The impact of the camera phone on photography has been as transformational as going from glass plates to roll film. Where roll film made photography portable and accessible to non-technical people, the camera phone has put photography in the hands of nearly every person on earth. The research firm Futuresource estimates this year the worldwide photographer population is 4 billion.
“The worldwide population of photographers has grown by a factor of 8 over the last 10 years, to more than 4 billion, while the number of photos captured annually has increased 6-fold to 1.2 trillion,” the organizations reports. “Smartphones have been instrumental in growing the volume of people who take photographs on a regular basis, as well as the volume of images captured.”
Just having a camera phone doesn’t make you a photographer, using it does. According to Futuresource, the camera is the most-used feature of a smartphone (aside from making calls and sending messages): “[Seventy-nine percent] of smartphone users told Futuresource they regularly take photos with their smartphone…Incidence is skewed towards younger users (88% of 18-24 year olds regularly take photos with their smartphone) meaning it is already more than likely that a smartphone will be the first camera any person will use and experience.”
Of course, taking photos is easy; monetizing them as been a challenge for the industry. As we have recently seen, photo storage and sharing apps are very difficult to directly monetize. Sharing apps and photo storage services, like Google Photos, are usually monetized by advertising, by data mining or by subscription fees.
The key to industry growth will be when output activities become fast, easy and simple for the majority of smartphone users. Even if a fraction of those 4 billion people begin to make photo gifts and merchandise, even occasionally, it will be a nice windfall for service providers. As we have said before, the key to a successful photo output business lies with reducing the friction for customers to make photo products – in other words, make the creation and the ordering process simple for all users – as well as providing accurate visual representation of the product as it is created. These accurate previews of a photo product, as it is created, offers the opportunity to cross-sell and upsell additional photo products.