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Springfield, MO

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Picture This develops business with focus on quality

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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

New customers to Picture This sometimes are surprised to find familiar faces working behind the store's counter. Owners Grady Cooper and Jeannie and Mike Howell used to work at Ozark Camera, which was owned by Jeannie's parents Eugene and Sally Anderson.

Although Ozark Camera is no longer in business, Picture This is continuing the family tradition of providing a wide range of film processing services.

According to Cooper, Picture This specializes in high-quality, quick turnaround film processing. The store, which bills itself as a full-service photo lab, also sells used camera equipment, photographic accessories, projection lamps, frames, albums, film and processing solutions for photographers who have their own dark rooms.

While Picture This does have equipment to develop color film in a single hour, the store tends to attract serious photographers less interested in immediacy. Cooper said the insistence on quality and the attraction to serious photographers is because Picture This has a wide variety of film-processing services. According to Cooper, Picture This has machines that can develop anything from 35 mm film to large sheet film. Film technicians at the store also do custom black-and-white, slides and transparencies, color processing and enlargements.

"It's not so much the equipment we have here as how we use it," Cooper said. "We check each negative, and we look at each photo to see if we can get a better print. We focus on giving our customers the best quality product possible."

These days, Picture This counts The Darkroom Studio, Rockafellow Photography Inc. and Mignard Photography among its regular customers. However, Mike Howell said the store also attracts photographers of all skill levels.

"We provide all levels of service to our customers, whether they're a novice or a professional," Mike Howell said. "A lot of amateurs come here because we can give them tips on how to develop film and how to take better photos."

In addition to processing film, the store employs several independent contractors who do on-site photography for birthdays, anniversaries, award presentations, company parties and other special occasions.

The bulk of the store's business, however, comes from film processing. Mike Howell, Cooper and three full-time employees develop customers' film while Jeannie Howell takes care of customer service. Employee Tom Sanderson specializes in copy work, duplication and special film-processing need.

New technology has expanded the services film developers can offer, according to Cooper, and some of the store's more interesting projects involve image transference, which changes an image from one film format or medium to another, or involves duplicate images. Often, customers will bring in old black-and-white family photos to be copied.

According to Cooper, giving back to the community has resulted in a lot of word-of-mouth advertising. When the store first opened in 1993, Picture This offered discount film-processing coupons. The Howells and Cooper quickly discovered, however, that their customers were more interested in quality than in price.

They also realized their original business projections were too conservative. Initially, Picture This occupied 1,000 square feet of store space.

The store's client base grew quickly, however, and they expanded by renting office space located next door when it became available. In November 1998, Picture This moved to a remodeled 2,000-square-foot space in a different location of the Plaza Towers Shopping Center, which is located near the intersection of Glenstone Avenue and Sunshine Street.

While Picture This has expanded operations, Mike Howell said the demand for photo finishing has grown significantly in recent years, as evidenced by the number of photo- processing labs found in discount stores and supermarkets. [[In-content Ad]]

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