April 12, 2022
Swedish lighting manufacturer, Profoto, has bought a robotic photo studio company, Styling sessionsfor US$18 million – the first major acquisition since its IPO last year.
It’s a somewhat controversial acquisition, as StyleShoots disrupts the traditional professional photography industry. Delivering an automated commercial, high-volume robotic photo studio is essentially laying off living, breathing photographers and their crews.
Interior Imaging StyleShoots reported in 2017, after the company launched its £80,000 robotic studio equipped with a Canon 1DX Mk II camera attached to a 3-axis gimbal with a motor.
“The machine uses a 3D depth sensor to track a model, who poses inside the cabin, and AI algorithms can read the model’s height and assess other information to capture the best angles. In the cabin are six high CRI LED skylight panels and six light strips from Rotolight, it also comes with a reversible reflector to bounce light and a neutral background.
The booth is controlled by a human using an iPad, who uses StyleShoots software to control the brightness and chooses to capture stills or video. Everything else, including exposure settings and video editing, is handled by the machine.
StyleShoots offers other products and services to automate e-commerce studio photography. The company sells the units directly or for rental with rental partners in Europe and the United States.
Profoto’s strategy is to offer a “complete solution” for e-commerce photography, which has seen accelerated demand as online shopping matures.
“With our heritage in fashion and studio photography, and today nearly 100% of all images end up online, we see this as a very natural strategic step to add StyleShoots and their workflow software and hardware solutions. integrated into our studio offering for e-commerce photography,” Anders Hedebark, CEO of Profoto, said in a statement.
Is Profoto disrupting the market for its customers?
The photo booth is a “solution to the type of repetitive photography for e-commerce customers,” Hedebark said. Petapixel. A “solution” to a business problem that would historically result in the hiring of a professional photographer!
Although Hedebark clarified that StyleShoots would “never replace” photographers. He goes on to draw a strange comparison between “creative” professional photographers and those stuck doing exhausting, repetitive work at high volume.
“We’ve seen an increase in workflow support for e-commerce photography,” Hedebark told Petapixel. “This type of photography is more like a factory than what we usually think of as creative photographers. It’s repetitive, but the need for e-commerce is exploding.
He says e-commerce photographers “burn and turn” don’t really want big jobs – it’s “not the kind of work professional photographers are looking to do”.
“The need for creative photography to drive traffic to websites to drive conversions contrasts with the goals of e-commerce photography,” he said, which is designed to provide accurate visual information about a product.
‘His [e-commerce photography] another type of photography that no creative does today. Creative photographers are doing a great job of driving demand, and I recommend that they continue to do so and charge for it, it’s a key driver! The value for e-commerce businesses to have creative photography is huge, and it’s different [than what StyleShoots offers].’
Hedebark describes Profoto’s core business as “creative” professional photographers. “The market is going in two directions: both high-quality work and high-productivity work. A business must choose, and now Profoto has the ability to do both.’
Some of Hedebark’s views seem a bit “problematic”. It’s dismissive of high-volume product photographers and their work. These photographers may be happy “factory” workers who simply have no interest in being “creative”. High-volume e-commerce photography is the bread and butter of many professionals, and Profoto seems unable to recognize this reality.
From a strategic point of view, it is understandable that Profoto acquired the Danish company robo studio, but it is undeniable that it competes with professional photographers. And some of them might be Profoto customers.
Profoto ‘to the moon’
Profoto began trading on Nasdaq Stockholm on July 1, 2021 with the initial public offering (IPO) price set at 66 Swedish krona (kr), or approximately $10.24. With 16 million shares paid up, Profoto’s business was valued at over $167 million.
The stock price tracked well, approaching a 100% gain from the IPO price. It currently stands at 121.60 kr on April 12. The company’s market capitalization is now 4.68 billion kr, which converts to $688 million.
The acquisition of StyleShoots has been on Profoto’s radar for some time. In Profoto’s prospectus, a legal document required to provide full investment details without watering down risk, a company like StyleShoots was flagged as a potential acquisition.
In the business overview, under the subheading “Growth in industrial/e-com workflow”, Profoto states:
“There is also ongoing exploration of opportunities in emerging industrial applications such as robotic solutions for volume photography.”