On November 11, 2021, Format announced that they are joining forces with Zenfolio. The coming together of two market leaders in providing services to photographers is a significant shift in direction for the industry. An industry leader for over 15 years, Zenfolio has spent the last three years building a new cloud-based platform leveraging an advanced machine-learning infrastructure with intelligent workflow automation to provide photographers with a completely new way of running their business. Combining this technology with the creative and artistic strengths of the Format offering defines a new standard in the way in which photographers market themselves, interact with their clients, and generate income.
Q&A with Company CEOs
John Loughlin – Zenfolio CEO Lukas Dryja – Format Founder and CEO
Why and how did this take place?
John: Our management team, in consultation with our owners, developed a multi-year plan for growth. This tremendous opportunity is part of that plan, and it comes on the heels of our recent technology rollout, another part of the plan that is changing the way photographers incorporate advanced workflow automation to drive their business growth. Format users will also benefit from that technology.
Lukas: Partnering with Zenfolio is a unique opportunity. The Format community will benefit from Zenfolio’s extensive platform capabilities while Zenfolio customers ultimately will have access to Format’s world class tools and design resources used to showcase our customers’ work.
What are the complementary strengths – how do they combine well?
John: Our industry-leading business technology wraps together intuitive website building and hosting, marketing, scheduling, ecommerce, and even hands-off delivery of products directly from our partner labs. It’s a toolbox full of our signature workflow automation that integrates both the frontend and backend aspects of running a business. Format has focused on leveraging the creativity of their users and helping present that to clients in a compelling and captivating way. It’s like we deliver the head and heart of running a creative business, while Format offers the heart and soul.
Lukas: Format’s passion is to transform serious photographers and artists into successful entrepreneurs. We have continuously been recognized as the leader in the website portfolio space and trusted as an ally to photographers worldwide. The combination of Format and Zenfolio further unlocks our ability to positively impact photographers and their businesses, providing them with a vast suite of tailored features and unparalleled service. This merger will help to accelerate our product roadmap and continue to support our multi-product strategy.
Why did Zenfolio embark on a strategic plan focused on the business aspects of photography?
John: Photographers often experience the “push-pull” of spending time joyfully behind the lens practicing their craft versus the administrative or business tasks that are hugely time-consuming but absolutely essential. It’s the age-old struggle for many artists and creatives. After more than a decade of working closely with photographers, we saw an opportunity to address this challenge by leveraging new technologies like machine learning, intelligent automation, enhanced photo tagging and sharing, with a focus on an intuitive, easy-to-use interface designed for mobile access and social media compatibility. The new Zenfolio platform is a remarkable leap forward, redefining the future of the photography business. For example, our BookMe capability automates booking, scheduling, gallery creation and commerce for professional photographers. And our automated Client Campaigns help photographers earn extra passive income with seasonal marketing promotions that turn into hands-off sales. Having built the most advanced, scalable platform in the industry, we are excited to share it with the Format community.
How did Format create a widely loved and well respected platform that appeals to commercial photographers and fine artists?
Lukas: Format recognized early on that photographers face two entwined journeys: an artistic journey, the development and perfection of one’s craft, and the entrepreneurial journey, how to successfully monetize their creative passion. By creating a brand and software that caters to the discerning eyes of photographers and delivers a powerful toolset that helps their business succeed and thrive, we’ve become a trusted ally to professional photographers. We’ve developed and fostered a trusting relationship with photographers at all stages of their career, and through our constant interactions and feedback with our members and community, we have been able to build a forward thinking, charismatic, and dependable brand for visual artists.
Will the brands continue to operate separately? Will there be any cross-platform integration?
Lukas: The Format brand is very strong and will continue as currently structured. Zenfolio has recognized our strengths and is committed to preserving the Format brand and community. That “heart and soul” will continue to drive our priorities and decisions. And, there will be opportunities for our members to adopt Zenfolio automation technology like BookMe calendaring and scheduling, their substantial ecommerce capabilities, and their lab partner integrations that make it incredibly easy to fulfill and deliver orders. Format photographers will also receive preferential treatment when joining Zenfolio’s photographer booking marketplace, photobooker.com.
John: All current Zenfolio service tiers and tools will remain while we continue to evolve our technology and launch new features. Zenfolio will incorporate and build on Format’s website design strengths, their print marketplace, their popular magazine, and we will embrace their community of users.
How will operations and employees of each company be affected?
John: We anticipate very few changes following the combination – each workforce will continue to function in their current roles and geographic locations. Format will remain a Canadian company and we are excited to welcome a host of new colleagues in the Toronto area. We respect the team and the company Lukas and Tyler have built and are excited to have them join our team. Zenfolio offices, and the headquarters of the combined company, will be based in Menlo Park, California.
Lukas: One reason Zenfolio is the perfect home for our Format family is that there is very little redundancy to our offerings and our work roles. We were deeply considerate of our employees as we contemplated this combination – both brands have very strong employee-focused cultures and have long histories of working to help our customers.
What is the combined size of the two businesses?
John: The combined companies will together be one of the world’s largest SaaS providers for photographers and artists. Beyond that, as private companies, we don’t disclose financial data.
How does this combination change the competitive landscape within the industry?
John: We absolutely believe competition is good for the industry and for consumers – in this case photographers and visual creators. But scale is becoming much more critical to enabling the type of investments in new functionality powered by cutting-edge technology. This puts Zenfolio and Format in an exceptionally strong competitive position.
Lukas: Photographers are constantly presented with new options and opportunities when it comes to choosing the right platform for their business. We feel this merger presents both a reliable and innovative option for photographers to benefit from the power of Format and Zenfolio. With the two strong and complementary companies joining together as one, photographers will continue to get a platform powerful enough to grow their business, superior customer experience to support them, and a brand that deeply understands their needs and wants.
What can customers of both brands expect, both near and long-term?
Lukas: Near-term, Format members should see very little change, and long-term they will have the opportunity to choose from many of the advanced business technology tools offered by Zenfolio, if they elect to do so.
John: Zenfolio plans to celebrate the Format brand and bring to its tens of thousands of subscribers many of the advanced tools and practices enjoyed by Zenfolio subscribers. Similarly, Zenfolio hopes to make some of the unique capabilities embodied in the Format experience available to our customers. Our users will have more website template designs available, and will enjoy the unique Format brand experience embodied in resources like their magazine and prints marketplace.
Any other final comments?
Lukas: Over the past 11 years that we’ve been growing Format, we have built a trusting and lasting relationship with our members and community. We are excited to partner with Zenfolio to give those members a robust toolset and further resources to help them build their business. We know that this merger will serve to better the entire photography industry and we can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings.
John: One thing to know about Zenfolio is that “final” isn’t really part of our vocabulary – we are continually listening to customers and employees and evolving to meet their needs and help them succeed. This partnership with Format is a perfect example of how we recognize new strengths, seize new opportunities, and work to offer new solutions to our customers. Stay tuned for more…