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Mastercolor Labs Blog
With traditional photographic printing declining each year with digital image use Mastercolor is constantly trying to find new arenas of photo reproduction and business opportunities. Mastercolor was formed in 1975 from a hobby in Chip Wright's basement to on of the largest professional photo labs in North Carolina. Chip still treats the business as a hobby as he produces the most Giclee prints of anyone on our staff. Just as Chip turned his favorite hobby into a business, so have many local artists. I remember being approached by my old friend Brian Rightsell to copy some work that his wife Kelly Righsell created. Brian told me that he had been sending the work out for scanning and wanted me to try and give it a go. When you copy the work of a artist as talented as Kelly Rightsell, it is not hard to produce a good digital image so I figured Mastercolor would give it a try. The seed that Brian planted in my brain has blossomed and today we regularly take in a dozen pieces of original artwork a week. Rest assured we will not copy any originals that are signed or have a copyright mark, but we are happy to work with any artist no matter what level or work you produce. We have produced calendars for first graders, 30x40 canvas wraps for national artist, and thousands upon thousands of note cards from artist across the country. We are always eager to meet new artist so if you would like to contact us, we would be happy to share past experiences and offer suggestions of what material you should use for printing. We cannot copy any work that is behind glass, and any piece that is in a frame will lose the edge when printing the reproduction. Acrylics and oils are easier to match than watercolors, but all are wonderful to share.
The summer season is when Mastercolor gains the most new interest in our company and the services we offer. I am not sure if it is all the graduations, weddings, sport leagues, or more than likely all the wonderful vacations and parties people typically enjoy with the warmer weather, but we are eager to hear from all new customers. Summer also happens to be the season that the most images are captured by cell phones and cameras around the world, billions upon billions that are rarely used other than a quick text or Facebook post. However since the volume for the season is higher, and typically the one season where people really want prints of these special events we also see more requests for prints and especially Canvas Wraps.
In this Blog I just want to clarify the different services Mastercolor offers for ordering your pictures online, and point out the positives of each service and direct anyone reading this to the best option for their use.
Let's start with the ROES software that is a FREE DOWNLOAD from our website. ROES is our most popular option for ordering pictures, wedding books, Canvas Wraps, greeting cards, and pretty much all of our services. It is a software that you download to your computer, you then import the images you want to order (simple drag and drop) and you select the products you want to order. The software allows you to crop, change to Black & White, create composites, and get very creative with your images. Once you have added all your items to your cart and provided shipping, pick-up and payment information your images will upload quickly, faster than any other uploading speed on the internet. It really is AMAZINGLY fast to upload 200 images. What takes most sites an hour to upload, this program will send in less than five minutes. Positives: all products available, uploading speeds, ease of use once you are familiar. This is the best option for most wanting to order images. Cons: You have to download the software. Some security softwares cause issues with installation.
www.mastercoloronline.com is our newest option. It is designed for customers that just want to order a few larger prints, and they do not want to download the ROES software. This site works on a web server so you upload your images BEFORE you start to edit or choose your product. Uploading times can be slow, it just depends on your computer, your internet connection and the size files you are uploading. Positives: No downloading and installing of a software, choose from all different papers and canvases we offer, can order CUSTOM SIZES, discount codes often available, determines the larges size you can order with the file size provided, room previews to visualize the size of a print in your home or office, saves the images you have ordered or uploaded in the past, so re-orders are much easier. Cons: SLOW uploading speeds (same as all other sites you upload images), some services are not available, slow when ordering a large number of smaller prints ( USE the ROES).
We started offering our MCwebprints in 2014 as an option for those that want to share their images or even SELL their images online. Just as you can create an album on Facebook, you can create different albums on MCwebprints. The reason you would want to do this as opposed to just posting to Facebook is that it will allow your friend or customer to order prints directly through the site. No more " hey will you print me a copy", just send the link and they can order their own, or they can download the image. Want to sell your images? Great for photographers and artist, and the best part is the Professional version only cost $30 a year. You mark up our list prices and once your customer pays online with their credit card, the lab bill is paid to Mastercolor and your profits are deposited in your PayPal account. After you upload and share the link to the album there is no more work required on the professional's side. We ship the orders directly to your customer. Easy to post links on Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter or created a public link for an email or to publish on a website. Pros: Easy to link and share your images, easy to order prints, easy checkout service, low cost for selling images online. Cons: uploading speed compared to ROES, $3.00 handling charge on all orders, all orders are shipped no pick-up available, some services that Mastercolor offers are not available.
On the front page of our website we also offer two additional options that you can use, but we strongly encourage you to use the ROES software. Our Easy 1-2-3 works just like the www.mastercoloronline option except it has fewer size options, it cannot do custom sizes, and the processing time is a bit slower. We have not removed this option from the website because we have some customers who have requested it to stay, but I would strongly consider avoiding this compared to the newer version. We also have the Easy File Uploader on our website that is designed for customers who are sending a large number of files for weddings, school packages or custom sizes. It takes some time to register for an account and to replace this older option we also have an FTP account through Hightail that we would suggest you use. Again, some customers insist we keep this older FTP link.
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.