At Philadelphia Photographics, a film photo lab thrives

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jack Praul's Philadelphia Photographics, on 13th Street near Sansom, has served shooters for 24 years.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jack Praul's Philadelphia Photographics, on 13th Street near Sansom, has served shooters for 24 years.
Posted: March 04, 2014

J ACK PRAUL, 51, of Washington Square West, co-owns Philadelphia Photographics, a digital-imaging and film photo lab in Midtown Village that has served photographers, artists and businesses since 1990.

Q: How'd the biz start?

A: My life partner, James Hood, who's 67, started the business. I was part of the team that came aboard in 1990 and helped set up darkrooms, build equipment and buy used equipment. I worked part time from 1990 to 1995, and in 1995 I came to work full time. He retired three years ago, and the next logical step was for me to take over day-to-day operations.

Q: What's the biz do?

A: We process black/white and color film, even slide film, every day. A lot of times when we process film we are also digitizing it. We turn digital photos into prints, particularly large-format prints. We do slide collections that need to be scanned or digitalized into files; family or wedding albums that people want to preserve for their kids. These would be reproduction services, and mounting and framing.

Q: Your customers?

A: We have old-school people who love their film cameras. We have the pros who shoot film because they can't get the right angle or view with a digital camera. We have students taking photography courses and younger photographers who shoot street scenes and their images are amazing. I also do a fair amount of work for universities and large corporations who want copies of prints.

Q: What do services cost?

A: We sell anywhere from one 4x6 print for $1.35 to a 40x60 canvas wrap for $500 to $600. Our normal bill is about $40 to $75 for film services.

Q: What differentiates you from the competition?

A: Customer service, inviting the customer into the facility and working with them to achieve what they want. If you come to me and ask for a large-format print, I have three price points: a lower-grade paper, a medium-grade paper for a customer who wants a print on a wall for a family or dorm room, and fine-art paper for the art you want to hang over a mantel for 30 years.

Q: How big a business?

A: Our annual sales the last three years were $225,000 to $250,000. This year I'd like to see us hit $275,000 to $280,000.

Q: Employees?

A: Four plus myself. Three full time, two part time.

Q: What's next?

A: My focus for the next year is more work with a new website and more SEO work and creating a brand. Right now, we're creating our own content for the website and we expect to launch by April 1. We're also working on a Web-hosting service for fine-art photographers' images.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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