Photo Class Asks: How Might We See the Beauty in All People?

Each year, Dennis Grantz challenges his photography students to finish a question: “How might we …?” His most recent class decided to take on the issue of diversity, and asked: How might we help our peers see the beauty in all people?

Throughout the year-long class, the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology students had a variety of discussions on the topic, ventured out into the street to conduct interviews, and gathered stories about how people faced discrimination in their lives. “Out of that, a lot of cool stuff came together,” Grantz says.

Promotional Production with Sunset Production Matte Canvas

Printing photos on canvas

Always looking for an edge, Dan Johnson, owner of Dan Johnson Photography in Grand Rapids, Mich., has found one with LexJet’s new Sunset Production Matte Canvas.

A longtime proponent of the Sunset canvas line, particularly Sunset Select Matte Canvas, Johnson was looking for a canvas that would split the difference between consistent quality and economy for his “mass market” work.

When it comes to custom canvas projects, Johnson generally sticks with the more high-end Sunset Select Matte Canvas, but he also prints what he calls a “promotional” product: consumers find Johnson through an online promotional site and send Johnson a photo they want on canvas. It’s quick and easy for Johnson to produce and provides a consistent cash flow, he says.

The Sunset Production Matte Canvas helps boost margins a bit and those on the receiving end are quite happy with what they’re getting.

“We got our first roll of the canvas recently and printed 10 to 12 pieces from it right off the bat. Within a couple of days, clients who received their canvases left really positive comments on Facebook or directly through email,” says Johnson. “My first impression of the canvas was that it lets light through, but once you coat it, paper the back and hang it on the wall it doesn’t matter. No one hangs it with light purposely showing from the back. Ultimately, I was impressed: the color comes off just right and it works perfectly with Sunset Satin Coating. And, because it’s not as thick, it’s easier to stretch and make the corners look really nice.”

When Johnson fulfills the order he includes a coupon that sends these customers to his website for more.

“We hope we get them back and that they’ll want more canvas or other types of prints. We can provide a fairly consistent cash flow with these promotional offers. The cost savings with the Sunset Production Matte Canvas is fantastic and is very helpful for us with these promotional products,” says Johnson.

The Photo Booth Option to Generate Additional Cash Flow

Photobooth for a photography business

Dan Johnson, owner of Dan Johnson Photography in Grand Rapids, Mich., is a regular fixture here at the LexJet Blog. Johnson is always chock full of great ideas (make sure to click here to read about his spray booth, for instance) that build business and generate cash flow.

His latest venture is a portable photo booth that he can take to special events and weddings. Johnson says he created a makeshift photo booth to fulfill requests for a photo booth and decided it was time to buy a pre-built booth to better satisfy demand and create an additional profit center.

Taking pictures in a photo booth“We’re always looking for other ways to generate income with minimal infrastructure and without totally changing what we’re doing. One of our big commercial clients called last year who was putting on a Christmas party and wanted to know if we had a photo booth. I didn’t want to say no, so I figured out how to do it on my own with a camera, tripod, computer and a dye-sub printer. I literally took pieces and parts out of my studio and built this makeshift photo booth. It went pretty well, and then we got a couple of more calls for a photo booth,” explains Johnson. “For the makeshift photo booth I hang curtains in a square and inside the curtain there’s a camera on a tripod and a laptop computer with a program on it where the people inside the booth can click on the mouse and it counts down. It takes a series of three pictures and sends it to a dye-sub printer.”

Johnson recently purchased a professional photo booth, which he says can range from about $6,000 to $10,000. The professional booth is housed in pre-fabricated travel boxes. The bottom box has a printer and a cabinet for supplies, and the top box has the computer and the camera.

“Everything is mounted and secured. You take them out of the car and roll them out like a suitcase to the event, stack one box on top of the other, they lock together, set up a curtain system, plug it in and you’re up and running,” says Johnson. “There’s lighting and it’s all self-contained. It looks finished and professional. If I can use it 20 or 30 times next year it fits into the no-brainer category.”

Johnson adds that he charges a flat fee and offers unlimited prints. That sounds somewhat risky on the surface, but Johnson did the math and found it really wasn’t that risky.

“Realistically, everyone isn’t going to go through the booth four times and you’re printing 2-inch strips on dye-sub paper. So, let’s say we have 250 people at a wedding, which would be a large wedding in our area, and if everyone went through with their significant other it would generate 125 4x6s. A roll of this paper can print 300 4x6s,” says Johnson. “If I go through a roll of paper at every event, that’s about $150 in cost plus what I pay an employee to man it, and that’s it.”

So far, Johnson has booked several events for the rest of the year and into 2013, and he’s running special promotions on the photo booth service. “That should help generate cash up front to pay for the system and some profit on top of that. Basically, we’re not going into debt to expand our services,” he says.

Johnson is also hoping to generate some ancillary printing business in the process by offering larger prints, printed on LexJet media with his Epson printers, that people could order at the booth. He’ll start with a paper ordering system first as he figures out how to integrate more automated print orders with an iPad.

Night and Day: Flowing City Panorama Printed on Satin Cloth

Great Lakes Editions' entry in this year's ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, Mich., printed on 24 vertical sections of LexJet Water-Resistant Satin Cloth.

A few days ago we posted the story about Dan Johnson Photography’s entry in Grand Rapid’s extraordinary ArtPrize competition in which thousands of artists competed using every possible artistic medium and hundreds of thousands judged.

Another photographer who entered, Steven Huyser-Honig, owner of Great Lakes Editions in Grand Rapids, created an amazing three-dimensional photographic panorama of the Grand Rapids skyline going from dawn to noon to dusk.

“It was composed from almost 600 photographs of the Grand Rapids skyline taken over the course of a single day. The panorama was captured in vertical sections at regular intervals. Each vertical section included as many as 25 photographs blended together to form the final image,” says Huyser-Honig. “The 24 vertical sections in the final panorama were printed on 16-in. wide strips of LexJet Water Resistant Satin Cloth, and then hung in parallel and overlapping arcs.”

Huyser-Honig says his original concept was a two-dimensional, flat panorama, tiled together on either canvas or photo paper. Thankfully, inspiration struck and he came up with something far more interesting.

“I found that each vertical shot had its own integrity and character, so I started looking for the best material to create the concept,” says Huyser-Honig. “Ultimately, LexJet had the material that would work best. It draped perfectly and there was very little curling, plus I like the fact that it’s so light and moves around in the gentle breezes at the venue. It increased the reality of the piece.”

The panoramic display would make the perfect backdrop at the receptionist’s desk at any Grand Rapids corporation and Huyser-Honig plans to shop around after he enters it again in a springtime competition in Grand Rapids.

He’s skipping this year’s ArtPrize competition so that he can create a similar yet more ambitious piece for the 2012 competition that shows Grand Rapids as it changes from winter to spring to fall and back to winter over the next year.

ArtPrize in Grand Rapids Draws Millions, Awards $449,000 in Prizes

Dan Johnson's photographic series for the Caregiver Resource Network entered in this year's ArtPrize contest printed on Sunset Select Matte Canvas and coated with Sunset Satin Coating.

In only its second year, ArtPrize, held in Grand Rapids, Mich., may hold the prize as the most democratic art show and contest in the U.S. Entries are open to all media – whether photography, sculpture, oil, watercolor or any other medium you can use and arrange so that it’s subjective enough to call art.

This year, local photographer Dan Johnson of Dan Johnson Photography entered a series of canvas wraps printed on LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas coated with LexJet Sunset Satin Coating. Though the Grand Prize was an amazing $250,000, Johnson didn’t expect to win or even place, nor was that his motivation.

“We created an awareness piece for Caregiver Resource Network, a group of businesses that provide resources to caregivers. Our intent was to provide an artistic piece that would be a visual picture of this organization and would get the attention of people who could use their help or could help support the organization,” says Johnson.

Beautiful pieces of photographic art in their own right, the series of photos on canvas did their job and did it well, exposing the thousands who thronged Grand Rapids for ArtPrize to the services provided by the Caregiver Resource Network. Johnson says that almost 500,000 votes were cast during the event, which ran from Sept. 22 through Oct. 10 this year.

“The event is very unique and is gathering tons of attention and momentum. In the art world, it’s unusual to have the general public judge, especially for such a large prize,” says Johnson. “It has taken on another life as a model for urban renewal, especially here in Grand Rapids since hundreds of thousands of people have come through the city to see it.”

This year’s winner was an 18-foot wide pencil sketch called Cavalry. It took the artist around 800 hours to sketch the WWI-era portrait. To find out more, and see all the winners, go to