Fstoppers just recently wrote a blog post mentioning that PictureMe, a large cookie cutter photo studio, based inside WalMart and Sears are going out of business. (See article here http://fstoppers.com/the-death-of-another-photo-studio.) They posed the question on whether or not professional photographers should be worried. Below is my response to that question.
This is of no surprise to me at all. These studios were not producing quality experiences anymore. They used to be the go-to places for a lot of people because it is reliable and predictable (think McDonalds) but now that predictability hurt them. People saw PictureMe photos and then looked at their neighbors photos that were taken on location and by a professional and gravitated to that because it is a better product. The photographer would provide quality customer service and products. These studios were ran by inexperienced photographers who followed an operational manual for the most part, and there is no pressure to provide a quality experience so they didn’t. Price did not matter here. People don’t go have photos taken because its cheap. People have photos taken because they want to capture a moment in their lives and want to remember what they looked like and they want to look good. Now there are definitely cheap people out there, but there are also cheap photographers too service them and there always will be. For every type of customer there is a photographer that serves that niche. The problem lies where good photographers undervalue their services and when inexperienced photographers over value their services. This leads to mixing up customer expectations and leaving them to distrust photographers and being unsure of what to expect.
This is by no means a reason to worry for professional photographers that know how to run their business. It is a worry for big studios who lost touch with their customers and focused on scaling a system vs. an experience.