River Imaging photo co-op


It‘s Wednesday already, a day when we usually talk business. A couple weeks ago I mentioned possibly “downsizing“ my photo studio, Daylight Photo. Since then I‘ve received some wonderful input on the subject. Faithful readers Jan Klier and Juan Bonilla have suggested the benefits of possibly renting out part of Daylight Photo to other photographers, either full-time or on a “time share” basis in order to cut expenses. This kind of system is working well for Jan, he is currently part of such an arrangement. Juan (another Cincinnati photographer) pointed to how a local photo studio has just recently revamped and rebranded themselves as River Imaging.

River Imaging is a photo co-op consisting of three commercial photographers and a professional post-production provider. They’ve assembled a great deal of talent under one roof and have a beautiful, large (very large) studio space to offer clients. There are two primary goals of the co-op:

1. To cut expenses for the individual photographers. As they point out in this article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, local clients are actively cutting advertising budgets so reducing overhead only makes sense. They’re going about it by splitting up expenses among several photographers.
2. Forming a team of this sort will give them the ability to handle larger jobs than they could land individually, creating new marketing possibilities.

I was just down at River Imaging last week (it’s only five minutes from my house) talking to Randy Hoover, the food specialist, about the new venture. Randy is really excited about their potential and this concept appears to be a great fit for him (he explains the benefits in the aforementioned Enquirer article). He was getting ready for their grand opening party to be held the following night (the same night I’d be hosting 35 of my fellow area  ASMP photographers at Daylight Photo for our every other month Pints ‘n’ Pixels get-together…great turnout, sorry you missed it, Ryan!).

The whole venture has been pulled together by Al Lang,  a well-established, well-respected Cincinnati photographer and all around nice guy. My business partner, Bob, and I met with Al over a year ago regarding the concept but didn’t feel it was quite the right fit for us. Our overhead at Daylight Photo is already low enough that it wouldn’t be a huge financial savings by partnering and we’re tending toward simplification. Much of our business is based on being nimble and reacting quickly so we weren’t sure how it would work scheduling around additional photographers. While it can be exciting to grow a business, our recent experiences have us tending toward becoming “leaner and meaner”.

There’s a lot to be said for the potential benefits of partnering with other photographers and creating a larger entity. I wish them the best and would love to see this become a successful business model. Most photographers are downsizing so they may be on to something by providing services above and beyond what most studios are capable of. One of the keys is finding the right combination of photographers and it appears they’ve accomplished that. Now it’s up to the marketplace to decide if it’s the path to photo business success.

Sometimes it’s nice to just “change gears“. So many of the great photographers have distinctive stages to their careers…Richard Avedon, Annie Liebovitz and Gordon Parks. Just as River Imaging has chosen growth as the path to their collective success, I’m getting more and more excited about the thought of reinventing. More than anything I’d like to get back to my first love of photography and begin exploring more documentary and editorial work. Editorial photography doesn’t go very far toward paying the overhead of a studio so we only accept a few such jobs a year, eschewing it for work that goes toward paying the bills. Without the commitment to a large studio I’d be free to go after much more of that type of work.

A large part of that appeal has been inspired by you, the readers of prophotolife. I’m seeing so much wonderful photography that you’ve created just for the love of photography, not because you‘re getting paid to do it. It’s inspiring me to really dig down to rediscover my photo roots.

Shoot, now we‘re right back to “the grass is always greener“!  Regardless of what I’m shooting 3-6 months from now, I hope to have you all still along for the ride, learning together as we go. ;)