With a focus on quality and creative community, Lynchburg Photoworks takes your cherished memories to the next level
If a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ve had much to say in the digital age. While it might be easy to get lost in the noise, some images echo louder and longer than others, perhaps due to their creativity or the person or moment in time they captured. Telling those stories in the best possible way is exactly what the team at Lynchburg Photoworks, at 17860 Forest Road, seeks to do.
One step into the shop and the possibilities of how one imagines a photograph can tell a tale are immediately expanded. A nature shot pops in vivid color, easily mistaken for a painting as it’s mounted on watercolor paper. The intensity of a stylized sports action shot is heightened when printed on aluminum.
“We provide print services that you are not really going to find by walking into a big box store,” explained Rob Wheeler, owner/manager of Lynchburg Photoworks. “We have a lot more specialty things: printing on aluminum, slate, canvas, and wood, you name it.”
From mounting a photograph to creating a wall-sized photo or graphic, Lynchburg Photoworks is limited only by the imaginations of its clients.
“That print process, it gives you endless creativity,” Wheeler said. “[Industry innovators] are always developing new surfaces that you can print to.”
The shop is a great place for creative gifts, such as a photo printed on slate for the grandparents, images on flip-flops for a wedding party gift, or a business outing memorialized on acrylic. And for experienced and admitted novice photographers alike there is perhaps no better place to find the right way to display a photo—or even to design an entire photo wall for the sitting room.
“Having seen so many images,” Wheeler said, “I can look at a picture and with a customer build out a vision for it. I can look at a picture and [suggest] this should go on that type of surface. The customer gets to touch and feel the different surfaces.”
Wheeler and his employees work with customers to find the right type of surface for the environment, taking into account the possibility of water damage, for example, as well as (and, equally important) the story that is being told with the image.
“When we sit down with a customer, that is what we hone in on, the message, the final output.”
Wheeler started the store after Cardinal Camera, where he had worked, left the area. Then a customer offered to invest, with the help of some friends, in a new camera store. With an understanding of the market, Wheeler decided to focus on printing as the main source of revenue.
He said that people tend to find good deals for camera equipment online and that stores cannot really compete with that.
“The brick and mortar stores need to really focus on what it is they do better than anybody else: provide expert service, provide expertise in photography in a way that people want,” Wheeler said.
Though printing might be the store’s bread and butter, its services are vast. From web and logo design to event photography, including birthday parties, corporate gatherings and weddings, Lynchburg Photoworks is a start-to-finish location for a number of creative needs. There is even an in-store portrait studio.
“One of our foundational goals was to ensure that, from a quality standpoint, we were going to hit quality and hit quality hard,” Wheeler said, noting that many of the shop’s materials are not the cheapest items on the market. “I am going to be as close to the very best as you can get. We will stock things that will cost more than [going online]. All of our services are archival in nature. They are all surfaces that I have tested many times, that have gone through and met our standards. And, so, they cost us more than some of the cheaper stuff but they also look better and, in the end, it is also going to last a long time.”
Lynchburg Photoworks also offers rentals, a service that helps customers, either with a short-term need without having to purchase expensive equipment or to test something out to see what they like.
“I don’t stock everything in the photographic world, but I stock most of the common items people would want to shoot with,” Wheeler said.
Another niche Wheeler has honed in on is education. A number of beginner and specialty photography and image editing classes are taught at Lynchburg Photoworks, with Wheeler and another local photographer splitting the load.
“There is something unique about having somebody come up next to you and help you put your hands in the right places on what it is you are doing,” Wheeler said. “And that real-time interaction, I have found, helps me learn better. And most of the customers that I have here, it helps them learn better as well.”
He added that he embraces YouTube tutorials and other forms of learning.
“I think that I’d be just sticking my head in the sand not to realize that there are other avenues for people to learn from,” he said. “I want to embrace them and I think that helps build some of my own credibility as well—that I don’t think I am the only place that people can get knowledge and [that I] point people in other directions.”
That integrity is part of the heart of Lynchburg Photoworks; primarily, it is a place of community—creative community—before it is a business.
“I am not always looking to make a dollar, but I am always looking to build a relationship,” Wheeler said.
“Although, the dollars are nice,” he grinned before adding, “but relationships come first.”
Wheeler said he offers discounts to students and members of many of the photography groups in Lynchburg.
“I am going to reward people that are seeking to learn,” he said.
Interacting with artists, whether vocational or self-proclaimed amateurs, is what makes the world of Lynchburg Photoworks so satisfying for Wheeler and his three employees.
“With every image comes a story, and behind each customer is a story,” said Jaret Peerson, a Lynchburg Photoworks employee. “That makes it unique, special.”
“I work with people who see the world creatively and want to go and get a good shot and they want to put it on something creative and display it,” Wheeler added. “That is one of the reasons I like Lynchburg so much—even just self-proclaimed beginners, they are trying to get creative pictures. … That is something, from my standpoint, that is incredibly amazing to work with.”
Connect with the shop at LynchburgPhotoworks.com.