Who knew putting together a world-class cattle photographer with an Ag science degree and another Fresno State Ag science major working on a dairy farm would result in not just a beautiful marriage but a very successful photo store breaking the mold in Fresno, California? But that is the pedigree of Horn Photo.
“We believe the image is the center of our world,” said Stan. “Our industry has to remind people, and remind ourselves, of that wonderful feeling when a picture is viewed for the first time. Whether it’s a print, a restoration or a picture they took with their phone, there’s that special moment of pride that photographers feel. We need to feel it too.”
Horn Photo is a wonderful example of how enthusiasm and an understanding of where our industry is going can create a thriving, exciting business. My conversation with Shelly and Stan convinced me there is a bright future in front of us; however, we have to reclaim the emotion of a great picture to make it happen. And one of the factors it starts with is appreciating the potential of smartphone cameras to drive the future.
“The phone has finally become the bridge we’ve been talking about. It’s our gateway for people to fall in love with photography again. We see it every day; young people going from phones to mirrorless cameras, and then up to a better mirrorless, or better lenses and accessories,” Stan said. “They’re also starting to appreciate the special nature of a printed picture.”
Millennials Go Retro
That’s not all. They’re also buying film cameras and processing film. “That’s a growing niche in our store,” explained Shelly. “We do a lot of film developing, but 80% of those customers want it on a CD or sent to a Dropbox account. You know the instant gratification thing that’s driving millennials and Gen Z consumers? Well, we’re seeing the opposite.”
“The kids love the mystery and anticipation of waiting to see what they shot,” interjected Stan. “Everything comes around. What you think you’d never want to do again, they’ll start doing. Next thing you know people will start riding horses again!” According to Stan and Shelly, so many of their younger customers are taking pictures, either on their phones or with film cameras, or graduating to mirrorless cameras. And, importantly, they’re appreciating the end results.
“We’re big advocates of making prints; that’s part of the future,” explained Stan. “Our customers say there’s no one else like us. So many photo labs left the business just when this younger generation began discovering prints. We don’t even have to discount them; we just have to be here for them to deliver their memories.”
I think our industry has to remind people of that wonderful feeling people get when they frame a picture they took themselves and hang it on their wall,” added Shelly. “And they’re realizing that while the pictures they take with their phones give them the same feeling, they can get better pictures with real cameras.”
Horn Photo: Fostering Pride
“We also do a lot of Christmas cards,” said Stan. “I laugh, because in the last few years, we’ve invested in new printers and have some of the most beautiful Christmas cards. However, some of the pictures we’re printing on them from phones just aren’t doing the cards justice! But that’s OK, because people can be proud of even bad pictures since they created them. In addition, we’re showing them there’s a difference between a good picture and a great one.”
So, what can our industry do better?
“We should all be promoting what feels good about photography,” said Stan. “We’ve become so product focused that we’re forgetting what’s unique about what we deliver: the magic of memories and that feeling you get when you capture and print a great moment in your life. We’re doing our best to introduce that feeling to the next generation. Honestly, we think they’re starting to feel it.”
Shelly and Stan Grosz have created a bridge to a very bright future at Horn Photo. We’re proud to honor their enthusiasm and vision by naming Horn Photo Digital Imaging Reporter’s 2019 Dealer of the Year.