As I have made clear many times, I am a photographer and it is my primary business. When photography related issues make news I certainly like to comment on them. One major issue that came across my feed today relates to the closing of the ‘Portrait Studios’ within the stores of Sears and Walmart. 2700 stores closing overnight.
Considering the rapidness with which they closed their storefronts and operations, it is definitely a blessing that they never attempted to persuade anyone to use them as a wedding photographer.
One Word to describe why the PictureMe model did not work: cheap. You’ve seen the ads, walked past the studio, perhaps even utilized the studio for a quick portrait need. Pay a $30. session fee then fork over all of $3.99 for a 11×14 wall portrait, 25 8×10 sheets, and 48wallets. Once you received ‘what you paid for’ you weren’t happy and you weren’t satisfied, but for $33.99 it wasn’t worth fighting. And even more so to CPI, it wasn’t worth making better. This is the danger of working to service the masses. Prices must be absurdly low, so profit is always in danger. Easiest expenses to cut are the people hired to service the clients. Customers wanted an artist and they got a shift worker. Creating beautiful portraits of a person requires more than a camera, a cheesy set, and lights permanently set in position.
They had cheap prices, cheap labor, and they set out to cheapen professional photography.
Paying customers will always want art of their family and children, this is how my family has prospered, through creating art of families and children, but also by being of service.
Just because you called employees clicking a button ‘photographers’ doesn’t make them such. Just because you called bad expressions and poor printing a ‘Portrait’, doesn’t make it such. Just because your employees are dealing with customers, doesn’t mean they understand customer service. CPI learned this the hard way, it just took too long for the customers to realize it. Cheaply trying to create ‘art’ to satisfy crowds of people for mass profit leads to a $20million dollar loss and 2700 people unemployed.
How many professional photographers who dedicated their life and money to the art of photography for decades were put out of business by PictureMe,CPI?
In a free America, CPI had every right to do their business their way, I have no problem with the effort, but I am not surprised by the result. It proves the system is working.
Next up, the school picture providers who suffer the same epidemic that brought down CPI,PictureMe. Hourly workers made photographers servicing the masses leads to disaster eventually.
These providers of K-11th Grade school pictures, mass hire people and gives a simple training to ‘be a professional photographer’.
Immediately following their training, they are sent into your kids schools to take your hard earned money in exchange for cattle call photography wherein no real effort is made to garner genuine expression, nor an attempt to utilize flattering posing and lighting.
Therefore, in today’s world, everyone assumes school pictures are just going to be awful anyway…but WHY?!?!?!?! Because they have trained you this way?
Photography is not about equipment or clicking a button, it’s about relating to people, and finding their best expression, their best light. This takes YEARS to master and see, not a week-long training course.
My company has had a great deal of success in the K-11th Grade field because we bring, on average, 20 years of photographic experience in each photographer. We DEEPLY care about the happiness of every family, and we take pride in what we do. We move faster than the national providers as well because we know how to quickly relate to each child, find their best side, and capture their best expression in a timely manner. This can’t be taught over night. Its what we do year round.
Kevin Redford is a speaker and author on the subjects of leadership, motivation, social media marketing, and customer service. He is available to speak at your next event, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kevin is also available for small business consulting.