February 14, 2006, 10:54 AM — Among my varied interests is fine-art photography. Decades ago, I shot 4x5 sheet film and then medium-format roll film. Today, it's all digital. And yes, there's an integrator angle.
This past weekend, I attended a full-day seminar called the Epson Print Academy. Offering separate seminar tracks for advanced enthusiasts and for professional working photographers, the day covered digital workflow techniques, image editing, and color calibration from camera to monitor to printer were covered in exhaustive detail. One of the presenters (albeit on video) was legendary rock musician Graham Nash, who is considered one of the fathers of fine-art inkjet printing.
This was about printing, but not about printers. Most of what I saw centered around Adobe Photoshop. Just like painting your living room where prep work is 90 percent of the job, image editing and color profiling is nearly everything. The act of printing, akin to applying that final coat of interior latex paint, is the last step.
So what does this have to do with integrators? Perhaps not plenty, but certainly enough. I spoke to one attendee who works as a network integrator by day and professional wedding photographer by night. Now he's uniting the two, carving out a niche business as an expert in color management, color calibration, high-end fine-art inkjet printers that use archival pigmented inks (consumer inkjet printers use fade-prone dye-based inks), color profiling, fine-art inkjet papers, and more. He has evolved into an integrator to whom commercial and fine-art photographers can turn.
He speaks their vocabulary, understands their unique needs, and provides the technology solutions essential for the operation of their businesses. Exactly what an integrator does.
A solutions integrator need not be a giant with a thousand, a hundred, or even 10 employees. I know of a small firm, consisting of three people, that designs Web sites, installs and configures e-commerce systems, and provides data-security and data-backup solutions --- only to owners of jewelry stores. Tiny? Yes. Successful? You bet. They're turning business away.
These "micro-integrators," as I call them, go for what they see as their low-hanging fruit, leaving the otherwise more mundane tasks of dealing with a network infrastructure to others. But that's ok; managing a network infrastructure is some other integrator's low-hanging fruit. It's very egalitarian.
There's even a mini-industry of highly skilled Adobe Photoshop experts who travel around the country giving masters classes.