Towards a Brave New World in Photography
As professionals, it’s again time to face the future in photography, because the future isn’t very far away. It’s time to prepare to face an entirely new photo market. Of course, I know you probably are already heavily into digital, as is a large portion your customer base. But I’m not referring to digital capture and printing; I’m talking about an entirely new photo ecosystem; I’m talking about a new, connected digital photo usage model. I’m talking about a world where smart, multipurpose networked devices will be capturing and displaying the lion’s share of consumer images. With this inevitable development, more and more consumers will be enjoying their images entirely on “soft display” devices. Devices like SmartPhones, pads, computer screens and connected, flat panel, home entertainment systems. I’m talking about a world where images magically move, reside and are accessible from… the “cloud.” Apple’s iCloud idea is just a small beginning.
Why will consumers change? It’s pretty simple and results from how badly the first wave of consumer digital solutions was designed and launched. Today, consumers dutifully shoot family pictures on their digital cameras and after instantly verifying that they got what they wanted from the camera display (in old word terms…”the picture came out!”), they just leave the files on the camera card. Remember the joke about rolls of consumer film with pictures from two Christmases. Consumers have always felt the responsibility to take family pictures but often did little with them.
Today’s digital solutions for consumers are perhaps even worse than film. Sure it’s easy to take pictures, but once taken, it’s a lot more complicated to decide what to do next and there are consumers who just fill one memory card and then just go out and buy another! Cards are getting bigger, so now they can fit 2 or 3 Christmases…and they will!
Of course there is a much better way to do all of this. Smartphone cameras are getting better every day and unlike dedicated cameras, pretty much every consumer has a phone that is less than two years old, so the installed base of these digital cameras will continue to improve with time. SmartPhone cameras, however, are implicitly connected to a network and the coming ecosystem will automatically move, save and provide ubiquitous access to these consumer images. 125 years ago, George Eastman got it right with “you push the button…we do the rest.” Apple’s connected iCloud service automatically synchronizes photos to all your devices (camera, television, computer, iPad, etc) and personal photography is the killer application when it comes to “content.” You don’t have to use a pocket protector to figure out where all this is all going.
In order to continue being successful, professional photographers, we are going to need to find new and innovative ways to add our own value in this new world. Sure many of our customers will continue to want a nice framed portrait, a gallery wrap or a lay flat wedding album. But, make no mistake, we will be increasingly selling hard copy to transparently networked, soft display consumers and real success will require us to find our own place in this new world of digital content.
Georgia McCabe has spent the last 30 years watching and driving new technology to successfully address the needs of commercial, professional and mass market photographers alike. She has been at the forefront of adapting new developments to photographic markets, both at Kodak as well as at FujiFilm USA. As author, speaker, trainer and social media and photography evangelist, her perspectives entitled “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Friends…or Enemies” appear in print in the book entitled The Relationship Age, with social media guru Mari Smith. Georgia is a frequent guest blogger for our professional photo lab.