Photo Firms Make Digital Transition

January 16, 2004
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Customers often dictate business decisions and when shutterbugs started making the shift to digital photography, commercial photo houses had to go along with them.

Corporate Color, a Grand Rapids printing house, told the Business Journal that it made the transition to digital simply because of customer demand.

“When so many people started to print their pictures out digitally and take them digitally, we decided we needed to follow suit,” said Terry Ryder, who is in charge of IT for Corporate Color.

“Over time there has been a shift in business and now we are capable of doing everything digitally.”

He said that while the business certainly still produces photographic prints, it now employs a digital process.

To make the transition, Corporate Color had to purchase all new machinery, replacing analog with digital equipment in order to take customers’ disks, CDs or digital photo cards and output prints onto photo paper.

Ryder added that the transition has not only meant the business has become more user-friendly but also that there are many more opportunities through digital processing.

“There are more options for people when we produce their pictures and it is no longer that what you saw in your viewfinder is what you get on paper,” said Ryder.

“We have so many options when it comes to digital processing and I think that is one reason it is so popular.”

However, it isn’t only the photo processing businesses that have made the switch, but also photography studios.

Paris Studios in Muskegon has evolved over the last two to three years to a 60 percent digital-40 percent film studio.

The firm’s founder and president, Orville Elema, said that up until a couple of years ago he always felt he could produce better pictures with his film cameras.

As a beginner in the trade during the 1970s, Elema amassed a mountain of personal national prizes for his portraiture.

Today, his studio uses five third-generation digital cameras that he said can create prints that measure 30 by 40 inches with very high resolution.

He explained that one big advantage that digital technology has over film is in the retouching and editing of the photos.

In fact, he said, making the transition to digital photography gives his firm much better control when editing.

He gave an example of a family portrait that his studio took recently where a young child was not especially happy to be sitting for the portrait.

However, with the magic of digital photography, Elema was able to isolate and then impose one of the youngster’s few smiling images upon the grumpy face that otherwise marred the shot of the rest of the smiling family.

“With film, we used to send out all of our prints to somewhere off site,” Elema said.

“Now, with digital, we are able to do everything in house and have control over what is retouched — and it also saves a lot of time.”

And when time is money, Elema added, the change to digital pays off.

One new digital printer the studio recently purchased can print 400 8-by-10 prints in an hour. Another printer that Elema will add soon will print images up to 44 inches wide.

Elema said he expects by the end of this year to be processing 90 percent digital and 10 percent film.

And while he foresees a day that Paris Studios will be working entirely in digital format, film will always hold a special place in his heart.

“I am from the old school and so I still like film, and that is what we use for our once-in-a-lifetime important events such as weddings and family portraits.

“And some events we shoot both,” he added.

“I know we will move to all digital, but I think we will still always have some film prints, for posterity, at least.”

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