Thursday, December 2, 2010

New vendor for Metal Prints

When I first started selling metal prints I used Pounds Photo Labs. Great product, fantastic look, and a very reasonable price. But the selection of sizes was... limited. I then found Bay Photo Labs, which had the size selection I wanted, but their prices were noticeably higher, and the shipping charges were a bit higher than I wanted.

Enter Black River Imaging, which is giving me the price of Pounds Photo Labs at the selection of sizes of Bay Photo Labs, with a great price on shipping to boot.

And, right now, their metal prints are on sale at a great price, and I'm extending that great price to you! Order by December 24 to get this deal!
  • 8x12 for $35
  • 10x20 or 12x24 panoramic for $45
  • 12x18 for $45
  • 16x24 for $60
  • 20x30 giant for only $83!
Add-ons, it is HIGHLY recommended to order at least one add-on, offered at my cost:
  • Rounded corners for $3
  • Corner holes (4) for $7
  • Floating mount for $12


Add an event CD for an extra $30

Texas State Sales tax of 8.25% applies.

Sound like a great idea for Christmas, or just as a nice ending to the season? Browse my site at Mercury Photography for the image you want, decide what size and what options, and shoot me an email at I'll PayPal an invoice and place the order! But order soon before this sale goes away!

These are not my only sizes, so if you want a different size just give me a yell.

Bill Jurasz

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Black Friday Sale

Hello everyone. 2010 is almost to a close and we're getting into the holiday season. I wanted to extend a coupon to everyone good for $5 off each product ordered. The "blackfriday" coupon code is good for individual digital files or a CD, for any metal print item, for any collage item, or for prints 8x12 and larger. This is good until to November 28. So hurry!

And speaking of metal prints I now have a new item in the metal print line: photo license plates. This is the same print-on-metal technology but in a 12x6 inch size, the same as a real license plate. It has rounded corners and four mounting slots, just like a license plate. I put the photo of your choice as the background and text of your choosing, including realistic looking pl ate numbers. Absolutely a great addition to your garage!

Also I have a new collage design, the Poster 7 collage. This is available as 10x20 or 12x24 panoramic sizes, either on photo paper or as a print-on-metal.

Two new special effects: posterization and pastel sketch. The pastel sketch is especially artistic, giving an impression of a hand drawn picture on canvas.

For the industrial gear head check out the Blueprint line.

Lastly, if you want an item or a size that is not in the shopping cart just drop me a line. I have access to many more products than I have in the shopping cart, such as shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads and the like. Just ask!

Thanks, and looking forward to 2011.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Print On Metal - BIG SALE

Many of you have seen the sample print-on-metal I bring to Harris Hill Road. Everyone agrees it is a very impressive way to display a photograph. Very detailed, very vibrant. Modern and elegant, it looks great in the living room or study. It is also the most durable way to display a print, which also makes it great for the garage. Did it get dirty and dusty? No problem, just clean it with soapy water and dry it. Try that with a paper print!

They are expensive to have made, however. That increase in cost is relatively easy to justify since it is ready to hang - no frame to buy. And it also has that "wow" factor that makes it worth the cost. Several track customers agree, based on sales so far.

I love my vendor for these, but they only go up to 16x20 and I really would like to offer something larger. And I found a vendor who will go larger. The only caveat: they are more expensive than my current vendor. But, as I am a new client I am getting a discount on my first order, no matter its size.

I want to capitalize on this opportunity by offering a great one-time sale on metal prints. I will be accepting orders until October 31. Then I will place one large order to take advantage of this opportunity. Your patience with this time frame will be rewarded in a break in price.

Also, to keep the costs down I'm doing the orders through email and Pay Pal. This saves me the sales commission from Exposure Manager, another way to keep the cost to you down. Simply look up the images you want to purchase and give me the image name and the size you want. I'll send a Pay Pal invoice back to you.

12x18 - $66
16x24 - $107
20x30 - $146

Add $30 to include an Event CD.
Special effects, text, logos, etc. free of charge for this opportunity.

Sales tax extra. Shipping extra, to be billed separately after the order is placed. The shipping fee with depend on whether I ship to you, or whether you can pick it up locally in Austin.

Email me at for more details but hurry!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I wanted to write today about some shopping cart changes at Mecury Photography.

I began photographing amateur motorsports back in 2004 and continued doing so until early 2007. Back then it was karts and motocross and some football. Then, in early 2007, the demands of the day job got intense. Since it was the day job that paid the mortgage and funded the retirement something had to give, and it just made common sense to park the camera for a bit. I returned to motorsports photography though in late 2009 and have done several events at Harris Hill Road in 2010 so far. Boy have times changed!

The biggest difference I noticed, but did not recognize nor respond to fast enough, was the change in consumer preference in the time I was away from the market. In 2006 my biggest seller, hands down, was the 4x6 print. Well over half my sales were 4x6 prints. Next up were 5x7 and 8x12 prints, in roughly equal numbers. Occasionally I would sell a 20x30 print or a digital file. In two years of karts and motocross I sold less than 5 CDs. I think I sold more 20x30 prints than I did of CD's!

Things are very different today. Today sales have been mostly an equal mix of individual digital files or CD ROMs. I get some print sales from custom-made collages, and I get some print sales from prints-on-metal. I have not sold any "normal" prints worth speaking of. The collages sell if my graphic designs are compelling, which only makes sense, as most people either don't have the software to make their own collages or don't have the skills to do compelling designs. And the metal prints are very cool items that practically require you be a customer of a pro-lab to get made.

In a (belated) realization of how times have changed I've made some changes to the shopping cart. I think this will give everyone more of what they want and at lower prices to boot. Things are simplified now with fewer panels to the shopping cart. We now have "Digital Files", "Multi-Image Collages", "Metal Prints", and "Customized Prints". That's it. Simpler, offering only the stuff people tend to buy these days.

In Digital Files we have only four choices now. A single hi-res JPG, which is the photo exactly as it appears on the website (minus the water mark). A single customized hi-res JPG (more on customization later) for a slightly higher price. A CD of all your images from the event. Or a CD bundled with a customized 20x30 print at a great package price.

In the Multi-Image Collages panel the first new item is the ability to purchase a collage as a digital file, whereas before it could only be purchased as a print. You are effectively paying me for the initial capture of the images and the graphic design work but not paying for a paper print or the shipping of the paper. There are still a few sizes of collage prints for sale, along with a 16x20 collage print-on-metal, which is truly stunning to see. See for example collages I can do for you.

Then there is the Metal Prints panel of the shopping cart. The big change here is the bundling of the 16x20 print on metal with an event CD at a great price savings. Lots of people have been interested in the print on metal, especially after seeing the sample I bring with me to the track. As you can imagine it is an expensive product to have manufactured, but by bundling it with the CD I can present a great value when you buy both. And the metal print can be customized or even a collage if you wish. Just let me know.

Lastly there is the Customized Prints panel of the shopping cart, where I have a handful of print sizes available to choose from.

So... what is customization all about? You can get a customized digital file, customized prints on metal and customized paper prints. But what exactly does that mean? If you purchase a customized product you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire in the shopping cart during the check-out process. You'll have several questions to answer. First off, do you want a special effect done to the photo? Custom black and white conversions can really turn out stunning. I take care and do a manual black and white conversion, not a push-button conversion. The few I've done for people always impress them. In the words of one customer they were shocked at how much the removal of color can really bring out the detail and emotion in the image. I also do pop-art conversions, tilt-shift effects, and the new "wide screen" effect. See for more details and examples. I also let you specify up to two lines of text. Typically people ask to put their name and date on the image. You can also request a track logo. All these things add just a little punch to the image and make it more personal. And this can be done for individual files, individual prints or the print-on-metal.

As always, shoot me an email if you have any questions about anything or if you want something that is not in the shopping cart.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another great day at Harris Hill Road!

I always enjoy photographing at Harris Hill Road, a neat natural terrain road course in San Marcos, Texas. The owners are great, the drivers are great, and the cars that show up for their event are always a treat. August 21 and 22 was the last event I photographed, and Lister and a Noble were two of the most interesting cars to show up. About half the field were new Camaros, but as expected several Corvettes, S2000's, a Nissan or two and two NS-X's. Cruise on over to the Saturday and Sunday galleries for more photos!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's called Garage Art for a Reason!

The Print-On-Metal: Why do I call it Garage Art again?

Some of you have seen a recent offering of mine, the "Print On Metal" from Pounds Photo Labs (see Pound's description here for more info, or just email me). Its a really cool product that's PERFECT for the car guy. Not only is the image very vibrant, very colorful and detailed, it is also very durable. In fact Pounds claims it is the "soundest archival product on the market today". So, if you are like me and you hang car photos in your garage that's a pretty big deal. Garages can get very hot, very cold, very humid, and none of this is going to effect a print on metal like it will a paper print. Especially not a paper print behind glass, which in high humidity can be a problem.

And then there is another problem with framed paper prints: the glass. I call the print on metal "garage art" for a reason: its perfect for the garage. No frame to buy, no glass to break. Oh yes, that breaking glass thing. Has it ever happened to you? It did to me just recently:

This was not staged! It actually happened. That door closed a bit too hard and that picture fell to the ground. Broken glass where I drive and park my car is NOT a good thing. Fortunatley of the two framed pictures on that wall only one fell. The print-on-metal above it also stayed up, but if it had fallen there'd be no broken glass to worry about!

The print on metal is noticeably more expensive than the same sized print. The cost to me is noticeably higher as well, and its only natural the extra cost of materials is passed along. But considering there is no frame to purchase, and the peace of mind, and the durability, its a great value when all is said and done.

Available in sizes up to 16x20", either as a straight print, a customized print, or even a multi-image collage. Order yours today!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review: Blurb Premium Paper Photo Book, and in the other corner...

My most recent Blurb book

Photo books are becoming very popular anymore and I can certainly understand why. You can only hang so many prints on your walls. Photos thrown into a shoe box tend to seldom get seen. And photo albums tend to be thick, taking up lots of bookshelf space, cost as much empty as your typical low-priced book, and are a bit, well, BORING.

The photo book, on the other hand, is far from boring. We typically have a great deal of latitude in page layout and design that you don't get with an album, such as adding text and varying image sizes. They tend to be much thinner than an album of comparable page counts. And you can often get a photo book made for the price of an empty album without then needing to spend more on the prints to populate the album with. Nicer, customizable, thinner, cheaper. What's not to like?

There are lots of choices for photo books these days, with a large variety of cover styles, page sizes, landscape and portrait orientations and even square books, and a big variety in quality and prices. On the low end we have CostCo, Walgreen, your local camera store, Shutterfly, Blurb, iPhoto books and the like. Moving up the quality ladder we get into vendors not normally available to the general public. For these vendors you usually need to be a professional photographer and open an account with the vendor. The quality and the selection is usually much higher, and for many needs you want that extra quality. I would not want my wedding album done by CostCo or Blurb, for example, and I would be willing to pay extra for higher quality of images like that. But for family vacations and such the cheaper books is probably more than "good enough". Vendors in the upper ranks include Pounds Photo Labs, Asuka Book, Forbeyon and many others. They tend to have better build quality, more accurate color reproduction, and much more visual "pop" to the finished book.

The Pounds sample book

The purpose of this blog was to compare a low-priced alternative to a mid-level alternative. For the low-priced alternative I chose Blurb. Readers of this blog might be familiar with Blurb, as they are rather popular, and you might have done a book yourself from them. For the mid-level alternative I chose Texas-based Pounds Photo Labs. They have been in the photography business for decades and have a reputation for quality that attracts some of the best wedding and portrait photographers in the country. It will not be a spoiler to tell you that the Pounds press book is a nicer product than the Blurb book. It is more expensive, their customers are demanding and picky, so it better be a better product. But, how much better is it, is it worth the cost differential? And more importantly, how nice is the new premium paper that Blurb has to offer?

Back in late 2007 I did an 8x10 hard cover book from Blurb and I was not really all that impressed. The build quality was fine, but I could only get a dust jacket (I prefer the cover to be an image wrap myself), and the pages didn't pop at me. The color reproduction was only adequate, and a bit washed out. It certainly didn't have the impact of an 8x10 print. However, the price was low, the design and ordering process easy, and I did like it better than an iPhoto book I had also done. My impression was that it was worth the price paid. It wasn't a high bar to reach, given the price was indeed low. But I wouldn't want to do anything special with Blurb. And I certainly would not want to give a client photos of his car in a Blurb book. For that, I'd want something better.

For that something better I turned to Asuka Book, doing several 10x10 hard cover books for family, for myself, and for two automotive clients. The clients both wanted something of a higher quality than they could get themselves. That only makes sense. After asking around I settled on Asuka Book at the advice of Andrew Wheeler of The results were very impressive. From the protective frosted plastic case, to the very nice image-wrap cover, to the great photo reproduction of the pages themselves, these books had a noticeable visual impact and obvious increase in quality over the lower end vendors. And at their price, it should be that way. And for the client that wants something of that quality its a great choice, especially when you consider that an extra $50-75 in the cost of the photo book is a small part of the total package price, after factoring in the cost to photograph the car in the first place, plus the cost for me to spend the time to come up with a great book design and page layouts.

An Asuka Book, with frosted plastic case

But early in 2010 I started wondering two things. One, has Blurb gotten any better, especially with their new premium paper? They have long had a reputation of a decent book but not a stellar book, but also for inconsistency. While their customer support might be great and be willing to reprint a book to fix any problems, its not a hassle I would want to go through with a client. With Asuka, the price is higher, but its always right and its always impressive. Two, is there an alternative to Asuka that has the same quality but at a lower price?

To answer the first question I decided to try Blurb yet again, ordering an 8x10 landscape hardcover book with gallery wrap on premium paper. To answer the second question I turned to Pounds Photo Labs.

Photo Quality

The Blurb book is indeed an improvement over a few years back. The premium paper has a nicer, heavier feel with a better reproduction of the image. The image-wrap cover is, to me, much nicer than a dust jacket that just seems to get torn and is always in the way when I'm trying to view the book. The placement of the text on the cover spline was reasonably accurate as well. This book, with the premium paper and the image wrap, represents the best that Blurb is able to do.

The Pounds Book, to my eye at least, is still a noticeable improvement over the Blurb book. This is not surprising to me, as the typical Pounds customer is a very picky client. They have to produce a better product to justify the higher cost and to please high end wedding and portrait photographers. And for that type of work the high quality book is an easy sell. But I do mostly automotive photography, and even though some people can really get emotionally attached to their cars, I have to admit the Blurb book is pretty darn good, and for pictures of cars its probably passes the "good enough" test.

Build Quality

I have personal experience long-term with the Asuka Book, and I can say that it is a well built book that will last the years. My long-term experience with Blurb and Pounds is lacking, unfortunately. But some looks at the binding shows the Asuka Book and the Pounds Photo Labs book to be similar in how the binding is done. The Blurb book is noticeably different in the binding. In particular, you can see the twine that holds the pages together, which you cannot on the other books. Whether that has any impact on durability I cannot say, but visually I find it distracting.

The Blurb spline, a binding I question for durability. Notice you can also see the twine.

The Pounds spline. Nicer, looks more durable, of higher quality.


As mentioned earlier, one thing I wanted to find out is if there was a quality vendor at a lower price than Asuka, and I did find that in Pounds. To my eye the build quality, the photo reproduction and the visual punch of the Pounds book matches the Asuka book, and does so at a noticeably lower price. Still more than the Blurb book, but the price delta is not as high. There are still a few things I like about Asuka, notably the frosted plastic protective case. Its just plain cool, and its functional as well. I typically keep two books in my trunk all the time and those plastic cases keep the covers from getting scratched up - this is the car used most frequently for grocery store runs so the trunk gets used a lot. The Asuka book also has more choices in presentation boxes and can even be had in leather covers. But, Pounds has a larger variety of books sizes and orientations and has more flexible page counts. Asuka lets me make a 20 page book, or a 30 page book, but nothing inbetween, for example. Pounds and Blurb allow page counts from 20 up, in 2-page increments.

I won't go into specifics on pricing because Pounds pricing catalog is a confidential matter, but suffice to say that Blurb is usually cheaper than Pounds, but not always. When I did my price comparisons I always priced the Blurb book with the image wrap cover, the premium paper, and the studio logo option. This drove the price up, but for my uses this is how I would be ordering a photo book. If you do not care about premium paper, for example, you probably don't care how the book stacks up against Pounds Photo Labs or Asuka either.

The price story also depends on page count. The base Blurb book is priced from 20 to 40 pages, whereas the Pounds base book is priced at 20 pages, with each extra page being extra money. For example, a 20 page book from Blurb on premium paper with a studio logo in the 8x10 hard cover size with the image wrap is only slightly less expensive than a 20 page Pounds book. But if we move to a 40 page book the Blurb price is the same, but the Pounds book jumps to over 50% more money than the Blurb offering. So one part of the price puzzle has an answer. In the popular 8x10 book size Blurb has a small edge at 20 pages, but that edge gets larger fast as the page count increases.

The price story gets a little more interesting when we look at the larger books, and even here an apples to apples comparison is a bit hard. When looking at a 20 page book the 11x14 Pounds book is actually cheaper than the 11x13 Blurb book (factoring in preimum paper, image wrap and studio logo even!). Only when page counts get above 30 does the Blurb book become cheaper once again. A 10x10 Pounds book is cheaper at 20 pages once again than the Blurb 12x12 book, but is at price-parity even at 40 pages. Granted, the Pounds book is smaller, but in all honesty I think 10x10 is a great book size, whereas the Blurb 12x12 is just a bit too big. Too big, more expensive, not as high a quality. Another part of the price puzzle now has an answer in that the large format books in small page counts are actually cheaper, and better, at Pounds than at Blurb, and only at very high page counts does Blurb get a price advantage.

Another area where the price equation changes is with respect to the studio logo option. On the Pounds and Asuka book they never put their name anywhere on the book. This is not true of the Blurb book, who puts their logo on the very last page so that everyone knows who printed and published this book. And to remove this logo and replace it with the studio's logo is surprisingly expensive. Its an extra $8 on the 8x10 book, and a staggering $15 on the 12x12 book. All for the privilege of removing Blurb's name from the last page and replacing it with mine. They obviously must feel that having their logo on the back page of the book is worth quite a few dollars because they charge quite a few dollars to have it removed. And I do wonder how valuable it is to me, given that I can plaster my name anywhere else on the book I want for free. If one takes the custom studio logo out of the pricing equation the price delta on the 8x10 book widens. What was once near parity at the 20 page count now becomes more than a $10 difference, and that gap widens fast as page counts climb. On the larger book sizes, where Pounds was actually cheaper at the lower page counts, Blurb becomes nearly equal at the 11x13 size, but is still higher priced at the 12x12 size, for the 20 page book. But by the time the book climbs to 40 pages the price gap becomes pretty wide once again, with Blurb noticeably cheaper.


When looking at a quality stand point it is clear the Blurb book has improved, and for many people the book is more than good enough. It is still, however, not at the level of a Pounds Photo Labs or an Asuka book, and that is to be expected. Honda makes a fine car, but nobody would be surprised to hear that Lexus is nicer still. What I did find surprising was the cost analysis. Since most my books are 20 pages, and sometimes 30, the price analysis means that for my typical use Pounds is still the best choice for me. In the 8x10 size the price increase of Pounds is relatively minor if one orders the image wrap, premium paper and the studio logo. In the 10x10 and 11x14 size, when page counts are 30 or less, the Pounds book is actually cheaper. As a result, I'm likely to stick with Pounds for myself and my clients. This is especially true since any small increase in materials cost to the client is bound to be small compared to the cost of taking the photographs, processing and tweaking the images, and designing the pages.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Remembering Uncle Joe

Sometimes you see an old photo that brings back old memories. That's what happened to me a few months ago. My parents were moving, and in the process of packing and sorting they found two very old photos, one of which I've attached here.
This is of my neighbor from my earliest years, Joe Scopa, or Uncle Joe to me. He's the guy in white, third from the left. By the time I knew him he was a retired Indy crew chief, and that to me was and still is very cool. The photo is one he gave me when I was probably 7 or 8 years old.

Uncle Joe had a very large garage in the back of his house, and on occasion an Indy car would show up like the one above, or more often a Sprint or Midget car would show up. Later on the house was sold to a sprint car racer named Lonnie. I grew up in Indianapolis, not too far from the track, and I grew up next to a retired crew chief and then a current race car driver, and with a father who used to drag race. No wonder I love fast cars!

So this photo and another showed up in the mail one day and it reminded me of why people love photos. Because years down the road you look at a photo and it brings back memories and allows you to share your memories with others. This photo reminded me of growing up next to Uncle Joe in Indianapolis, and now I'm sharing that memory with you. Thank you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tilt-Shift photo effects and car racing

I've been having fun recently with a plug-in for Aperture which is meant to mimmick the effect of a tilt-shift lens. This is useful if you do not own a real tilt-shift lens, or if photographing in situations where the real tilt-shift lens would be difficult or inappropriate. In my case, both apply. For one, I do not own a Tilt-Shift lens. And in this situation it would not be very desirable to use anyway. This was shot with a 200mm focal length (you can't get telephoto tilt-shift lenses in the first place!) at a relatively slow shutter speed to show some motion in the wheels and the background. And it was shot from a somewhat high vantage point, about 20 feet above the track surface. The high vantage point (higher would have been better) and the large amount of background in the shot made this an ideal candidate for the tilt-shift effect.

The tell-tale sign of a Tilt-Shift is that it should give the shot a bit of a miniaturization effect, making the scene look like a model rather than real-life. This effect gets amplified with higher vantage points. Next time I need to bring a ladder to the track! :) The other tell tale signs are the very shallow depth of field (which could come from a large aperture) that is not parallel to the film plane (which you cannot get from a normal lens). In the case above the plane-of-focus is tilted in the direction the car is travelling, sloping up from bottom left to middle right. An unusually large amount of saturation and contrast is thrown in, and a bit of vignette as well. And voila. Thoughts? The car's owner was thrilled. :)

Not all shots lend itself to this treatment, but those that do often turn out great!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Start of a Brand New Blog

Hello! This is Bill Jurasz of Mercury Photography in Austin, TX. I wanted to start this blog as a means of keeping my customers up to date with my latest events, sample photos, and answer questions about photography. Especially racing photography!

My site is My email is Thanks, stay tuned, much more to come!