Content Creation, Relationships, Technology and Tailwinds
I’d once again like to thank the contributors to Digital Imaging Reporter’s State of the Industry 2022 issue. As you will see on the following pages, there is a growing sense of optimism and excitement in the short- and long-term future of our industry.
First of all, there is excitement about people actually gathering again. Emerald’s Joe Kowalsky mentioned that their goal is “bringing like-minded people together to connect, learn and get inspired.” IPI’s Brenda DiVincenzo celebrated the recent 40th anniversary of her organization. She said the attendance at their most recent conference was higher than their last pre-Covid event in 2018.
All in all, it feels great to foster relationships face-to-face again. Almost all our contributors mentioned the importance of relationships in their ongoing businesses. And, of course, relationships with manufacturers and dealers continue to be the cornerstone of our industry. “Openness and accessibility are key to navigating this changed world and connecting with our dealers and customers,” said Sigma’s Mark Amir-Hamzeh.
Our industry is also continuing to evolve from taking images to developing content. The influx of content creators has expanded to a younger audience who live on social media sites and are excited by demonstrating their creativity. Sony’s Yang Cheng mentioned “the need for innovative and versatile products to meet the needs of hybrid creators, vloggers as well as filmmakers.”
What’s more, according to Nikon’s Jeff Abler, “The last year has confirmed that consumers will spend on the best technology if it helps elevate their work.” In addition, Canon’s Tony Kano stated, “Creators value gear that is easy to use, compact and continuously connected.” The rapid introduction of cameras, lenses and accessories addressing the excitement of content creation has invigorated an industry looking for the next technology frontier.
More Opportunities Than Ever
That’s not to say that high-end photography is finished. On the contrary, according to George Schaub, “New innovations, both operational and most certainly technological, as well as camera model adaptations that appeal to new—and perhaps younger—buyers have kept sales of interchangeable-lens cameras steady in year-over-year performance.”
Of course, the print market is alive and well. Brenda DiVincenzo added, “[A] majority of IPI members are seeing double-digit sales increases in many categories with more opportunities than ever before. Significant growth in film (sales, developing and scanning) as well as archiving (print scanning, movie transfer and restorations) continues.”
Further, Fujifilm’s Bing Liem sees the excitement in a new, younger audience as well. “Our new target market, gen Z, takes and prints more photos than previous generations. To meet the creative needs of this cohort, we need to offer line extensions; for example, peel-and-stick wall décor, photo/memorabilia frame kits and even temporary photo tattoos.”
And Cathi Nelson of the Photo Managers continues as the industry’s advocate for organizing those images that exist in shoeboxes and on computers. “People no longer ask what a professional photo organizer is. Instead, they say, ‘Oh my goodness, do I need you.’”
As I read each of the entries, I felt a sense of optimism, excitement and relief that we’re finally living in a post-Covid world. Relationships are beginning to thrive again, technology has never been stronger, and we can now offer younger content creators an exciting entry into our industry. As Bill McCurry stated, there are tailwinds that will drive our industry because “retailers who build community with imaging experiences will continue to see good business in 2023 and beyond.”—Jerry Grossman
Digital Imaging Reporter’s State of the Industry 2022
Tatsuro “Tony” Kano, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Canon USA
A Canon for Every Creator
However and wherever creators choose to express themselves, Canon is there to offer video and imaging gear that empowers creators to craft high-quality and visually stunning content for their audiences. It is overwhelmingly true that creators value gear that is easy to use, compact and continuously connected. Canon has tailored a suite of cameras and lenses to meet their needs.
In May, we launched Canon’s first APS-C-format EOS R series of mirrorless cameras, the EOS R7 and EOS R10. They both provide elements that creators need to take their creativity and craft to the next level. Moreover, popular among beginner creatives, Content Creator Kits for the EOS M50 Mark II and PowerShot G7 X Mark III cameras are all-in-one solutions that include valuable accessories such as tripods, external microphones as well as memory cards. In addition, with the Canon Camera Connect app, images and videos travel seamlessly from the point of capture to the world stage.
For more established creators who want to up-level their content, we offer cameras and lenses that help digital storytellers achieve cinematic visuals and pristine aesthetics. This year, we also added updates to the EOS C70 camera; creatives have begun to adopt the EOS R5 C camera as well as the RF5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens, the world’s first interchangeable lens that captures stereoscopic 3D 180° VR with a single image sensor.
This has been an exciting year for Canon in the content creator space. In 2023 and beyond, we aim to inspire an even wider array of creatives to capture the world from their unique perspective.
Joe Kowalsky, Show Director, Photo X Portfolio of Brands, Emerald
Bringing the Industry Together with In-Person Connections
Plain and simple, the future of our industry is bright and coming back stronger each day that goes on. As a community builder in our industry, our goal is bringing like-minded people together to connect, learn and get inspired.
Our team at Emerald was very fortunate to host multiple programs over the past two years. They ranged from online content series and large conference experiences like WPPI to exclusive intimate engagement through the Portrait Masters brand. This past year has led to a strong desire for in-person opportunities to network, learn and source essential materials for their business.
In 2022, 72% of our audience put sourcing products and services as the top reason they attend our events. In addition, 90% of our overall audience holds the purchasing authority for their businesses. Both numbers are up 10%+ over the past two events, showing that more of those participating in our events are qualified buyers in our industry.
Furthermore, we’re watching this trend spread across several industries and events, not just our own. From a content perspective, the classes on business topics and skill improvement still hold high importance. However, mental health and the need for a focus on helping creatives cope and find support is a top area they have asked us to address. Creatives are looking to leaders in our industry to create opportunities for these conversations to take place.
Success in 2022 and beyond means making in-person connections and participating actively in conversations with members of this industry to ensure we’re meeting the needs of those in it.
Bing Liem, Division President, Fujifilm North America Corp., Imaging Division
Capitalize on the Photo Output Business Motivated by Gift Giving
After two years of canceled events and staying home, a brighter picture is emerging for the photography industry.
Reconnecting means more opportunities for birthdays, celebrations and gatherings. In fact, 2022 has seen the most weddings since 1984. With all these celebrations, our industry has an opportunity to capitalize on the photo output business motivated by gift giving. Here are three opportunities.
Unique In-Store Experiences. Many consumers shifted to a mail-to-home buying experience or buy-online-pick-up-in-store method during the pandemic. Yet, 73% of independent shoppers that we surveyed still want to shop in-store for photo gifts because they can see the product before finalizing their purchase. Brick-and-mortar retailers should leverage their in-store assets to provide touch-and-try samples, present different photo-gifting applications and offer in-store promotions.
Evolving the Category. Our new target market, gen Z, takes and prints more photos than previous generations. To meet the creative needs of this cohort, we need to offer line extensions; for example, peel-and-stick wall décor, photo/memorabilia frame kits and even temporary photo tattoos. Expect more innovation from Fujifilm in photo gifts.
Positive Holiday Outlook. With the holiday season quickly approaching, we surveyed consumers to determine how inflation may impact consumer spending. Our research found that a majority (over 50%) of consumers expect to cut nonessential spending in the categories of restaurants, nonessential food items and apparel. Yet gifts, which include photo-related products, are less impacted by inflation. Only 33% of consumers surveyed plan to cut spending in that category.
To prepare for a successful holiday season and 2023, retailers will need to innovate the in-store experience, offer more variety of product categories as well as ensure they are ready to meet the demand.
Brenda DiVincenzo, Vice President, Member Success, IPI – Member Network
Thriving with New Members and Sales Growth
At the beginning of August, IPI members and vendors gathered to celebrate IPI’s 40th anniversary at our International Print + Imaging Conference (IPIC). It was refreshing to see our member attendee count higher than our last pre-Covid July conference (2018).
Overall, IPI membership has thrived in 2021 and 2022, experiencing an influx of new members—a younger generation and an infusion of female leadership. The idea-sharing and networking between knowledgeable veterans and these enthusiastic newcomers at IPIC spanned a fully array of topics. They ranged from keeping your film processor running to marketing on TikTok!
What’s more, a majority of IPI members are seeing double-digit sales increases in many categories with more opportunities than ever before. Significant growth in film (sales, developing and scanning) as well as archiving (print scanning, movie transfer and restorations) continues.
In addition to these two vital topics, the most requested and highest-attended sessions were on marketing, particularly social media. Creating simple, local posts that highlight the personality of a member business, with an emphasis on video content, remains the most effective marketing method. It is also the area in which the most education (and confidence!) is needed.
In the past year, IPI also doubled our number of locations of The Print Refinery, our licensed business model. Licensees typically adopt the plan to assist with their long-term plans of growth and/or retirement. The store design, project coaching as well as team development resources created success this year for all 13 of our licensees! These are areas in which we see all independent business owners needing assistance in today’s economy.
Bill McCurry, Chairman, McCurry Associates
Ride the Wind, Whichever Way It Blows
The year ahead offers tailwinds and headwinds.
A recession’s potential is considered a headwind by most retailers and manufacturers. This time may be different as vlogging and small video studios are continuing to explode. Should economic conditions get tighter, larger companies may reduce their ad spending. DIY video/audio/photo production fits into that strategy. While it could negatively impact the extreme high end, it would provide a boost for lower and mid-priced equipment.
A tailwind could mean the continued scarcity of products. Yes, scarcity is good news. The margin available to manufacturers and retailers, without the profit eviscerating instant rebates, has provided welcome economic relief.
Today’s customers, interested in not-currently available product, anticipate their needs and preorder product so they don’t miss out. Scarcity is an action situation requiring the buyer to act now rather than saying, “I’ll come back,” knowing it won’t be available then.
The headwind happens when products are overproduced. Panicked suppliers could start a price erosion, signaling consumers to hold off buying. Products back up on retailers’ and suppliers’ shelves as consumers wait for a “better price.” It’s taken the industry two years to train the consumer that products are attractive at current prices. Panic by short-term thinking management will erase that lesson.
Another tailwind is that, regardless of economic conditions, mid- to high-income consumers continue spoiling themselves with imaging-oriented experiences, education and additional investment in their hobbies. Retailers who build community with imaging experiences will continue to see good business in 2023 and beyond. mccurryassoc.com
Jeff Abler, Director of Sales, Nikon Inc.
How to Survive and Thrive in a Challenging Economy
A profound understanding of the customer is more vital than ever, primarily what they have to say and what they need. If you listen, they’ll tell you that to gain their consideration, you need to give them the most advanced, innovative technology that aligns with and improves upon how they want to create.
All kinds of users, from YouTubers, hobbyists and creators to pro photographers, want the latest, greatest tech to seize emerging creative trends. We’re working on multiple fronts to bring products to market that empower and inspire vastly diverse users.
This includes the new entry-level Nikon Z 30 made for content creators to the supremely powerful Z 9. The last year confirmed that consumers will spend on the best technology if it helps elevate their work.
Consumers will also tell you they want to connect with a brand that supports them and stands by them once the transaction is completed. Our constant development and release of firmware updates is one example of the post-purchase engagement they desire. These updates are a direct response to user feedback, pushing the boundaries of hardware to enhance workflow, performance as well as usability.
The recent years were challenging for everybody—customers, retailers and manufacturers. I’m proud of our strong partnerships. I also feel immense pride and gratitude regarding our people and this industry for unwavering resilience.
In addition, we’re seeing fewer challenges ahead in meeting demand. We are also optimistic about the innovations that will allow the industry to reach more kinds of customers than ever. We are excited about the future and anticipate the 2022 holiday selling season will revert to more traditional patterns.
As we enter 2023, supply chains will continue to improve. Looking forward, we are confident our industry and our brand will grow as the technology thrives.
Mark Comon, President, Paul’s Photo
Customer Service Remains the Key to Success
Our beloved photo industry is in an amazing place!
Photography is growing with young and old alike.
New technologies are bringing new people to the camera store.
How do we reap this success?
Elevate our relevance by offering goods and services customers want today.
Being present and accessible to serve their needs.
Listening to their needs and solving their problems.
How do we communicate with the new photographers?
Honest and forthright storytelling.
Presenting creative and enticing opportunities.
Meeting them where they are. paulsphoto.com
Cathi Nelson, CEO/Founder, The Photo Managers
Consumer Are Drowning in Digital Chaos
The Photo Managers, an association that sets industry standards and educational classes for professional photo organizers, started a private Facebook group called Photo Organizing Advice from the Pros a year ago. The goal was to create a place where people could ask questions and get help from professional photo organizers.
In less than a year, more than 6,500 people have joined. This is what they tell us over and over: “I need help! I am overwhelmed!” People no longer ask what a professional photo organizer is. Instead, they say, “Oh my goodness, do I need you.”
The convenience of having a smartphone and thus a camera in your hands always has come with a steep price in how we relate to photos today. Photos of baby’s first steps, college graduates and the first day of school have turned into a collection of data that is now unmanageable. People can no longer find their favorite photos; they worry about privacy and data mining; and are confused by conflicting messages and options.
Jordan Babeon, founder of Surround Us Services in Colorado, sums it up perfectly: “The average family has the same number of digital data a small business did just a few years ago. They just don’t know it yet.”
The Photo Managers and companies or individuals who offer solutions to the end user continue to report growth and a need for their services. People continue to capture memories and seek meaningful ways to share, display as well as showcase their images.
David Haueter, Director and Founder, Rise Above Research
Photo Output Market Has Staying Power, but Vendors May Need to Adjust Strategy
It seems lately, we can barely get through one crisis before another comes up. The photo output markets that we cover at Rise Above Research were negatively impacted by Covid in 2019–2020 yet saw some return to growth in 2021
However, this year we have inflation and high gas prices that are stemming that recovery. We’ve also seen that less money is being spent on research this year, as companies are taking a wait-and-see approach to the economy.
The good thing about the photo output market is that it has great staying power to get through economic hard times. However, vendors may need to adjust their marketing strategy. Instead of pushing consumers toward higher-priced products and features, it is wise to focus on marketing the more mainstream products that have a lower price tag. They can also target products like photo books to consumers as a meaningful product they can purchase in lieu of more expensive gifts. Further, vendors can also market photo prints as a lower-cost option to photo products.
Rise Above Research is expecting that we will deal with inflation into 2023, which has impacted our forecasts. We expect traditional photo print volume to grow around 1% in volume next year and revenue to be flat, as the market is still recovering from Covid and now dealing with inflation.
In the photo merchandise category (which in our forecast includes cards, books, calendars as well as wall décor), we expect growth of around 3% in unit sales and revenue. As far as Rise Above Research is concerned, we’ll keep doing what we do—provide relevant research to the photo industry. We also hope that research spending picks up over the next year as well.
Mark Amir-Hamzeh, President, Sigma America
Openness and Accessibility Are Key to Connecting with Dealers and Customers
Over the past year, we have continued to learn that relationships matter, and open, honest communications are more critical than ever.
Situations change very quickly as companies deal with staff that are navigating personal and professional challenges: the economy, supply chain challenges and the ever-present threats to our health. Our world continues to throw curveballs and monkey wrenches into even the best-laid plans.
Adapting and pivoting quickly and professionally when situations warrant is a crucial skill all Sigma team members have managed well. Moreover, we are focused on supporting our dealers and customers on all levels. A redesigned website supports our dealers; attracts loyal customers and photographers new to both photography and Sigma; and answers the majority of questions they may have.
Our customer service team responds to the rest, and our service team has stepped up the customer experience. Incredibly important to all is that all Sigma products are handcrafted in Japan; this eliminates critical supply chain issues from affecting us.
Supporting Our Dealers & Team
Finally, we continue to support our dealers’ communities through annual charitable giving programs. On behalf of our participating dealers, Sigma has, for the past three years, donated almost $350,000 to charities. Most recently, the benefiting charities were World Central Kitchen and Save the Children. Past charities have included those representing mental health, children’s education as well as food banks across the country.
In addition, for the next 12–18 months, we will focus on continuing to expand our online and in-person educational sessions to continue to build buzz around the Sigma still, cine and camera product lines with our retail partners through in-store and on-location events. This is key.
In support of our team in the field, we are also building in more travel time, having concrete backup plans when feasible. However, we will persist in supporting our dealers with events and meeting our customers face-to-face! This is what we do best, and, honestly, it’s the only thing we know. Openness and accessibility are key to navigating this changed world and connecting with our dealers and customers.
Yang Cheng, Vice President, Imaging Product and Solutions Americas, Sony Electronics
Empowering an Ever-Growing Creator Community with Innovative Technologies
This year has brought positive changes for the imaging industry. At Sony, we are excited about the evolutions in content. We are also inspired to empower an ever-growing number of creators.
One of our areas of focus for 2022 is video creation. From TikTok to OTT platforms, there has never been a greater demand for video content. With that comes the need for innovative and versatile products to meet the needs of hybrid creators, vloggers as well as filmmakers.
While we remain committed to delivering the best still image technology, we are listening to our community and bringing out products to meet their growing demands. For the hybrid creator, we developed the Alpha 7 IV—the camera designed for those who want the flexibility to do it all. For the vlogger, we’ve recently launched several video-centric lenses and accessories. Furthermore, for the cinematographer, we launched the Venice 2. Our flagship digital cinema camera is now in use by Academy Award-winning cinematographers in their latest films.
In 2022 and 2023, we will also continue to deliver mirrorless technology that excites these video creators and empowers them to bring their visions to life.
Another area primed for significant growth is virtual production. With our broad range of Cinema Line products and our Crystal LED (CLED) walls, we have the technology to drive new ways of working for large scale productions.
As our industry continues to shift, we are ready to meet these new opportunities head on. We will remain connected to our community, listening to our customers at every turn, and bringing innovative new technologies to keep them inspired.
George Schaub, Vice-Chairman, Technical Image Press Association (TIPA)
Imaging Innovations Are Keeping Sales Steady
There was considerable pressure on the photo and imaging industry over the past years—including, of course, the effects of the pandemic, supply chain issues and the continuing inroad made by smartphones. However, recent CIPA figures show strong foundational support for nearly every aspect of our industry.
New innovations, both operational and most certainly technological, as well as camera model adaptations that appeal to new—and perhaps younger—buyers have kept sales of interchangeable-lens cameras steady in year-over-year performance.
Furthermore, one area of strength is the interchangeable lens segment. There are many new entrants for both SLR and mirrorless cameras from an ever-wider range of manufacturers. These include classic zooms, wides and teles, plus numerous specialty lenses, such as super-wides, macro and even VR being introduced in 2021 and 2022.
Indeed, during TIPA’s annual World Award selection process earlier this year, we were pleasantly surprised by the long list of interchangeable-lens candidates in nearly every category. If there’s any indicator of growing interest and participation in photography among the buying public, it certainly can be found in the aftermarket lens offerings and sales.
Moreover, the correlation between social activity and picture taking is indisputable. With the lifting or easing of restrictions there was a literal boom in weddings, parties, special events and travel activity in many areas of the world. While this has, in some cases, temporarily overwhelmed certain industries (need I mention airlines), there’s no doubt that photography and the photo industry in general will benefit greatly from this much welcomed change.