Think digital killed the print star when it comes to photos? Think again…

Renowned American photographer Alfred Stieglitz once said, “in photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” Though much more eloquently put, his words captured a similar sentiment to the one behind today’s social media movement “pics or it didn’t happen.” Back in the early 20th century, it was rare to take or be in photos, there was perhaps something a bit more poetic about it. Today, photography is accessible to most people on this planet. It seems that some people snap pictures to catalog life in its entirety. Is this because we are in an era where vanity has overtaken our other priorities, or would this have been the case before too, if the ability to snap a picture was just as accessible?

Statista Chart: Smartphones cause photography boom

Statista Chart: Smartphones cause photography boom

Whatever the case, the reality of our current time is that (digital) photography is surging on, not slowing down. Thanks to smartphones and other mobile phones with built-in cameras, it was estimated that in 2017, around 4 billion people would be able to take photos at will…and photos have indeed been taken! According to InfoTrends, in 2017 alone, the human population (with access to a camera) was on track to take about 1.2 trillion digital pictures. So, what’s happening with all of these pictures?

Since a majority of these photos are captured on smartphones, and these phones are usually equipped with automatic cloud backups, most digital photos end up in the cyberspace storage universe. Since viewing and sharing photos online from anywhere has become so convenient, people often don’t see the value in printing most of their photos anymore. Here lies the challenge with which many players in the photo lab/retailer market have struggled. Many people contend that print is dying, but digital definitely has not killed the print star. Times are just changing…

Expert analysts from Technavio say that the photo printing and merchandise market is following a steady growth pattern with an expected CAGR of 7% between 2017-2021. Of course, if we compare the size of print orders now with those during the time when the only way of viewing your pictures was by dropping off your camera roll at a 24-hour photo lab for development, the number of pictures printed has definitely declined. However, even back then, many photos were duds and would be thrown away or stored and forgotten. We just had no way of picking and choosing which ones to develop! Today, with the sheer volume of pictures being taken and our ability to view them on screens, it just isn’t reasonable to expect them all to be printed; some are those same types of duds that get lost in cloud purgatory, some are destined to find stardom only on social networks, but some are welcomed back into the real world as prints.

They may not make it onto the historically preferred 4×6 print (which are on the decline), but they do make it onto one surface or another in spectacular ways. This is the primary reason why many traditional photo labs are diversifying their service offerings to include printed photo merchandise. Trailblazers in the industry take it a step further still by dedicating online stores that allow individuals to easily access photos from any online platform, personalize products exactly to their liking, and place their order, all from the comfort of wherever they happen to be at the time…and as we can all imagine, this has tremendous value in our on-the-go world.

Photo labs and retailers also have the unique opportunity to educate consumers by delivering the message that printing cherished photos is still the only way of preserving memories and passing them down for generations, especially with camera and print technology constantly improving. No one knows for certain how photos on the internet, in external storage devices or even on CDs will age, but as history has already shown us, a printed photo can last for many lifetimes. This messaging coupled with quick and easy online tools for creating and ordering printed photo products is sure to engage consumers and compel them to continue printing those special photos whose fate shouldn’t be left up to technology.

Mediaclip has been working with many leading companies within the photo sector to bring a memorable product personalization process to their consumers via a rich online tool. To learn how our solution can help your photo business offer more printed photo merchandise options to your customers, consult our brochure or contact us directly.