So what does it mean to the photography industry when more than 2000 studio locations across the US shut down? That was the announcement last week when financially struggling CPI Corp, with locations in Sears and Wal-Mart stores, decided to shut down its outlets.

You can look at it in two ways.

1. The photography industry is doomed. Digital photography has done so much damage to the industry as we know it, that even big box store can no longer make a profit. People can take quick portraits with their own smart technology, and share it in dozens of ways. They don’t want the 8×10 on the wall anymore, and have no desire to sit through a traditional family portrait anymore.

2. People have no desire for the “stand on the x” portrait experience. Everywhere they go, there is someone with a “camera” in hand. From standing in line at the movies, to playing at the park with friends, cameras and quick action images are now something that’s part of our every day life.

What Does It Mean When Sears/Wal-Mart Portrait Studios Shut Down

Which one resonates with you?

I go with option 2.

People use to go to Sears or Wal-Mart for a quick way to remember the year in photos. When they wanted to send out holiday cards, or even update the photo on their desks, they loaded the family up in the car and spent a couple of hours at the big box store. It was their best option.

Not so anymore. Now, everywhere they go, they have the ability to shoot an image. If their child looks cute in line at school, they take a picture. If the family is enjoying a picnic in the park, they shoot a few pictures. Then they load those up as wallpaper to their computer screens, and voila, instant memories on their desks at work. Who needs a frame with a photograph?

The big box stores made people dress up in ways they didn’t want to, stand on an x they really didn’t feel comfortable with, and pretend they are all happy, even though they’ve spent the last 45 minutes trying to keep “Johnny” happy as they sat in line, waiting for their turn. That fake smile just wasn’t worth it anymore.

Today’s world is changing. People’s ideas of photography are changing too. And unfortunately, many photographers don’t get that. They’re still trying to sell old world photography to a new marketplace. I hear all kinds of questions surrounding this issue every day.

“Should I give them the images on CD rather than make them buy a package with a 16×20?”

“Should I be concerned they only want digital images?”

Nope. Its not clients that need to change. Its us as photographers that need to change.

Its not that people don’t want photography any more. They do. But they want something more than the standard “stand on the x” format. They can do that themselves. They want something that says “WOW”.

And they don’t want an 8×10, they want a digital file to do with as they please.

Is there a problem with that? Nope. You just have to charge for it.

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How do you think this latest shut down will impact the photography industry? I’d love to hear your take on things.

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