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What I need to start a photo developing store

Crystal Royer , Sep 06, 2007; 12:25 a.m.

Hi, I sure hope someone can help me. I have looked all over the internet for answers. I really want to open a photo developing shop in my home town. We have to drive atleast 20 miles to have pictures developed. What I need to know is what type of equipment I will need and what's the best. I really haven't got a clue on any of this, but I am willing to learn it all. I know I need a minilab, but what I don't know is what kind and what I need for it. I also need to know about how much I should spend on one and if I need to buy new or used. I would like to have a kiosk in my shop, so if anyone knows about them, I would like to know what kind and how much I should spend on one. I would also like to know where the best place to buy all this would be. If anyone could help it would be greatly appreciated.

Responses


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Jos van Eekelen , Sep 06, 2007; 02:08 a.m.

Why don't you contact Fuji, Noristsu, Kodak or any other supplier and have a look what they come up with. There must be several options (2nd hand, franchise, to name 2 that come to mind), these companies can probably help you with advise, etc. I'd consider the potential market first. Given your questions I'd start with a business plan first. Is there a reason why your home town does not offer these facilities (anymore)?

Art Haykin , Sep 06, 2007; 02:10 a.m.

Today, you will find real bargains in used, reconditioned 1-hour lab set-ups, as the market for such is in sharp decline. Major brand film processors and printers that sold new for a couple of hundred thousand, will now go for about 1/3rd or less, then you'll. need all the ancillary equipment like a neg cutter, racks, a silver recovery unit, a chemical testing instrument, an inventory of paper and chemicals, the required plumbing and wiring, etc. 100 grand ought to it if you shop it carefully. Generally speaking, you must do about 15 to 20 rolls a day, plus reprints, to just break even. It's a very labor instensive business, what with the day to day operation, maintenance, and the fact that someone must be there nearly every day. It can get lonely.

Shay Browning , Sep 06, 2007; 03:41 a.m.

I hate to discourage people because it seems that's all they do when you ask for advice about something especially as big as this, they never seem to have the vision you do. Art gets right to the point about getting some items you asked about but a few things bother me while I read this post, sort of in between the lines things and bigger picture ideas. One is if you have to drive 20 miles to get pictures developed it sounds like you live in the middle of nowhere. So I ask, how much business can you expect in an area like this? Really I have no idea about where to get the things to start a business like this but I do understand business, a little. Art brings up a great point he said "...the market for such is in sharp decline..." now that dosen't sound like something I would want to invest in. However that dosen't mean some savvy individual can't take advantage of it and make it work what I'm saying is it will be extremly difficult. It really all comes down to business and simply whether or not you can make a profit. I think in this day and age the masses don't really care about their pictures,photographiclly speaking, and just want there rolls developed. All they have to do is take some crappy pictures on a crappy disposable camera and have it developed on a $100,000 machine. I got an idea, what if you could sell cameras in a vending machine, like lets say at the entrance of a Zoo and in that machine you would sell disposable cameras then on the way out people would put there camears in the machine and the pictures would pop out. Now that starts to sound like an idea but if you do it and get rich don't forget me ok? Shay.

Craig Shearman , Sep 06, 2007; 11:49 a.m.

Shay is right. The business angles are much more important here than the equipment. How big is your town? Would this be a standalone business, part of a photo studio, part of a drug store, donut shop, hair salon, etc. that you aleady own? Have you run any kind of business before. Are you enough of a photographer that the quality could be any better than elsewhere, or would you just be another person who's primarily a businessperson and secondarily a photographer? To drive 20 miles to have photos developed do you mean for any developing at all or for a real lab. Is there a Wal-Mart or other major retailer in town you would be competing against? You would definitely have to offer C-41 processing even though that's on its way out for consumers. You would definitely have to be able to print from digital files. Have you considered a franchise with MotoPhoto or similar labs? They can advise you on both the business aspects and the equipment.

Crystal Royer , Sep 06, 2007; 11:47 p.m.

Hello to everyone again and thank all of you for your responses.I am gonna try and answer a few questions. It will be a standalone business and I have never ran a business. I do know that it will be alot of work and that is why I am trying to get as much information as possible before I persue this. I am not a photographer, I don't plan on taking pictures, I just want to develop them. There are no other competitors, no walmarts, no walgreens, etc. It is a small town and I am not looking to get rich, I am just trying to help the community. I know how aggrevating it is to me and many more people to have to go out of town to get pictures developed. Craig, you mentioned a C-41 and I have no idea what that is and would like for you to explain it to me, please. And also if you could explain to me about the MotoPhoto, again I have no idea what that is. I do plan to offer other services once I get set up and going in my business, I figure I should start one thing at a time. I and several other people feel that it will do really well in this little town. I really believe it is worth trying and if it doesn't work, no one can't say I didn't try. I really want to thank all of you for taking the time and responding.

Gary Crabbe , Sep 07, 2007; 01:50 a.m.

Do you want to develop just prints (photos) or are you also talking about developing rolls of film in order to the get prints made. If the first, and people will be bringing in digital files, then Fujix or Kodak printers should work fine. There are even small desktop printers that hook into your own computer to make 4x6 prints. If your talking about developing film, I'd give this a real hard think - as I'll bet that many of the film processing chemicals may not be produced in a number of years. (i.e. when was the last time you played an LP or 8-track tape)

Craig Shearman , Sep 07, 2007; 12:55 p.m.

C-41 is the chemical processing for developing color negative (print) film. There is a different color process (RA-4 or is that an older one) for developing the prints from negatives. Then there's E-6 for developing color slides. Motophoto is a franchise company that has thousands of locally owned photo labs across the country. It's like McDonalds -- you own the business, but you pay for the use of their name and they provide you with marketing. Go to www. motophoto.com and click on "Franchising" at the right top of the page. My gut instinct is that if you're not a photographer, don't know what C-41 is and haven't heard of MotoPhoto, this is probably not the business for you. If you were an experienced business owner, then I might say sure you can see that there's a business opportunity, learn the business, open the shop and hopefully make money the same as if it were a service station, McDonald's or a beauty salon. Any franchise company -- MotoPhoto or McDonald's or Jiffy Lube -- would be willing to assess whether they think you have what it takes to run a business, then work with you, provided you have enough money to invest. Most will be honest and tell you if they don't think you're a good candidate. But if you don't know the specific business and don't have any prior business experience, I'd say it's an uphill battle.

Shay Browning , Sep 08, 2007; 01:34 a.m.

Craig hit the spot. Maybe look for a partner that understands the specifics. For the most part though I would say your selling a service that is also a product but first and foremost it is a service. People want you to service them with their pictures. Most of the people will just want their 4x6's and be on their way. Don't worry about the fringe right away, just worry about how to best serve the masses. Their is a local shop by me where you can buy $5,000 lenses but they keep those in the back and one wouldn't even know they sell them unless they asked. The majority of the store is filled with frames and other small items. They also have a small studio for portraits. I would suggest finding stores like this and take a list of questions. You may also consider working for someone else that owns a store and learning it. There is much for you to learn and I wish you well, Shay.

Art Haykin , Sep 08, 2007; 09:32 a.m.

When I first came to Bend, Oregon, it was a small town of about 26K, and there were MANY 1-hour establishments, including very busy ones at WalMart and Costco. I worked for one in a chain camera store in mall, which has sinced moved away.

The thing that brought business to this town was the popular ski resort, the outdoor sports like river rafting, hunting, and rock climbing. Without these, NOTHING!

If there aren't 1-hour services there, it's for a reason, as stated above. Demand dictates supply.

Further, if you don't know about photography and processing, you won't have a prayer of succeeding, and this applies as well to computers and digital shooting and processing. Silver based film and chemical processing are on their way down, and soon will be nearly out.

Now, 1-hour places are either closing or adapting to the computer age.

I'd research this idea VERY carefully and thoroughly.


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