Posts in The Future
What have we done...

atkins final front signage The past 20 years has seen the rise of a new paradigm in photography. This shift to a world of mostly digital data has not been good for the photo lab industry, nor has it been good for professional photographers. Since the mid 1990s we have been wrestling with these changes, and riding a decline in our business, but only addressing it in a superficial way.

In 2013 we took a deep introspective look at where we were with help from a business review from a Federal Government agency charged with assisting small to medium sized manufacturers. Pleasingly so, we passed all of their requirements and was rated as a business with potential. Which when your world is mostly filled with unsatifying financial reports and huddling inside your industry, was a great lift emotionally. We do love what we do, and believe in it, and to have outsiders recognise this was a relief.

Out of this review, we were invited to attend a "customer led innovation" six month long course where the deep naval gazing happened. It was here, under the guidance of Professor Sam Buccolo that we dug down to realise at the core, we run this business because we believe in the power of photographic record. We are in this because we love the photography that marks our world, and we want to help others who feel the same. We run this business for pictures that matter.

We want to connect people with photographers who can capture those critical subjects or moments, we want to help people identify those important pictures from peoples' own collection, we want to help print them to suit their purpose, we want to help people personally archive their pictures for generations.

So what did we do? We built a show room where we demonstrate photographs being used in different places as decor, we have built a room to design albums and collections to tell stories, we have archival storage systems for both digital data and prints. We have build a meeting place for our professional clients where they can come and be inspired and inspire us. We have put our photographic history front and centre in many ways, we are trumpeting as loudly as we can why we are in business, because we believe we are not alone in this affair. People value their own sense of history, and photography is the best way to record it.

The new website is under construction, new pricing is coming to suit the new products and packages. We are making albums on site, we are personalising USB flash drives on site, essentially we are fitting our products and systems around our customers.

So much is happening and there's more to come. We are in this industry for the long term, we love it, we live it and we want to help others, professionals or passionates (or both).

The opening this week was just stage one of our changes. We hope you will talk with us, tell us what you think, what you like, what you need, and come along with us on our journey. Our business,  is about so much more than earning a dollar and we want to build something really strong for our future and yours.

Atkins front signage pro end

Atkins front signage

Atkins Pro shop

Atkins Pro shop

Atkins Retail Shop

Atkins Retail Shop

Atkins staff uniforms

From your Phone Wall

Wedding and From your Phone wall

Party at Atkins!

Atkins Party You are invited to a special event at Atkins, we will be unveiling the next step in our 78 year history.

We hope you will come along to help us celebrate the start of something beautiful and the honouring of our past.

Our launch season theme is Summer, thongs, shorts and summery dresses are welcome.

Thursday October 23rd 7pm 89 Fullarton Road, Kent Town, SA 08 8431 6755

To book, click here: http://atkinsparty.eventzilla.net

 

Durability Vs light-fast

Last June, I visited the Rochester Institute of Technology's Image Permanence Institute (IPI). The visit was a part of Atkins' ongoing research into providing the most useful long-term prints.

Looking at long term usefulness is a good idea. After all, if we are not printing archivally, why are we printing at all? The supply of images that will vanish is well handled by folks leaving their photos in unstable digital storage!

So we want something that is light fast for 100 to 200 years. Agreed. Well what if when you touched it, the image is easilly damaged? What if the surface felt beautiful and textured, like water colour paper, but this made it absorb pollutants at a great rate?  How can we 'hand down' our prints without touching them?

It is a nasty conundrum that the most light fast, archival pigment ink printing, is also the most delicate.

But the fact is when it comes to pigment inkjet printing (Gicleé) it is less durable than wet process printing. Well processed, photographic silver-halide prints can survive relentless handling, heavily polluted atmospheres and even extensive flooding. It may only have an lightfast ceiling of 100 years, but it may be more likely to make 100 years.

So next time you are thinking about making a print, and you expect it to last. Think about how you are going to help it to last, storage, handling and display is equally as important as the choice of print type.

Paul Atkins

All the printing at Atkins is made on the best materials for their purpose, we purchase independently tested materials, we do  testing ourselves. We are in business for the long term, so you can hand down your prints to future generations.

Print it or lose it - Channel 9

A4 GRAN.epsNEWS_TEAM_BANNER2today_show_australiaWe are very excited that our article has triggered interest from Channel 9 in Adelaide and the Today Show nationally. The story will run tonight (Thursday 31st) from 6pm Adelaide time, and Friday morning, November 1st on the Today Show. The story is about the dangers of only storing your photos digitally (on a computer, hard drive, CD, DVD, SD card etc). Whilst digital archiving is cost effective, it currently is very short term.

Consider this, you may not care about your photos now, but when you are older and looking back on your life, they could be gone.

Digital storage cannot be trusted beyond 5-8 years, professionals recommend moving your digital storage onto the latest system every 5 years!

The other problem is that you need a computer to see those photos, where as prints…just turn on the light and open your eyes.

Here is Atkins' tips for preserving your memories:

  1. Be sure of what you are photographing, the more photos you take, the more you have to look after and the more you have to sort through to find those gems.
  2. Once you have taken the photos, download them to your computer and sort them, keep your favourites aside and change their name to reflect what you have taken. Back these favourites up in at least 3 places (hard drive/CD/DVD/Cloud)
  3. Print your favourites at a specialist printer such as AtkinsTechnicolour, avoid the big box stores; Harvey Normans, Office Works etc. Prints made unprofessionally may not last longer than 5 years.
  4. Make albums, books, frames and canvasses for the wall and gift even cards. Share your prints, they make great presents.
  5. Always try have the title on or on the back describing who is in the photo, where you were and when it was taken.

If you want further advice, or prints that will last for more than 100 years, contact Atkins on 08 8431 6755, or email: info@atkins.com.au.

If you want to read the full article, click here.

A big thanks to PMA and Fuji-film for the Print it or Lose it campaign.

Print it or lose it

A4 GRAN.epsAtkins has been a champion for the preservation of photographs. Recently, in the UK and now in Australia, the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) and Fuji have partnered to push the message home through a series of posters. Here is some background by Danny Williams of Swains' camera stores in the UK:

“There is”, he said, “a real danger that a family who don’t make prints or manage their electronic images will find themselves without any photo history. He compared this to the Domesday book, created on paper in 1086 and still readable today over 900 years later. Yet in 1986 a new Domesday book was created, at a cost of £2.5 million containing maps, pictures and video footage, It was stored on CD and is no longer readable.

“We need” said Williams “to shock people into realising that their heritage is not preserved electronically.

This is a great campaign, a very simple message, however it is worth explaining to people a little more detail as the problem is a wider one.

We are currently creating more photographs than ever, and the value of any one image is very low. If, and that is a big IF, people actually want their survivors to experience what they have in discovering a rich history of photos from the past, then they will have to take it all much more seriously.

Just making prints will not help. We will be inundated with forests worth of prints. They may be poorly printed and last no time at all. What has to happen, is proper curation of photographs. Careful selection, careful application of metadata (who is in the photos, what is happening, where and when it was taken), and careful printing at reputable professional services (such as Atkins) who use archival materials. This applies to digital storage, it all needs proper curation.

We have been incredibly lucky. early photographic processes were very stable, the prints lasted. And because the prints cost money, only a few were printed, only the most important images have survived.

This is now an urgent situation. We are facing a catastrophic loss of our social history.

New York on film

New YorkEvery year I find myself heading off to Kodak's head quarters in Rochester New York for their prolab conference. It is a swell affair that fuels me with ideas. I always visit other labs on the trip, and invariably enjoy a wander with the camera. This last trip I felt like bringing my Mamiya7 120 film camera. I love how it feels in the hand, I love the aperture priority, the rangefinder focus and the big negatives it produces.

I am not a film nut. I use a Nikon d700 most of the time and I often travel with a Lumix LX3. But this trip I wanted to see New York differently.

The film I chose was Kodak Portra 400. I broke down the pro packs of 5 rolls into singles so the airport security theatre could inspect without X-ray. And this was to be my first and last surprise: At every security checkpoint, the guards were happy to feel the rolls, and do an explosives test. No questions asked. All I had to say was "this is high speed film, can you please hand inspect". Bingo.

So what was the downside of shooting film? As you would expect flexible ISO was the thing I missed most, although it only caught me out once when I wanted to make the ubiquitous subway photos. In the evening I left the camera behind. I could have opted for higher speed film, but that was not part of my plan.

Managing large rolls of 10 exposures was a bit fiddly, but I shot a lot less and a lot more deliberately. In total I shot about 11 rolls, or about 107 frames. There were few repeats, and few mistakes. Changing the film on the fly is an exercise in dexterity, but years of experience using a Mamiya Press on the racetrack came flooding back and I never missed an opportunity. The camera did not attract attention, and it's near silent "plink" sounding shutter was never noticed. A few saw me winding on, as that lever makes quite a sweep when advancing 7cm of film. The Mamiya7 hangs well from your shoulder and nestles behind your arm, it is light enough to not impede progress in a crowd, and quick to draw up as the strap comes from the right grip, so you find it easily.

I slipped back into the habit of prefocusing, where you judge the distance to subject as you draw the camera up and move the focus to suit and in the same action, checking the aperture suits. For me it was either wide open or f8. All that was left to do was compose and squeeze off a shot. No waiting for AF to hunt, no checking the LCD for the results, no options to tempt.Mamiya_legacy_h_m7II

Actually the option I did struggle with was I kept switching it off for fear of killing the battery. Which is really dopey because it takes months to flatten the battery in the Mamiya. I must learn to leave it on. But years of cautious digital use is hard to shed. What about the results?

I don't think I'm the most objective fellow, I have spend most of my life shooting film. I've pretended to be Ansel Adams lugging my 5x4 kit through the bush and Henri Cartier-Bresson with an Leica M4P in Las Vegas. So perhaps when I say I loved the experience of working with film again I'd been on a sentimental journey... I do like the way colour neg falls off to shadow and pointing it into the sun produces a look that digital struggles with. The physics of medium format gives the images a 'big' feeling, depth of field is shallower, lens boca is more effective. That 80mm standard lens (the only lens I have for it) is gold. It is a grand look.

And there is so much room to move inside the frame, so much resolution. In our experience, 35mm film through an average camera can be scanned to 25 megapixels, and there is room for six 35mm frames in one 6x7! So a big print is like looking through a window. Will I do it again: yes, why not? It is a possible choice, at least in the near future. Will I shoot digital: hell yes, it is fun, fast, flexible. What is my ideal camera: if LeicaM gets a sensor as good as the D800, I'd sell one of my kids.

If you want to see more from my trip, follow this link to Flickr.

Paul Atkins.

PS - Different story but, I worked with Simone Hanckel on our fantastic new sample images we have been using this year, and I shot both D700 and the Mamiya7 with Portra400. Simone's work was astounding as usual, my D700 shots were ok, but I spent the better part of a day working them to get the look and feel I was after...

But the 120 film shots were perfect, I gave the film to John Clarke in our C41 department, he processed and passed to our film scanning department and Karen Tilbrook did here usual great work, and bingo the look and feel was precisely what I had wanted. Not only did I shoot fewer photos, but the result was easier and as good if not better.

Was that me wanting a film look from my photographs, or is it still awesome...?

New York, hotel view New York - Intrepid Lancaster Tractors Antique Centre

Newspaper coverage of our the biggest problem facing photography.

It was great of the Advertiser to run a piece last weekend featuring on of our biggest concerns, the long-term storage and preservation of  photographs we are taking. We live in a world where the value of photographs is not understood. We are lucky that the technology we had, film, also was a good archiving tool. A happy accident. Digital files will not be there for future generations without our attention and care.

I'll be writing more about this in the future, but this is a great start. Paul

Photography is film?

An interesting comment from one of the contestants of "Photo Finish", the ABC reality competition TV show. This episode involves the contestants shooting lo-fi with Lumo, Holga and Diana cameras. All three contestants enjoyed shooting film and the results were interesting. At the show wrap up, the winner stated "photography is film"...all three contestants seemed to have no experience in shooting film, but their day shooting film really inspired them. Can film really save itself? Will they keep shooting film?

I just returned from New York, and I chose to shoot medium format film. I had a blast. Working with the limits of aperture priority only, fixed iso, and manual focus was wonderful. The only restriction I experienced was iso, when I wanted to shoot in the subway. But for street work it was perfect.

What I loved mostly was the sense of importance I found myself putting on each shot. It really slowed me down, I was more considerate. I loved prefocusing and prejudging the aperture needed, it meant that when the camera was put to my eye I could shoot instantly without focus hunting or exposure consideration.

Is this a passing love affair for me...?

Well I know I am not getting 'married' to film, but it is an old love I cannot leave, I will continue to shoot it around using the D700, and perhaps until I can afford my M Leica digital which, rightly or wrongly, I am holding as my holy grail.

Back to the TV show "Photo Finish, It is doing a great job in promoting photography, printing and professionalism. What a great opportunity for our industry. Well worth watching.

We see quite about of Lumography shooters. Our film processing is kept quite busy with c41 (print film), e6 (slide film) and black and white at the moment. But I hope more people get married to film and enough have their affairs so we can keep processing it.

PMA and APPA

I am still reeling from another great PMA and APPA convention. The PMA (Photo Marketing Association) is made up of photographic retailers and wholesalers, mostly camera stores and print providers. APPA on the other hand, is the Australian Professional Photography Awards, which is judged in the middle of the PMA trade show. The trade show attracted 20,000 visitors, and it covered most of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre (Jeff's Shed) and ran for three days. The visitors were mostly general public, but a big swag of the professional industry made the pilgramage to the largest photoshow in the southern hemisphere.

The APPA judging is intense, and made more so by it's location on the show floor. Interested viewers were stuffed 10 deep watching four panels of five judges look at thousands of images then , score, debate, and award. The results are slowly filerting out, and tonight is the gala awards dinner, the fifth and final night of partying...We will find out who got the highest scoring print, who won what category and who is Professional Photographer of the Year.

APPA really benefits from the exposure the tradeshow brings. APPA entrants are mostly AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) members. They are working photographers who are trying hard to raise their practise and improve their photography. The industry must educate the general public as to what it takes to be a professional photographer, and what is a great photograph. This show helps define and promote our industry members.

As a printing service we are having a lot of success at both state and nationally with our client's entries. This year Hilary Hann won Fine Art Photographer of the year with her portfolio of four images. Congratulations Hilary!

In paralell to the judging and tradeshow are a series of lectures run by even more indusrty bodies. Consider these: APCI, DIMA, PSPA, PIEA, PMA, AIPP, IDEA. There is a smogesboard to choose from.

As an indication of speaker quality, the IDEA group (the body that runs the show itself) secured AJ Riebli, a production manager at Pixar Studios. AJ had is not a public speaker, but he makes animated features such as The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and Cars. Opportunities to speak with people like this are rare. AJ walked us through the process of making La Luna, Pixar's recently Oscar nominated short film.

AJ wenth through the process from inception to final production, he discussed everything from sketching and modeling characters to lighting and special effects, we all felt closer to probably the worlds largest creative organism, Pixar studios. In no other industry are more creatives wrangled on one task, and AJ is one of the wranglers.

Last year, we were graced with the presence of Ita Butrose, she spoke about her life in business. Another amazing chance to learn from someone who has made so much from their life.

Strangely, both AJ and Ita's sessions were not full. The reason is that the PMA membership is dwindling due to sales moving on-line and through lack of printing. The PMA recognises that the tide has turned, wisely they are not attempting to stop the tide. They are in the process of refocussing the organisation to bring education to all photographers and promote buying locally.

There was nothing stopping the APPA and PMA attendees from seeing AJ or Ita, infact they walk past the entrance to the auditorium on the way to the judging! What is lacking is the communication between two parties who really need each other. Sometimes the solution to your problems lies with your neighbours, and you just need to lean over the fence and ask.

Paul Atkins.

 

 

5 things I learned from Kodak.

I am off to Kodak Rochester in June and I expect to see little will have changed. The Chapter 11 protection that they have filed is a move that allows a company in trouble to put it's debt on hold whilst it restructures. Kodak has many profitable arms, and some unprofitable, but it's biggest problem is it's structure. 130 years builds up quite a tangle! So what went wrong…?

A big profitable company will do two things to improve itself:

Firstly it will invest in research and development. Kodak invented a great deal of what we understand as photography, thousands of imaging patents are held in their name. Their most  astounding invention was digital photography, and it has been the main cause of their drop in revenue.  Like a greek tragedy, they invented their own downfall. But what does a forward thinking company do? They made the future.

Secondly it will invest in it's staff. Kodak had some of the best employment conditions throughout it's history. Kodak practically built the city of Rochester for it's people. Employment terms and conditions can only remain stable or improve, in a first world country they almost never drop.

This is where they find themselves, in a mansion living like paupers, unable to fix it up without asking for help.

In the light of Kodak's chapter 11 protection in the USA, I began to ponder our 76 year relationship with the yellow behemoth and the influence they have had on us. Here are 5 things Kodak taught us:

1. Customer service.

Kodak had many branches of their business, and sometimes a client would find themselves between the different arms. For example, as well as Kodak professional film, we also stocked Kodak amateur films. In the 1990s we had to buy these from a different part of Kodak, and although our overall spend with Kodak was huge, the spend with "amateur" branch was low and attracted less discount than the local minilab would get! We also had to deal with different sales and ordering people. This was madness.

Each client should be treated with consistency, regardless of what they are buying from you. They must have 'a' point of contact for all of your products and their potential needs to be viewed as long term. Treat everyone as a 20 year customer, do it right and they will become one.

2. Always move forward.

Whilst Kodak have struggled to make digital imaging profitable, they still went forward. If you find yourself heading in a new direction, and it is one that really interests you, evaluate the market, see if it is a unique offering, then go for it. To attract good customers you need to show your passion, doing the same thing year in and out will leave you jaded. Take a new direction, throw yourself into it.

You would think the manufacturing of film would be one of those items Kodak wants to abandon, but consider these two points. The motion picture industry are still heavily film based, if movies are not shot on film, many cinemas still rely on film distribution due to the high cost of digital projection. Secondly, Kodak's film coating plants (one in Denver Colorado USA and one in Birmingham UK) are state-of-the-art utilising 'just in time' manufacturing. They can switch to coat any emulsion inside a day. Providing there is a market, Kodak can produce film more efficiently than anyone else.

3. Listen.

One of the gems offers by Kodak is the DP2 production software we run. Each year Kodak holds a conference in Rochester for the users of DP2. What sets Kodak apart from any other software provider is how it sits attendees together with software engineers to plan the development of DP2. The actual coders sit up front and listen. No PR barrier, not spin, just ask and answer.

4. Make the hard decisions early.

If you feel you are going down the wrong path, back track or change direction as soon as you can. Don't leave it long to make the difficult calls, it may become too late. Kodak needed to act more decisively earlier. But thanks to America's supportive bankruptcy laws, they have a last chance to make the changes.

5. Partnerships and relationships.

In our industry, we are essentially custom manufacturing each item, as each print is different. Suppliers of custom one-off products cannot be expected to get it right first time every time. The relationship is more important. A long association will ensure both parties get what they want as often as possible as they grow to know each other better. Your relationship with your supplier must be seen as a partnership.

Our 76 years with Kodak has been incredibly rewarding, we look forward to the future and learning more from this impressive company.

Paul Atkins.

Video and the still photographer.

Can you feel the pressure to try out video? I know the two 'big camera' manufacturers are casting their marketing spell trying to draw us in. And why not, the look and feel that DSLR video produces used to be the realm of Hollywood only.

My issue is one of distraction to the professional photographer. Never before has it been more important to focus on our core skills and business practise, than now. And big camera are suggesting us to change career...? Sure some will make that jump, but you think photoshop was a big learning curve, consider the art of editing video.

So what can you do with a DSLR and video that is attainable for the stills photographer? Yervant Zanazanian spoke at the AIPP Hair of The Dog conference in Brisbane last week, he is wary of the video 'lure', but puts video to great use. Yervant uses a Canon 5DMk2 to capture 'long stills', from which he screen grabs individual frames and adds to his wedding album prints...yes, stills from video. Yervant said he regularly prints 11x14inch prints from these grabs!

Stills from motion have always been a promise that has never been fulfilled. The idea is exciting, the reality has always been disappointing. Screen grabs from the 5DMk2 are acceptable as 'filler' images for an album, they are a smaller resolution than stills, whilst classed as HD, but they are not the RAW masters you need to create great prints. Think of them as a spare 35mm camera loaded with fast film to grab that 'reportage' moment.

Yervant uses SnapFlow (for Mac) software to pick through the thousands of video frames and identify the hero stills, you mark the frames for extraction and when you are done sorting, SnapFlow extracts and names the frames. (There will be a windows equivalent, I haven't found it yet.)

But what makes Yervant so excited about stills from video, the promise of a 4k Canon DSLR, each frame will have the approximate resolution of current 5D. What will this mean? Will looking for the 'moment' be a matter of picking through 10 frames...