You may have heard earlier this week that payment platform Square is getting into the photography business. More importantly, it has launched a service called Square Photo Studio, to help small businesses have professional-looking photographs on their commerce websites.
Square Photo Studio uses robotic cameras to take photographs at various angles. Pictures are available in two packages — three photos for $9.95 or an interactive 360 photo for $29.95 for each product. Photographs are available within 14 days of the product being sent to Square.
But here’s why it won’t make a dent in terms of the photography market.
It is limiting
One of the biggest issues with Square’s offering is the dimension and weight limits they are able to photograph. From Square:
“The maximum size we’re able to accommodate is 84 inches in combined length and girth — meaning the length of the longest side plus the distance around the thickest part of your object can’t exceed 84 inches — and no more than 20 pounds in weight.
“For example, if your product is a vase that’s 60 inches tall and 30 inches around its widest part, that’s 90 inches in combined length and girth, and would not be eligible for the service as it exceeds our maximum size of 84 inches.”
Sure, that might work great if you’re a small retailer like a coffee shop looking to sell bags of coffee locally. But if you have something larger or heavier, you’re out of luck. And if one or two of your products can’t be photographed, do you really want to have to deal with multiple companies just to photograph your products?
In addition to the specs that they require, there’s also a biggie missing. Square is not offering lifestyle photographs. All of the photographs it provides are on white backgrounds. Which is great for certain use cases, but most businesses also want to have at least a few photos in their product in use in order for their potential customers to see common use scenarios.
There’s no personal touch
The thing about automated, robotic processes like Square Photo Studio is the client has very little input over what happens. The client basically sends in the product, gives some direction and Square photographs it. Period.
That means there’s no way to meet a photographer to discuss your vision in advance of the photoshoot. There’s no way to give immediate feedback or ask for small adjustments quickly. There’s no way to rush delivery of photos.
Square’s clients aren’t your clients … yet
You’re probably pretty familiar with Square, and maybe you’ve even used them to process payments from your photography clients. But Square is clearly going after the small startup business that can’t afford to pay a lot for pictures and doesn’t want to think about hiring a photographer.
Where Square can potentially hurt photographers is with the pricing structure they offer. Paying $10 for a few photos of each product is very, very cheap. But you have to remember Square’s startup clientele here and realize that those company’s budgets are most likely low in terms of marketing and advertising.
Chances are, once the business establishes itself on more firm footing, they’ll be banging on your doors wanting a more personal experience with more diversity for their photography. They’ll see the light. And when they do, you should welcome them with open arms.