Prints that Win: Bombshell

Bombshell by Rod OmanSometimes the key to award-winning photography is not to shoot with a competition in mind. In the case of this Sunset Print Award winner at the recent Twin Cities Professional Photographers Association competition, this image evolved into an award-winner.

Rod Oman, who owns The Imagery Photography Gallery with his wife, Stephanie, was working at the Commemorative Air Force Minnesota Wing as part of a fundraiser for the organization. Oman was joined by other photographers, makeup artists and models as they created scenes focusing on vintage WWII aircraft.

“We were shooting the exterior of one of the airplanes, and someone suggested we shoot inside the plane. I shot away with the model, Elizabeth Noir, looked at the images in the camera back and thought it might be cool to work up,” recalls Oman. “It was really a simple shot with natural light, but the post-processing is what makes it different.”

Bombshell by Rod Oman
Here’s Oman’s original capture before he applied some magic in post-processing.

Oman used Topaz and Nik Color Efex Pro to add more depth and dimension to the image, as well as to evoke the time period. It certainly caught the judges’ attention at the competition as they were drawn in by the storytelling appeal of the image.

“The tricky part was keeping the detail in the background. I didn’t want to lose anything, like the rivets, because all those details are essential to the story,” says Oman.

Oman adds that the title of the image, Bombshell, contributes to the image as a storytelling period piece, and that he was aiming for something in keeping with the period that was eye-catching without being overly provocative.

Rod Oman, who owns The Imagery with his wife, Stephanie, in Burnsville, Minn., has been the Twin Cities PPA’s Photographer of the Year for several years running. In addition to the studio’s high-school senior, families and children portrait photography, Oman also volunteers his services to local animal shelters and the Boy Scouts.

Class, Warmth and Charm at Clark Marten’s New Downtown Studio and Gallery

Clark Marten Photography Gallery
Room with a View: Clark Marten Photography’s new space in downtown Billings, Mont., is dressed to the nines with large-format prints of Clark Marten’s stunning landscape and portrait photography.


Clark Marten Photography has a sterling reputation far and wide. It’s a reputation built on an uncommon combination of qualities – professionalism, creating value for clients, natural talent and humility – all fostered and perfected by owners Clark, Rachel and Rudi Marten.

Clark Marten Photography Gallery
Clark Marten Photography’s new space in downtown Billings has plenty of windows in which to display Marten’s photography.

The family built a photography business from scratch that now reigns as one of the top photography studios in the U.S. The secret to Clark Marten Photography’s success is perhaps best illustrated by the studio’s new home in the art district of downtown Billings, Mont.

Like all things Clark Marten Photography, the new location – which they moved into about three months ago from their previous location in Columbus, Mont. – personifies the high standards they have set for themselves.

Clark Marten Photography
The new gallery space has a lot of room for entertaining and charity events.

“We’ve spent about five months remodeling the space, which is in a 100-year-old historic building in the downtown art district. It’s been a long journey, but it will pay for itself,” says Marten. “We’re in the Mecca of our area in the art world. There’s a big new parking garage going in close by, plus there are six microbreweries, a distillery and a lot of restaurants in the area.”

Real estate might well be all about the proverbial location, location, location, and that was a big part of the move. However, real estate is also about creating a space that’s warm and inviting. That was important to the Martens since they believe in taking an active role in their community.

Clark Marten Photography Gallery Billings“The key for us is that we enjoy entertaining. We put on charity events at our studio, and we wanted enough space to seat at least 60 people. We’re hosting an event in three weeks where we can serve a five-course meal with a wine serving, and raise money for charity,” says Clark. “There’s also an art walk downtown coming up, and I’m told that 500 people might walk through, so we’re serving hors d’oeuvres and wines. We plan to make a good first impression.”

And what an impression it will be (and is). Click on the photos for a larger view of Clark Marten Photography’s new digs and the attention to detail and design becomes apparent. Another important aspect of the space was the ability to showcase Marten’s photography in large-format, a presentation that is an extremely effective sales tool.

Clark Marten Photography
If you look through the stairs you can get a glimpse of where the magic happens at Clark Marten Photography (click on the image for a larger version).

“I have some prints that are eight feet long and about six prints that are five feet long. Some of the homes we work with can easily display those sizes, so part of our criteria for a new location was plenty of wall and window space,” says Clark. “We have close to 100 feet of window space that we can fill with prints, and that’s a great look right off the bat. Being able to display our work at that size does its own job of selling.”

Most of the work, says Clark, is printed on either LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper or LexJet Instant Dry Satin Canvas. And, as you can see from the photos, the images are masterfully captured, printed and framed, or stretched, on canvas.

When we originally profiled Clark Marten Photography in 2007, Clark commented: “My job isn’t to take photographs; it is to help people see their own beauty. I learned early on that what I do can have an impact on someone for the rest of their life.”

This simple philosophy has translated into a steadily growing business that now employs 11 people in the new downtown location. It also helps explain the criteria that went into the remodeling of the new building: the Martens were able to draw out the beauty of the building and put their personal touch on it, not only for a dynamic sales presentation, but a presentation that makes those who visit feel right at home.

Printing Photos: When Should I Start Printing My Own Work?

In-house inkjet printingDo you remember the first time you jumped off the high dive as a kid? I do, and boy was I scared. But that anxiety was soon replaced by exhilaration once I came out of the water. After taking the plunge, all my fears washed away, and I said to myself, “Gee, I had myself all worked up over nothing; I wish I would have done that sooner!”

In 21 years of running my own portrait studio I have had similar moments of clarity. Like the time I began to learn Photoshop, or when I switched from film to digital. Each time there has been a great deal of worry, questioning, and research that eventually led me into taking the plunge. And, once committed, I later wondered why it took me so long to do it!

For almost two years we have been printing our portrait work in-house, and I have to say it really is not that hard, especially with LexJet’s awesome support team led by my personal customer specialist, Justin Craft. After buying the Epson 4800 and the ImagePrint RIP it took me just a few phone calls and I was up and running (now I have an Epson 9900). And, except for ordering more rolls of Sunset Photo eSatin Paper, which I love, I haven’t made a single call for more technical help. 

Yet when I speak to photographers at seminars and conventions, many of them have a hard time climbing up the proverbial ladder to take the in-house printing plunge. Here are their concerns and my responses to those concerns:

Concern: You don’t really save that much money going in-house.
Response: In one year we printed about 11,000 units with only $6,000 in ink, paper, and shipping costs. That’s only 55 cents per unit and $2.20 for a 16×20. With my old lab, printing costs would have been over $22,000. Plus, there are more opportunities when you can print for yourself. We were able to say yes to a job that needed 20 16×20 prints in four days. That alone added an extra $2,000 to our bottom line.

Concern: It will take too much time or manpower to do it myself.
Response: With the ImagePrint RIP it takes the same amount of time to send it to my printer as it does using the Web-based software most labs use. Yes, it takes time to trim prints, but not much more than it does to unwrap boxes and sort through things sent back from your supplier. We use a part-time high school student to help as needed. At $8 per hour she loves it more than a fast food job and we are still way ahead financially. Plus, she helps with other tasks as needed.

Concern: Inkjet photo papers have issues with curling, scratching, and gloss differential.
Response: The older Epson printers had those issues, but scratching and gloss differential is just not a problem with the new stuff. For me, paper curl is much less a factor with Sunset Photo eSatin. Even at the end of the roll, where it’s wound tight, the paper is so heavy and thick it only takes laying it out overnight before gravity flattens it out, eliminating any curl.

Concern: Inkjet is just not as good a product.
Response: I want to be able to look my customers straight in the eye and tell them this is the very best I can offer. Once I saw test prints from a homemade direct light test, I knew the only way I could maintain my integrity was to go in-house. Epson’s new ink technology lasts about four times longer, and Canon and HP are now producing similar results with their printers. Inkjet is just plain better.

Concern: Color management is too difficult.
Response: When it comes to color, I’m not the most focused lens on the camera, so to speak. I know good and bad color when I see it, but I could not tell you how to mix things correctly to achieve it. So, at the risk of sounding like a commercial for ImagePrint and LexJet, I will tell you that those are the names and products which ensure I get awesome color every time. They just set me up and the rest takes care of itself. I run a few simple head alignment tests every so often, and that’s it. ImagePrint seems to take the “governor” off the printer, creating delicious color. I like to use the phrase High Definition Color because my in-house printing provides a larger color gamut than anything else I have seen.

I hope this article helps some studio owners to consider taking the in-house printing plunge. If I can do it, you can do it. It’s really not that hard.