Our interview today is with Jerry Weiner, Owner and CEO of PWD Labs. He weighs in about business, the photographic printing industry, offers some tips, and shares where he finds inspiration.
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I am an accountant by training, but I have an entrepreneurial urge. After spending the first 10 years of my career in accounting and banking, I started a bank accounting software business for PCs in 1982. That took off and was sold to a public company in 1997. In 2001, I retired at the ripe old age of 50. After 5 years of community volunteer work, I found myself back in business with PWD at the beginning of 2007.
What made you decide to start PWD Labs?
The digital revolution had created a great deal of disruption in the industry. Labs no longer processed images as they did in the film days and photographers were struggling to produce images that resulted in acceptable prints. By 2007, photographers found themselves spending seemingly endless hours processing images instead of building their businesses during a time of dramatic change. By providing complete image processing services we enable photographers to spend more time doing more important things while their images are professionally processed for them.
The majority of our customers shoot events and portraits (seniors, babies, families, schools, teams, etc.). They come from more than 40 states and a handful of foreign countries. They represent both full-time professionals as well as semi-pros. We are fortunate to serve some of the most respected photographers in the industry.
Why might a photographer want to use your services instead of doing it themselves?
Photographers have a passion for photography because they love to capture the light they see filtered by their own creativity. Our post-production services are designed to enable professional photographers to free themselves from endless hours in front of the computer so they can spend more time behind the camera pushing the limits of their art as well as building their business and spending time with family & friends.
Giving up control is a major concern for a lot of photographers; understandably so. But once they realize that they can control their image processing without actually having to do the work themselves, they can begin to bring some order and balance to their lives. This is especially true for younger photographers that have a family. Kids don’t wait to grow up.
Quality prints start with quality images. These become input to a process that has the technical discipline required to consistently produce outstanding prints. We pay attention to those details and provide photographers with quality products at a fraction of the cost of them doing it themselves. And we do it all – post-production and printing – with a smile. Why wouldn’t a photographer want to use our services?
Where is the printing industry headed?
Photo printing has shifted to where a great deal of it is now done in-home by consumers or in-studio by photographers. Traditional, silver halide prints produced by professional labs have plummeted in price from where they were 10 years ago making the lab business much more competitive – and difficult for smaller players. Finding a specialty niche is important. Most of the new technology continues to be focused on image capture, processing and management, but not on printing.
The market for post-production services is also still emerging and continuing to grow by leaps and bounds. We have released a number of new services to meet these emerging needs based on input from our customers and others in the market. We are excited about where the industry is going and the role that we are playing in the on-going evolution of digital image processing services.
What are some of the challenges you face in the current economy?
When a photographer’s income goes down, the first thing they think to cut is their post- production cost. In actuality, this does the photographer more harm than good because they return to spending hours-on-end editing their own work. This leads to burn out, family stress, and abandoned friends. But worse, it keeps a photographer from doing what they should be doing in a down economy: more aggressive marketing. Clients are now harder to get and photographers need to work harder to book them. That can’t be done by sitting in front of the computer working on images.
What is your best selling product?
Our best selling product is our Signature Color Correction service. Photographers like it because we tailor the work we do to their particular style by assigning them a team of editors that does each job they send us. This enables the photographer to develop a relationship with our editors which helps us provide services that more closely match their individual style.
The most important thing is to capture an image that is technically correct (that has not changed since the days of film negatives). What has changed is the need to calibrate your monitor regularly and work in a controlled light environment with quality hardware and software tools that you are trained to use. Keep it simple. Shoot and work in sRGB. If you do, the prints you get back from your lab should match what you see on your screen.
I average two trips a year where I do between 20-25 dives total. I can’t fathom ever satisfying my urge to shoot underwater. There is a whole world of fish, coral, sponge, landscapes and other creatures – large and small. I have been shooting underwater long enough now that I have a good assortment of the common things and a few uncommon ones. I try to improve my collection and fill in the gaps when I see species or variations that I don’t have. I have found it a great way to learn what all of these creatures are. They didn’t teach me any of this in the course of getting my accounting degree.
Where do you find inspiration?
My parents taught me to work hard, be nice to others and appreciate what we had, even though we didn’t have a lot of “things”. Growing up in America with a family rich in cultural traditions made me feel special. Also, growing up with a brother that is developmentally disabled, I got to see both how kind and how unkind people can be. My first business took me to six continents. I saw the finest and the poorest of places. I have a wife I love and two wonderful sons. I find inspiration everywhere, every day.
Bonus Reading/Link: How Long Will Your Photo Prints Last? Jerry Weiner and three other experts weigh in.
– Patrick Douglas