DIR May 2018 Editor’s Note: What Are We Really Selling?

DIR May 2018 Editor’s Note: What Are We Really Selling?


One of the coolest things about the photo business is that the products and services we sell are changing all the time. But what are we really selling?

We’ve sold everything from film cameras and disc cameras to APS cameras, digital point and shoots and digital SLRs. We’ve sold 8mm film cameras and VHS-C camcorders. Now we’re selling mirrorless cameras and rangefinders and professional DSLRs and a range of lenses that are simply astounding.

Jerry Grossman

So what do all of these products have as a common denominator? They are all tools used to tell stories.

Whatever form video and still cameras have taken in the past, it really has never been about the hardware. Cameras and lenses have fascinated people from the very beginning because they had stories to tell. A graduation. A family history. A vacation. A first love. An adventure. A cherished moment captured to be relived forever.

The intent has remained the same as the hardware has changed: from my earliest days when my father would pull out his 8mm camera to record seemingly every single day of my life, to now when almost anyone can pull out their smartphone at any moment and take a picture of . . . wait for it—themselves. Every picture, and every video, tells a story.

Today, storytelling is taking on an entirely new dimension. “Immersive storytelling” is the newest way that virtual reality is contributing to the art of the story. For future generations, a printed picture may no longer stand the test of time when a 360º 3D video can convey so much more. How people choose to tell their stories is what keeps us in business.

Are We Just Really Selling Cameras?

Jon Sienkiewicz’s article about visual storytelling on starts with a great notion: “The line between still photography and video isn’t blurred; it’s gone.” It’s incumbent upon us as an industry to keep up with this new, immersive storytelling phenomenon while at the same time appreciating the simplicity of the perfect portrait.

Every customer that walks into your store has a different story that they’re trying to figure out how to tell. Our strength should be to offer them the advice and expertise they need to help them tell those stories.

So are we really in the camera business? Or are we in the storytelling business?