PhotoSynthesis is located in historic downtown Ames at 317 Main Street. PhotoSynthesis is a design company specializing in photo gifts and home décor items while offering more traditional services such as photo printing and restoration, cards and announcements designed exclusively for our customers, digitizing and archiving slides and photographs, and transferring tape to DVD. Our focus is decidedly modern, however, as we are always searching for creative and unique ways to print and display images. We currently print on a wide variety of substrates such as canvas, tile and slate and metal. We also offer a full line of custom design services.
PhotoSynthesis: Our History
PhotoSynthesis is owned and operated by Lisa Hovis, a graphic designer and photographer, and run with the help of amazing staff.
The history of PhotoSynthesis dates back to 1999 when Lisa moved to France when her partner at the time had research to complete. Soon after moving to France in 1999, Lisa received one of the first digital cameras on the market-just 1.2 megapixels!-as a Christmas gift.
In Dijon, the city she called home for almost two years, she discovered a passion for documenting the beauty of Dijon through photos. She shared her photography and stories of her stay via a website she created in Dijon after meeting and learning from another American student in Dijon, J.P, who knew how to create and maintain websites. Armed with a quick lesson in Dreamweaver and HTML, Lisa started lisasdotcom.com. Originally a way to keep in touch with family back home, the site grew to be a travel website for people traveling to Dijon wondering what to do, what to see, and where to stay. She maintained the site through about 2007, eventually taking it down in 2014.
Lisa also learned in Dijon how to manipulate the images she took while spending hours walking around Dijon using Photoshop, and began creating unique story photo collages with this new skill. Also working on family genealogy at the time, she began using her family photos (old and new) in these collages as well. She loved the stories this work created, and knew she wanted to create a business focused on photos and imagery.
Lisa founded Chouette Design Group in 2001 shortly after returning from France. Inspired to create an online business using her new passion for photo manipulation and photography, she started several websites selling things she made and printed: photo pop art, custom photo collages, & more. After posting a birth announcement she designed from digital photos she took after a friend had a baby, and added this service to her photo design lineup, Lisa found her online niche. Orders started coming in from around the country. At that time she was among three women, each working out of their home, who founded the digital photo announcement industry. "Nobody was designing and selling cards and announcements from digital photos at that time other than us," she says. "We were the only companies on the Internet."
Despite new companies, large and small, stealing her designs from her website-and sometimes not even bothering to change the birth information on the announcement!-Chouette Design thrived. When she moved to Ames in 2007, Lisa was printing tens of thousands of photo cards and announcements each year. Her search for a new photo printer in the Ames area led her to Walden Photo, a family-owned photo printing/camera business established in Ames in 1969. When Walden closed on the last day of 2008, she purchased the business and building with the help of her father Jim. With his insistence (and much appreciated business knowledge) to not close while renovating, PhotoSynthesis opened on January 5, 2009, just one week after Walden closed for good..
PhotoSynthesis: Our Philosophy
We believe that memories are worth preserving and celebrating. Every photograph tells a story. Our goal is to help our customers tell their stories in creative and distinctive ways. That requires thinking out of the box and establishing close personal relationships with our customers. Indeed, we think of ourselves as consultants and therefore partners with each of our customers. We'll work with you to determine the best, most cost effective way to preserve your film, slides and photographs.
We believe that quality products and designs are the best indicators of value. We have no desire to emulate or compete with big-box retailers and online gift factories solely on the basis of price. Our photo prints cost a little more than the 'big guys' charge because we use the highest quality archival papers available for our printing technology. We assess every one of your digital files for color and density and make the appropriate adjustments before printing to ensure that you get the best possible print. We will never take shortcuts and automate orders. And the fact remains that that only way to truly preserve your most special images is to print them. There will never be a better way that printing an actual photograph, so the quality of that photograph is critical!
This determination to maintain high quality standards means that we fabricate virtually all of our photo gifts and home décor items like metal art, canvas art, and accessories. Producing in-house not only enables us to set and enforce high quality standards but also cuts out middlemen and to provide our customers with quick turnarounds and the best possible prices.
And of course, we wouldn't be here without the loyalty and hard work of our employees. We have the best staff in Ames! And good employees also deserve the best tools available. That's why we have invested more than $89,000 in a state-of-the-art printing technology since 2011.
Finally, we recognize our obligation to the various communities to which we belong. PhotoSynthesis has donated approximately $12,000 of products, services and cash to more than 50 community organizations like schools, universities, churches and social service agencies since opening. We try to buy American-made products whenever possible because we want to do our part to keep jobs in America. And we strive to reduce our environmental footprint whenever possible, as we did when transitioning to dry printing in 2011 or searching for more eco-friendly packaging.
If you're local, we hope to see you in the shop soon! And if you're unable to travel to Ames, we hope to hear any questions you have and how we might help you get our unique products in your home, too. We want to save your memories!