Arthur Chang

Priime Founder, commercial photographer

As I see it, the most effective way to validate an idea is to create a product that meets the needs of a specific person. I also believe the validation process is much easier if you are that specific person. Arthur Chang, founder and CEO of Priime, has done precisely just that.

Priime is a modern photo editor that allows people to edit using styles developed by top photographers, with a focus on stunning aesthetics and uncompromising quality.

An advocate of professional storytelling and a remarkable photographer with many years of experience in visual marketing, Arthur knew exactly what needed to be brought to the photography industry to bridge the gaps he saw in existing photo editors. Priime has seen tremendous growth within its first year since launch, and much of it attributes to his commitment to product and community.

Tell us about a breakthrough for you as a commercial photographer. What’s led you to work with such notable clients such as Land Rover and Paypal? There was actually a lot that led up to my commercial photography work, but it was the moment that I realized a big chunk of my personal work had a theme and a feeling that could be used well in certain types of messaging that so often comes with any commercial work. When I pieced my work together in a cohesive collection of photos, and put into words my approach and mantras in photography, it resonated well with clients.

It was less about making perfection/mostly intangible photos that are “wow” and “oooh so many”, and more about showing beautiful photos that actually connect with the viewer. The photos are a bit more raw, and like many well liked stories, the consumer can relate and see themselves realistically in the same situations the photos depict.

This type of photography was something that they wanted. Timing was just right. And I had already been doing it for most of my life. 

Work with Land Rover

Work with Land Rover

Your commitment as a photographer is truly admirable, and I think much of it translates to your work as an entrepreneur. I want to use this excerpt from a recent blog post of yours:

“Often I find myself imagining one single shot when I arrive at a new location. Even though the surrounding is full of beautiful and exciting angles and subjects to shoot, I have a tendency to visualize one image and spend an entire sunset trying to get that one shot. I end up with much fewer images, and admittedly, I do a lot less exploring within one location, but the rewards of attempting to get my final vision is always worthwhile.”

What other attributes would you say photography has geared you for leading up to your work as a business founder? Photography has taught me that the journey is often more valuable and a better measure of success than the final product. Not saying the ending photo isn’t at all important, nor am I saying a company’s products are not hugely important. But that the result is always shaped by who you’re with, and how you accomplished it.

Learning that I got here in my career as a photographer because of those around me and all the experiences we had together, has helped me decide on how to approach building up the company. Because of my collaborative and community focused approach to photography, I knew that this was the way I wanted to run Priime.

At Priime, our bigger picture focus is on two things: product and community. It’s not necessarily the key to success, the pattern of certain glory, nor the trendiest startup approach of the day, but it’s the way we want to build our company. It’s built with hard work, and also built with everyone’s interest and support. Success to us is both quantifiable with hard numbers, as well as how well received and proud our community is in working with us and using our products. I think a lot of this was learned through my experience of how much community shaped my love for photography.

"Success to us is both quantifiable with hard numbers, as well as how well received and proud our community is in working with us.

The enthusiasm Priime has for community building is infectious! Alongside the remarkable products you build, I’d love to know more about how you guys engage with, connect, and build your community. Building our community is essentially making new friendships and furthering existing ones. In all the ways most person to person friendships exist, we want the same for any relationship we have with the individuals in our community. The challenges are easy to see, including the amount of people we want to engage with, and the amount of time/resources we have to do so. It’s not purely a business play, but with real relationships, we gain a lot, including: 

1. More motivation to do what we do. If we’re able to create a product that helps innovate photography for those who we care about, increasing that number of real people we can identify in our minds only furthers our feeling of motivation through how meaningful this all is.

2. A lot of great feedback. Instead of needing to run surveys or to go out of our way to ask people for their opinions, we’re surrounded by the feedback just by interacting with our friends. Living and surrounding ourselves with people we love is the best and most natural way that we’ve found to effectively get feedback on what we build.

And that list goes on. To be more specific on how we try to achieve all of this, we often reach out to individuals through video calls, have in person meetings over coffee/food/photo shoots, and we have an open office policy that always welcomes anyone from our community to drop in for whatever they need, even if they just need a place to sit and do some work. In addition, we run many photo events. The photo events range from casual discussions amongst a group, to sponsored/organized outings to normally inaccessible photo op locations and venues.

You can actually read a lot more about how our community manager, Adrienne Young, has learned and has been doing with building the Priime community on her latest article.

A photowalk hosted with SF Travel where Priime invited a group of photographers to shoot at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Photo by Arthur.

“In all the ways most person to person friendships exist, we want the same for any relationship we have with the individuals in our community.

Priime HQ, San Francisco, California. Photo by Arthur.

Priime HQ, San Francisco, California. Photo by Arthur.

I love Priime and the direction it’s heading towards. To date, how many users out there agree? Can’t give all the details, but about 35 million photos edited in a year since launch with about 1.23 million App Store downloads.

Incredible! What have you found to be most difficult in this first year of business? We have a tendency to take on tasks in an amount of time that companies that are at least 10 times our size take on in much longer time frames. With everything we do, we make sure it’s impressive to ourselves, to our peers, and each other. 

On top of that, we never build anything that we aren’t going to be proud of. Impressiveness and pride are the two ideals we always hold ourselves to. 

The most difficult part of that is that we know it’s our task to make these seemingly unrealistic goals actually come true within our means of timing and resources. 

What’s your solution? Our solution is to combine both our experience and knowledge of photography with our insight into technology. We know what we can build, we know what’s new and untapped, and our past experience in developing cutting edge products helps us understand novel and better ways to get the results that we need. 

How does Priime go about selecting its Style Authors? We select Style Authors based on a lot of factors, including how well they mesh with the vision of Priime. Priime wants to make modern day photography more accessible, and so our Style Authors are those who are producing work that’s influential to the world of photography today. What that means is, our photographers all create images that people look at in the modern day. Either it be in magazines, billboards, TV commercials, or online, we wanted to work with the styles that we all admire now. There are a lot of solutions for things like “sepia” or old film emulation, but very little in the way of actual work that’s created today that are seen and loved by so many in both commercial and fine art work.

On top of their talent and drive to further the world of photography, we wanted to work with people who were generally really nice people. The Priime Style Authors are the type of people that anyone would love to be good friends with, even if they just met as strangers. The Style Authors are all collaborative, giving, and supportive in everything they do. And we know that because we and our community already are good friends with them.

What are some common mistakes you see businesses make when trying to incorporate professional photography into their image and brand? The most common mistake is the expectation that only a small amount of work and resources are needed to immediately yield results for the visual portion of a brand. Too often, photography is undervalued, and too many free handouts or inexpensive solutions are expected for impossible returns.

There’s this misconception that with all the photography tools and beautiful stock photos available, anyone can easily create some consistent and visually impactful presence on any medium, especially online. But there is a huge difference between a well planned, organized, and curated set of assets put together with intention and deliberation – the caliber of which is built up from years of experience.

I’ve always wondered how to help brands and clients avoid this mistake. I try with explanations and examples, but some inevitably fall into the trap of trying it out cheaply to start. Some are able to bounce back and learn that it’s not the way to go, but I also see some give up on the efforts completely because it just didn’t work out. This world of visual marketing and branding is a really big deal. It’s not easy. 

It takes as much diligence as any other aspect of a company. If done right, it can be one of the most important elements of success.

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