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Film Photo Processors Strive to Adapt to Digital
Newsday



"What I loved most was the black and white, putting the paper in the tray and all of the sudden, like magic, that image would appear," she said.

An art history major in college, Sando said she fell in love with photography after taking a few classes and left college to work in the industry. After 30 years in the professional and retail experience, she has invested heavily in reinventing her store, learning new software and adding new products.

"I don't know what else to do if I don't do this," she said. "It's not like I can go back to college and learn another profession."

About five years ago, Sando and Prentice spent $175,000 on equipment and have since invested thousands on software to stay competitive. They added a self-service print-making kiosk, and also make invitations and photo cards as well as DVD photo shows set to music and coffee-table photo books.

Syosset Imaging has a small inventory of cameras and sells frames and albums as well.

Sando and Prentice are hoping to buy another kiosk and begin offering a process for artists to reproduce their original oil paintings using inkjet printers. A portrait studio and delivery service are among the other strategies they are considering.

"I am trying to stay in business," Sando said. "So I have to be creative and combine four or five businesses into one."

Changing focus

Brad Berger, 52, owner of Berger Bros., based in Amityville, finds himself in a similar situation. Though camera equipment sales have always been higher than the revenue from photo processing, the company did a significant business developing and printing, Berger said. The revenue from processing has been falling about 20 percent a year, he said.

"Now the consumer has so many choices because they can do it themselves, which they could never do before, or they could do it over the Internet, which cuts up the pie even more," Berger said. "It's very hard for a small retailer to replace what they lose. You have to be on your game every minute of your life."

Berger Bros., which sells equipment ranging from cameras to printers and offers self-service kiosks, has found success with photo classes, some offered free to customers who purchase cameras. They offer about 10 different classes and seminars at any given time, Berger said, ranging from beginner's instruction and lessons in Photoshop to seminars with well-known photographers.

"The classes have become so popular that we are now calling it the Berger Bros. School of Photography and Digital Imaging," Berger said.

"These are very good things that help us close sales and have customers get educated so they can get more into photography, enjoy the hobby and progress to the next level and buy accessories and help us stay in business."

Other stores, like Camera Click One Hour Photo in Franklin Square, are finding the competition in the digital era tough mostly because they can't compete with the low pricing the large chains offer. Frank Seminara, owner of Camera Click and a veteran in the industry for 34 years, said he did everything right: bought kiosks and the machine to print digital media. But the revenue doesn't come close to what he was making when film cameras were the norm.

"The online services do business in a warehouse where rents are low and ... you don't have the overhead," Seminara said. "Our electric is the highest in the nation. ... I don't know how much longer we could really hang on."


   







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