Our industry continues to evolve at a remarkable rate. As you’ll see in DIR’s State of the Industry 2017 report, contributors from the entire spectrum of our industry continue to send messages of optimism—and for good reason.
The imaging industry has always been built on the bedrock of memories. Whatever number you believe, it’s safe to say that billions of images are being taken today, from a myriad of devices. This in itself suggests that the passion for creating and sharing memories is today greater than ever. But our industry’s challenge continues to be how to monetize those memories.
As I’ve written over and over again, the smartphone is not our industry’s enemy. In fact it’s our friend. The smartphone has brought millions of people into view. And it continues to attract a younger demographic, which can only result in future growth within our industry. But how do we stay relevant as these “phoneographers” weave their way from phone to camera.
As Don Franz mentions, “The biggest barrier to even greater growth is the lack of awareness among consumers about what is possible with their photographic images.”
The opportunities to monetize these images are clearly one of our greatest challenges.
First, we must solve the “clutter” issue. So many images, so little time. Most people are “overwhelmed by both their printed photos and digital images,” says APPO founder Cathi Nelson. And according to Noritsu’s Glen Hart, only 4% of the images captured today are printed. It seems there are billions of images trapped in shoe boxes and on smartphones yearning to be free—and printed.
But we also must recognize that printed images may look different from just a few years ago. “Instant photography is back in a big way with kids as young as five and as old as 80,” states Fujifilm’s Manny Almeida. And while canvas prints and metal prints continue to excite people, they’re looking for high-quality prints as well.
On the hardware side, innovation continues to be the lifeblood of our industry. From cameras to accessories, it’s our ability to evolve that has kept the excitement in our core photographers. “We need to create new and unique imaging experiences for our customers, to enable them to capture and create in ways they never could before,” writes Sony’s Neal Manowitz.
Moreover, while the growth in mirrorless is certainly a good sign, the DSLR business continues to offer solid performance. It comprises “78% in unit share of the total interchangeable-lens camera market,” says Nikon’s Jay Vannatter. And the growth in cinema lenses from Canon and Sigma also points to an increase in the overall lens market. “The crossover between still photography and moving images means users can take high-resolution frames from video,” says Canon’s Eliott Peck.
Then there is the future beyond our existing businesses. Ed Lee from InfoTrends believes “the next wave of imaging will involve virtual, augmented and mixed reality experiences, taking imaging beyond the conventional capture, view and share paradigm.” Drones, AR/VR and 360º-capable cameras create new and exciting opportunities for our industry.
“Consumer behavior has shifted from capturing a moment in time to life over time. And it has changed the equipment, advice and services they need,” says Humaneyes’ Jim Malcolm. And Lee asserts that it’s not too early to start preparing for this “fourth wave” of imaging.
Finally, the view from retailers is optimistic as well. Hunt’s Scott Farber sees many of his customers moving to higher end DSLRs, because “photography has become a passion in their lives.”
And with technology getting more and more intricate, retailers are in a perfect position to offer a critical need. “Consumers today are demanding more education to better maximize the tools they are buying,” says Jirair Christianian of Mike’s Camera. “But they also want retail environments that provide more fun, interactive experiences.”
Reaching a younger generation of customers is critical to the success of the industry. Recognizing their needs and habits, rather than just appealing to the existing ones, will drive us into the future.
Manny Almeida may have put it best: “The outlook is bright, sales are building and the imaging business is at the dawn of a new day rather than a sunset.”
Thanks to all of our contributors from this great industry for offering their perspectives for the State of the Industry 2017 report.—Jerry Grossman and Alan Levine
The State of the Industry 2017
Eliott Peck, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Imaging Technologies and Communications Group, Canon USA; Chairman and CEO, Canon Information Technology Services
An Industry Leader Confidently Embracing the Future
The incredible numbers we have heard about how many images are being taken and shared around the world no longer surprise our industry. We realize this is something embedded in our lives, part of a culture where people go to a restaurant and take photos of their food.
As a global imaging leader with a long-standing investment in the industry, Canon is enthusiastic to be at the forefront of this new era of imaging.
We not only believe in our industry, we are passionate about it and look forward to continuing to provide the products, technology and systems that enable our customers to achieve their creative visions. We understand what images mean to people and are always evolving to create products and solutions to better meet the needs of users of every type.
It is simple: Canon is committed to the imaging industry and is confident in its future. We want to help our users, amateur and professional, see impossible in whatever circumstances. For example, whether it’s a dramatic eclipse or a family pet, we are empowering our customers to produce the highest quality images. In many ways, there never has been a better time to be a photographer. The crossover between still photography and moving images means users can take high-resolution frames from video using cameras such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
Synergy with Cinema
The TV, movie and documentary production industries are seeing a dramatic evolution driven by 4K and HDR, with 8K on the horizon. We continue to grow in the cinema industry with the popularity of our Canon Cinema EOS C700. And our recently opened Canon Professional Technology and Support Center in Burbank, California, is offering film, TV and documentary professionals an amazing range of technical capabilities, from image acquisition through postproduction.
Canon is always seeking to bring higher quality, more intuitive solutions to users of our consumer products while meeting the diverse needs of our professional users. We will never stop investing in our sales and marketing organizations, our award-winning service and support, our business partners and, of course, our own people. While some companies fear change, Canon embraces it. That’s why, for 80 years, we have grown and thrived, and it’s why we look forward to inspiring our industry and users for generations to come. usa.canon.com
Manny Almeida, Division President, Imaging Division, Fujifilm North America Corporation
We Are at the Dawn of a New Day
Is the digitization of imaging complete? Perhaps, but the target consumer is still similar to those in the days of film. Moms with young children drive the heaviest purchases of printed photo products, and enthusiasts drive purchases of cameras and accessories.
So what has changed? Everything!
Instant photography is back in a big way with kids as young as five and as old as 80 using Fujifilm Instax cameras to express their creativity and share an original. This category is a great opportunity for specialty retailers. If you don’t carry Instax, you are missing strong sales demand and are not serving the target consumers who purchase other photographic products.
Professional film is also growing, mostly thanks to wedding photographers who want to differentiate their work. These folks are using film to express their artistry and convey a different look from digital. If you serve the professional and advanced amateur communities, do not give up on film.
Remember what we used to call “fish heads”? Today, these ancillary printed photo products have become the mainstream and present unique opportunities to serve the consumer and make money. You likely cannot make all of these in-store, but wholesale labs can provide the opportunity to offer these products with no inventory.
The outlook is bright, sales are building and the imaging business is at the dawn of a new day rather than a sunset. fujifilmusa.com
Jim Malcolm, General Manager, North America, Humaneyes Technologies, Ltd.
Life over Time
Defining the photo industry is exponentially more challenging and, quite frankly, trickier to predict than ever before. The imperatives that we’ve witnessed over the past four years remain unshakable. Consumers are adopting a comprehensive array of products and services that unwittingly quench their thirst for imaging innovation. However, their portfolio of products may or may not fit within the confines of the traditional photo industry.
Take for example the case of the camera market; the sum of the parts is not greater than the whole. Frame rates, picture quality, megapixels and zoom ranges still fit the bill for most professional photographers. But they aren’t all that’s needed to open a dialog with next-generation consumers. These new creators find themselves motivated by the billions of visual cues that surround them every day. They want to utilize the latest technologies, like VR or 360º video, to create immersive narratives.
For this group of innovators, photography has given way to a much more dynamic visual communication industry, anchored within storytelling. Consumer behavior has shifted from capturing a moment in time to life over time. And this has changed the equipment, advice and services they need. Empowering buyers to document their life, to tell their story and to author their comprehensive and engaging narrative is where the commerce opportunities lay.
The coming 18 months are ripe with opportunity for those manufacturers, resellers and service providers who find their place in the value chain and those who accept the fact that consumers are now seeking traditional and nontraditional means to create their narrative—to provide depth and scale to their environments in completely new ways. Growth categories include drones, wearables, remote imaging, artificial intelligence, 360º, augmented and virtual reality products and services. humaneyes.com
Paul Meyhoefer, Vice President, Marketing & Sales, JK Imaging Ltd.
Leading the Charge in the 360° VR Camera Market
JK Imaging is the worldwide licensee for Kodak PixPro digital cameras and devices. We are dedicated to driving and developing new, leading-edge products and to delivering core camera technologies to both consumer and professional markets.
Our commitment to being at the forefront of one of the greatest shifts in the digital camera industry, as the AR/VR markets continue to mature and widen, has solidified our cutting-edge position in the digital device marketplace. We are regarded as one of the leading companies in the 360° VR expansion. And we are considered industry pioneers by bringing one of the first 360° VR cameras to market three years ago.
As innovators and leaders in the interactive, 360° VR camera market, we are committed to providing multiple devices and options to not only consumers but also to professional content creators, when it comes to choosing a quality 360°, VR camera based on their specific needs. Armed with world-class hardware and software engineers, our dedicated product planning continues to harness the power of 360° technology and provide smart, intuitive, VR cameras to everyday consumers.
In addition to our commitment to the evolution of 360° VR, JK Imaging prides itself on continuing to offer an innovative, wide range of traditional cameras. These span from our point-and-shoot cameras to long-zoom, bridge models that continue to answer retail channel demands and each of our customer’s photography needs. kodakpixpro.com
Bradley Lautenbach, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Product Design, Light
Transforming Communication via Computational Imaging Tech
Images have become the most important medium of our time. Now that everyone has a smartphone in hand, we’re taking more than a trillion photos a year—of the places we travel, the food we eat, the people we love. We share these images with our networks, we text them to each other; they are the way we communicate.
This shift in our communication has created an insatiable demand for better photography. Yet the two industries competing for this space—legacy camera companies and smartphone manufacturers—have only made small, incremental steps toward meeting the need for quality images.
The SLR camera became a digital SLR camera, then a mirrorless camera; regular lenses turned into pancake lenses. Smartphone companies added features, like optical zoom and depth effect, to sell more devices. But despite these small adjustments and additions, the image—and the technology behind it—has not changed significantly.
Until Light. By leveraging advancements in computational imaging, Light is changing the fundamental way images are made. We use multiple, small, inexpensive cameras to capture different perspectives of the same scene, mimicking the way a large lens works. Then sophisticated computer algorithms combine those multiple images into a single high-quality photo.
Our approach doesn’t stop at better photography. Light’s computational imaging technology gathers vast amounts of data—data that can be used for infinite purposes, from biometrics to machine vision. In the years to come, these data-rich images will transform communication yet again, in virtually every area of our lives. light.co
Jay Vannatter, Senior Vice President, Sales, Marketing & Communications, Nikon Inc.
Positioned at the Crossroads of Legacy and Innovation
Nikon is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and our commitment to pioneering new technologies and bringing exciting new products to market has never been greater. We’re advancing high-end DSLR solutions and precision optics, as well as working on future mirrorless camera innovations.
The last few years have been challenging for our industry, but the market has stabilized. Looking to the future, we believe the imaging category has many opportunities for growth. And with more than 100 million NIKKOR lenses sold, our commitment is to continue to support our large install base through innovation. While we recognize growth in the mirrorless category, in the past year DSLR cameras continue to be the primary consideration for consumers, with 78% in unit share of the total interchangeable-lens camera market (source: NPD POS Data 12 Months Ending July 2017).
In the next year, Nikon will renew our focus on exciting new products for our core base of passionate enthusiast and professional users, including the new D850, which offers the height of DSLR capability with immense speed and resolution. It is a core part of our end-to-end solution, which includes NIKKOR lenses, accessories and professional support through Nikon Professional Services (NPS).
For many consumers, mobile devices are much more than a device to capture everyday events; they are a platform on which to build from and integrate. Our research indicates that when capturing important events, a dedicated camera is highly desirable for better image quality. Recognizing that people will continue to want and need a camera is paramount for success and growth in our industry.
Continue to Adapt
Retailers that acknowledge the continual shift in consumer behavior, as well as the role of cameras in people’s lives, will be well positioned to grow with us as we innovate. We encourage retailers to continue to adapt to service customers better, demonstrating both differentiation and customer value to incentivize people to visit retailers and upgrade.
It’s an exciting time in the industry, and Nikon is well positioned at the crossroads of legacy and innovation. nikonusa.com
Darin Pepple, Panasonic Senior Marketing Manager, LUMIX & Camcorders
Delivering Groundbreaking Technology, Supporting Retailers
Panasonic’s imaging business continues to deliver groundbreaking technology that benefits both the consumer and professional photographer/videographer. Our exclusive 5-Axis Photo/Video Dual I.S. 2.0 image stabilization technology and 4K video with internal recording at 4K/60p and 4:2:2, 10-bit internal continues to change photography.
We no longer are exclusively recognized for our strong video capability but also for still photography. Our robust interchangeable-lens assortment is now up to 30 high-quality Micro Four Thirds lenses that deliver everything you need for hybrid capture across both still and video. The technology that was originally available only for our high-end cameras and camcorders is now offered across the entire LUMIX G series.
We look forward to solid growth in the market led by our technology that will deliver continued groundbreaking video and still capabilities along with innovative firmware updates. While closely listening to our customer base, Panasonic will continue to innovate with state-of-the-art technology while supporting its authorized retailers with great new products and business programs. panasonic.com
Scott W. Hardy, President and CEO, Polaroid
Focusing on Products Consistent with Core Brand Values
The year 2017 not only marks Polaroid’s 80th anniversary but also a year in which we’ve seen tremendous growth in both the instant camera and analog film categories. Last fall, the NPD Group reported that unit sales of instant print cameras grew 166% in the 12 months ending in September 2016. And we’ve continued to see growth since then.
At Polaroid, we’ve maintained a focus on delivering products that are consistent with the core values of our brand. This year, market forces and consumer trends have inspired us to further intensify our focus on the values and experiences on which our brand was built.
Images today are typically stored on phones, computers or cloud services, and they are rarely printed. At Polaroid, we feel that a photograph is not a photograph until it is printed and in your hand. Otherwise, it is a digital rendering on a screen full of pixels and computer data. Having a tangible, physical photo is something unique and permanent in today’s digital, often transactional, world. Entire generations of younger consumers are beginning to discover this for the very first time.
Analog photography also encourages users to become more thoughtful photographers—to slow down, think about their shot and wait for the right moment. As consumers continue to embrace these more tactile, analog experiences, they naturally gravitate toward the Polaroid brand as our core brand values of instant sharing, ease of use, spontaneity and fun are synonymous with the experiences they’re seeking. polaroid.com
Kaz Eguchi, President, Ricoh Imaging Americas
Keeping an Eye on Evolving Consumer Trends
Over the past year, I’ve had an opportunity to see and learn much from our dealer base, and from our company’s analysis of consumer buying trends and input. Following are three trends worth noting.
Growth is being driven by new technologies: Consumers are looking for something different . . . something they don’t have. In the camera category, they are seeking capabilities that go beyond what is possible with their phones. And it’s not necessarily a matter of increased sensor size. It is more about providing them with new types of experiences: cameras that do more and are highly connected to other devices as part of the Internet of Things. Also worth noting is consumers are replacing products at slower rates, so the products we provide must deliver long-term value.
Accessories complete the experience: Accessories continue to be essential, both from a profitability standpoint and for their ability to enable a custom, complete experience for the consumer. We strive to produce stellar core products, but in an age where personalization is more important than ever, the ability for consumers to create specialized systems by adding on a lens, a waterproof housing or an auxiliary microphone is vital to completing the experience.
Success is driven by availability: With delivery times now often rated in hours—versus days or weeks—retailers must maintain inventory to keep pace with online resellers. Consumers do not have the patience for “special orders” when they can get virtually anything delivered overnight or even within a few hours. We know how challenging this environment is. As a result, we can expect continued retail consolidation.
Bullish about the Future
Ricoh will be keeping these trends in mind moving forward. We are bullish about the future, and we are committed to keeping our eye on changing consumer needs and evolving accordingly. ricohimaging.com
Mark Amir-Hamzeh, President, Sigma Corporation of America
Innovate to Push the Boundaries of the Digital Imaging Industry
Five years ago, the Sigma Global Vision was announced. Under new CEO Kazuto Yamaki, this bold brand reinvention launched at photokina 2012, heralding a new era in lens technology for the most demanding image makers. Today, the Art, Sports and Contemporary lens lines are recognized as world champion optics.
In 2016, Sigma entered the cinematography market, launching a line of professional Cine lenses. These lenses pair the optical expertise and formulas gleaned from the renowned Art line with the mechanical gearing and barrels necessary for digital film production. Under the banner of 100% retained and 100% new, the Sigma Cine line marries unbeatable optical performance with A-list, all-metal construction.
Handcrafted in Sigma’s sole manufacturing facility in Aizu, Japan, Sigma Cine lenses are perfect companions to the latest high-resolution, full-frame digital cinema cameras, ready to capture 6–8K productions. Appealing to a wide array of digital content creators, from still shooters to independent filmmakers to Hollywood DPs, Sigma has established itself as an innovator continuously pushing the boundaries of the digital imaging industry.
With this commitment in mind, Sigma actively supports the Imaging Alliance and its overarching mission to enhancing and growing the imaging industry. The alliance benefits every member of the digital imaging community, from consumer end users and professionals to our dealer partners and the wide range of manufacturers, which has expanded greatly beyond the still photographer to now encompass all digital content creators. It provides a conduit for innovative thinking and acts as a catalyst for effective communication. It strengthens connections as well as productive collaboration. Perhaps most important, it provides timely information on the latest trends to help its members thrive and prosper in this rapidly evolving global marketplace. sigmaphoto.com
Neal Manowitz, Vice President, Digital Imaging, Sony North America
Innovating Products, Technologies and Marketing Strategies
Our industry is evolving at a faster pace than ever. New products, new product categories, increased resolution, speed and more. It’s a great time to be a photographer or videographer.
However, it has been well publicized that, as a whole, our industry is in decline. In spite of this, solid evidence exists of longer term stability and growth in segments like mirrorless, premium compact cameras and 4K-capable video cameras. This growth is driven by innovation.
In order to succeed in today’s challenging market, we must focus on delivering innovation. We need to create unique imaging experiences for our customers—to enable them to capture and create in ways they never could before. At Sony, this is our core focus.
Perhaps the best example of this from us is our flagship a9 camera. It is redefining the concept of a digital camera. With up to 20-fps shooting, an unparalleled autofocus system and a completely silent shutter with zero blackout, it enables photographers to connect with their subject(s) and environment at a whole different level than any camera in history. It is already changing the world of sports photography, wedding photography and photojournalism, despite being introduced less than six months ago.
Taking it one step further, as an industry, this pursuit of innovation cannot stop at the product level. We must also innovate the way we market. Picture your brand as a media platform and push to tell the story of who you are and what you stand for. These are key components of success in reaching today’s customers. Take advantage of the tools at our disposal—social media, community building, vlogging, podcasts, etc. For example, at Sony we are developing our community through alphauniverse.com and on Instagram @sonyalpha.
Pushing the Limits
Moving forward, we will continue to push the limits in terms of our products, technologies, marketing activities and activations. Our goal is to deliver innovation and experiences that satisfy not only what today’s creators have asked for but also that introduce them to a new world they never thought was possible. We want to make them say “wow.” sony.com
Ed Lee, Group Director, Consumer & Professional Imaging Services, Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends
Prepare for the Fourth Imaging Wave
Analog film, the first wave of photography, lasted more than 150 years, with over 1.5 trillion photos captured worldwide during this timeframe. In the 1990s, digital cameras kicked off the second wave: digital photography. Smartphones were introduced in the late 2000s, marking the third wave: mobile imaging.
Always-connected smartphones and social networks have changed how people take and share photos and videos. Mobile imaging is led by companies with no background in photography, such as Apple, Samsung, Facebook, Instagram and Snap.
Since 2010, more than 3 trillion mobile photos have been captured worldwide. Even so, the smartphone may not be the main driver for the next wave of imaging, although we do expect it will continue to play an important role.
InfoTrends expects the next wave of imaging will involve virtual, augmented and mixed reality experiences. They will take imaging beyond the conventional capture, view and share paradigm. Image sensors incorporated into many devices will use computer vision and artificial intelligence to identify and map out users’ surroundings. VR, AR and MR will create immersive visual experiences that go beyond simple 2D photos and videos.
While leading mobile companies are participating, a wide range of start-up companies, like Meta, Magic Leap and ODG, will help to drive the future of immersive imaging. Ecosystems will emerge that will require new wearable devices, software/apps and services. All imaging companies should review their product and service portfolios to determine how they can participate in this fourth wave. It’s not too early to begin preparing. keypointintelligence.com
William J. McCurry, Chairman, McCurry Associates
We Must Together to Grow the Imaging Industry
Cynics see the closing of Keeble & Shuchat, Tall’s Camera and Showcase Photo & Video as dark storm clouds portending an unsurvivable flood. Like Chicken Little, they scream about the falling sky as they see manufacturers fawn over Amazon’s ability to funnel purchasing through their apparently unstoppable juggernaut.
Optimists applaud the opening of the new Fort Worth Camera, the pending (at press time) extremely profitable sale of a very large specialty retailer, the new Cincinnati ProCam store, and other green shoots of strength in imaging retail. These retailers have learned how to navigate the difficult terrain while growing their markets of photo enthusiasts. The pure-play soccer mom isn’t as frequent a buyer. Successful retailers have adjusted their inventory to replace her volume by building a base of photo enthusiasts.
Sony continues to counter “conventional wisdom” by growing market share through supporting their retailers rather than competing directly with their retailer partners. Sony retailers treasure the success of the company’s Alpha Universe event calendar, which drives enthusiasts to retailers. This site feeds customers into approved retailers who will foster the growth of customers’ success and passion.
In discussing the demise of 38-year-old, Sydney-based L&P Photographic Supplies, one Australian publication cast culpability on an industry partner who owned and generously financed Sun Studios (a competitor of L&P): “Sun Studios (competing in products, studio rentals and equipment rentals) by supplier Canon would have also been a mitigating factor.”
When asked if he saw the glass half full or half empty, George Haddad of ProCam responded: “What difference does it make? Let’s work together to make it full.” That’s the spirit that will carry this industry to new heights and successes. mccurryassoc.com
Ben Arnold, Executive Director, Industry Analyst, The NPD Group
An Image Sensor for Every Device
This has been a positive year for the imaging industry. The continued growth in emerging camera devices like drones, instant print cameras and security cameras has helped to expand the use case for cameras.
Interesting new form factors, like Snap’s Spectacles, captured the imagination of young consumers and drove demand with an innovative retail approach. And just about anything of interest happening in the world today is captured in real-time on Facebook Live, Instagram or Periscope. Indeed, the use case for cameras is not just alive and well; it is thriving and evolving.
While sales of traditional cameras have not yet hit the proverbial bottom, there are plenty of signs of vitality in the market. In the U.S., premium cameras continue to grow, as high-end point-and-shoot cameras provide a differentiated experience from smartphones. Detachable-lens cameras (particularly mirrorless) continue to gain share within the detachable-lens camera market. And features are also driving demand. As the ecosystem around 4K, in particular, continues to expand through television, so does the addressable market for 4K-compatible imaging devices.
For traditional camera manufacturers and retailers, the current state of the imaging market—as it has always been defined—is down. But I contend that is more a consequence of the march of innovation than any disinterest in photography. Consumers have never been more engaged with photography than they are today, but there are more devices capable of taking high-quality images at their disposal. npd.com
Hans Hartman, President, Suite 48 Analytics; Chair, Mobile Photo Connect Conference
Deduplication: The Must-Have for Enjoying Our Keeper Photos
We all know that in today’s world of everyone carrying their camera with them at all times, we’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of photos that we take or receive. And yes, a fair amount of these photos are ephemeral—a quick shot to share with a friend through Facebook Messenger or include in today’s Instagram Stories.
But still, based on a recent survey we conducted, on average 58% of consumers’ photos are believed to be long-life photos, i.e. “keepers.”
Given this ever-ballooning number of photos, what does the ideal photo-organizing app or service need to provide? With all the talk about face and image recognition, the number one feature today’s consumers want is the ability to filter out duplicates of their photos. In fact, for 40% of our respondents deduplication is the most desired feature. It is followed by face recognition, object recognition and esthetic ranking of their photos.
Ironically, deduplication is the area where we’ve seen little progress in the last few years. Most solutions simply identify duplicate images by comparing fingerprint-like “image hashes.” But in an age when many people take bursts of photos, we need features that also identify photos that are similar but not quite identical—and automatically determine the best ones, leveraging AI-based and context-aware solutions.
In addition, with many photos arriving through different apps and being stored in different locations on our phones, we also need ways to easily enjoy all of these photos in a single gallery, without being bothered by duplicate and similar versions.
It’s time to fix deduplication once and for all. Consumers cry for it! suite48a.com
Cliff Reeves, Director, Sales, DNP Imagingcomm America Corporation
Better Technology Drives Demand for Higher Quality Prints
This year we will see a record number of photographs taken globally: approximately 1.3 trillion images. Take a moment to think about that number. Here is another statistic to consider: less than 20% of them will be printed. As quickly as an image is taken, it can just as easily be deleted on any variety of devices to free up space.
Because of this, the business model where retailers offer large printing bundles at low prices no longer makes sense. The ability to quickly delete blurry or unflattering images means when consumers do print, it’s only the best images.
Furthermore, it’s for this reason that retailers are having greater success with smaller packages with higher margins. Customers are willing to make a greater investment knowing they are getting only the best shots.
To command these higher prices for smaller packages, retailers must commit to providing the highest quality prints. Printers that use dye-sublimation printing technology are ideal because the prints are dustproof, smudgeproof and fade resistant. Not only are the prints durable, but also the vibrant colors this printing technique delivers are hard to beat.
Printers, such as DNP’s DS620A, DS-RX1HS, DS820A or the SnapLab SL620A, give customers a huge variety of printing options. From 2×4-inch prints to stunning 8×32-inch panoramas, they provide something for everyone. When consumers decide that a picture is worth printing, they want to find the exact size, quality and finish that will do their masterpiece or sentimental gift justice.
At DNP, we continue to see printer hardware and media volume increases. And we have made significant investments in our facilities to keep up with demand. We are confident that growth will continue for the remainder of this year and beyond. dnpimagingcomm.com
Glen Hart, Vice President, Imaging Sales, Noritsu America Corporation
Photos Are Everywhere and Are Everything!
For anyone who has been involved in the photo industry for any length of time, it looks much different than it did just 10 years ago. What changed 10 years ago? The iPhone was unleashed upon the world.
Not only did the iPhone start a revolution in the telecommunications and music industries, it has had a dramatic impact on the photo industry. We’ve seen exponential growth of images taken since then, and in 2017 it is expected that 1.3 trillion images will be taken. That’s about 170 images for every person on Earth!
Today, 72% of the U.S. population has a smartphone and 90% of all images are captured with one. We see it daily, people taking pictures with their phones, everywhere, all of the time.
So, while the image capture side of our business is “off the charts,” our side of the industry, the image output side, has not kept pace. Only 4% of the images captured today are printed. If we can get that to change by the smallest percentage, think about what that would mean in terms of printed images and profit to our industry.
Our challenge is to help our customers, and potential customers, monetize the images that people are now carrying with them all of the time. The market has changed dramatically, but so has our opportunity. There are retailers today that are seeing 30% to 50% of their print volumes coming from smartphones, and their businesses are up because of it.
Making It Simple
How do we do that? We must find ways to make it simple for consumers to print their images. The opportunity exists. The challenge is there. To quote the protagonist that started all of this: “That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”—Steve Jobs. noritsu.com
Don Franz, Publisher, Photo Imaging News; Frank Baillargeon, President, F/22 Consulting
The Changing Photo Output Market
As photo-imaging analysts, we estimate the U.S. photo products market—photo books, calendars, mugs, greeting cards, posters, metal and canvas prints—to have reached $5.5 billion in 2016 and growing at 5% per year. If all the potential photo products/gifts are considered, this is significantly larger and growing at a faster rate.
While we continually hear that the photo print business is declining, our ongoing study of the market indicates just the opposite. The number of individual prints being made has been increasing since 2015, when that number fell to 9.1 billion. However, these prints are being manufactured by a wide range of companies, many of which do not have their roots in the traditional photo industry.
As the ability to order photo products from within apps such as Facebook proliferate, and major e-commerce companies hone their individualized marketing capabilities, the growth of all photo output products will continue. Competition is keeping prices in check, and the availability of new photo products expands as companies continue to develop automated systems for manufacturing them. Unfortunately, one of the consequences is that longtime photo retailers are challenged and need to reinvent themselves.
The biggest barrier to even greater growth is the lack of awareness among consumers about what is possible with their photographic images. The looming question is: how do we, as an industry, inform the public they can make almost any product with their images?
Adam Mirabella, President, Manfrotto Distribution Inc.
Get Creative in Supporting Future Image Takers
In the imaging industry, it is important to stay as creative on the business side as photographers are when they are creating art. At Manfrotto, we have refocused and energized our team to leverage our number one brand position in tripods to help retailers sell other accessories. For instance, globally, we are now the second largest bag brand out there. We accomplished this by maximizing our market share in tripods. Consumers easily understand our quality in bags because they trust us in tripods. This, in turn, adds to more bags sold for our retail partners.
In addition, we recognize that more image takers are working with video than ever before.
To enhance their video images, we launched a groundbreaking piston technology with the Nitrotech N8 fluid video head. We also released the Befree Live fluid video head, which boasts awesome fluidity on pan and tilt.
Manfrotto also continues to develop accessories for smartphone photographers. The TwistGrip is a great example of how we can enable smartphone shooters to create a much more impressive image than they ever thought possible.
Additionally, we now support the VR (virtual reality) channel. We are distributing the best VR/360º-capable products available in the market through our 360Rize partnership.
If we all get creative in supporting the image takers of the future, we will continue to see growth and a wonderful future for our business! manfrotto.us
Jeff Seidel, Director, Sales and Marketing, OmegaBrandess
Partnering with Dealers to Provide Instant Gratification
The retail photo landscape has changed dramatically with the advent of online sales. To succeed today you must have a solid e-commerce presence. That said, the most successful dealers are the ones who also have found a way to draw the consumer into their brick-and-mortar stores. We all should remember that ours is a touchy-feely business. It is visual after all!
Our target customers want to hold the camera in their hands and snap a picture with it and then view it on the screen. They want to try that accessory flash out to see if it is easy to use and gives the results they’re looking for. Buying a camera bag or strap is like shopping for a new pair of shoes—you need to try it on!
The last time I checked, we still live in an “instant gratification” society. Where better to get that than in the local camera store? Instant gratification also means having the inventory on-hand to capitalize on the moment the customer says yes! Dealers should promote that aspect of their business. The best way to lose a sale to the web is to say “I can order that for you.” Finally, dealers should emphasize their personal touch, be it over the counter or in an on-site class, which differentiates their camera store from the online giants.
At OmegaBrandess, we support our dealers by readily having our products on the shelf and shipping out most orders the day they are received. In addition, our reps—be they inside or in the field—provide personal service not found at the telemarketing firms. That’s the definition of a relationship business! omegabrandess.com
Rick Voight, CEO, Vivid-Pix
Restore, Reprint Photos: Revive Memories and Create Revenue
The more things change . . . Many of the genealogy photos that we enjoy today were taken by photographers who traveled from town to town capturing images of generations for future generations. The photographer captured a happy or significant event. The matriarch often paid relatively large sums to have this family photo. So simply taking the photo was a momentous occurrence.
Photos of the past have become priceless. Photos we take today remain priceless and are often without price. This two-sided coin continues to create new photo habits, business opportunities and industry challenges. Our industry must ensure that customers continue to love photos. We must also continue to find ways to promote the value of photos.
The more things stay the same . . . Photos of old must become photos for future generations. To do so, we must restore, archive and, often, reprint them. This is a valuable business. Photos taken today are photos for tomorrow. The value that our ancestors placed on photos and the significance that we currently place on photos must continue for tomorrow’s viewer.
Vivid-Pix software delivers these emotional needs by making old photos look new and new photos look better. Improving all photos revives memories and creates multiple revenue streams. In the coming year, we will continue to develop messages that communicate the value of photos to consumers and create new revenues for our global business partners. vivid-pix.com
Cathi Nelson, President and Founder, Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO)
Educate Consumers on Organizing, Preserving & Sharing Their Photos
Today’s consumers continue to be plagued with chaos and are overwhelmed regarding their photos and videos. The photo-organizing industry was born out of this customer need and is growing at an unprecedented rate.
In 2016, the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO) surveyed their membership and found the number one reason people hire photo organizers to help them is that they are simply overwhelmed by both their printed photos and digital images. These frustrated consumers want to care for their legacy but do not know where to start. They also feel they lack the skills and knowledge to accomplish the job.
Professional photo organizers have become community experts. They provide services that bring their clients’ family stories together in a structured and beautiful way. The top four services they help consumers with are scanning, digital photo organization, printed photo organization and album creation.
APPO continues to focus on offering educational opportunities for its members to learn how to manage their clients’ photo collections. We offer a three-day MetaData Camp, an annual conference and a Digital Photo Organizing certification program.
The imaging industry needs to develop a strategic plan, coordinated by everyone in the industry, to educate consumers on ways to organize, preserve and share their best photos and stories. Ways to accomplish this include online webinars, in-store classes and social media outreach. The health of the photo industry depends on this. appo.org
Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)
The Image Is (Still) Everything
This year we’re on track to take more than 1.3 trillion photos. And new research from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) underscores our obsession with the image—especially among younger consumers. We see an evolving opportunity for digital imaging (DI) companies.
Our study, Focus on Digital Imaging Industry Drivers: Apps, Outputs and Storage, finds younger millennials (ages 18–24) take an average of almost 900 photos a year. That’s more than any other age group. Moreover, 62% of teens (ages 14–17) and adults have printed or ordered photo-based products in the last year. That represents a five-percentage point jump from just two years ago.
We’re also getting more creative with what we use to capture our most memorable moments. CTA’s semiannual U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts industry report projects 2017 sales of 360º-capable cameras will reach 407,000 units. That’s a 216% year-over-year increase. And action camcorders are slated to hit record levels in the U.S. this year, selling 2.6 million units.
While CTA projects continued ebbing of overall DI sales in the U.S., innovative DI companies can leverage growing consumer demand for capturing images and creating tangible products to boost sales and satisfy new markets.
That’s why CTA’s Digital Imaging division is studying how consumers shop for DI products to help companies best meet consumer demand. And you can see the latest innovations in DI technology—including panoramic, virtual reality and the latest in photo printing and storage—at CES 2018. The Global Stage for Innovation, CES will be January 9–12, 2018 in Las Vegas. cta.tech
Jerry Grossman, Executive Director, The Imaging Alliance
Helping to Define the Future of Visual Communication
The Imaging Alliance takes a very broad view of how we can continue to keep our industry thriving. Our unique position as a trade association representing most of the major brands means that our members offer many perspectives. While they may all have their own agendas, they also see how important it is for companies to work together for the greater good.
We’re continuing to tackle vital issues to help drive growth. These include how we can convince people to buy “real” cameras, or how we can get consumers to print more. But we’re also agnostic when it comes to product. If it can take, record or print a memory, it’s in the mix.
With the unique perspective of now having manufacturers, software developers, associations and dealers joined together, the Imaging Alliance is looking at broad industry initiatives that can help on many levels—from driving sales and profits to presenting philanthropic programs. These programs include Portraits of Love and Your Image/Your Voice, which is our latest middle school anti-bullying initiative.
The general feeling at our board meetings is that we need to work harder as an industry to find solutions that drive the importance of taking quality images, and organizing and printing those images. We also need to help define the future of visual communication by acknowledging new technologies that will appeal to the next generation of consumers. We welcome any company within this exciting imaging industry to join us. theimagingalliance.com
Ron Mohney, Executive Director, IPI – Member Network
Focusing on the Success of Independent Retailers
IPI – Member Network focuses on the success of independent businesses. We designed our 2017–2018 Formula for Success using the 13 key growth areas mentioned here. Locations using all or parts of this formula are experiencing great momentum.
I also recommend that every business join an association like IPI – Member Network, PRO, Camera House or the Imaging Alliance. These groups offer tremendous value and are the only way to compete today.
13 Growth Areas
1. At IPI, we developed our licensed business model, the Print Refinery, by understanding that unique culture and consistent branding are most important. Everything a customer sees, hears, feels or senses about your business is your brand; it should be consistent across all touch points.
2. You need a robust and mobile friendly website that matches your in-store brand experience. Use Google Analytics to track your results and adjust accordingly.
3. Thoughtfully designed retail experiences allow you to compete against online giants. Moreover, create a customer journey. Make it one that takes your customer from brand discovery to a store visit, from the purchase process to packaging, from the use of your product to repeat business.
4. If what happens in-store is your best offense, put your best foot forward. A clean, modern store design that incorporates smart focal points, effective lighting and clutter-free digital displays will impress.
5. Carefully curate product selection and displays to highlight what’s new and trendy, plus top sellers and high-margin items.
6. Offer unique products and services; think local and personalized.
7. Hire the right team by clearly communicating your culture, brand story, vision and values from the beginning.
8. Incorporate a stellar initial training program and offer continuous team training.
9. Position your business as the local expert. Promote your team’s expertise and offering an engaging curriculum of classes and events.
10. Develop a local following by partnering with local influencers/groups. Also host neighborhood events and empowering team members to share their excitement.
11. Deploy highly targeted marketing campaigns (Facebook makes this easy!); track your results to adjust future efforts.
12. Hold an annual open house to engage your local community.
13. Creatively partner with other local businesses to fulfill their design, printing and photography needs. ipiphoto.com
Mark Leonard, COO and Director, Forward Momentum, Photographic Research Organization (PRO)
There Is Opportunity for Those Willing to Reinvent Their Businesses
The independent photo specialty channel continues to be vibrant and exciting for those retailers willing to evolve. Embracing drone technology and becoming well versed in video image capture skills are vital to being perceived as relevant by consumers and professional photographers.
There were a few camera store closings in the past 12 months that were portrayed as “the sky is falling” scenarios. The reality is that those owners enjoyed a healthy career in the industry and it was time to retire. And there is a balance to those exiting the industry. Fort Worth Camera, Action Camera, Dodd Camera, ProCam, Tuttle Camera and Hunt’s Photo and Video have each opened new locations or extensively expanded and remodeled their operations. Camera stores are being purchased rather than shuttered. There is opportunity for those who have the energy and determination to perpetually reinvent their businesses.
ProMaster product quality has never been better. This September we will introduce the most extensive number of photographic accessories in our history. This includes two tripod lines, two series of camera cases, L brackets, professional LED lighting systems, top-tier ND filters and many other accessories that are the right fit for retailers seeking excellent products at higher than industry standard margins.
Consumer awareness of the ProMaster brand grew this year as well. This was a result of our contemporary consumer website, training videos for frontline salespeople and a meaningful partnership with Tamron, which showcased the ProMaster GH25 gimbal head. Next month we will unveil a blog where professionals and consumers can share their experiences with, and impressions of, ProMaster gear. promaster.com
Yossi Fogel, Director, Sales, B&H Photo – Video – Pro Audio
My Two Cents
The more things move forward and products evolve in the imaging industry, the more relevant we are. B&H has thrived and continues to thrive in our industry by working with the philosophy that got us here in the first place.
Of course we always try to improve, but we stay true to our core advantage: and that is our knowledge.
As more and more products come out and imaging technology evolves, our edge is the ability to create solutions and help our customers understand how to leverage these new technologies and fancy imaging accessories.
In addition, our expertise enables us to show them how to put together the best solutions to achieve their visions. bandh.com
Michelle Bogosian, Vice President, The Camera Shop – Bryn Mawr
Thank the Smartphone for a New Breed of Picture Takers
Initially, I resented smartphones. Digital photography had only recently killed the 4×6-inch print market, and it was obvious that smartphones were going to be the death of the point-and-shoot camera. Sure enough, a decades-old segment of the market is all but gone, virtually overnight.
But I have come to love smartphones. The smartphone put a camera in the hands of so many. Now people of all ages are falling in love with photography more than ever before. And these are people who otherwise would have likely never owned a camera. They are taking pictures every day. A lot of pictures.
This increase in picture takers has created a new breed of equipment customer. This customer wants a camera “better than the one in my phone.” We hear this phrase on a weekly basis. They come in looking for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. They have been inspired, and we have the smartphone to thank.
Furthermore, along with the increase in picture takers and photo enthusiasts has come a growing interest in photo services. This includes large-format printing, fine art printing, canvas wraps, panoramic prints and custom framing. The new photographer is not interested in 4×6 pharmacy prints. These photographers want something that makes a statement, because viewing pictures on a screen is ordinary and boring. They are creative and want people to know it. They are excited about the alternative presentation options, such as different papers and image manipulation. And I am excited about the future of the imaging industry. thecamerashoponline.com
Scott Farber, President, Hunt’s Photo & Video
We Must Take Photography Messaging Back from Apple
For a long time, people purchased cameras because they needed them to record a moment in their life, such as a new baby, vacation, sporting event or wedding. The smartphone has all but removed that customer from the traditional camera market.
However, photography has emerged as one of the most exciting hobbies in the world. Today, customers who are buying cameras are doing so because photography has become a passion in their lives. This has shifted sales to higher priced DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. It has also create a strong accessory market for lenses, tripods, bags and lighting.
Yes, the customer base has shrunk dramatically. But we are left with a much more engaged customer base with a willingness to spend money on quality products. This customer is technology driven and constantly on the lookout for the next new product. A product’s tech and specs seem to be as import as price and promotion.
As a retailer, our success stems from the notion that we understand what Amazon is able to offer its customers. Although we can’t compete with Amazon on a lot of what they do, we find areas where we can beat them. For Hunt’s Photo, that is offering a customer service experience unmatched anywhere in the industry. We understand that time is a valuable commodity to shoppers. We need to make the time they spend in our stores worth their investment.
The imaging industry does have a messaging problem that we hope is addressed in 2018. This problem is that we have allowed Apple to become the company that promotes photography. Our industry needs to take this messaging back so that consumers understand there is more to picture taking than the iPhone. huntsphotoandvideo.com
Jirair Christianian, Owner and CFO, Mike’s Camera
Retailers Must Offer More Education & Interactive, In-Store Experiences
The imaging industry continues to generate much excitement and consumer interest. Manufacturers and retailers have an opportunity to capitalize on this by diligently reminding consumers of the reasons why photography needs to be a constant presence in their lives. We must focus on communicating its core message: the end product.
At Mike’s Camera, we have made our solution for consumers a three-pronged effort. We stock the widest array possible of quality photographic products and accessories; offer classes and workshops to teach photography in hands-on, immersive environments; and follow that up with a broad selection of photo-processing services. Most of our processing services are available with short turnarounds, to allow consumers to enjoy, share and showcase the end product of their photography.
We are fortunate to be in an industry that lends itself so readily to being experiential, that generates a high emotional response from consumers and allows for constant technological improvements.
The manufacturers in our industry continue to innovate, to push the boundaries of light capture and processing. Consumer-level photography devices can take better pictures more easily than ever.
Imaging retailing needs to evolve also. Consumers today are demanding more education to better maximize the tools they are buying. But they also want retail environments that provide more fun, more interactive experiences. Selection, ability to compare in-hand and fast delivery are becoming ever more important requirements. Reaching a younger generation is a challenge; multichannel approaches with pertinent, timely information resonate with them.
Through all these changes, while our industry continues to transform and consumer tastes and purchasing habits evolve, we are fortunate that one thing remains constant. Photography is the world’s greatest hobby! mikescamera.com