Raffensberger Photography & Framing Celebrates 23rd Anniversary
Every good photographer from the days of film knows it’s about lighting, timing, and chemistry. But to the rest of the world, photography was complete magic. When Neal Raffensberger was four years old he spent hours in the basement of his family home, under the dim red glow of a safelight, while his father, Roy Raffensberger, printed images he’d taken for customers of the original Raffensberger Photography. Once, Roy handed young Neal a white sheet of exposed photo paper to submerge in the developing tray. Neal was awed by the ghostly image that materialized before him at eye level. It was magic, and he was hooked.
This March 6th, Neal Raffensberger celebrates the 23 year anniversary of his brick-and-mortar incarnation of the 58 year old family business. He says, “I create tangible heirlooms that become family treasures. I see people commit their lives to each other in marriage, frame their diplomas,create their business headshots, and get to watch their children grow up from behind the lens.” It’s still magical for him all these years later. Neal reflects on the history of Raffensberger Photography and how it has changed since his parents began the home based business.
Young Neal was fascinated by photography and learned all that he could from his dad growing up. “Dad was always taking pictures, and Mom ran the business,” Neal remembers. Once he was old enough to “behave himself”, Roy would take Neal along to his client’s weddings. By the age of fourteen Neal shot his first solo wedding and became a paid employee of Raffensberger Photography. In 1985 he earned a degree from the Ohio Institute of Photography, but upon his return to Columbus he found that no one would hire him. A seasoned photographer even told him that he had “no intention of training someone who would become a competitor in a few years”. For a while, Neal worked in frame shops learning the craft of custom framing and at photo labs printing others’ images. It was during these years that tragedy struck. First, Neal’s older brother was unexpectedly killed in an auto accident in 1985. Then in 1991, Neal’s father and mentor Roy Raffensberger, passed away suddenly from heart failure. Four months later, Neal’s partner passed away. It was a dark time. His mother, Patricia, turned the family business and all of his father’s equipment over to Neal. She knew it would give him purpose and focus. On March 6th, 1995, at Whittier & South High, Neal opened the doors of Raffensberger Photography & Framing, offering portrait photography and custom framing. It was the first time in 35 years that the business had a storefront.
During the last twenty-three years a lot has changed in the photo industry. In 2004 the studio bade farewell to film and went completely digital. Today, many clients simply purchase a jpeg option for online use. Neal credits some of his employees for ushering him into the digital age. He admits, “I would intentionally hire young people who could teach me Photoshop, while I taught them how a professional studio was run. We learned a lot from each other.” One thing that did not change was the relationship with his printer. R&L Color Lab processed both Roy and Neal’s film. Because R&L was able to evolve with the changing technology they are still providing Raffensberger Photography & Framing with amazing professional prints today. In a time when most snapshots go straight to Facebook or a hard drive, and most prints are made on inkjet printers, Neal finds it more important than ever to offer archival photographic prints that will stand the test of time to become family heirlooms. It’s the human connection, the history, that drives Neal as strongly as that first magical print. It’s even the reason for the placement of his studio.
Raffensberger is a German surname, so it made logical sense to locate his business in historic German Village. Neal felt his business would be a good fit there, and it worked out beautifully. When it was time to upgrade to a better location in 2009, Raffensberger Photography & Framing found its new and current home at 347 E. Livingston Ave. The pressed tin ceilings and exposed brick arches inside the new studio lent themselves perfectly to Neal’s personal connection with history. There Neal has expanded the business further, offering portraiture, event coverage, passports photos, thousands of custom framing options, and same day Executive Headshot jpegs.
Neal Raffensberger is extremely grateful. He credits his success with the early mentoring of his father, the sharp business wit and support of his mother, his partner, family, friends, employees, and vendors. But Neal is most gratified by the clients who continue to share their lives with him, their moments, their milestones and triumphs. Those long-standing customer relationships, and getting to know new clients, are the cornerstone of his business model. He wants to thank each and every one of them! “My customers are the backbone of my business. I couldn’t do any of this without them!”