PMA honors Kirk Sidley with 2015 Hall of Fame Award

Kirk Sidley
Kirk Sidley

Kirk Sidley

Join with us in congratulating our friend Kirk Sidley, owner of Picture Perfect in Portland, Ore., who is the recipient of the 2015 PMA Hall of Fame Award, PMA’s highest honor. Kirk will be recognized at the PMA 2015 Conferences, January 5, 2015, at Bally’s Las Vegas.

The PMA Conferences will immediately precede the Digital Imaging/Photography Conference and Marketplace, presented by PMA, at 2015 International CES in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. 

Kirk began his photo career in 1972 at King Size Photo Service in Everett, Wash., as a retail manager. During the next 12 years, King Size Photo grew to one of the largest photofinishers in the Pacific Northwest, with plants in Everett and Spokane, and Portland, Ore., where they operated more than 100 retail stores and a large wholesale network.

By 1980, Kirk was the Vice-President of Operations and COO. In 1983, King Size merged with Phototron Corp., which then became part of Qualex. Kirk, and his wife Shirley, started their own business, Picture Perfect, a one-hour photo chain, in Portland, Ore., in 1984. During that time Kirk also assisted John Haugen Sr., who had been his mentor at King Size, with the formation of Crown Photo Systems.

Kirk helped guide PMA as a board member for several years, taking the helm as president in 2004-2005. He has also served the industry in many other capacities throughout his career, most notably as Buck Rogers Chairman from 1998-1999, and as Chairman of the Board for Independent Photo Imagers (IPI) from 2007-2012.

Kirk and Shirley continue to operate Picture Perfect, which is a leader in providing digital photo services in the Portland area. Currently, he serves on his alma mater Portland State University’s Board, where he chairs the scholarship committee.

“We have chosen to honor Kirk Sidley with the 2015 PMA Hall of Fame Award for a career spent serving the imaging industry,” said PMA President Bill Eklund. “His many contributions to PMA and our members, as well as to other imaging industry organizations, have been truly invaluable. It is an honor to present this award to Kirk for his steadfast dedication to growing the imaging industry.”

Register for the PMA 2015 Official Business Session on Jan. 5, where Kirk will receive his award, as well as all the other exciting sessions and opportunities PMA has to offer in conjunction with CES this January, by visiting http://bit.ly/1rpOCMm.

On the PMA Podcast: Measuring image quality with Daniel Grotta

Daniel Grotta

Daniel GrottaFor more than a decade, Daniel Grotta and Sally Wiener Grotta of Digital Benchmarks have reviewed and rated digital cameras. But what are the benchmarks for photography today?
The Grottas tracked the various quality metrics for cameras for years — and Daniel finds the primary consideration for most people nowadays is simply how quickly can they get the shot, and how fast can they share it.
Are other quality considerations obsolete for all but a few shooters? Join us for an interesting discussion of what social, technical, and aesthetic aspects are now affecting imaging.
You can download the podcast or subscribe here.

Or listen in now by clicking on the player:

Focus On: Frank Simon, Ecce Terram, Germany

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frank simonEcce Terram provides software solutions and services for digital photo labs, commercial printers, and fulfillment centers. The company is headquartered in Germany, and has locations in San Francisco and Auckland (New Zealand).

Founder Frank Simon Frank is one of Europe’s Internet pioneers: he realized Germany’s Der Spiegel Online in 1994, which today is one of the most successful online media sites worldwide. After working on data security and privacy issues with the Bitnet and UseNet computer networks back in the 1990s, Simon started Ecce Terram in 1996.

He attended his first PMA show in 2006, and since 2007 his company participated in almost all PMA Shows with its own booth on the tradeshow floor. Simon has also been a speaker and panelist at PMA’s DIMA conference each year since 2011, where he’s introduced new capabilities and functionality to his multi-channel software solutions.

Now, Simon says his goal is to combine German engineering with Silicon Valley-like innovation to establish his company as a worldwide leader for photo solutions. He says his team developed the first photo app for the iPhone in 2008. Since then they’ve been at the forefront of the HTML5 compliance movement, which better enables photo software to run on mobile devices, and launched HTML5 capabilities in their Photo2Home software in 2011 — “several years ahead of other solution providers,” Simon adds.

Ecce Terram’s now also partners with on-demand photo and imaging service providers, personalized product retailers, and media companies. Simon says his open source software-based digital workflow solutions offer reliability, rapid and flexible deployment, ease-of-use, and solid ROI.
You can find out more about the company here.

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Focus On: Ezeecopy

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eezeecopy 1In 1998, married couple Chris and Gill Brady wanted to offer photocopying machines and passport printers to retail outlets nationwide, on a self-serve basis — and so they launched Ezeecopy.

The company started with just one machine, but through word-of-mouth recommendations, it expanded to its present base of just under 2,000 machines nationwide.

The company’s biggest customers now include many familiar and well-respected names such as Martin McColls, Spar, and Post Offices.

The Bradys say their retailers enjoy a good trading relationship with Ezeecopy thanks primarily to their simple commission system, on an agreement or lease. The main ‘pay-per-copy’ scheme is offered to both individual outlets and multiple stores.

eezeecopy 2All customer communication is channeled through the Head Office, the Bradys add, where volumes and service requirements can be monitored by their focused, efficient, and friendly team.

Chris said Ezeecopy joined PMA so “we could have a well-respected trade body representing our interests, at the highest levels of government and business.”

There’s more information here.

 

On the PMA Podcast: Investing in photography’s future

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evan NEntrepreneur Evan Nisselson has a long history of working with new companies in the photography field — and now with LDV Capital, he’s investing directly in start-ups that can capitalize on the changes still affecting imaging.

In this episode of the PMA Podcast, Nisselson explains what changes are having the most impact in imaging now, what he looks for in a new company, and why the Photography field remains one in which profits can be made.

You can download the episode or subscribe to our podcast here.

Or listen in now with the player below.

Focus On: Doug and Lisa Otto, PhoCentric

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 phocentric

How did two accountants end up running a large photography operation? By following their love of the outdoors, and listening to customers, reports PMA Canadian Activities Director Robert Moggach.

Banff Alberta is one of the most photographed regions in Canada, if not the world. With a backdrop of the Canadian Rockies and Lake Louise nestled in between the mountains, it is a vacation destination for young and old — and especially for photographers.

While Doug and Lisa Otto may now be serving those photographers, they didn’t start that way themselves: they each started work in the financial and accounting field in 1987. After 10 years, Doug thought the photography industry was underserviced in the Banff area — and so together they started Express Shots Photography in 1998. They first focused on attraction photography, but after acquiring two additional existing businesses (The Banff Camera Shop in 2004, and Banff Film Lab in 2006) they changed the company name to Banff Photography Inc.

The couple have two children: Christine, 16 years old, and Geoffrey, 14. Lisa and Doug are avid outdoor enthusiasts, and Lisa says they “love where we live, and embrace an outdoor lifestyle of biking, golfing, skiing and hiking.” The love of water and the outdoor life sees the family spending time at the cottage wakesurfing, wakeboarding, and swimming — whenever they are not busy servicing their customers.

The scope of the business is “a full-scale retail store that sells camera hardware, lenses, and accessories,” the Ottos say. “We also have a digital lab and large format printers. We do creative gifting and print on many substrates from mugs to metal – on line and in store. We also have a computerized matt cutter and vacuum heat press for our custom framing division. Our staff also work as professional photographers and do weddings, portraits and attraction photography services.”

They have learned not to say “No” to customers, and instead train the staff to say, “That’s a terrific idea: let me check on it and get back to you.” This approach has allowed them to discover some very profitable ideas simply by listening to customers needs. “We brought in the Go Pro cameras after being asked about them, even though they were not in our traditional photo space,” they note

Customer feedback also led to another venture: “Our number one comment and resulting business idea was “I bet you and your staff take great photos – better than I was able to get!” the Ottos said. Those words led to the creation of The Mountain Art Gallery, a separate store that allows them to sell home décor that is produced and framed in their lab as well.

Being a seasonal business, staff levels range from 8 to 30, with the summer months being the busiest time in the company. The growth in summer months is primarily needed to staff the attraction photography division, which focuses on providing tourism photography at specific locations.

What other successful initiatives have they or the staff done? They we started an Art Gallery, “which allows our staff to be published under our brand. We do the custom framing through our framing division. This promotes the staff as professional photographers in their field, and keeps our framing division busy. Never underestimate the power of home décor and what people are willing to pay for art they can’t make themselves.”

However, as in most businesses, sometimes expected successes do not always materialize. The Ottos volunteered that gifting has not been a huge success for them. It takes a great deal of time and energy to produce and display the products as compared to the revenue received. Although gifting is considered high margin, you also need high volume, given the retail price points — and they have not enjoyed enough volume. Also, a small footprint reserved for scrapbooking was not successful either, given the low-margin nature of these products. As some other camera stores have experienced, Banff Camera is selling less camera hardware — but it is selling more accessories to go with the cameras. Also, the Promaster line has shown a very positive increase for them.

“People seem to be holding onto their existing gear longer,” Doug commented, “so we have diversified into other areas such as capturing images at local attractions, teaching photo lessons and providing professional photography services to offset the gradual decline in hardware sales we are experiencing.”

Advice for other photo businesses

The Banff Camera Shop was already a member of Fotosource Canada when they purchased it, Doug says. “Belonging to such a successful buying group has been very rewarding experience, as we have had the ability to learn from our peers and receive bulk purchase rates not attainable on our own.”

They were also introduced to PMA early one, and have been active members ever since — not missing a single PMA show. “Staying current is critical to staying relevant” is their philosophy.

What advice would Lisa and Doug offer others now? “Listen to your customers!” they insist. “Not everything they say will translate into the quick fix you are looking for, but if you keep an open mind, think outside the box, and listen very carefully — eventually someone will say something brilliant.”

On a more personal note, they add that one should “think less like a traditional photographer and camera retail shop owner, and more like a customer – and constantly ask “What do I want buy?” Our store and services need to become more relevant, and become somewhere we want to shop at – not simply something we own. Great products and services don’t always translate into money if it’s not what people want. Give people what they are needing (and asking for) and the money should follow”.

What other tips do they offer their fellow PMA members? The Ottos mention two keys to their success:
The first is diversification: from the minute they started in the industry, they have looked at how to add to the bottom line by doing different things. “When we took over the store it was a very traditional camera shop — but we now do large format printing, gifting, Art and Home Décor, photo lessons, portraiture and attraction photography and just about anything a customer asks for that will make us more money that it costs to provide the service.”
“The second key is our staff,” they say. “We have a core group that have been with us just about as long as we took over the retail stores. We couldn’t operate without their dedication and knowledge. They are the ones listening to the customer and passing along what they say.”

Lisa adds that their staff have actively engaged social media with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and they even started a blog detailing what they do in a day, and showcasing the staff. “They had fun doing this project and we are really proud of their accomplishment, as it shows what we do to both our customers, and to potential future staff. The real plus of this project is that it really is a great marketing tool for new hires!”

Here is the main company site.
The blog is here.
Here is a video the staff made about work in Banff.

phocentric in store

 

On the PMA Podcast: Have you considered rentals as a profit stream?

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stevebiggs

While researching a story about the rental business for an upcoming issue of PMA Magazine, Contributing Editor Don Long talked with Steve Biggs of Biggs Camera, in Charlotte, NC. On this episode of the PMA Podcast, Steve explains how equipment rentals have become a very profitable addition to the business, at a time when equipment sales have been eroding, and finishing sales have dropped off. Rentals, he says, are a great way to generate traffic and bring “ideal” customers to the counter, and, better yet, deliver a significant revenue stream.

You can download the episode or subscribe to our podcast here.

Or listen in now through the player below:

Welcome, new members of PMA and PPFA

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Let’s welcome more than two dozen new members to PMA and PPFA!

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4 Corners Matting & Framing, Creston, BC, Canada

A Frame Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Ampersand Projects, Lambertville, NJ

Artisan Frames, New Braunfels, TX

Big Apple Art Gallery, New York, NY

Bisaros Pharmacy, Panania, NSW, Australia

Bridgetowne Framing Gallery, Wauwatosa, WI

Candidshooter Photography, Hesperia, CA,

Colette’s Custom Framing, Kailua Kona, HI

Croft’s Photographic Services, Longview, TX,

Custom Picture Framing of Brownsburg, Brownsburg, IN

Eventphotography.com, Ormeau, QLD, Australia

Framing By Jason LLC, Minneapolis, MN

Galleria Z-Custom Picture Framing & Beyond, Nacogdoches, TX

Gatlin’s Framing and Photography, New Bedford, MA

John Stalowy Productions LLC, Bigfork, MT,

Lowell Gallery, Lowell, MA

Mix Camera Werx, Gilbert, AZ,

Mount & Frame, San Diego, CA

Rancho Art and Frame, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Sandcastles Custom Framing, San Diego, CA

Traditions Framing, Kalamazoo, MI

Walden Framer, Lexington, MA

Wyman Frame, Oklahoma City, OK

 

On the PMA Podcast: Ron and Julia King’s first year as owners of Lens & Shutter

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PMApodcast_icon_sqWhat happens when a former business owner emigrates across the Atlantic and wants to open a business? What if they find a forty year old camera store that has recently filed bankruptcy? This is the story of Ron and Julia King, and you can listen in as they tell Bill McCurry about their first year as owners of Lens & Shutter, headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Learn why they now love to come to work and feel they are contributing to their community, with more left to give. Listen in and/or read the transcript in this week’s PMA Podcast at www.pmapodcast.org, or use the player below.

Focus On: Matt Makinson, Black & White Photographics

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I am always laughing when I speak to Matt Makinson: He has an irreverent sense of humor, he’s down to earth and successful — but more importantly, he is supportive of people and an advocate for PMA.   So he is right up there in my book!
However, he is so busy it has been hard to pin him down — but we finally got to chat.  Here is his story.— Barbara Bryan, PMA Australia

Matt started Black & White Photographics in 1982.   He had taught himself photography and processing at school, and earned a Certificate of Photography at TAFE. He then worked in a lab for about 8 months, teaching himself how to use their machinery, and training other staff.  Next, he studied economics at Flinders University, and while studying he would keep processing for other labs and photographers.

But that “got out of control,” he says, to the point he decided he could actually enjoy doing it as a profession. His business snowballed, and by 2003 the lab was running 24 hours a day, using three shifts just processing and printing. “By Monday 9am we’d have enough work to last us till Wednesday night,” he says.

When the imaging industry went digital in 2000, he notes, quality improved dramatically, volume increased massively,  and it was more lucrative. But now, it has become increasingly more competitive — which means having to do more marketing, staying on top of social media, and doing more advertising — whereas in the beginning a simple Yellow Pages ad would do the trick. “The market place has changed,” he says. “Now there are mass merchant stores doing prints at unrealistic prices as a loss leader, making it more difficult to compete.  So it’s all about service!”

These days, Black & White Photographics is a full service professional laboratory  processing negatives (color and black & white),  slide film processing (one of a handful that does this), fine art printing, stretched canvas printing, and silver halide printing. Beside retail and professional photographers, the growth in wholesale processing and printing to other labs Australia wide has been significant, Matt says. This growth has been a result of labs not having the rollage to maintain their C-41 or E-6 process, as well as extra services like canvas printing.

Matt has many hobbies, including astro photography, share trading (best trade was $15,000 profit in ten minutes during a meeting), sailing on his trimaran, wind surfing, or going to his hobby farm close to the mouth of the Murray River, where he has planted several thousand native trees to support his environmental interests.

His partner Carrie Joyner is a garden designer these days, but as an accomplished photographer she has taken photographs of the Queen, Kylie Minogue, and rock stars including U2.