The market for commercial photography includes all businesses and non-profits. For Flash Commercial Photography, the target market is small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits (those with under 500 employees) based within a 15 mile radius of Rochester, NY.
In the past two years, the market for commercial photography in Rochester, NY has contracted due to the recent economic downturn. It is estimated by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce that commercial photography has shrunk from $5.7 million to $4.5 million annual revenues since two years ago. Small and medium-sized businesses which formerly used large commercial studios can no longer afford their rates. This has created an opportunity for smaller photography studios with lower overhead and prices to serve this market and seize market share in time for a market upswing.
Very Small Businesses: These businesses are generally run by their owners. Photography needs tend to be for their basic marketing collateral (signs, menus, pamphlets, brochures, websites, newsletters, etc.). These businesses generally begin by taking these photographs in-house, but, over time, determine that this method produces sub-standard results. They then seek inexpensive freelance photographers who can quickly handle their needs.
Small Businesses: These businesses have ongoing and regular needs for photography of their products and services, such as quarterly catalogs. They appreciate establishing relationships with vendors who understand their way of working, allow them access to the creative process, and reduce the stress of creating marketing materials. They prefer to work with one vendor for all photography needs and will be reluctant to change that vendor once it is found. However, they do continue to check the prices of their vendor against competitors to make sure they are getting the preferred mix of quality and price.
Medium Businesses: These businesses have marketing departments which outsource photography to photo studios. They have a higher volume of photography needs than smaller businesses and pay great attention to the quality of the images as well as the price. Volume discounts may be needed to retain businesses in this category.
Larger businesses in the Rochester area are served by large studios who can send photographers to the client site or set up shoots with little notice. These businesses require photography vendors with the capacity to shoot in multiple locations at the same time.
Smaller businesses, on the other hand, are comfortable working with smaller photography studios. They are generally unhappy with larger studios, as they find they are not a priority compared with the larger clients of the studio. They want the same level of service, scaled to the needs and budget of their business, and only a smaller studio can provide this.
Furthermore, larger businesses often bring a great deal of photo editing work in-house to their marketing departments. Smaller businesses value the ability of a photo studio to handle this work as their marketing or design departments often do not have the capacity to deal with this work when new materials are being developed.
Medium and small businesses can provide ongoing work. However, without serving very small businesses, Flash will miss out on capturing smaller customers before they grow. Working with very small businesses can also provide a wide base of customers, making the revenue streams of the business less susceptible to the loss of any one customer.
The commercial photography industry is characterized by local photo studios which serve cities or small regions. Very few businesses grow beyond this geographic range. Within a local market, such as Rochester, NY, there are dozens of photo studios in operation. Businesses seek photography vendors through referrals, internet search, and the local yellow pages. Photography studios generally base their charges on the time of the shoot as well as the number of edited photos provided.
Specific competitors for Flash Commercial Photography include:
Redwood Studios - Established 5 years ago and operating a small studio, this company focuses on product photography only
ImageMakers - Established 10 years ago, this company does not operate a studio, but uses student photographers to offer lower-priced on-site photography shoots
Flash Photographers - Established 3 years ago, this company subcontracts all of its photography work to freelance photographers, acting as a broker between these freelancers and clients. This leads to a lower level of quality assurance, and some client dissatisfaction
There are very few barriers to entry into the commercial photography business. At the low-end of the market, freelance photographers with inexpensive digital cameras start work officially and unofficially every day. However, at the high end of the market, quality photographers working with the best equipment and a studio space are protected by the capital required to purchase equipment and to rent and build out a studio.
Customers among small and medium-sized businesses seek low prices, but will not sacrifice quality. The best quality is obtained in the controlled environment of a studio, with well-trained photographers and high-quality equipment. Customers choose between photo studios based on their websites and portfolios of work, as well as the personal assurances of the salesperson they work with at the studio that their needs will be taken care of.
Word of mouth is extremely important for this business. While the product of the work becomes very visible, it is important that customers feel so strongly about the experience of working with their photo studio that they talk about it to other businesses and contacts. These referrals are extremely helpful in generating business.