6Sight Future of Imaging Conference

6Sight Future of Imaging Conference

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Once I answered Jimmy Chung’s question in my last column (PB May) by surmising that creativity was the next big thing in photography, I was stuck trying to figure out what to do with this newfound creative opportunity. I had a great new camera and lots of resources at my disposal, but was not sure what I wanted to do with them. My first options were to print out some of my images and give the prints as gifts. This worked well for greeting cards and birthday presents, but there are not enough walls for all the photos I would like to print and display.

Next I turned to my old favorite, the Web site Flickr, where I could post lots of photos and invite my friends to view them. It was a great way to share, but it wasn’t quite enough. I shared, got comments back…and then what?

I had admired many custom photo books—we gave away one made at our conference—and thought about creating one of my own. But a photo book, is still a book. That seemed daunting. How involved would the process be? What software would make it easier?

As luck would have it, I was soon going to the PMA show in Las Vegas where I could find some answers. Last year, I visited the photo book display and learned a lot about the various shapes, sizes and materials used. In 2009, reflecting the growth of this product, the display was back bigger than before. It was my first stop on the show floor tour.

I spent an hour at this display looking at every option that would work for me. Next stop was to visit some of the vendors in person. I broke my search into two categories: quick and deep. By quick, I mean a service that I could use to create a book with very little time commitment using the templates provided. There are many excellent products in this category, and I decided to try RocketLife because I had seen their demonstration at our 6Sight Conference and enjoyed seeing a complete demo of their extensive technology at PMA. Besides, they had a promotion for a free photo book.

My first commission for me and my new camera was to shoot a friend’s 90th birthday party. Did I mention that I will shoot for food? The Nikon D90 SLR performed like a champ and I, of course, took all of the credit for the fantastic shots that the camera gave me. The challenge came when the birthday girl wanted to see the shots I had taken. I wasn’t about to print out 86 shots. The food was good, but you can only do so much, even for good Mexican food.  

Enter the free RocketLife photo book offer. I uploaded the good shots to their site and created a birthday photo book in less than one hour. But 90-year-olds are not yet too discriminating when it comes to books; the real test came later. Do I just give her one book that I got for free, plus shipping and handling? Or do I order an extra four for her daughter and three grandsons? My free photo book ended up costing me just under $60 when I added the extra four copies—but the raves I got were worth every penny. This is photo sharing at its most basic level.

Now we come to the “deep” category. I have recently traveled to Egypt with a group sponsored by the local community college, and, of course, I took lots of photos. Again the D90 did its part and, again, I took the credit for some great shots—but just displaying them on Flickr wasn’t enough. This was especially true when the group gathered for a post-trip party, and during the photo sharing experience I had nothing to share.

Photo book to the rescue once again. This time I needed a tool that had lots of deep functionality and many templates to choose from, because I wanted to integrate text with photos to create a story of the trip. Luckily, I had taken a journal on the trip and wrote daily about our experiences, so I had the text mostly done (which was great because this wound up being the most time-consuming part of the photo book creation process—merging the text and photos together to tell my story).

After seeing all of the photo book solutions at the PMA show, I wound up using the BookSmart software from Blurb, which I had not seen but was recommended to me. Blurb has the depth that allowed me to create the book I wanted, using so many template options and features like drag-and-drop image importing. But the really neat thing about Blurb was that I could sell copies of my completed book from their Web site! Not that I wanted to make money from my photo book, but I did want to share it with the others in our tour group. The price of printing these hefty books meant I did not want to provide a copy to each person. With Blurb, they could see it online, and buy one for themselves if they wanted.

This concept of self-publishing as a way of sharing a higher-valued creative product (not that my photos are all that valuable—but the printed memory book certainly is) with friends and family is really intriguing to me. HP has a division, MagCloud, that is doing the same type of self-publishing/amateur sales for magazines. The opportunities with this concept are seemingly limitless, which is why we are covering this topic of on-demand personal publishing in a cluster of sessions at our 6Sight Future of Imaging Conference this November 10-12 in Monterey, Calif. We will examine the technology and the various business models that will make this an important factor and revenue generator in the imaging industry.

You can hear more about Blurb on the PMA/AIE podcast hosted by Paul Worthington, 6Sight Report editor, here. For a Webcast on some the exciting opportunities offered by on-demand publishing, presented by Brian Segnit, the photo guy at Xerox, visit here.

The important aspect of the emerging photo book business is that it opens new doors for businesses at all ends of this supply chain as well as many new opportunities for the rising tide of amateur photographers with great capture equipment who want to express their photographic creativity. Many of these have been explored before but not in this particular form.

For me, it answers some long-held desires to publish my work, even if only for friends and family, and take the creative process to the next level. Now, at last, I have something that I can do with those dozens of shoe boxes full of photos, i.e. create a book that tells the story that the photos alone only hint at. Besides, creating books means that I have more room to store, share and display more photos.

This column is provided by the organizers of the 6Sight Future of Imaging Conference. Joe Byrd is co-Founder & President of 6Sight conferences.

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