Profoto expands into studio automation with StyleShoots acquisition
The company's studio automation products make light work of e-commerce product photography.
Swedish lighting company Profoto just announced its purchase of StyleShoots, a Dutch maker of studio automation products aimed at the fashion e-commerce market. Under the terms of the deal, Profoto paid some 18 million euros ($19.6 million USD) for 100% of StyleShoots and says it expects to retain all of its acquisition’s 41 employees. That includes both its current CEO and CFO, who were until now also StyleShoots’ owners.
StyleShoots first launched in 2011 with the Horizontal, a solution for lay-flat product photography of items such as clothing. The company has since expanded its offerings to include its mannequin-based Vertical offering, as well as StyleShoots Live for model photography, and Eclipse for small objects like shoes, cosmetics, and food. Both of the latter two platforms are also intended to allow for video capture. For 2021, the company had sales of nine million euros ($9.8 million USD) and sales growth has averaged 11% over the past six years.
As for Profoto, its history can be traced back to the late 1960s, although the brand only made its official debut in the US market back in 1992. While it does have some products in other categories like camera bags, the bulk of its product line revolves around photo lighting. Between its Swedish headquarters and seven subsidiaries, it has a total of 139 employees, and net sales in 2021 were around 71 million euros ($77.2 million USD).
The deal sees Profoto’s lighting offerings extended to include products that, although clearly still aimed at the photo market, are intended for use by laypersons rather than experienced photographers. The goal is to maximize efficiency and keep costs to a minimum by relying on automation and a process that’s carefully tailored to the kinds of products being imaged. This removes the need for a skilled and well-paid photographer who would otherwise be needed to control lighting and the camera setup manually.
How the acquisition will affect the e-commerce market
Asked to comment on the news, Profoto president and CEO Anders Hedebark indicated to PopPhoto that he sees significant potential for both Profoto and StyleShoots alike in the high-volume e-commerce market over the years to come.
“With recent years of fast digitalization and consumers’ increased online shopping, we have seen a dramatic increase in demand for high-quality images in high volume, from pure e-commerce players, brands, and retailers with e-commerce presence,” Hedebark revealed. “With our heritage in fashion and studio photography, and today almost 100% of all images [ending] up online, we see it as a natural strategic step to add StyleShoots and their integrated workflow software and hardware solutions to further strengthen our studio offering for e-commerce photography.”
Photographers are wary
Not everyone will necessarily welcome the news with open arms, however. Professional photographers, in particular, have been wary of products like these, which some see as encroaching on their livelihoods.
Hedebark doesn’t see it that way though, suggesting that StyleShoots’ products are aimed only at the tedious, repetitive work that most photographers would rather avoid. With their time thus freed up, he believes, they’ll be able to use it more effectively on other photographic projects that make better use of their talents.
“We see that the market is developing in two directions, on one hand, high-quality creative photography and on the other hand high-productivity work,” noted Hedebark. “[These are] different types of photography with different needs which require different solutions.”
For photographers still wary of the merger, Hedebark has some good news: “Our acquisition of StyleShoots is not a sign that we are moving away from professional creative photographers. We are continuously re-investing 10% of sales in R&D to develop products and solutions, specifically with regard to lighting and light shaping tools for creative professional photographers,” he said.