When Canadian school portrait company 36Pix was founded in "Y2K," Kodachrome film and silver halide processing reigned supreme and students' portraits were sent to parents on loose-leaf proof sheets in white envelopes. In the 12 years since then, high-end digital photography has become the dominant medium for capturing students' portraits, but chemical processing and stodgy presentation methods still linger.
36Pix and its entrepreneurial president Robert Ste-Marie aim to change all that. The company is now printing school portraits on an HP Indigo 5600 Digital Press and producing personalized, professionally finished and bound presentation booklets for students and their families with the latest in on-demand digital booklet-making technology from C.P. Bourg.
Enjoying its third consecutive year on the PROFIT 200 ranking of Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies by PROFIT Magazine, 36Pix from its headquarters in Montreal addresses three segments of the school photography industry in Canada and the United States.
First, the company provides printing services for photographers servicing from 5,000 to 150,000 students annually. The company also operates Green Apple Studio -- its own branded school photography unit serving pre-schools and grade schools through studios located in Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Toronto and through agents in Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. And, 36Pix is a leading provider of "green screen" digital imaging services with its proprietary ChromaStar green screen extraction technology, which also is embedded in Kodak ProLab software.
A Strategic Imperative
A mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry who worked on RadarSat 2 imaging and led projects for NASA and European space programs, Robert Ste-Marie was lured to the school portrait industry by a big market opportunity in the change from film to digital technology.
He now sees the transition to all-digital photo production as a strategic imperative.
"Over the past 50 years, school photography hasn't evolved to where I think it should be, leaving the industry in danger of losing business to the new breed of digital photo merchandisers. The school portrait industry today requires different products made by different equipment guided by a different vision," he asserts.
"We have a glorious opportunity to capitalize on our professional photographs taken in controlled settings and to create really stunning and saleable photographic products."
Seizing the opportunity, Ste-Marie and the 36Pix team began investigating how to implement their vision of an all-digital approach. Their efforts were quickly rewarded.
"The digital concept proved such a big hit that our market test resulted in a significant business order," Ste-Marie explains, adding the first order of business on the production front was to choose and install the booklet-making system.
The company's own investigation and a recommendation from HP led 36Pix to C.P. Bourg and an off-line Bourg BSF production finishing system installed in short order by MD Service Express, a division of C.P. Bourg partner MD International, months before installing its own HP Indigo Digital Press.