Technology can work both ways. In some cases, it certainly makes life easier, like plugging your destination into the Waze app on your phone and having an instant map appear in your car. Or downloading a book on the fly as you head off to the beach. However, the 2019 state of the industry is in a very interesting place. We’re seeing more indications that what is old might very well be new again.
According to Don Franz, “The worldwide unit shipment of instant printers and camera/printer combos is estimated to rise from 8 million in 2016 to more than 12 million in 2021. And Fujifilm sold more than 10 million Instax cameras last year.” He goes on to say that “although the prices of the devices and media are high, these systems are popular among millennials and younger consumers. They enjoy the instant gratification of a print and the ‘retro’ experience.”
The instant gratification that we accuse the millennial and gen Z generations of abusing might very well be an indication of where our industry could be seeing pockets of profits. Digital cameras always offered the instant gratification to photographers that film lacked. But the love of our old Polaroid cameras never really went away. Moreover, today we’re seeing that gratification delivered in instant printing cameras and small portable printers, which kids are gobbling up.
We’re also seeing a resurgence in that old standby—film! “Gen Z film photographers are obsessed and insatiable!” says IPI’s Erin von Holdt. “They are using disposable cameras, SLRs inherited from relatives and newly purchased used models.”
In addition, OmegaBrandess’s Jeff Seidel reports that this resurgence “has provided a bit of a renaissance for his and other companies who provide the tools of the trade to the film photographer.”
2019 State of the Industry: New Tech
Should we all be wondering if we’ll soon see a resurgence of film cameras from the history books, like the Nikon FM and Canon AE-1, to capitalize on this nostalgic trend?
Of course, the state of our industry and the majority of our sales and profits will continue to be consumed by new technology; as will the ways in which we reach today’s consumer.
Canon’s Kevin Ogawa says, “Technology is at a critical evolutionary turning point, and our industry needs to expand its focus and find creative ways to generate new business in increasingly competitive market landscapes.” And Humaneyes’ Jim Malcolm, whose products are all about the future, says, “The opportunities for innovative photo and video resellers to provide immersive imaging solutions to their customers have never been greater.”
So how do we continue to drive consumers to our stores, when there are so many interruptions in their day? Nikon’s Jay Vannatter asserts, “The customer journey has shifted toward more online touch points. This provides exciting opportunities for retailers and brands to work together to create custom, original experiences that feel personalized and resonate with these new users and meet their needs, as well as those of core customers.”
Laowa’s Jeff Karp says, “Workshops, events and personalized attention make a store more valuable and give customers a reason to leave their computers and visit the store.” In addition, Sony’s Neal Manowitz feels that Sony programs like Be Alpha, Alpha Female and their Artisans of Imagery are all focused on developing and empowering a strong community bond.
The Future: Challenging and Exciting
The state of our industry continues to be challenging, but at the same time it is exciting. Consumers are starting to print more images, and interchangeable-lens cameras—driven primarily by new mirrorless cameras and lenses—have created a resurgence of interest in storytelling. Photographers are not just taking pictures anymore; they’re telling stories, and their creativity is fed by the imagination of the engineers who are providing products with limitless capabilities.
Our industry is in the unique position of looking both backward and forward for sales and profits. It’s recognizing those trends and continuing to appeal to different generations of customers who will ultimately drive our success.
We thank those on the following pages who offered their perspectives for our 2019 State of the Industry report.—Jerry Grossman
Kevin Ogawa, President and Chief Operating Officer, Canon USA, Inc.
Moving Forward with an Eye toward Innovation
While the imaging industry may be in disruptive and transformative times, one constant remains: Canon’s unwavering commitment to inspire people to shape and share their visions.
With an eye toward innovation, we don’t look at limits—for ourselves, our customers or our industry. We embrace the challenges that come with learning to navigate our consumers’ evolving needs, particularly those of the younger generations. That’s why we are sharply focused on innovation at all times.
Technology is at a critical evolutionary turning point, and our industry needs to expand its focus and find creative ways to generate new business in increasingly competitive market landscapes.
Just this past year, Canon USA introduced two products that expanded innovation in imaging: our IVY CLIQ+ instant camera printer and our EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera system. Both reimagined photography in their key market demographics. As a result, they experienced great success with huge potential for further growth.
Everything we do begins and ends with our customers and their creative dreams. In support of their needs, Canon USA looks to drive innovation through dedicated teams from coast to coast, providing expertise in areas such as software, smart services, R&D and manufacturing.
In 2020, Canon will continue to forge the path for our industry leaders. Our passion for imaging knows no boundaries; neither does our determination. We are aware of the challenges, but we welcome them as opportunities. And we boldly move forward in our pursuit to conquer them.
Gary Shapiro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Technology Association
Action Cameras & Multiple Lenses: The Next Big Trend in Digital Imaging Tech
Advancements in smartphone cameras are causing traditional camera sales to slow; 19 million digital cameras were sold worldwide in 2018, compared to 400 million smartphones. But continuous innovation in digital imaging has led to a growing demand for nontraditional-use cameras and multi-lens cameras, particularly action and 360º cameras.
Toward the end of 2018, the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) Research Quarterly Tracker found 15% of U.S. households owned an action camera. And CTA’s Digital Imaging Forecast estimates that by 2021 over half a million 360º cameras will sell annually.
By incorporating digital imaging into nontraditional-use cases—such as action and 360º cams, drones, dashcams and security cameras—the imaging industry continues to innovate. One example of an exciting new technology is Pixcurve, a curved image sensor that debuted at CES 2019. Designed to replicate the human retina, Pixcurve technology could one day integrate with smartphones, action cameras and virtual reality headsets. Or think about smartphone cameras. Many now have multiple lenses: one for conventional photography; one for taking in ambient light; and another to improve color accuracy.
As demand for these products increases, imaging companies should consider incorporating multiple lenses and sensors in digital, action and 360º cameras; devices with multiple features—and multiple lenses—are growing faster than stand-alone cameras themselves.
Jenn Sherry, Retail Sales & Marketing Manager, Delkin Devices
Storage Wars and Woes
With the world taking over a trillion photos each year, the elephant in the room is where do we store them? Let’s consider these options.
Pro: It’s fast, easy and fairly inexpensive. Consumers can store right from their smartphones or computers.
Con: Uncertainty. Where are grandma’s 90th birthday photos really? Will they be there 10 years from now?
DVD or Blu-ray Discs?
Pro: Long lasting, stable storage.
Con: Technology is changing quickly.
RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks)?
Pro: The “R,” Redundant. Redundancy is always good.
Con: Drives can fail and a system is large.
Memory Cards and SSDs?
Pro: They are inexpensive, stable and small.
Con: Memory cards can also fail over time, and they need to be plugged into a host or reader periodically.
The key to success is redundancy. Back up and back up some more. That means print out images. It means consumers should buy larger capacity memory cards and SSDs and use them for backup. It also means they should store their prints, memory cards and drives in a disaster-proof safe.
We can’t get our moments back, but we can certainly capture and protect our memories. Hopefully with a “real” camera.
Suzanne Seagle, Director, Marketing, DNP Imagingcomm America Corporation
The Key to Sustained Growth Is Effective Partnership
In any industry, growth comes from innovation. We’ve been innovating on the media front, the printer front and the booth front. This provides DNP with a positive, compelling narrative to share with our dealers; and for our dealers to share with their customers at retail, at events and on assignment.
The feedback to these innovations is universally positive—metallic media has prompted new conversations, new ideas and new business. The photo booth business is strong—in large part due to the fact that builders are basing systems on the performance and reliability of our printers. In addition, the core business continues to be robust, because we understand the importance of partnership.
I think partnership—designing printers and media with the input and feedback of our customers and supporting those products with comprehensive programs—is key to de-commoditization and sustained growth.
As we look forward to 2020, I believe the state of the industry is strong. However, we must continue to be innovative and creative; that will yield new products, new programs and new business!
Robert Davidson, Chief Executive Officer, Forever Connected Yearbooks & Directories
Merchandising the Story
In 2019 and through 2020, consumers will continue their journey on the print–digital product relationship. All signs show they’re still in the early phases. Digital hype may outweigh print hype. However, consumer spending shows there’s plenty of room for both.
Forever Connected has learned there’s a sweet spot for digital. Forever Connected’s mobile school yearbook, which is distributed along with print by yearbook publishers, keeps the yearbook tradition of personally signing a classmate’s yearbook. However, now it’s from device to device.
This reveals the first surprise: when industry leaders first heard of Forever Connected Yearbooks in 2014, they assumed it was out to kill print. But it never was.
It turns out a most valuable digital transformation for a print product is not a digital replacement but a digital marketing companion.
For portrait photographers, churches as well as membership groups, we’re a source to get many portrait subjects through a single contract. Those photographers historically provided a print directory of the membership in return for the opportunity. And that directory publication cost ate into the commercial feasibility of the contract.
So Forever Connected developed a mobile membership directory. It’s a better way to market the photographer’s core business.
The directory is distributed by the photographer for a fraction of the cost of print, and it is always up to date.
In addition, we’ll be introducing a new photo book marketing platform that is more engaging than ads or marketing e-mails; it’s actually fun.
Jim Malcolm, Chief Marketing Officer, Humaneyes Technologies, Ltd.
It’s Time to Define the Future of Visual Innovation
Let’s remember that imaging innovation took root and radically redefined our industry when Apple, Samsung and Qualcomm set their sights on the photography and video segments.
The photo industry referenced earlier cameraphones as having “poor image quality” and being “not good enough.” However, consumers broadly chose convenience over quality. That ultimately spurred the rapid decline in sales and usage of digital cameras.
On a more positive note, the VR capture category is enjoying growth; more consumers, prosumers and organizations are recognizing the many benefits and myriad applications for immersive photo and video. The purchase of multi-lens 3D cameras is fueled, in part, by the rapidly expanding installed base of VR headsets.
According to Viar360, Facebook forecasts an additional 1.3M Oculus Quest headsets will ship before year’s end. Moreover, these units join the 4.2M Sony PS VR headsets and roughly 14M other HMDs already in consumers’ hands.
The opportunities for innovative photo and video resellers to provide immersive imaging solutions to their customers has never been greater. At Humaneyes Technologies, we remain committed to providing the virtual reality industry with easy-to-use, fully immersive cameras, designed explicitly to create 3D-VR pictures and video.
According to SuperData Research, a Neilson Company, VR revenues reached $3.6 billion in 2018 and are expected to grow to $4.8 billion in 2019. Going into Q4 2019, it’s essential to qualify customers between 360º action cams and VR capture solutions that create 3D content, which is ideal for playback in VR headsets.
As channel participants evaluate the role of VR in their businesses, remember, as Henry Ford famously-supposedly said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Now is the time for all of us to define the future of visual innovation.
Erin von Holdt, Vice President, Marketing, IPI – Member Network
Independent Photo + Print Businesses in 2019/2020: Three Ingredients for Growth
Capitalize on Being Local
Strong growth continues for many IPI members and licensees of the Print Refinery. They are beating the online competition in several major categories. How? By highlighting the fact that they are local and taking the time to get to know the stories behind the memories. Seems obvious, but it is incredibly important when it comes to our most precious photographs and memorabilia.
Memory Preservation + Archiving
Independents have made impressive growth in this channel; they have discovered how a personalized experience can result in more customer loyalty than any commodity photo product could. The marketing message is simple: “We never recommend shipping away family archives, treasured vintage photos and irreplaceable home movies. It’s too risky. We keep your treasures safe and local.”
Many retailers are even offering pickup and delivery services. Some IPI members are experiencing growth as high as 172% this year!
Film Developing Resurgence
Gen Z film photographers are obsessed and insatiable! They are using disposable cameras, SLRs inherited from relatives and newly purchased used models. These new photo consumers not only want prints, but they also want their files delivered on digital media and stored in the cloud. These are certainly great services on which to capitalize. IPI members are seeing hundreds of rolls each week, along with many new faces. And, best of all, the local photo lab or film expert is the perfect destination for this new generation to learn and experiment with their photography. Not to mention, they have confidence in knowing their film is developed in an authentic lab environment.
Paul Meyhoefer, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, JK Imaging Ltd.
Committed to the Power of Digital Imaging
Building successful partnerships with key retailers and distributors in the fast-paced tech industry is a challenge in today’s ever-evolving landscape. We have been fortunate to foster valuable and lasting relationships with key retailers and distribution partners; they have helped us successfully launch and reinvigorate demand for the Kodak PixPro digital camera brand.
Now more than ever, technology is one constant that is rapidly evolving and integrating into our daily lives. While smartphones and their cameras filled a tremendous gap for carrying a camera most everywhere we go, we are still faced with a strong consumer need and desire for affordable and dedicated digital cameras and devices.
One of the core strengths within any brand is the ability to expand and offer customers a variety of choices for a great value. We have done that with the Kodak PixPro camera line. In fact, we offer point-and-shoot; mega-zoom/bridge; waterproof, action and rugged models; as well as 360° VR cameras.
One idea hasn’t changed in well over 130 years since George Eastman sold the first Kodak camera. And that is the importance of capturing and preserving memories for generations to come. Moreover, our Kodak PixPro digital camera brand is fulfilling this promise and giving people the ability to do just that—no matter what type of camera they choose to use or where they choose to take it.
We are committed to the power of digital imaging and the promise of this tremendous technology looking forward into the future.
Ed Lee, Group Director, Consumer and Professional Imaging Services, Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends
Aspiring Photographers on the Rise
Finding new sales opportunities in the photography market is an ongoing challenge. As part of Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ ongoing research into the equipment ownership, attitudes and behaviors of consumers, we recently discovered a very promising group of people. We call them “aspiring photographers.”
Aspiring photographers are people who are no longer satisfied with just taking smartphone photos. They have a passion for photography and want to feed it by taking their skills to a new level. This group will want to invest in the right cameras, lenses and accessories to help them express themselves as photographers. Moreover, they wish to improve their knowledge of photography through in-person or online educational courses or seminars.
In our study, we found that about one-third of picture takers expect to move up to a more advanced level of photography within the next five years. Furthermore, slightly more than a third of these aspiring photographers already own an interchangeable-lens camera; 37% are considering buying one in the near future.
It is not surprising that Canon and Nikon are the most popular brands of DSLRs owned; while Sony scores highest among mirrorless camera owners. DSLRs are more popular than mirrorless as the type of camera under consideration. However, with the influx of new mirrorless models, this could change.
We will continue to actively investigate and monitor this emerging group of photographers. It is our recommendation that the photography industry should focus more attention on this group, to ensure a steady flow of camera, lens and accessory sales.
Jeffrey M. Karp, National Sales Manager, Laowa USA
The Key Is Innovation and Reacting to Market Changes
As the photo industry continues to experience major changes, we must adapt or fade away. Bleak words but painfully true. Thankfully, there are forward-thinking companies that keep the market moving in the right direction. But, everyone needs to play their part.
Successful dealers know the only way to stay successful is by interacting directly with their customers. Access to products has never been easier, so dealers need to do more to survive. Workshops, events and personalized attention make a store more valuable and give customers a reason to leave their computers and visit the store. Dealers who “wait” for customers will ultimately fail.
Although Laowa entered the market at a difficult time, their creative, passionate vision, superior optical designs and a product line that is anything but “me too” have driven rapid growth.
Offering unique, innovative lenses (ultrawide, ultra-macro, cine) and going after expanding categories (mirrorless, MFT, drones) have kept the spotlight on Laowa. The new 10–18mm and 15mm f/2 ultrawide lenses for Nikon Z and Canon R instantly filled a serious gap.
In addition, expanding the MFT line (Blackmagic, Olympus, Panasonic, drones) with the 7.5mm f/2, 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D (zero distortion) and 4mm f/2.8 fisheye (360° global panoramas/VR tours) keeps Laowa on top of the latest trends and demands. Moreover, Laowa’s 17mm f/4 ultrawide lens for Fujifilm GFX medium-format cameras raises the bar again.
The key to growth in these trying times is innovation and reacting to market changes. Companies like Laowa are helping to lead the way.
Bill McCurry, Chairman, McCurry Associates
Market the Fun of Photography
We’re moving forward to the past. Pre-digital, the industry’s hardware sales were focused on passionate amateur hobbyists, semipros and professionals. We’ve come full circle.
Mass merchants have all but abandoned photo because most consumers aren’t photo hobbyists. Those stores that are successfully catering to hobbyist-through-professional customers saw a business uptick by effectively selling fun. (A book titled The Fun of Photography was first released in 1938!)
B&C Camera, Las Vegas, Nevada; Horn Photo, Fresno, California; and Fort Worth Camera, Fort Worth, Texas; have expanded or relocated their stores recently. They all added new capabilities with classrooms and event space.
In their first full year of operation, B&C and Fort Worth Camera will each teach more than 4,000 students. While getting educated, their students are building a local photographic community. They’re the customers who’re buying accessories—and new bodies—to maximize their hobby’s fun.
Certainly classes are a revenue stream, but there’s more to it than that. At Horn Photo, Stan Grosz holds free Clicking Caravan events. He takes over venues like a museum, car dealership or winery. The criteria for free admission is “come have fun with your camera.” Customers pay nothing to attend. Vendors fight to be sponsors because the crowds are active photo shooters; they are joining with others to improve their picture taking and are filling their gadget bags with new equipment.
This customer experience drives repeat business. These stores and many others see the results at their cash registers. Camera store customers of all ages are becoming active supporters of their local photography community.
Marketing the fun of photography looks like the key for a prosperous 2020 and beyond.
James Chan, Director, Printer Business Unit, Mitsubishi Electric U.S., Inc., Visual & Imaging Systems
Productivity and Efficiency Are Important Benchmarks
Looking around in any mass-merchant store nowadays, one will not doubt that traditional photo printing is a lesser part of the equation in the photographic experience. However, in our dye-sub printer quick-print industry, which sells mostly to price-sensitive customers, Mitsubishi Electric remains a premium manufacturer. We compete mainly with quality and service. It’s a huge challenge nowadays since most end-user customers have opted for self-research through the vast Internet, instead of the good, old consultative input of knowledgeable salespeople in their buying journey. Moreover, price is one of the top factors, if not the top one.
For 2019 and beyond, at Mitsubishi Electric, as a hardware manufacturer, we shall continue our campaign on quality and service to the quick-print community. However, we are challenged in finding more innovative ways to communicate our value to prospective customers in the social media community, while keeping our service level high for our system integrator customer base that has come to expect no less from us.
This year, one key feature we added to our new printer, the CP-M1E, which is now available, is operational excellence. Whether you run a photo booth business or the photo section in a retail store, minimum wage hikes caused staffing costs to skyrocket. As a result, staff productivity and efficiency are new, important benchmarks to consider when choosing printers, to ensure minimal operational costs with no compromise on service or quality. We achieved that in our new printer. Sensible buyers will realize that as they become more cost-conscious over simply being price-conscious.
Jay Vannatter, Executive Vice President, Nikon Inc.
Empowering a New Generation of Passionate Creators
It is an extremely pivotal time in our industry. The popularity of content creation has empowered a new generation of passionate creators who shoot both photos and videos. They are enthusiastic about sharing and curating content to connect with their communities in interesting and relevant ways.
Similarly, they expect brands and retailers to connect with them in an authentic and personalized way; inspiring their passions and providing them with the tools and information to further help in the pursuit of what they love.
At Nikon, we are embracing a wide range of tools to reach our core customers as well as this new generation of creators. Through our Ambassadors, various digital and social platforms, marketing initiatives, influencers, education and content, we have the ability to personalize all forms of communication to engage with users of all levels and bring them together as a community. This is all while offering a product line of mirrorless and DSLR cameras as well as a vast array of lenses that push the limits of innovation in optics and imaging technology.
Engaging the Consumer
Retailers also play an essential role in building community and in engaging users in a personal way. The customer journey has shifted toward more online touchpoints. This provides exciting opportunities for retailers and brands to work together to create custom, original experiences that feel personalized and resonate with these new users and meet their needs, as well as those of core customers.
Today, consumers often start their journey with their phones as their primary camera. They are capturing video as much as still photos, as well as seeking tools that keep pace with their creativity. Like our traditional customer, this user also demands quality. In order for us to grow the market and thrive within this dynamic and ever-changing landscape, it is imperative we continue to build relationships with this consumer.
As a manufacturer, we look forward to partnering with our retailers to engage these consumers in authentic and exciting ways. We will continue to provide the best tools that storytellers use to bring ideas to life.
Jeff Seidel, Director, Sales & Service, OmegaBrandess Distribution
What’s Old Is New Again, So Let’s Ride the Wave
It’s no secret that film is making a comeback, bringing all things analog along with it! As a distributor with its roots in the darkroom (ever hear of Omega enlargers?), this resurgence has provided a bit of a renaissance for us and other companies who provide the tools of the trade to the film photographer. This includes the photo retailer who is the face of photography for consumers all over the country. Many of these consumers are often referred to as millennials, and that’s a positive in this context.
These new photographers shun smartphones as the camera of choice; they are instead opting for an old Canon AE-1 or Nikon FM. They get together and have shooting parties and then rush to the store to have the film developed and scanned. If you are running a film machine, you know what I’m talking about! All good, right?
Well, we all wish this swelling interest resulted in the return of the printing boon of the ’80s, but that’s not the case. These scanned images are destined for sharing via the various social media outlets, like Instagram. Facebook? Not for this crowd.
There is a huge opportunity for all of us, distributors and retailers alike, to ride this wave to new sales and profits. Many of these new customers are also getting into developing their own film. That means they need chemistry and all the supporting gear. Of course, they need to buy film and have some way to store the developed negatives.
OmegaBrandess has been fulfilling these needs for decades through product lines like Kodak, Kalt, Edwal and more. We know a bit about them! BTW, it’s back-to-school season. It’s a perfect time to stock up on the aforementioned products (on sale now!).
Jack Oh, Group Manager, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company
People’s Stories Inspire Panasonic Lumix
At Panasonic Lumix, we are continually inspired by people’s stories. Moreover, we follow Panasonic’s Seven Principles, which include our “untiring effort for improvement,” yielding “technology that moves people.”
In 2019, our industry is still faced with declining sales, tough operating profitability issues and more global uncertainty about U.S.–China trade friction. The imaging industry overall, however, has endured. It continues to overcome this challenging business environment, not only with innovations such as mirrorless technology over traditional DSLRs for lighter, more compact and better capturing tools, but also by the innate nature of imaging to continue to create new content, inspire others and dream bigger.
This year also marks one of the most anticipated and exciting years for the Panasonic Lumix team by introducing a new S system. The “S” stands for “Specialized,” to enable professionals and enthusiasts to expand their creative vision without any compromise. “S” carries our passion to enable users to expand their range of work and pursue their creative expression in still and video. In addition, in the second half of 2019, we will continue building the S series ecosystem. We are excited to share more innovation, to be announced in the near future.
Adaptability is another of our Seven Principles. Emboldened by our team’s resilience, we will also continue to anticipate evolving customer needs. Moreover, we will be inspired by their passionate dialogues to improve and focus our vision of “Changing Photography.” Panasonic Lumix will continue to meet its development challenges by maintaining our position as an industry innovator and introducing a steady stream of exciting new imaging technologies.
Don Franz, Publisher, Photo Imaging News
A Reviving Interest in Films
Have we really abandoned still photographic film? The “Big Three” filmmakers—Fujifilm, Kodak Alaris and Lucky Film—are culling their product portfolios as volumes decline. In addition, Lucky has discontinued making films altogether.
However, during the past few months, we have seen a renewed interest in film photography. Moreover, other manufacturers have started production of a variety of color and black-and-white films. The Swiss online publication fotointern has assembled an impressive review of the color (ow.ly/V8qP30pipOF) and black-and-white (ow.ly/ObS930pl8bI) films currently available.
The worldwide unit shipment of instant printers and camera/printer combos is estimated to rise from 8 million in 2016 to more than 12 million in 2021, according to Keystone Intelligence. And Fujifilm sold more than 10 million Instax cameras last year. Even Leica introduced an instant camera.
Although the prices of the devices and media are high, these systems are popular among millennials and younger consumers. They enjoy the instant gratification of a print and the “retro” experience. While the current interest may not last, it is introducing younger consumers to analog photography and printing.
Younger consumers are also exploring film cameras. A few independent U.S. on-site finishers, reacting to consumer interest, have reentered the film-processing business. One challenge they face is finding film-processing equipment and the various accessories required. However, as the price of the films and the processing climbs, cost may deter further growth.
Mark Leonard, Chief Operating Officer, Vice President, Photographic Research Organization
Input from Employees and Like-Minded Retailers Is Key
It’s never enough to fill a store with inventory, open the doors and hope for the best. For as long as I can remember, employers who nurture an entrepreneurial spirit and creativity from their team have fared better than the rest.
Engaging the potential of the people who work for you is fundamentally important. Newer coworkers understand blogging, mobile communications, etc., far better than seasoned veterans. How have you empowered them to manage daily communications with your audience?
Have you asked your newest employees what they really think of your store’s aesthetic? Of the events you conduct? Of your connect-with-consumer efforts? Is it possible they see things for what they are better than you? Can they share their opinions without fear? Are you truly open to change?
Leaders who are great listeners, and better delegators, enjoy a prosperous business. Success today requires you to spend the same amount of energy and money on your business now as the first day you opened the store.
September 23rd begins the 61st Annual Photographic Research Organization (PRO) Convention. This gathering of the smartest independent photo retailers from the U.S., Canada and Australia is like nothing else in the industry. The energy, excitement and learning that happens when we’re together is rejuvenating. Face-to-face access to PRO retailers on trade show day is an exclusive benefit to our 48 vendor partners.
Here is the most frequent comment after a PRO convention: “I walked away with more ideas than I can implement in a year”! The easiest way to ensure success for years to come is to recognize that being independent doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. PRO members enjoy invaluable access to ideas, resources, vendor partnerships and a community of like-minded people who work together for mutual success.
Oskar Smolokowski, CEO, Polaroid B.V.
Digital and Analog Photography Should Live in Harmony
We’re continuing to see strong demand in the analog and instant photography market. People have a unique, physical connection with Polaroid, instant photos and the stories and memories behind them. That connection, and strong differentiation from smartphones, has helped grow instant photography for more than 80 years. In fact, the consumer instant photography market is bigger now than it was in the 1990s!
Smartphones will continue to be the primary devices people use to take photos for the foreseeable future; other cameras continue to be secondary. But with so many smartphone pictures getting lost behind a screen, never to be seen again, people are searching for ways to bring meaning back to everyday photography. Social networks alleviate this in an ephemeral way; a photo is shared and forgotten within one or two days. Notably, people are now looking for photography tools to accompany them through life’s important moments, to create tangible, meaningful memories that last.
Instant photography is a social, creative medium that makes meaningful connections that often get lost with smartphone photography. That being said, we believe digital and analog photography should live in harmony, and smartphones have a big role in the evolution of analog instant photography.
Later this year, we’re launching a new instant photography product that literally takes pictures from the cloud to the fridge door. Our goal is to perfectly combine digital and analog photography.
We are excited for our upcoming product launches and to show you the future of analog photography, which we believe in long term.
Rick Booth, Marketing Director, Sigma Corporation of America
Innovative Products Expand Opportunities for Dealers and Consumers
Today’s evolving retail environment has created immense challenges for imaging dealers. However, it has also initiated a wealth of unprecedented opportunities. As a leading manufacturer of lenses and cameras, Sigma Corporation is uniquely positioned to take advantage of those opportunities. We create innovative products designed to elevate the creative image-making experiences of consumers, and to motivate them to engage at a higher level.
In response to the surging popularity of full-frame mirrorless cameras, Sigma’s optical engineers are developing an inspiring line of high-performance DG DN lenses; they complement these new cameras’ capabilities. For starters, we just announced the Sigma 14–24mm f/2.8 DG DN fast wide zoom; the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN walk-around prime; and an amazing ultrahigh-speed wide angle, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN. It features outstanding low-light performance, bokeh and depth-of-field control. Moreover, all DG DN lenses will be available in the Sony E mount and the popular L mount jointly developed by Leica, Panasonic and Sigma.
Furthermore, to give sophisticated to casual shooters a convenient, ultracompact, high-performance, pocket-size alternative to the ubiquitous smartphone for capturing pro-caliber stills and video, Sigma developed the groundbreaking Sigma fp mirrorless digital camera. It’s the world’s smallest full-frame (FF) mirrorless that combines everyday shooting ease, scalable system options and a seamless transition between still and cine. And it’s all housed in an ultra-slim 4.43×2.75×1.78-inch pocketable form factor that weighs in at under 15 ounces (body, fully equipped)! It also boasts a 24.6MP FF Bayer sensor, a maximum burst rate of 18 fps and built-in 4K UHD/30p video.
In addition, the Sigma fp is just the latest in a long line of innovative Sigma products that expands opportunities for dealers by enabling consumers to shoot higher.
Neal Manowitz, Deputy President, Imaging Product and Solutions Americas, Sony Electronics
Driving Innovation for Loyal Communities of Customers
It’s an exciting time to be in the imaging business. Today’s creators are continually pushing to take their work to the next level, to capture what has never been captured before. As an industry, we must continue to evolve—and most important, innovate—in all aspects of our business.
Innovation is core to Sony. We invest to bring innovation to our products and our brand. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to meet and exceed the intense demands of the many communities of interest in today’s imaging world.
For example, on the product side, we developed Animal Eye AF to appeal to nature and wildlife photographers and Video Eye AF for video creators and vloggers. In addition, we equipped the brand-new Alpha 7R IV with a newly developed 61MP full-frame sensor that appeals to many landscape and portrait photographers. There’s also the Alpha 9, ideal for many sports, news and wedding photographers. That’s thanks to its ability to shoot at 20 fps, completely silent, with 60 AF/AE calculations per second.
Moreover, on the brand side, our efforts also revolve around “communities of interest.” Programs like Be Alpha, Alpha Female and our Artisans of Imagery are all focused on developing and empowering a strong community bond. This builds a long-term partnership with our customers; it also creates a positive loop for Sony to receive feedback on how to improve.
There has never been a greater demand for imaging content than today. Industry-wide, if we can all focus on driving innovation, our loyal community of customers will respond and grow, allowing us to not only succeed but to thrive.
Hans Hartman, President, Suite 48 Analytics; Chair, Visual 1st
Follow the Money
I couldn’t think of a bigger cliché than this headline. But it’s so appropriate: the technologists among us think it’s technology innovation that could revamp the stagnant areas within the photo industry. Technology innovation might do so in some areas; however, it’s business innovation that is generating the most significant new opportunities.
The Subscription Model
Case in point no. 1: both Apple and Google changed their app store rules to allow app developers to charge subscriptions to their apps. Big deal? Absolutely! In October 2017, Itai Tsiddon, cofounder of Lightricks (makers of the Facetune, Enlight and other photo apps), told our Visual 1st conference attendees that this change would allow his company to increase revenues above what he considered the natural ceiling of $10M in annual revenues for perpetually licensed apps.
Guess what? The company now has 3M paying subscribers, tripled its revenues each year over the past three years, is profitable and employs 260 people. And yes, it became a unicorn with a valuation of more than $1 billion after its last funding round of $135M.
VSCO is another photo app developer that benefited from the app stores’ subscriptions. While not growing as spectacularly fast, it doubled its revenues last year to $50M. Moreover, it previously raised $90M at a valuation of $550M—call it half a unicorn.
The Gig Services Model
Case in point no. 2: smart entrepreneurs are leveraging the growing adoption of gig services to the world of photography. They are offering Uber-like photo services, such as “photographers on-demand.” There are now a slew of gig photography solution providers on the market. The largest is France-based Meero, which reached unicorn status in June after raising $230M. And what happens if it’s frictionless to make money from your photo hobby? You way more easily justify buying a new camera, lens, flash, tripod or software package.
Today’s winners are the smart vendors who follow the money and sell their solutions on a subscription basis or tap into the gig photography phenomenon!
Rick Voight, Chief Executive Officer, Vivid-Pix
The Expansion of Image Utilization
The imaging industry is booming. The state of businesses within this industry is shaped by focus.
The statistics of traditional photo continue to present the same points. People are taking more photos, primarily with mobile devices. However, the application of photos has changed—sharing, soft display and commemorating the images through gifts/décor/photo books/etc.
Imaging now also includes AR/VR experiential and training applications. It also consists of mass digitization, facial recognition, OCR, image asset management and other forms of image utilization.
Only you can make the choice to drive your business’s success in 2020 and beyond.
Vivid-Pix is helping consumers and businesses restore, relive and share photos and documents.