"Photography in a Flash" expands from BN base

By Mary Ann Ford

A couple of years ago, Jarek and Katie Hamilton considered opening a photo studio to fulfill Katie’s dream as a photographer.

They were ready for a change. At the time, Jarek was working 80 hours a week and Katie also had a full-time job.

The couple, who met when they were 12 and were married while Jarek was in the Navy, had four children. They moved to Bloomington-Normal in 2013.

“I did lean methodology (on the idea of opening a photo studio),” said Jarek.  “You look at things in a different view, see bottlenecks. The application process shows what problems you might encounter.”

He determined most photo studios fail and a photographer’s pay is only between $10 and $13 an hour.

Things needed to change, he said.

The couple brainstormed and came up with the idea of Qikpix, a mobile app option that allows anyone to book a professional photographer for $99 an hour.

“The goal is to create everlasting memories for families at an affordable price and around their schedule,” Jarek said. “It’s just meant to ease the burden I went through and make it affordable and convenient again.”

In 2016, they tested the market on the idea.

“We reached out to consumers and customers,” he said, asking friends and family to try it and pass it onto others.

They also took the idea on the road. They spoke at a national conference in New Orleans and “got overwhelming feedback,” Jarek said.

The couple reached out to people in New York and talked to professionals across the United States.

“Once we realized we had a good idea,” it was time to start building it out, Jarek said.

They found a local “angel” who invested $90,000 towards the idea. The Qikpix app was launched in May 2017.

Qikpix has attracted 150 photographers from coast to coast – including about 30 in Chicago, three in Washington, D.C., and two in New York. Each is interviewed and vetted, said Jarek.

Qikpix photographers are responsible for taking the photos and uploading them to the customers within 24 hours. They make $60 an hour.

Jarek said Qikpix offers an editing service for $1.50 per photo. While customers have access to all the photos taken at the shoot, they can opt to have only one or just a few edited.

The 150 customers Qikpix has served so far have scheduled photo shoots for such things as prom, surprise engagements, family photos, birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas cards.

“A lot of our business comes from businesses booking us for holiday parties and corporate events,” Jarek said.

Qikpix does not do weddings because of the logistics involved – although Jarek said they have done an occasional last-minute wedding.

While Jarek said the company has expanded since conception, “we’re constantly trying to move in a forward direction.

The next step: marketing the idea, something that will need more financial investment.

“We’re trying to raise another $70,000 to $100,000,” he said.

For more information on Qikpix, to apply as a photographer or to book a photo shoot, download the Qikpix app, go to Qikpix.io or visit their Facebook page.