MailPix photo gift app integrates with Amazon cloud drive



Last week Amazon announced free photo storage for its Prime customers — and now photo-printing and gifting site MailPix says its integration with Amazon Cloud Drive lets users order items directly from an Android or Amazon Fire phone.

“Our apps have been integrated with user’s phones and popular social sharing services such as Facebook and Instagram,’ the company says. “We wanted to take it to the next level and allow Amazon users to use the photos they have on Amazon Cloud Drive and then choose from more than 25 gift items.”

The Android app is here.

Focus On: Doug and Lisa Otto, 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?



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:

Mylio image service organizes all your photos on all your devices



According to IDC’s worldwide forecast, more than 1.3 trillion photos will be taken this year — and “keeping up with all those pictures is a challenge for everybody, professional and amateur alike,” says MyLO, a start-up offering a new service for “for taking care of all your pictures… for your life, and the life of your images.”

The Mylio software runs on Windows and Macintosh computers, and iOS phones and tablets (Android is in development). You can import all your photos from your computers, mobile devices, and services such as Facebook and Flickr. From there, changes made to your library of photos or edits on individual images are reflected throughout your network instantly, the company says. New photos captured on your phone automatically show up on your PC; photos copied from your camera to your computer are instantly viewable on your phone.

Bellevue, Washington-based MyLO says its service also “automatically protects your pictures so that they are safe even if your computer is stolen, your phone is lost, or your house burns down.” Back up is automatic across storage devices and an optional cloud service.

The software also provides basic and high-end photo enhancement tools, as well as Raw image editing.

The cross-device synching service is sold on a subscription basis, with prices starting at $50 per year. A free trial  supports up to 1,000 files on three devices.

Polaroid Fotobar expands into “micro-retail” sites

poloroid fotobar

poloroid fotobar

The Polaroid Fotobar “retail concept” company is  opening seven “micro-retail locations” this month in California.

What’s a micro-retail location? 300-square-foot stores that “represent the best of our technology, merchandising and retail knowledge, creating a highly scalable, efficient store model that can be rolled out nationwide,” the company says.

The seven micro-stores will open throughout October and November in Westfield mall locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose, Calif.

Polaroid Fotobar launched two years ago, and now has stores in South Florida and Las Vegas. It says its “fun, and experiential retail destination is changing the paradigm of how people liberate their photos and turn them into innovative and memorable products.”

Westfield is involved in 40 shopping centers in the United States and United Kingdom.

On the PMA Podcast: Get on board with Save Your Photos Day


PMApodcast_icon_sqOn this episode of the PMA Podcast, Jen Kruger, publisher of PMA Magazine, talks with Cathi Nelson, founder of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO) and the Save Your Photos Alliance. The Alliance held its first annual Save Your Photos Day for the first time on September 27. Listen in at, or using the player below, as Cathi discusses the concept behind the event, how the idea spread to four different countries in only 90 days, what imaging businesses did to make the most of it in their communities, and how you can get involved next time around.

How to hang ’em…

shutterfly hangs

shutterfly hangsWe’ve all matured past the point of taping prints onto the sheetrock, right? >cough<

And tacks? Please no…

It can be tricky to get your large prints up onto a drywall, let alone concrete or other materials. Shutterfly is offering a thorough overview of how hang a big photo on just about any type of wall.

“Creating a gallery wall is easier than you think,” the company says. “Whether you want to create a family wall or add decorative artwork to your office, our design-a-wall tool will help you do just that. You can hang canvas prints, metal prints, wood wall art and more. This guide will help you hang pictures on any surface: drywall, plaster, brick and concrete.”

The full infographic is here.

(via PetaPixel)


LifePics to print Picture Keeper pics

picture keeper

picture keeperPicture Keeper says it “makes photo backup easy for anyone” with “the world’s first all-in-one USB device with embedded software to protect pictures and other irreplaceable files.” Now the company is teaming with the LifePics photo product fulfillment system, and says “Retailers will see the benefit of increased traffic from customers who have rounded up all their digital photos, and now have a very easy path to print them.”

Picture Keeper manufactures USB storage devices that automatically back-up all of a consumer’s images from a PC, and “helps people find and save their precious photos,” the company says. It has more than 400,000 users, who will now “print images through any retail store in the LifePics network” of 23,000 stores using the white-label solution for photos and personalized print products.


On the PMA Podcast: Options in output – Moving from kiosks to mobile


PMAN PMApodcast_100pxPhoto Finale spun-off from Lucidiom a year ago. In September 2014, the original company declared bankruptcy, so we spoke with co-founder Steve Giordano Jr. about what lead to the birth of each firm, where things stand in the photo output business today, and how you can better employ analytics and targeted marketing in your own business.

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

Or tune in now through the embedded player below.

On the PMA Podcast: Fotofast makes the right move


Just three years after a major move to a new storefront location, Brisbane, Australia’s fotofast moved again, having watched its bottom line disappear in what should have been a prime location. A little more than a month after this latest move, Phil Gresham, a former DIMA president, joins us on the PMA Podcast to talk about what the new location has delivered in terms of costs, clients and profits (hooray!), and the restructuring that was required. You’ve got to hear what his rental costs were in the old location!

Listen in at, or use the player below. And be sure to look for an article about Phil and his new shop in the upcoming issue of PMA Magazine.