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Getting to know Mark Stall – Guest Blogger

Mark Stall has been living a dream as a photographer for a long time and the owner of Pro Studio Supply for 27 years. The photography business was very different when he first got started. They were strictly clinical and utilitarian. Webpages were devoid of personality and meant to be strictly useful then. I’m a local photographer who had the pleasure of meeting Mark through another local photographer. It was a great thing we met. We had a lot in common and a lot to share with each other. I wrote this ‘’get to know’’ Mark Stall blog because he’s worth knowing.

Having been an engaging photographer, it was a different type of feeling for Mark. Now, the world is a place where we all want to know each other.  Mark was kind enough to answer some questions recently so that I could write a blog post about him.

1.) Music has always been an important part of my life. I used to attend every major rock concert here in my state of WI. I would capture pictures of every one of them. I would hand hold my 200+mm lens and shoot mostly slide film for that instant gratification under multi-changing stage lights. I have a great collection of photo albums I cherish to this day.

2.) I enjoy movies especially scifi! My father was a big influence on me. From 2001 a Space Odyssey to Blade Runner, I watched and dreamed of space travel and extra-terrestrial life.

3.) I love to take trips with my family. When our two boys were growing up, we would travel our state and several longer trips around the USA together. We all enjoy the ocean, national theme parks and cities. I also traveled with my parents and siblings growing up. We drove to over 40 US states.

4.) My wife Nancy and I attended an international photographic trade show every other year in Cologne Germany back in the 1990's. It's known as Photokina and is still running to this day. We got to know the beautiful town of Cologne Germany and we'd often travel to other European countries while on these trips.  

5.) My wife and I are going on 30 years of marriage. We met and were engaged in just four weeks. We have a lot of common likes but are very different from each other. Perhaps this is why we've been able to stay together so long.

6.) I'm an award-winning fine art photographer. I may have got started late, but I've been juried into dozens of shows over the past 15 years. I exhibit at art shows, art galleries and a variety of retail venues. I'm the past board member and treasurer of a fine art photography group called The Coalition of Photographic Arts (CoPA) here in Milwaukee, WI and in the local Cedarburg Artists Guild which offers so many opportunities to exhibit my work.

After I read these answers I realized Mark is a very diverse photographer/person. I say photographer first because I believe it defines him in so many ways. I also had a better understanding of his motivation to be in the business he is in. It is not just that he understands it, he lives it! Lastly, it made me think about his customers. I wonder how diverse they are. It is not a simple world anymore. It is a far more interesting world.

In part of my discussion with Mark we both wondered how we could find out more about his clients. I am willing to bet it is more diverse than we think! Now, I just have to make sure we don’t end up discussing Sci-Fi because we’ll never get anything else done!

The Decay of Historical Pictures

Presentation was an art form at the birth of the photograph. The final picture, a luxury at the time, was carefully placed in a presentation folio that could be an ornate as the picture itself. The idea of presenting pictures in such a fashion continued well into the digital era.

The sad state of these early presentation folio today is a state of decay. Many are tattered, torn and worn. These folios as beautiful as they are have reached their limit in many cases. The ones that have not reached their limit are likely not archival quality.

One of the great things the digital age has brought us is the ability to have archival papers, inks and all the acid free materials we could ever hope for. It is so prevalent we forget that acid free was ever really an issue. Archival is almost taken for granted now.

What about all of these historical pictures? I, personally can’t see destroying the old folios. This is what I can envision;

Preserve, carefully, the old ones while scanning and printing them. After printing put them in a new folio for viewing. Alternatively, re-locating where you can the historical picture to a new presentation folio.  If desired you can keep the old folio with the new one so that you do not lose it but neither do more damage to it.  I would advise scanning the folio to keep with the scanned print as well. Be aware there is some value to some of the folios.

No matter what you can envision for these you will want to make sure that if you do go with a new folio to get a nice quality one so that in 150 years more the same issues are not had. It is also not a bad idea to consider a high quality box to store all of these pictures in.

While no one really wants to disrupt history in any way, while we would prefer to leave them as they are there is a very real risk that they will continue to deteriorate past the point of recognition. If you have other thoughts I would love to have them shared with us. We will pass them along in an upcoming blog. This is a problem that belongs to all of us to solve. Even businesses are hiring companies to do this work for them. It is after all history.

Creating a Printed Portfolio

A small printed portfolio to show clients is critical. Many potential clients will talk to several photographers. Having a face to face meeting is important. It gives you a chance to get to know your client and a chance to show them your portfolio.

You are probably thinking why? They have seen it online. Photographers for many years now have gotten used to the online portfolio. The entire time we were getting used to it we knew prints looked better than anything online.

A print does something to a person. It sets it above what we seen on the computer because it can be held. That same client who sees your well done portfolio might just want one for their wedding too. Prints are prints are prints, until we prove they are something more.

A professionally done portfolio is selling point that will set you apart. It shows you care enough to print your work. It shows you stand behind your work. It is the extra step. I choose to keep all of mine in boxes as I feel they look more modern. It also makes it easier to hold the picture, a vital part of my portfolio process.

Successful portfolios have several factors. Each portfolio must have all necessary releases. I keep my releases right in the bottom of the box. They are size appropriate to fit right in the box without folding. No staples or paperclips are allowed. I print these out on high quality paper.

Next up, I have a portfolio for each type of client I may encounter. Weddings, portraiture, commercial and any other types of clients you may have. I have no more than 7-10 pictures of any style in each portfolio. Choose your pictures carefully. I do try and get a mix of clients when possible.  I look for the prints that standout in my archive. I look for diversity in the prints that I place in my portfolio.

If you want to go the extra step an embossed or embalmed insignia on the top is a nice touch with the studio name and type of portfolio. This adds to the look of quality. This will also do two other things. It will ensure you always grab the right portfolio. It may also encourage clients to ask if you have other portfolios. That allows you to talk about your business without ever having to sell yourself. Alternatively in this day and age you can order different colors for each portfolio. Let your personality shine with the trendy things done to update these boxes and folios.

Part of this process is right from the beginning I want to meet face to face with my potential client. I want to discuss what they are looking for. If they can’t meet then I try and arrange to at least stop by and leave the portfolio for a day. Most take me up on meeting face to face, the ones that don’t meet with me have not turned down the portfolio being left with them. I follow up a day later to pick up the pictures.

There are so many photographers these days that it is about the personal touch. It is about standing above. Portfolios are a wonderful way to do this.

Google Vice President Vint Cerf and the Digital Dark Age

What does this really mean? Digital dark age, how is that possible? This is a topic that is gaining momentum in recent weeks. In order to truly understand this topic we need to look first to the past.

That past that allows you to see and hold your grandparents wedding pictures. The past that allows you to see and hold pictures and documents that were produced prior to the digital era.

Now let’s jump ahead a bit. The digital era brought us floppy drives and tape drives for backup purposes. How many pictures live on that style of media still? The more important question is how difficult is it to get those pictures off that media? This is the easiest illustration of how these pictures and in some cases documents (i.e. letters, proposals etc.) can be lost.

Society got aggressive about storing things digitally. You can’t argue with saving trees and space. You also have to love having everything in one place.  Technology though is designed to always advance. It is designed to get better, faster and more intuitive. As technology advances mediums advance and before you know it the old way is obsolete.

What you are left with is the digital Dark Age. Will you be able to save those pictures and documents? Will your great-great grandchildren be able to look at wedding pictures of their great grandparents like you did?

There are more problems associated with this than you think. The number of suppliers that are making the supplies to hold and store prints is on a downward spiral. The quality that is being offered on things like albums and portfolio boxes is lessoning. This is a direct result of the lower demand. The options are getting harder to find in a quality that Pro Studio Supply can stand behind.

The funny thing about this is that it is a technology giant warning us. Vint Cerf, V.P. Of Google might just be foreshadowing another leap forward in technology.  That leap ahead is inevitable as it keeps companies in business.

Photographers can’t be all knowing and see the future of technology. However, we can learn from the past. The past as shown us technology will evolve. It would be nice if the digital era did something for photographers that helped us to provide prints once again, even if in a more limited amount than in past years.