There have long been several popular franchises on the market that deal with printing and scanning, which quite satisfy the most average and unpretentious demand. Why is it most profitable to open a professional photo lab or “prolab” today? Read more about this trend below.
The art of photography has suffered from another technological breakthrough and is in decline, as most professional photographers and business players in this market segment believe. Yes, they agree, in general, and ordinary people who have a taste for photography.
All that can be offered to the mass consumer today by typical ones that save on all “developer printing” is the low quality of the picture and its relative (!) Cheapness. But once such franchises were proud that their quality control is high and allows you to have grandiose results. But, alas, they could not keep this notorious quality in the realities in which a small network business, put on stream, and forced to dump at the same time, was forced to work. Night shifts, a round-the-clock mode, an amazing staff turnover, and indeed the personnel policy itself, as a result of which only migrant workers with low motivation, non-compliance with sanitary and all kinds of standards willingly took on work - did their job. But technological progress “helped” them.
Long gone are the days when acquiring your own “soap box” made you the soul of the company and the chronicler of all the releases. The time has passed when every resident of your city flipped large films with excitement, capturing miserable interiors, plates with olivier and drunken faces of people unfamiliar to him. Everyone is full. Because of this, the days of the photo labs are numbered - this is recorded by market observers quite officially.
Despite the mass of unprofessional tenants with an undeveloped taste, most people related to photography are still true amateur photographers. They are, as they say. They know. What is shutter speed and aperture? And the number of such people is only growing, since literature, periodicals, Internet communities, and cameras themselves have become available to many.
So, having acquired the technique of their dreams, people want to make prints of the shots, but they have nowhere to do it! The quality that a typical photo lab can offer, of course, will not suit them — all their preliminary work, skills, and also the cost of their camera will not affect the print, it will not be any different from the print made from the “soap dish”. Yes, and the film can be ruined. Such people need a professional printing studio!
But among other things, those who do not perceive photography as art are now content with the fact that they can post their work on virtual resources - in social networks, on a USB flash drive, on the phone and even in the camera. Now it is unprofitable to print these low-quality pictures on paper (extra expense!) And store them at home, occupying the space of the apartment with thick photo albums. All trash today is stored in a virtual, maximum - on a CD.
And now, having reached the bottom as a photograph, we begin to slowly rise and are already witnessing a renaissance in this area. So “prolab” (professional laboratory) is the most demanded business, for those. Who looks in the near future.
Profitability and Revenue Comparison
To begin with, let's compare the profits of a professional photo lab with the revenues of a typical development and print point, and you will understand.
100 thousand dollars a month (3 million rubles) of gross income - prolab;
20 thousand dollars a month (600 thousand rubles) of gross income - photolab.
And this despite the fact that the income of a typical point today consists mainly of the sale of related photo products, up to the frames for the photo.
If you are starting a prolab, then in some types of services from the list (from the assortment), profitability reaches unthinkable numbers - from several hundred to 1000 percent. Take, for example, the development of a black and white film.
The cost of reagents is less than one hundred dollars.
The monthly turnover is a little less than a thousand.
Work with slides.
The cost of consumables and depreciation - less than three thousand dollars a month
Monthly turnover - 16 thousand dollars.
In addition to professional photo enthusiasts, all your freelance photographers will be your regular customers. In addition to them, your customers are those who are engaged in advertising, modeling agencies, publishers of all kinds of consumer “gloss”, especially the provincial gloss.
Features of the technological process
Here (according to the magazine "Secret of the company") a list of services that you must provide, positioning yourself as a professional photography studio:
1. manual printing from negative on both color and black and white paper;
2. contact printing - that is, test prints;
3. machine optical printing;
4. wide format inkjet printing;
5. possession of development technologies for all types of films (including slide, the so-called E-6 process);
6. the ability to apply the image to various textures: paper, tracing paper, canvas, Metallic
7. knowledge of digital technologies: scanning, photo-toad, recording on digital media.
In order to achieve the quality of a professional photo studio, you need to follow the simple principle: “Jews, do not spare the tea leaves!”. Professionals use only high-quality licensed imported reagents, do not save on paper. The rejection of printed images is high: out of four prints, three are sent to the bin - and only one to the client. In addition, you must acquire a frame machine (frame-immersion processors of two types: 1) for negative and 2) slide film) and a rotary machine.
Color transparencies (slide) films (process E-6) are processed in a Tecnolab Delta 60 TV frame machine.
For negative films (process C-41), a Tecnolab Delta 55 TV frame machine is purchased.
Black and white negative films appear in the Jobo rotation machine.
Professionals argue that the best quality is provided only in those frame machines that operate on the principle of parallel transfer.
How it works?
Developed films are fixed on the frame. Then they are successively transferred from the bath to the bath with intermediate rinses (between immersions in different working solutions). Therefore, the film does not concern anything extraneous. The computer-based control system for the characteristics of the solutions, as well as the saturation of the wash water and reagents with nitrogen, guarantee: 1) the absence of color distortions, stains, spots on the surface, 2) the further long-term storage of photographic materials in the archive, 3) the absence of scratches left by the passage machines.
In addition to the frame machine, to prevent the same scratches on the emulsion, you will need to equip the laboratory workplace with a compressor with compressed air that removes dust from the room.
The cost of equipment for the darkroom
Equipment, of course, is not cheap. It is worth thinking about leasing. It allows you to start a digital photo business with an initial investment of about 25 thousand dollars. As the number of customers grows, you can purchase more powerful equipment, handing over the former according to trade-in schemes. ”
So how much does the entire set of equipment cost? From 200 to 300 thousand dollars. Buying equipment in the property, you reduce the risks of business to a minimum. Because such highly liquid equipment is an investment. Even if the business does not work out - the equipment will be bought with great pleasure.
The ideal to strive for is 10 thousand films per month or, in terms of photographs (prints) of 200 thousand photographs. These are very high figures, but access to them is mandatory for a fully successful business. In general, two years of successful work can go to zero. What will allow you to unwind faster? Bet on a digital photo. Bet on the sale of related products. Collaboration with advertising agencies (which will be your customers).
Pitfalls of the photobusiness
The equipment is moody. There is only one salvation from this - market players are strongly advised to conclude a service contract with both the direct supplier and the distributor, in case the purchase is not made directly. If during the year (warranty period) you have no problems with the equipment, then it will not arise. According to statistics, factory defects are 5%.
The second problem is software dependency. Buying equipment of some companies, you run the risk of becoming dependent on their licensed software, which others update almost every month! Therefore, before concluding an attractively cheap contract, check to see if they will get their software by selling them to you. Usually not quite honest players do this.
1 accountant (outsourcing)
2 print operators
2 film developers
1 technologist (he is responsible for the production process and quality control)
Best of all, if you yourself, the owner of the business, take on the role of a technologist, at least until you find yourself a quality and worthy replacement.
* The article is more than 8 years old. May contain outdated data