Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve gotten quite a few digital cameras for free over the years as a journalist in this industry. There, I said it.
I’m not mentioning it to be smug or because I’m thinking of setting up an eBay account – I’m mentioning it because I have handed most of those cameras off to family and friends to play with.
I thought I’d check in with some of them to see what they’re doing with the images they’ve been capturing. Some of the answers were pretty revealing.
“I have put most of the images into folders on my computer,” my 83-year-old father began. “I’m the only one that sees the images I capture most of time. I have printed a few out – mostly on plain paper. A lot of this stuff is so small – the cards, the slots to put them in, the little doors on the cameras….I have trouble seeing and handling a lot of this stuff and the instruction books are awful.”
On to my 60-year-old sister, Pat, who told me, “I love the digital camera you gave me. I don’t make many prints but I just figured out how to e-mail images and I’m doing a lot of that. I’d like to learn how to set up a Web page so I can post all the images to something like that – I’m not quite that far along yet.”
Okay – how about a neighbor, a 38-year-old mother of three named Maureen that I handed a camera to about three years ago? “I just purchased a new one – I saw something recently that looked pretty cool and colorful so I spent about $250 on a new one. I love the pictures it takes but I have to say that the card I bought holds so many images that by the time I get around to uploading a full card to the PC, it’s like 800 images and it’s a bit daunting to sort through them all. As a result, I feel like I’m making less and less prints. It’s a matter of time really.”
My brother-in-law has also bought into digital since I tossed him a 4MP point-and-shoot a few years ago. I discovered that he has since passed that camera on to his 20-year-old daughter, Hannah. “I like it but I still take more pictures with my camera phone to be honest,” she admitted. “I rarely think to take the digital camera with me when I go out but I have the phone with me all the time. If I get something that I really like with either of them I upload it to my Flickr page. I am thinking about a new digital camera for Christmas, something hot.”
Yet another buddy, Mike, a 45-year-old father of one, told me, “I’m happy looking at my pictures on the computer. I have a Mac and I’ve made a few slideshows in iPhoto that I put to music and burned to a DVD. I love them. I e-mail images as well. Haven’t made many prints. With the slideshows I don’t really feel I need to. It’s a great way to share memories.”
I mentioned photobooks to all of them and with the exception my brother-in-law, who saw his first one at my house last year, no one even knew about them.
Something David Guidry of Lakeside Camera Photoworks’ in Louisiana recently said keeps popping into my head when I talk to imaging consumers. It was at the PRO Convention in Ft. Lauderdale back in August when he said, “What I have seen since we have had to basically start over the business is that we have a communication problem in this industry, not a product problem. The reaction from consumers to these lifestyle products is that they are way more excited than they ever were over a 4×6-inch print but we aren’t communicating exactly what these products are and how easy they are to do.”
Guidry added that he feels the industry, as well as he himself, have been guilty of “over-complicating” some of the newer products and services. I think he may be on to something there down in the Bayou.
It’s kind of like that old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Well how about a new proverb for this industry? “Give a consumer a digital camera and they’ll take a picture. Show them the many compelling ways they can tell the story of their lives and they will open their wallets.”
Hey, I’m not Chinese so give me a break.