fotobarA few people (including Fast Company’s Co.Create blogger Paula Bernstein and Yahoo! Finance’s Daily Ticker Webcast) have been asking me what I think of Polaroid’s latest initiative. The Polaroid Fotobar is a retail space devoted to photo printing: a shop where you can print out photos and take them home, or order a large (or very large) print to be shipped to you in a few days.

It’s a fun idea, and the renderings of the stores look groovy. I’m not sure how the concept will do, though, because it hits some of the brand’s great strengths while missing others. The essence of Polaroid-ness, to me, falls into three categories: sharing, uniqueness, and instant gratification. On the sharing front, the Fotobar is a win: it creates a social space where people can meet up. As to uniqueness and immediate gratification, it’s not quite there: the standard printing service isn’t much different from what you can get at a Walgreens kiosk. If the Fotobar could produce framed poster-size prints on the spot, that’d be a big win, but it’d require a ton of large-format printing equipment, which is big and expensive. The three-day wait for shipment diminishes the appeal a lot: There won’t be a huge advantage to Polaroid that justifies paying retail rents instead of just running a Website. I’d also wager that a lot of people are going to expect too much of their cell-phone snaps: Many amateur photographers don’t have a sense of how much resolution their image files have, and a five-megapixel image blown up to poster size may be a tesselated disappointment.

That said, I like the idea, and I’d use it. So it gets a hopeful maybe from me. Other opinions welcome in the comments.

UPDATE, 1/29/2013: In a conversation with Fotobar executives today, I discovered that I have a couple of things wrong in this post. The Fotobar stores will indeed be able to produce a large-size print on the spot, which, to my thinking, vastly improves their appeal. (Really, they need to make that crystal-clear in every bit of publicity they get: It’s a major selling point.) And the service will not offer little 4×6 prints in the Walgreens manner. So: my enthusiasm for this enterprise just stepped up a couple of notches. Let’s see what happens next.

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One Response to The Polaroid Fotobar: Yea or Nay?

  1. Anything that puts actual prints into the hands of people, as opposed to chimping over a phone, tablet, or LCD screen, is a good thing. Hopefully the folks in the store will be savvy enough to set expectations for clients as to expected print quality. A 20×30 print from a smartphone image will, most likely, not be a pretty one. As I had tweeted yesterday, I am hopeful that these stores may hold promise in recognizing the past, maybe even making Impossible and Polaroid 300 film available. I know that I will be in the Boston store after it opens, showing off my SX’70′s and Land Cameras. Always a great conversation icebreaker.

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