Yesterday, Profoto announced that it had acquired the robotic, automated photography studio company StyleShoots for $18 million. After hearing feedback, the company’s CEO promises that the goal isn’t to put photographers out of business.
Profoto CEO Anders Hedebark spoke to PetaPixel to clarify why the light-shaping company chose to purchase StyleShoots and reiterated his commitment to creative photography, which he says is in no danger from the robotic photo studio company’s products.
Automated Photography Won’t Replace Creative Photography
Hedebark says that the type of photography that StyleShoots automated studios produce is not the kind of work that creative photographers would do, and goes so far as to argue that automation of certain types of photography actually makes it possible for working professional photographers to earn new business.
“We have seen an increase in workflow support for e-commerce photography,” he says. “This type of photography is more like a factory than what we typically think of as creative photographers. It is repetitive, but the need for it in e-commerce is exploding.”
The Profoto CEO says that he is aware of situations where a product will arrive at a company and need to be photographed and listed for sale online in a time frame of as little as 24 hours. That kind of “burn and turn” style of photography is extremely commoditized and, he argues, not the kind of work professional photographers are looking to do.
“It’s different from our core business of creative work — it’s the opposite side,” Hedebark explains. “The market is going in two directions: both high-quality work and high-productivity work. A business has to choose, and now Profoto has the ability to do both.”
He argues that when a business is able to quickly turn around simple, explanatory images like those that the StyleShoots systems are designed to make, it actually results in more opportunities for photographers to do creative work that these machines aren’t capable of producing.
“We want to offer a solution to the repetitive type of photography for e-commerce customers because many times, this results in the ability for these companies to invest even more in creative photo content but also video content. So we see everything is increasing in both these areas.”
Hedebark says that Profoto desires to help all levels of photography as it evolves and flexes with changing business demands. As a business owner and supporter of the photography industry for 25 years, he says that it’s his responsibility to both support photographers and also be flexible in his business to grow into changing market demands.
“It is important to me to say to all photographers that we are still investing in what they need to be more creative. There were some comments that StyleShoots products would replace photographers, and that would never ever happen,” Hedebark says.
He argues that the purposes of the photos made with automated photography and those shot by a working professional are completely different.
“The need for creative photography to drive traffic to websites to drive conversions is in contrast to the goals of e-commerce photography,” he says.
Pointing to his jacket as an example, Hedebark says that a photo of it in the situations where StyleShoots would be used would be completely practical and designed only to show a buyer what they are going to purchase.
“It’s a different kind of photography that no creative is doing today. Creative photographers are doing great work to drive demand, and I recommend they keep doing it and charge for it, that is a key factor! The value for e-commerce companies in having creative photography is huge, and it’s different [than what StyleShoots offers].”
“We Are Increasing Investments for Creative Photographers”
Hedebark says that the purchase of StyleShoots isn’t a sign that the company is moving away from supporting professional creative photographers. He says that the company currently invests 10% of sales back into product development, specifically with regard to lighting and light shaping tools for both on-location and high-end studio products.
“I love bringing up new products,” he says and adds that his specialty was originally product development.
“Every time we are launching a new product we do so to follow demands from photographers. We listen and know what they need and we are investing more. My point is to actually put more money into development and we are doing our utmost to bring more to market,” he says.
“It just takes a long time: four to six quarters to bring a product to market, even longer sometimes. Now with COVID, Ukraine, lockdowns, and component shortages, everything is challenging. But we are working hard to solve this.”
Hedebark says that branding for StyleShoots and how it will integrate with Profoto is still undecided. He and the StyleShoots team are meeting over the next couple of days to determine the future of both brands and how they will work with one another.
When asked if Profoto was working to develop new technologies that would help professional working photographers directly, Hedebark responded emphatically.
“We are committed to it. There is nothing more important than bringing more products to allow people to be more creative. It’s what we do.”