Recently here in Canada an announcement of another business closure made many photographers nervous.
Blacks Photography, a retail photofinishing and camera store released a statement that they would be closing all their store locations across Canada by August 2015.
Blacks, a company that has been around for eighty-five years is just the most recent casualty of an ever changing retail environment. Is it possible that this is pointing us to the proverbial writing on the wall about our beloved photo industry?
What does it mean for us as professional photographers that a leading consumer photofinisher is closing it’s doors? Obviously it shows that consumer demand for small prints from their amateur photography has died. Facebook and smart phones have replaced family photo albums.
The ease of sharing images, cloud storage and social media have changed the face of the snapshot forever. But what does that mean for professional photography? Sports Illustrated (owned by Time) recently announced that it was laying off their whole photography staff. It should be noted that their entire staff was already down to only six full time photographers. But does that sound the death knoll for professional wedding and portrait photographers around the world?
I don’t believe it does. At least not for all of us.
Some months ago, Bryan and I interviewed Jerry Ghionis for a Sprouting Photographer podcast and during the interview we asked him if he had any predictions for the future of our industry.
Jerry told us that he believes that making a living as a photographer will get harder and harder. Not impossible but harder.
He mentioned that with the instant gratification possible these days with camera phones and sharing, part of the magic of photography is now gone.
Jerry suggested the following; by the lighting, the posing, by the emotion we capture, the storytelling…
By the experience we give, the packaging of our products, the quality of our products, the way we communicate, by not meeting with clients in crowded coffee shops…
We discussed how the gap will widen in the future for photographers struggling to compete on price and product.
Walmart and Sears studios now offer location photography and business portraits, they also offer metal and canvas wall prints. Clients can create their own books and albums with free software. They do so knowing they must spend the time doing it at a lower cost for a decent quality.
Our products must stand head and shoulders above what clients can create for themselves. Our service must be exemplary. Our turnaround times must be convenient and timely.
Our level of customer service must make the client experience a true pleasure and if we can deliver on all fronts we can then be considered an excellent value for each dollar spent.
I also want to get you to think about this. Currently we are lucky enough to still have many fantastic companies that create and provide the ultimate in quality products for professional photographers. Let me list a few of them here,
Finao, Vision Art, Millers, GTA Imaging, AsukaBook, Black River, Bay Photo, Couture Book, Design Aglow, Graphi Studio, H&H Colour, Kiss Books, ProDPI, Queensberry, Simply Colour Lab, White House Custom Colour and the list goes on and on.
What do you suppose would happen to all these companies, and the gorgeous high quality products they provide us, if we all gave in and just sold digital files to our clients?
If the majority of photographers just took the “easy “route and decided not to provide a full service experience, I believe that one by one each of these amazing companies would have to close their doors or at the very least try to sell directly to consumers instead of dealing only with professional photographers.
I believe that those of us who who differentiate ourselves from the masses of image makers, will do more than survive. Those of us who carefully craft our brand and work hard at marketing that brand will flourish.
I stand fast to the belief that hard work, perseverance, and dedication to a phenomenal client experience will always provide a steady stream of clientele who truly value the vocation we have chosen.
Let’s not worry about closures, layoffs or the purveyors of doom and gloom about our industry.
Make no mistake, we are not covering our eyes and ears and ignoring the signs of the times.
We are just being determined not to give in to apathy, and not to give up. SO many of the most successful entrepreneurs of our day found the road to success not to be a straight path but an uphill, hard climb.
We will decide that professional photography is alive and well and the future is bright for those who see the light. The light at the end of the tunnel is found in excellence, pride in our work, ongoing education, and a genuine concern for exceeding our client’s expectations.
Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work…