If you have a kid who goes to school or plays sports in the region, you probably need no introduction to photographer Rich Banick.
These days, if he’s not taking portraits at his studio at 211 W. Grove St., Dunmore, you’ll usually spot him taking photos at schools, sports leagues and even with Santa Claus.
Here’s what he had to say about his longtime career as a memory maker.
Q: How did you get your start shooting portraits?
A: The business started as a way to earn money to purchase photo supplies and equipment for my photography classes at RIT. In this area when I started, I found that there was a need for a youth sports photographer. I was young and willing to try new things.
In the beginning, my only marketing was word of mouth. Do a good job with one thing and it leads to the next. Now we still depend on word of mouth. But have added social media, direct mail, print and display advertising.
Q: Have school pictures, especially senior photos, gotten more popular over the years?
A: I think it’s about the same. Some students are really into it, others don’t care.
The biggest change in senior photos was driven by the digital revolution. In the past, you had to be a skilled photographer and know how to use the specialized cameras and that was the standard of the industry. Now with digital cameras, many people are becoming photographers overnight. So the market is now saturated with people who are out there shooting away, practically giving away their work.
What I currently see with senior portraits are that people still want a formal photo, they want something for the wall or to give to the relatives. For the girls the drape is very popular and for the boys it’s a tux or suit. In the past few years, I am finding that they come to me for the more formal portraiture, or other casual photos in the studio or outside in our outside studio.
Q: Why should people invest in school photos, especially when everyone has a cell phone camera in their pocket these days?
A: First of all and most importantly, school portraits are needed by the school district to go with a student’s record. Secondly for the parents, they are an inexpensive record of your student, documenting their growth throughout the years. They are usually well lit and posed and come with group photos or composite photo of your classmates. These are things that the parents cannot get. Making prints isn’t impossible from cell phones, but it is much easier for a parent to just order a print from our studio.
Q: How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
A: We were about 90% shut down from mid-March until June. I still came to the studio every day and printed any orders that were coming in online during that time.
As for school portraits, we are now having the students stand and are not doing any group photos this year. The other change is that we will be offering composite photos of the classes that are made of the individual portraits of each student. In the studio, we aren’t booking the seniors as closely as we used to and also making sure things are cleaned between clients.
Q: When you’re not taking photos, what do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I am also a licensed hairstylist. With my wife Melinda, we own two Great Clips hair salons, one in Dickson City in the Target Plaza and the other in Marshals Creek. I also have a small private salon here in my studio that I use to curl or straighten girls’ hair for senior portraits, and also to do the hair of the regular hair clients that I have. It’s a great change from photography and I love working in there. I have attended classes with Arrojo in NYC and at Sassoon in CA, and always learning new techniques to keep myself current. I am always looking for clients and hair models to work on in my studio. Check out my instagram @richbanick and if you like what you see, send me a DM for an appointment.
I also like to barbecue and I have a one ton smoker in my backyard! I have attended BBQ School with Myron Mixon in Georgia and are always trying to learn new recipes. Every summer we have a large summer party (except for 2020) and I usually prepare about 130 pounds of meat for our guests that pretty much disappears as soon as it hits the buffet.