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Presto Photographics closes

After 31 years operating Presto Photographics on the Gold Coast, Don and Barbara Shawyer have decided to retire, tolling the bell on yet another Australian specialist photo retailing outlet.

As has been the case more often than not recently, Don and Barb (pictured right) weren’t able to sell the Ashmore outlet as a going concern, having tried to find a buyer since January this year. (Consequently, they have some cameras and printing and photo book making gear to sell – see below.)

‘You have to draw that line  at some stage,’ said Don. ‘I’m 68 next month, so that will do. It was a bit of a relief after we decided, really,’ he added.

Both Don  and Barb worked for Telecom (now Telstra) prior to opening Presto in 1992. It was operating as an AgfaLab at the time. As a teenager, Don worked in his fathers’ camera store in Grafton, so he was already familiar with the photo trade.

They moved Presto Photographics from Ashmore Shopping Centre to a larger store in an industrial unit over 10 years ago, in line of sight of the original premises, bringing a loyal customer base built up over 20 years with them.

He recalls with affection the days when they would put 100 rolls of film a day through the minilab in busy periods, noting ‘all that changed when digital came in’. Nonetheless, Presto invested in the first digital lab in Queensland, at a time when the asking price for one of these units was an eye-watering six figure sum.

‘My accountant told me I could have bought a house on The Canal for what I paid for it, but nonetheless it was a good move!’

He picked up a lot of professional work with the digital lab, something of a mixed blessing as he discovered that pros are, unsurprisingly, very demanding. ‘They want the best job for the least money.’

Presto Photographic moved out of hardware after the consumer electronics chains moved in and undercut specialist retailers’ margins.

Instead Don and Barb kept their prints at a profitable price point and focussed on expanding their range of services, getting a good handle on Photoshop to provide image restoration and enhancement services, posters, canvas and photo books, film processing, and moving into professional photography themselves by offering studio photography, wedding, sports and other events-based services.

Don was one of the few specialist photo retailers who actually took a stand against the loss-leading tactics of Harvey Norman, Big W and other box movers who were offering 8 cent prints to drive traffic into their stores. These were the lowest prices for photo prints anywhere else in the world. This deep discounting had a devastating effect on the photo specialist channel, which to this day hasn’t really recovered. (Onya Fujifilm Australia!)

Don actually took the issue to the ACCC on a couple of occasions where he received some sympathy, but no resolution. The ACCC position at the time was that so long as the consumer was able to save a cent or two, the entire specialist channel could be hung out to dry.

This article from 2010 – ACCC looks at underpriced prints, again – outlines the destruction to Australian photo retailing caused by the big retailers and their supplier Fujifilm, and how Don tried to make a difference.


While Don and Barbs’ minilab has been sent offshore, there are a few other pieces of equipment and professional camera gear still looking for a good home.

The highlight would probably be the Photostory Italo layflat book-binding machine, with built in creaser, allignment, oven, press and electronic guilliotine. It binds professional digital portrait and landscape photobooks from size 4 x 6-inch up to 20×20-inch (10 x 15 cm up to 50 x 50 cm).

Here’s the full list:

– PHOTOSTORY ITALO Photo book machine (Assembly station, oven, press and electric guillotine in one machine) – This machine produces high quality, lay flat style books. Includes consumables;

– 2 x KODAK G4XLII Photo Kiosks (new widescreen touchscreen monitors May 2023);
– 4 x KODAK G4XE Photo Kiosks;

– EPSON STYLUS PRO 7880 24″ wide format inkjet printer;

– NEOLAM 3256 A3 heavy duty Laminator;

– NIKON Cameras & Lenses – D750; 2 x D700’s; 24-70mm; 70-200mm; 50mm; 90mm Macro;

– Studio Lighting and Backdrop systems.

Contact Don Shawyer,
0433 148 085


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