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Franchise model has a place

Our story on ‘disruptive’ new wedding photography business Emotion Wedding Photography prompted as many comments from readers as most local photography websites attract in a year! Prominent among them was a contribution from Mark Hill, who heads up another new photographic franchise, Jim’s Photography and Drones. We thought this deserved re-publishing as a stand-alone opinion piece – keeping in mind these are Mark’s opinions, not necessarily those of Inside Imaging:

Mark Hill (right) started Jim’s Photography and Drones with Matteo Rizzi (left) in 2017.

Congratulations Michael, Peter and Vitorio.
Best wishes on your new venture…

I’ve read with interest all the preceding comments and even though I rarely post personal views or comments online,  I felt compelled to say something now.

Yes the industry is changing. It always has been changing. And will continue to do so.

The market flows through time as it creates eddies and sidestreams. Sometimes it takes a new path and creates an entirely new stream. An opportunity presents itself to the entrepreneurial operator who recognises this new potential.

The photography market is so different to how it was when most of us started out (myself back in 1983). I’ve seen the changes and wondered what will come next. This new venture is only one of the many other changes we’re going to see if we hang around long enough.

I’ve personally invested a working lifetime in promoting the values and benefits of quality professional photography. I’m an absolute stickler for over-the-top customer service and honest and ethical business dealings. I’m a past award winning member of the AIPP APPAs and several other industry bodies, but at no time have I ever considered my own photography as being exceptional. However, I’ve always believed in professionalism and have tried to incorporate the ideals espoused by the AIPP in my past photography businesses.

When I approached Jim Penman in early 2017 with the seed of an idea to start a photography and drones franchise division, I had a clear vision of what values I wanted to incorporate into the new venture. One thing I made very clear to all who listened was that ANY photographer I took on would HAVE to be an existing AIPP member (or prepared to join as an emerging member). Insomuch that we are paying for any new franchisees first two years’ membership, and actively encouraging them to participate in the awards process.

I also made a personal decision to be very clear as to the type of photographer we’d consider granting a franchise to. Ethics and integrity being key factors. Passion and drive being other key requisites.

Of course having the ability to produce good (if not initially ‘award winning’) work also needed to be demonstrated. And the desire to learn and grow. But absolutely first and foremost was having the client’s best interest at heart.

So far I’ve only found a handful of photographers who tick all the boxes. And I’ve said ‘no’ to literally hundreds of enquiries who most clearly don’t. I had discussions at state level and national level with AIPP officials including Peter (Myers) who was very supportive. I also saw the need to fully support and uphold the professionalism the AIPP engenders.

I too copped a bit of flack from the industry in much the same way as has happened here for Emotion. But I’ve seen all this before. Every time something new and potentially ‘threatening’ rears it’s head (if your an old fart like me you’ll remember when everyone saw digital as the demise of quality photography). If it’s different it’s scary.

I’ve also held a long-standing belief that it’s a huge market and the people who would like to pigeonhole the entire segment are maybe missing the fact that it’s the market that is asking for these new services. And almost certainly it’s a segment of the market that is currently being under-serviced by conventional business models.

Our business model differs in as much as we expect our franchisees to be fully engaged with their clients in exactly the same way as any other self employed photographer (which is exactly what they are). And our prices are approx 15 percent higher than the industry average. So in our case it most definitely isn’t a ‘race to the bottom’ with either pricing or personal service. This is more likely to occur when photographers who do not have the same passion (or who charge so little that they can’t afford to invest in the time needed to properly serve their clients) enter the market.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s not a call for a less expensive or slightly less personal approach. It’s happening everywhere and usually the customer benefits by getting something satisfactory at a price they’re able to afford.

All I hope is that Michael, Peter and Vitorio find enough support within the industry bodies so that the photographers they DO employ are as capable as possible, coming from within the ranks of the AIPP, or better still being award winners.

Focus on your own segment of the market and supply your clients with the very best you have to offer, delight them with your skills and customer focus and you’ll never have to worry about the likes of Emotions, Jim’s Photography, Snapr or others.

Let’s all pull together regardless of which stream we’re paddling down as that’s the way to keep the industry strong and futureproof.

Just my thoughts. Happy New Year to all.
– Mark Hill, Jim’s Photography and Drones.

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