and includes music, pizza and beer, the cost for children is only $7. They will be selling raffle tickets for over 40 great prizes and are holding a silent auction during the event (11a.m.-4p.m.). If you want to bid online before the event start, please visit the auction using this link. (http://www.32auctions.com/organizations/1500/auctions/1628)
A copy of “Good Ole Buoys” signed by Karen will be one of the priceless items there to raise money. Hope to see you on the 14th. Please visit Brixx Pizza whenever you are choosing a night out for dinner, I am not sure there is a nicer group of people to dine with in all of Greensboro!
I think everyone would choose to stay busy in their jobs rather than having eight long weeks to wonder where all of your customers have gone. Unfortunately in the photofinishing industry we have grown use to it. However, when life gives you lemons, reach out and talk to your customers.
We recently returned from the Carolina Nature Photographers Association convention in Charlotte N.C. which was held at the HiltonCharlotte University Place. Let me start by saying if your company ever needs to hold a conference in Charlotte I would highly suggest staying here. The weekend was packed with lectures, workshops and the trade show. The CNPA was pleased to announce their largest attendence ever for a convention, just under 500 people. Standing at a table for 10 hours is never something that anyone looks forward to, but talking to photographers that really are still in it for the fun is a nice change. We spoke with all levels of photographers, but despite the difference in their knowledge, it was great to see that spark of imagination in their eyes. On the drive home to Greensboro my father and I each commented how much fun it was to be working in an industry that started as a hobby for each of us. Our table at the trade show was located beside Dan Beauvais of the Outerbanks. Dan is not only an accomplished photographer, but he is known all over the east coast for repairing both Nikon and Cannon digital cameras. While at the show he an his partner must have cleaned over 400 cameras, folks were lining up with bags full of cameras for his $30 show special. If you camera needs repairs or just a good cleaning I would consider Dan an excellent source. Contact Dan: firstname.lastname@example.org
While at the show and while speaking with other customers on the phone we have heard lots of new ideas about different presentaion options for photographs and have decided to expand our mounting options. In the near future please ask about:
- beveled edge mounts that will come in Gold, Silver, and Black
- Flouting mounts for Gatorfoam Boards and Standout Boards
- Additional Frames from our Printz & GWI lines
If you have suggestions or know of services you would like to see us offer please contact us with your suggestions.
With the beginning of each business year, all of us at Mastercolor try to reflect on the recent busy season and how we could improve services for our customers. It is a convenient time for us to tackle this task because January is typically our slowest month. In 2010 what we already knew was confirmed once again: uploading images is not the most comfortable thing for most digital camera users. I have discussed the frustrations of how to organize and order your images in my previous BLOGS, but what I want to do is introduce you to a new service that we have finally launched. We waited until after the Holidays to have a campaign for this service because we wanted our staff to have the extra time to answer your questions.
We have added the Lifepics button on the front page of our website as the fourth option for uploading your images to us. I want to stress that anyone who is willing to take a moment to tour the ROES software (download here) that this is the most powerful option we offer, and it allows a MUCH FASTER uploading speed. ROES also offers many options that are not available on Lifepics, especially for creating composites
LifePics is much more of a “shareware” option than ROES. It allows you to select all the images you want to upload and stores them in folders that you name. Once your images have uploaded you can send an invitation to family or friends to view and order pictures. LifePics allows your invited friends to order from your folders (saving you the cost of printing for them). A new feature in the LifePics technology allows you to upload any image that you have been “tagged” on in Facebook. This is very helpful when you want copies of those old memories from the 90’s, 80’s and earlier.
The Lifepics software uploads your images on the FRONT end of your ordering process, just like the software that Shutterfly and Snapfish use. This is a long process on any site that you choose. However, you can select different file sizes to upload to increase the speed of the upload, but the smaller the file size the smaller the maximum print size that will be allowed for ordering.
Once the images have uploaded you can order prints, photo calendars, Coffee Mugs, Magazine Cover, Canvas Gallery Wraps, Greeting Cards or any other service we offer. Within the LifePics network you might also find products that Mastercolor does not produce, but one of the partners in the LifePics system can, for examples a photo blanket or playing cards.
Why use Lifepics? I think the main advantage is that you can order from a local Lab. If Mastercolor receives your print order by 10a.m., it will be ready that day for you to pick up. You pay online either using your credit card or pay pal, and your prints are ready when you arrive. LifePics also serves as a free option to share your images with a large group (baseball team, church group, class reunion, etc.) without having to “friend” everyone you want to share the pictures with.
We are very excited to offer this new option for sending your orders to Mastercolor, however please feel free to call us and we can discuss what option would be the best for you to use. Our ROES software is still the fastest uploading option, but with the sharing abilities, and the extra items that are available on LifePics we are confident it will be the best option for many of our customers.
Well Labor Day has come and gone, all the summer clothes are now stored until next Memorial Day and life is starting to feel a little more normal. I love summer, I really do, but come each Labor Day I am usually exhausted. Our summer has been filled with lots of fun trips, great times shared with friends and family, and more cook-outs and tomato pie than I care to count. I have never been so excited to attend a back to school night in my life. I guess I would feel differently about saying goodbye to my kids during the active mid day hours if I felt they were actually dreading going to school (the way I did), but when the first carpool door flew open and my kids burst out of my car without even saying a word, it actually made me feel happy. On this special day I exchanged the "I love you daddy" my daughter normally leaves me with for the kids' laughter as they departed my car running after friends. Hearing their laughter made me feel even better because I knew that they were happy with the school we had chosen. At Mastercolor "Back to School" also has another special meaning: "Back to printing lots of pictures". Don't get me wrong, we love printing your vacation proofs, a canvas gallery wrap from your favorite scenic spot, and seeing all the wonderful places our customers have traveled when we print their photo books using our ROES software, but nothing makes me happier than strolling through the plant and seeing "units" pour out of the machines. A "Unit" is how we categorize any design that a school photographer can fit on an 8"x10" sheet. It can be a 8"x10", two 5"x7"s, a sheet of 8 wallets, two 4"x5" & a 5"x7", or any combination they want to create. Class pictures are very important to us, and they should be equally important to the families that are considering buying the images of their children. In this age of digital photography we always hear they same claim, " Why should I buy these pictures when I can produce one myself?". The answer is simple: YOU WON'T. More than likely you will never get around to taking the picture. You will never capture the image of your child the same way a professional will (more than likely your child will not behave like they will for a professional). If you beat the odds and actually take a quality image, more than likely you will never produce the photograph you set out to do (industry studies show 90%+ of images intended to be printed are still sitting on hard drives across the world). Bert VanderVeen and his wife Becky of VanderVeen Photographers are very good friends of mine, and they do a wonderful job capturing the faces and personalities of all the children at my kids' school. More than anyone I know what extra there is in paying them for their images, and let me tell you it is worth it. The images I have bought through the school are the ones I have on the mantle at home (in front of the images I took myself). I still have the school pictures my parents bought of me, and likely your elementary pictures have been brought out a time or two in your adult life. There is just something special about your school photos that will always take you back to the memories you had in a certain grade. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the professional images of your children. Your kids will only be this age once, and you will not get a second chance.
You know I have always heard how life can imitate art. Never meant much too me since in my mind as an average photographer, any art I created through my favorite hobby of photography was created from real life events or things that I had captured with my camera. Well my opinion changed this week. As I was hustling around trying to prepare our August 1st online news letter (sign up for it on the front page of our site), trying to pay all bills that will become due next week, trying to end and reward the winners of our "Sunset" photo contest all my mind could think of was vacation! Yep, I am outta here for 5 days to visit my aunt & uncle and their generous offer to share the old family house at on of the most beautiful places on this earth, MARTHA'S VINEYARD! The place where I captured my favorite image of my children to date, where I proposed to my wife at Gay Head , the place where I learned to fear the water like no other, the place where I saw them film JAWS. Yes life is imitating art. Shortly after telling a friend of mine that I was headed to the Vineyard, he said with a sly grin, "You have heard about the shark warnings in the area, haven't you?" I realized (with that sudden rush over my body like the one Chief Brody felt when relaxing on State Beach and the first cries of a shark attack whizzed through the air) that yes I was taking my family to the same spot where I watched the movie JAWS being filmed. In 1974 I was pulled around by my grandmother to watch as many scenes being filmed as possible, including "the boy on the raft". We are going to the same island I saw the world premier of one of the most famous horror films of all time. Yes, I was going to the Vineyard as shark bait, and did I mention that it just happens to be "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel? So do I take Mayor Vaughn's approach and act like nothing is wrong? or do I take the Chief Brody approach and stay out of the water and avoid my family spilling out all over the town dock like the little Kitner boy? I guess the heat will be the deciding factor, because after record temperatures in both June and July in the Carolinas, I am looking forward to a little Vineyard chill. If I listen to Chief Brody, one thing is certain, I will have my camera in tow and capture as many images of this beautiful spot as I can. I will eat Ice Cream, skip stones on light house beach, and think about the 5 generations of my family that have done the same activities before me. I can not wait for this vacation! So when life throws you to the sharks, do what I do... take lots of pictures, and have them developed at Mastercolor using our ROES software.
Yesterday I had a good friend of mine stop by our location to pick up a nice order he had placed for Canvas Gallery Wraps of his children. My friend had ordered 29 16x20 or larger to decorate his house with, and after my many grateful thanks, we talked about the pictures he had captured and some of the problems we had in printing them. When he initially emailed his files to me, many were low resolution, so we had to track them back to the original files. Others were GREAT shots of his children, but they were shot too tight to allow for the gallery wraps, so we were forced to apply a colored border for the edges of the prints so we did not wrap the subjects of the prints. (see example below)[gallery link="file" columns="2"]
My friend told me he was excited to hang these prints down at the beach, the same location many of the prints were taken, and I told him to prepare for his future prints and his Christmas Cards. My buddy is also nice enough to allow Mastercolor to print his Holiday Card each year, and in each year we run into the resolution problems, and the cropping problems so I told him to PREPARE for them.
After my friend left I found myself singing the annoying song from "HOODWINKED", "Be Prepared" in my head. This cartoon was a constant at my house two years ago, and my kids pulled it out this past Memorial Weekend when my they took a break from the sun and the quick rain shower one afternoon. As you can tell from the song title, the theme of this song is to "be prepared". So how does this relate to a Blog on a photography website? Well most of the prints you see displayed at a family's home are from their summer vacations, or activities that they did outside when the weather was nice. Of course there is the random "snow" picture or "leaves from Fall " but the majority of the prints people save and later use are taken in the summer, so BE PREPARED.
Be prepared to use these images later. Be prepared means backing them up properly (see my earlier blog), but in a nut shell :
- save your original files twice a month (minimum) from your camera's card to your computer.
- Copy those files to a external hard drive,
- and for the really cautious, burn your files annually to two sets of DVD's and keep them in separate locations.
I know this sounds over the top, but explain that to another friend of mine who recently lost his hard drive. His I.T. person compounded the problem and erased what little data there was, and now he is left with only his hard copies. Which brings up a very valid point, PRINT YOUR PICTURES, and if you do we hope that you will upload your files to Mastercolor using our ROES software.
Be prepared when shooting your images. With digital photography it is so easy to crop when printing so PLEASE, take two steps back before you capture your image, I promise with today's cameras you will not lose any of your resolution on your print when increasing your field of capture this little bit. Taking two steps back when shooting will allow you to create the extra space needed when framing, allow for the area needed for a Giclee Canvas Wrap, allow you to position and crop in your Holiday card, and overall create a more eye pleasing photograph. Please keep in mind these basic tips are not for professionals, just those wanting to shoot like one.
Be Prepared means, TAKE YOUR CAMERA WITH YOU! If you don't have a camera to capture the fun memories as they happen, it will be hard to share them later with your friends and family. Look for our end of the Summer Holiday Card special. For a limited time you will be able to save 25% on our already low prices on folded cards. Don't wait for the seasonal rush, have your cards printed in advance and save on time, frustrations and MONEY!
"Be prepared, be prepared..... unless you gotta sparrrrrreeeeeee"