It is interesting that on April 30, Bloomberg Business posted an article entitled “Twilight of One-Hour Photo, America’s Fastest-Fading Business.” Of course, those of us who live in the photo business know that far from being, dead, consumers today are taking more pictures than ever before. In fact, just last year consumers captured and shared more than 10 times the number of personal images than were taken at the peak of the analog photo business, back in the early 1990s. Clearly the consumer’s “love for photography” today is stronger than ever. Personally, I believe that the opportunities in photo are actually greater now than they were back in the late 1800s, when George Eastman first evangelized photography to the mass market. Eastman had to educate the consumer about the value of personal photography. Today, that is a given – and photography pervades all aspects of everyday life. Posted personal images are by far the largest source of traffic in the exploding world of social media. Our challenge is to make it possible for consumers to enjoy connected photography and at the same time, preserve and celebrate their special images with a wide variety of exciting digital photo output products. The problem has been that while many of the new players in digital photography understand the tremendous appeal of personal imaging, they often have little knowledge or concern for the responsibility of capturing and storing those most important moments of everyday life. That is what real consumer photography is all about.
But don’t just take my word for it; here are excerpts resulting from discussions with knowledgeable imaging industry analysts.
Hans Hartman, President of Suite 48 Analytics and Chair of Mobile Photo Connect, sums it up rather succinctly:
Really it’s quite simple:
- Thanks to smartphones…people take more photos than ever before
- Thanks to smartphones…people are engaged in photography at an earlier age than ever before
- When offered innovative photo products and easy apps, smartphone photographers often order photo products. Major photo retailers, such as Shutterfly and Walgreens in the US, and CeWe and Photobox in Europe, all report double digit percentages of their orders coming from…smartphone users!
Frank Baillargeon, President of F/22 Consultants offers his own unique take:
We are living at a time during which mass market photography has gone from the occasional (8-10 times per year) purchase of a roll of film and a bag of prints, for those with the means, to an ever-present part of the lives of virtually every adult on the planet. Photo is central to the business models of the new titans of enterprise (Facebook, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.). As consumers, we capture with ease and no cost, share instantly with family and friends, edit creatively as we choose, (increasingly and most importantly) save and organize our precious images in the cloud to enable us to create and order fabulous new products from online retailers, and, yes, from tens of thousands of traditional brick and mortar photo retailers as well.
And then there is this statement, from Vint Cerf, Google VP and “father of the internet” (really!):
Our life, our memories, our most cherished family photographs increasingly exist as bits of
information – on our hard drives or in ‘the cloud.’ But as technology moves on, they risk being lost in the wake of an accelerating digital revolution.
I worry a great deal about that, you and I are experiencing things like this. Old formats of documents that we’ve created or presentations may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed.
And so what can happen over time is that even if we accumulate vast archives of digital content, we may not actually know what it is or where to find it.
Photo printing is far from dead. It is staging an exciting rebirth, born on crests of both product and manufacturing innovation, advances in mobile technology, and software innovations that connect us instantly and intuitively with create and order capabilities directly from our connected devices to product solutions from scores of retailers, both online and in-store. Simply stated – printed photo output matters to all of us. Not the bag of prints that were our only way to preserve and share, but exciting and valuable new products that tell and preserve our stories in a richer, more personalized fashion. The end of film processing is hardly the end of the photo output story. It was simply an important chapter in the continuing effort to preserve and share what’s most important to all of us.
As Mark Twain so aptly said, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Those of us who have spent our careers in photography refuse to break our sacred pact with the consumer…this is a challenge that we at PMA understand well, and intend to continue to make good on.