While the popularity of digital photography has changed the nature of photo labs, it hasn't made them obsolete. Digital cameras are excellent at producing images that can be viewed on a computer or mobile device, but photo labs still produce high quality prints at affordable prices. Photo lab technicians run the machines that make digital prints, process traditional film, and keep the lab working.
The most visible type of photo lab technician position is one in a retail store. Many drugstores and warehouse stores still maintain on-site photo labs that use technicians to handle both printmaking and customer service. Photo lab technicians also work behind the scenes at companies that produce products with photos, like photo book printing services. Many universities also maintain photo labs for their students to use.
Photo lab technicians run photo printing and processing machines to generate prints and other products. They're also responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and upkeep of the equipment. Lab technicians also keep track of the lab's inventory of supplies and can assist in ordering new materials as necessary. Quality control is also a part of the position, starting with calibrating the machines on a regular basis and continuing through reviewing orders as they are printed.
To be successful in a photo lab, you should be interested in photography. In some labs, you'll have to move heavy equipment or lift boxes of supplies that weigh as much as 50 pounds. Since many lab technicians are also frequently responsible for record keeping or, in a retail setting, cashiering, basic math skills are also useful.
The type of photo lab technician position you seek will determine the qualifications you need. A retail position may require as little as a GED and some experience with either photography or with retail customer service. Behind-the-scenes work in an atmosphere focused on high-quality output might call for experience with specific printing equipment or with photographic software. A university position where you're also involved in performing demonstrations can require college coursework or a completed degree in photography.
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