‘In my opinion, silver halide is still by far the best print technology around.” – Leading social photographer John Baikie.
Fit for the Future
One Vision has a reputation for being one of the most forward- thinking professional labs in the country and there are plenty of reasons why silver halide prints are still vital to its agenda.
You don’t get to be voted ‘Best Professional Photographic Laboratory’ by members of the SWPP unless you’re going the extra mile to provide great quality products backed up by excellent service.
And that’s exactly what One Vision has been doing for the past 35 years. (In its own right since 2007 and prior to that under the Colab umbrella.)
Based in Coventry, One Vision services a diverse range of clients and prides itself on the fact that all of them receive the kind of tailored personal attention that only a professional lab is capable of providing.
The expectation of high quality printing is a given, and it’s Fujifilm’s silver halide media that are still the premium products on which the reputation of the lab is carried.
“Our customers are a mix of professional photographers and commercial clients,” says One Vision’s MD Derek Poulston, “and naturally they expect the highest standards from us on all fronts. The extra level of service we provide and the guaranteed quality and consistency of our print output is why they use us, and this is what differentiates a professional lab from one operating in the consumer sector. We all use the same machinery, we pretty much all use the same paper, so it comes down to the professionalism and skill of our staff and their ability to achieve supreme quality standards to justify the difference that exists in pricing structure.”
Why Fujifilm silver halide papers reign supreme:
There is a sound business rationale underpinning the fact that Fujifilm’s silver halide papers, in the form of DPII and Crystal Archive, are the bedrock of the One Vision enterprise.
While inkjet technology has a role to play, and Derek acknowledges that it does have its place in the market, it’s still silver halide that’s the flagship product in terms of quality and value, and it explains why the vast majority of One Vision’s output is still based around traditional paper.
“Inkjet processes can deliver fantastic results,” acknowledges Derek, “but silver halide still has the edge in terms of quality - offering better colour saturation and sharpness, and price points that are compelling too. It’s basically a superior product. It’s still cheaper to work with at the moment - and long may that continue to be the case. We rely on silver halide papers and it’s very much in everyone’s interests that we continue to work with this technology: the quality hasn’t been surpassed yet, and it’s still the media that professionals want us to output their prints on.”
The optimum product:
Scottish Highlands-based social photographer John Baikie echoes that sentiment. He’s been so impressed with the quality of One Vision’s service that he’s been a customer of the lab for the past fifteen years.
“One Vision has been a great lab to work with,” he enthuses. “Staff are really helpful, the service is second to none and, most importantly, the quality of the prints they produce for me is first class. Colour, sharpness and saturation is all spot on, and results are incredibly consistent. That’s exactly what I need and, in my opinion, silver halide is still by far the best print technology around.”
One of One Vision’s major partners is Zenfolio, who specialise in producing websites for professional photographers where work can be showcased and then ordered directly by clients online. After a two-year search Zenfolio settled on One Vision as its UK fulfilment lab and, for John, that’s made his whole print ordering process so much easier. “Because I know that I can trust the lab implicitly I’m happy for them to send prints directly out to my clients once they’ve been ordered from my Zenfolio site,” he says.
“This speeds everything up massively: if everything had to come up to me in the Highlands first for approval that would be another layer and it would add at least another couple of days to the process. Instead One Vision sends prints direct to my clients and that allows turnaround times to be really fast. It’s a really good system for me, and it’s never let me down.”
One Vision tailors its service to fit whichever client it is working with, and the lab goes to remarkable lengths to guarantee its trademark values of consistency and quality right across the board. A key component of this is the fact that virtually all the orders that come in are colour graded using the lab’s bespoke software before they’re sent across to be output on the lab’s Fujifilm Frontier printers. It’s an extra stage that’s designed to ensure optimum results.
“While we might expect our customers to handle such things as sharpening and cropping, we’ll look after the colour, density and contrast of every file that comes into the building,” says Derek. “When we went through that transition from film to digital lots of photographers were delighted, because they felt that now they would have full control over their colour. In reality we probably saw more colour issues in the field than ever before, because now photographers were trying to become printers and, to be brutally honest, the vast majority of them failed miserably.”
“Now probably around 99% of the photographers who come to One Vision just give us the files and say ‘you do it’. They rely on us to look after everything. It’s just what we do and it’s why they pay a little extra to use us. There wouldn’t be such a thing as a pro lab if we couldn’t offer that level of service.”
Along with the many photographers One Vision works with, including those working in the highly seasonal schools market, there are also commercial clients that need a combination of high volume and fast turnaround, and once again it’s silver halide that’s the preferred media.
During the time of the London 2012 Olympic Games the lab was working flat out to turn around prints of medal-winning Team GB athletes overnight for sale in a selection of outlets the following day - while more everyday requirements might be for background images designed to enhance a piece of sporting memorabilia, perhaps a framed signed shirt or maybe even a football boot in a bespoke case, or framed 360-degree shots of famous European football stadia or top sporting events, such as the Champions League or UEFA Cup Finals.
Even pictures for items like illustrated key rings or fridge magnets are output on silver halide: the sharpness and quality of the smallest print still shines through on this media.
So, given the considerable advantages of Fujifilm’s silver halide option, is it more difficult to handle than digital media?
That may have been true in the past but these days modern methods have rendered the entire process extremely straightforward. “The chemistry is just so stable,” says Derek, “and the consistency of the paper is remarkable: it just never changes from batch to batch. It’s also very easy to store, and with the experience we have of handling the paper there’s never an issue with density, colour and contrast either.”
When there is just no room for compromise Fujifilm silver halide prints, with their consistent supreme quality and their outstanding archival attributes, continue to hold sway – even in the modern digital age.