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07-02-2008, 06:16 PM   #1
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Wal-mart Photo, How they do that?

Hello all, today while coming out of Walmart I notice their photo studio area so I took a look in and it is really amazing to me when you think about it, all I saw was one umbrella for the lights and some back drops that's on different arms so they can be pulled out and used.

Pretty simple setup. I don't know what type of camera they use but to say this is all the have, they do pretty good at taking the basic picture as I'd guess that most people is happy with what the get when taking pictures there.

I'm trying to set me a small studio up here at the house and just thought this was interesting to see. I already have more stuff then Wal-mart such as more lights, umbrella's, softboxes and such. And I know I will get into more challenging lighting situations then they do but it still was something to think about. Any thoughts?

07-02-2008, 06:20 PM   #2
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Wal-mart is a disgusting company. How you Americans let them destroy your country i'll never know.

I heard rumours they want to come to Australia. Not if I have anything to do with it.
07-02-2008, 07:20 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by NicholasN Quote
Wal-mart is a disgusting company. How you Americans let them destroy your country i'll never know.

I heard rumours they want to come to Australia. Not if I have anything to do with it.
Wow, what an amazing and insightful post. Thanks for keeping the OT so focused.

To be honest, if Walmart decides to come to Oz, there is little you will be able to do about it. Just lay back and try not to think about.
07-02-2008, 07:43 PM   #4
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my mom actually works in a photo lab at walmart
she really likes it because she says she is learning alot about technology

but on where she works at, they just have those different backdrops at the back of one of their cabinets (white) and they just use a regular p&s. haha.

I guess those people going there to have passport picture taken aren't really looking for tack sharp images

07-02-2008, 07:53 PM   #5
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QuoteQuote:
To be honest, if Walmart decides to come to Oz, there is little you will be able to do about it. Just lay back and try not to think about.
Wow that is so fantastic, just let them come here and rape our country like they did yours. No wonder they own America.
07-02-2008, 08:02 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by NicholasN Quote
No wonder they own America.
Actually they did try to buy America but Exxon wouldn't sell it. We now return you to your regularly scheduled thread.

CW
07-02-2008, 08:12 PM   #7
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Neither Exxon nor Walmart own the County....but as a shareholder for them both, I'm proud to say I own part of them......keep them dividends coming
07-02-2008, 08:29 PM   #8
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QuoteQuote:
I'm trying to set me a small studio up here at the house and just thought this was interesting to see. I already have more stuff then Wal-mart such as more lights, umbrella's, softboxes and such. And I know I will get into more challenging lighting situations then they do but it still was something to think about. Any thoughts?
I think the OP is asking for some assistance regarding the business of high volume, low-price basic portrait photography for middle class American families - who might not be able to have ANY professional portrait done were it not for Wal-mart.

@foots: Have you ever seen a church photo book pro run 250 families through seatings in a week of evenings? 700 head/shoulders shots for a High School yearbook? 150 family seatings at a corporate holiday party in 3 hours (3 shooters)? The equipment, shooting process and post-processing are similar to what you saw at Wal-mart.. The Wal-mart photo studio is likely leased to a pro photographer - an American small business - just like the volume contract shooters!

To be a commercial success in that market segment you need high-volume, and you really don't have time to market yourself to create the volume. So you invest some capital in equipment, lease 100 square feet in the Wal-mart and let them bring the people to you. CPI - a large company that has had financial challenges for years - does the exact same thing in Sears stores (branded the "Sears Photo Studio.") My company has a national contract with CPI for any of our 100,000 employees to get a simple head/shoulders shot done at Sears for web posting.

It isn't art - it's business. And the photo certainly won't be the kind I would get from the $2000 bid I just received for an on-location, half-day, creative portrait shoot (shooter, assistant, lights, umbrellas, you know the drill). But I'll bet both businessmen gross $500,000+ a year if they work hard - it's just a choice.

QuoteOriginally posted by NicholasN Quote
Wal-mart is a disgusting company. How you Americans let them destroy your country i'll never know.

I heard rumours they want to come to Australia. Not if I have anything to do with it.

@NicholasN
: Have you ever tried to find a parking place at a Wal-mart on a weeknight or a Saturday morning? (No, of course not - you don't have Wal-mart in Australia).

I guess Sam Walton's children must have put something in the water that makes all us dumb Americans want to fight through the crowds trying to get into the store to get our pictures taken for such a small amount of money.

Only way to explain it. So if you ever come to America mate, don't drink the water.


Last edited by monochrome; 07-02-2008 at 09:03 PM. Reason: spelling
07-02-2008, 08:57 PM   #9
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Foots, here's a cheap handy hint you might like.

DIFFUSER: At the moment I'm taking shots of products for our company's catalogue. There are no flash-diffusers available to soften the shadows, so I hunted around and found a couple of white plastic shopping bags in the bin, hung them over the remote flash, manually adjusted aperture to compensate for the dulled light and have some beautiful soft-highlight/soft-shadow shots as a result.
07-02-2008, 09:03 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by kjfaust Quote
my mom actually works in a photo lab at walmart
she really likes it because she says she is learning alot about technology

but on where she works at, they just have those different backdrops at the back of one of their cabinets (white) and they just use a regular p&s. haha.

I guess those people going there to have passport picture taken aren't really looking for tack sharp images
He's not talking about the Photo LAB, but the "Portrait Studio." Not all Walmarts have them.

QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome:
The Wal-mart photo studio is likely leased to a pro photographer...
No way. They hire a "photographer" like they hire a meat grinder or a stocker. Everything in the studio is pre-set, nothing is adjustable. The employee just has to say, "Smile!" and press a button. If there are kids, he waves a duckie around first.

Same goes for Sears, JCPenny, and the rest of the discount "portrait studios." It's just minimum-wage teenagers pushing buttons. That's not to say I've never seen nice shots from those places. But the lighting is exactly the same in every one.
07-02-2008, 09:44 PM   #11
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QuoteQuote:
No way. They hire a "photographer" like they hire a meat grinder or a stocker. Everything in the studio is pre-set, nothing is adjustable. The employee just has to say, "Smile!" and press a button. If there are kids, he waves a duckie around first.

Same goes for Sears, JCPenny, and the rest of the discount "portrait studios." It's just minimum-wage teenagers pushing buttons. That's not to say I've never seen nice shots from those places. But the lighting is exactly the same in every one.
Hmm. I'll look again tomorrow, but the last time I was in the Wal-mart near me the Studio was definitely a leased affair staffed by an adult - moveable backdrops, off-camera flash with an umbrella - certainly a formula set-up, but I don't think they want to train the photographers.

Of course the store is open 16 hours a day, so more than one person would have to work the studio.

That doesn't mean your region didn't lease a group of spaces to a corporate entity that hires kids and uses cheaper gear.
07-02-2008, 10:04 PM   #12
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This is purely my opinion, so take it with a few grams of salt and watch your blood pressure...

OK- So WalMart is a corporate slob, blah blah blah. It started in the US and is now taking over China. Yay, party on. Not the point of this thread at all...

Foots, their setup is simple mostly because they want to process people in and out as quickly as possible. Also, at least at our local Wal-Mart, the photo studio seems to employ people who can't take a decent photo using a polaroid instant camera, so keeping it simple is a must. One umbrella means all shots will end up looking exactly the same. No light adjustments are usually made. It's always the same.

The shots I've seen range from the decent to the mediocre to downright horrible, but as mentioned before, everything is preset and the camera person only has to make sure the shot is somewhat composed. The camera at many of these high-volume studios is even mounted on rails or lifts so they can't do too much to compose a shot.

At our WalMart and the Sears/JCPenney in our area, the paper they use is truly garbage compared to what you get from a real photo lab or even the print lab at the other end of the store, and quite often color reproduction (white balance, hello) is downright flat. I've printed photos at WalMart using their Fuji photo printer and have seen some stunning prints come out of that printer. Not so out of the photo studio.

I understand everyone should be able to afford a photography session and that's all good. Myself, I am definitely more expensive than WalMart, Sears, and JCPenney. After all, I'm not trying to compete against them. I don't do tacky backdrops and rely on overused props (how many baby accidents on that tired teddy bear?), or sell low quality prints with poor color reproduction.

I am more than happy to mention to people they get what they pay for and if they find me too pricey/expensive WalMart is always an option to consider.

So Foots, do your thing, use whatever lights you need, and don't fret. I'm sure your shots will be worlds above what WalMart can do with 1 light and a bunch of backdrops
07-02-2008, 11:31 PM   #13
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Hello all again....

Thanks, Frogroast, Marcdsgn, Monochorome and others... Yes I just was making a reference to Wal-mart because that is what I was looking at at the time but Sears and others are the same. It just struck me that they do a large volume of business with a very simple setup and people buy into it like magic. Frogroast, I hope my photos will be head and shoulders above what Wal-mart can do, if not I've wasted my money. Well that's how I see it. Thanks for the input everyone it has been interesting to say the least. Foots
07-03-2008, 03:30 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
Hmm. I'll look again tomorrow, but the last time I was in the Wal-mart near me the Studio was definitely a leased affair staffed by an adult - moveable backdrops, off-camera flash with an umbrella - certainly a formula set-up, but I don't think they want to train the photographers.

Of course the store is open 16 hours a day, so more than one person would have to work the studio.

That doesn't mean your region didn't lease a group of spaces to a corporate entity that hires kids and uses cheaper gear.
Okay, so it's not necessarily a teenager; neither are all the cashiers. My main point was that everything was fixed. Fixed lighting, fixed camera position and settings, fixed backgrounds (yes, they can swap them out but their position is fixed).... The only thing left to think about is when to press the button. Go ask the employee what s/he thinks the ambient EV level in the studio is and see what kind of answer you get.
07-03-2008, 04:28 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by joefru Quote
Same goes for Sears, JCPenny, and the rest of the discount "portrait studios." It's just minimum-wage teenagers pushing buttons. That's not to say I've never seen nice shots from those places. But the lighting is exactly the same in every one.
You are absolutely right there...

When she was a college student, my syster was a "photographer" in a Sears "Family Portrait Studio"... that was the exact setup, and she knew about as much about photography as I know about quantum physics.

The bulk of the clientele there is basically families coming in with their "Family Portrait" coupon for the typical 8x10, 2 4x6 and 28 wallet sized pics to send to grandma. They are not looking for great portraiture, just nice generic photos to put on the mantle and send to the family.

Pat
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