By Shari Valenta
We’re in the middle of a digital age. We can watch a football game in HDTV and listen to MP3s while walking the dog; even our cell phones have little LCD screens. Photography has also changed. We now have the freedom of taking pictures without ever having to stop and buy a roll of film.
“There was a survey a few years back that said we take three times more pictures than ever before, but we print three times less,” said Rick Carpenter, owner of A Professional Photo Service. “I can tell story after story about people who walk in with a CD and say, ‘Here’s my daughter’s wedding, from two years ago. I’m tired of waiting for my husband to print it.’ A lot of neat things can be done using digital, but most people don’t have the time.”
For those who can find the time to print photos, sometimes the quality isn’t great, usually because of inexpensive inkjet printers.
“I’m surprised every day because the general public doesn’t realize that prints made with a home ink jet printer are very short lived,” explained Carpenter. “The particular brand of printer or paper doesn’t matter. If you’re going to put it inside a scrapbook out of the light, an ink jet print could probably last about10 years, but if you’re going to put it inside a frame, under a lamp or by a window, it could fade in as little as six months.”
According to Carpenter, it also matters where you’re having your pictures printed.
“A lady came in the other day and said, ‘I have a digital camera; I just got back from Europe and had pictures printed at a grocery store and they’re just awful,'” recalled Carpenter. “I said to her, ‘I know that store has really good equipment, but the person operating it usually makes the difference.’ Then she asked, ‘How much are your prints?’ I said, ‘They’re 40 cents (for a 4×6).’ She said, ‘That’s expensive.’ She brought them here anyway and was happy she did. We’re a little more expensive, but everyone here is truly a photofinisher; most of us have a minimum of 10 years experience.”
A Professional Photo Service is located three and a half miles northwest of Centennial Airport off of East Arapahoe Road and Interstate 25. Carpenter says most full-service professional photo labs like his are downtown and he doesn’t know of any others like his in the area. The lab will do anything from developing medium format film for professionals to developing digital prints for the average consumer.
The lab is happy to announce the recent arrival of their new digital photo printer, the MP-1600 Noritsu. The digital printer prints at 400 dpi (above the preferred print quality required for publications) and has stunningly sharp images. The printer uses a silver halide paper (a high quality but inexpensive photo paper) and will print up to 12″ x 18″.
In addition to their brand new digital photo printer, A Professional Photo Service will still continue to offer standard C-41 (color film) and E-6 (slides). Professionals will be happy to know the lab offers a dip and dunk process. This means the negatives aren’t put on rollers with a potential to create scratches. Instead, the negative is dipped into the chemicals and then hung to dry.
Custom color printing by hand (optical prints) can be made up to 30″ x 40″. The lab scans film and artist renderings into digital files. In turn, a digital file can be made into a slide. Prints can be done on canvas or watercolor paper. High-quality, long-lasting Giclée prints are also available. Giclée is a type of ink jet print, different than a home ink jet printer, done with a pigment that can last up to 100 years and usually made in poster size.
“We still print the old 616 film from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s,” said Carpenter. “For some reason, people have been bringing a lot of it in lately. Sometimes they find it in their grandma’s old shoebox. People are always fascinated that we actually know what 16mm is.”
Restoration is offered for poor quality negatives and photos. Carpenter is able to do a wide range of services because of his 12 years of experience working for Alpha Photo Lab. The company, no longer in business, was originally located in Arvada. Carpenter started working there in 1980 and left when it was sold to an investment company that he felt didn’t understand photography.
In 1992, he found out that a customer of his, Georgia Kramer, was selling her place, Professional Photo Service (without the “A”), and he bought he. Although he didn’t get a chance to contact his loyal customers to tell them where he was, they still found him.
“The second day I was gone from Alpha Photo Lab, my wife called,” said Carpenter. “She said 15 to 20 customers had called to see where I was. Luckily, that year U.S. West accidentally printed our unlisted home phone number.”
Today, some of Carpenter’s customers still drive two to three days a week from places such as Arvada or Westminster to visit his lab. He’s also lucky to have Bob McConnell, a loyal colleague and friend.
“I’ve known Bob since 1984,” said Carpenter. “He’s probably been in the photo industry for 60 years. He’s never told me how old he is. My guess is he’s probably close to 80.”
McConnell, who at one time owned one of the first color labs in Colorado, was an Alpha Photo Lab employee who quit the week before Carpenter left.
“Bob was here the first day I owned A Professional Photo Service and ready to work,” Carpenter said.
Today McConnell still runs some of the film processing. He does optical printing of black and white film up to 20″ x 24″ in a darkroom he built himself above the lab. Carpenter says that more times than not McConnell has a student by his side watching him work.
A Professional Photo Service provides classes in traditional photography and digital single lens reflex, as well as some computer classes. They usually range anywhere from $150 to $275, and most of them involve three-hour classes, from three nights to five nights a week.
Carpenter stresses the importance of photography to his students.
“You can’t pick up a magazine or brochure without seeing a photograph,” he said passionately. “You can’t get through a day without seeing a photograph. They’re very important.
Carpenter is concerned that so many people keep their photographs on discs and don’t print them. That’s not just because he owns a photo lab; it’s that a family’s history can be lost.
“We’ve got a generation of kids literally growing up without photos because less people are printing their photographs,” he said.
A Professional Photo Service is located at 6801 S. Emporia St. #106-107. For more information, call (303) 792-2772.