Film, Digital, Mobile, Social – How Photography Nearly Died
Several years ago, I was sitting at an auditorium in Orlando at the Photo Marketing Association’s (PMA) trade show and was listening to a senior exec from HP talk about the role the company was going to play in taking photography forward. This was a year after Hurricane Katrina. The big challenge he said facing the industry was that when pictures went from film to digital, consumers stopped printing pictures but were still taking pictures digitally. The issue the photography industry faced was that it was largely driven by film, paper and chemical revenues that suddenly disappeared when pictures were taken on a digital camera. Before the photography industry could get used to the digital age, they suddenly found themselves competing with the likes of Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola as most mobile phone manufacturers had now incorporated lenses into their devices. It didn’t take long for companies like Nokia were buying more lenses globally than the likes of a Sony, Canon or Nikon.
The executive from HP said companies like HP had a solution in getting those pictures off those memory cards and have solutions to get them printed or shared. HP had just made an investment in a photo sharing service at the time, said they would also have kiosk printing solutions and a cloud-like solution where you could send pictures to be printed professionally. This was in addition to HP’s core home printing solutions. This seemed to be the right direction to move as industry incumbent Kodak had been promoting many of the same concepts through their own photo sharing service, kiosk solutions and the introduction of their own home printers.
The boom that companies like HP and Kodak expected never happened. Kodak is now a shadow of the company that we most of us knew while growing up.
Mobile phone photography didn’t quite take off either. The challenges that dogged the traditional digital camera industry still existed in mobile photography as sharing or printing pictures was still a challenge.
A lot changed though with the growth of the smartphone segment and social networking. All of a sudden, it became easier to connect to the Internet, chat instantly and share pictures in a more socially acceptable manner.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a whole host of other social networks have changed the landscape of photography. Terms like tagging and twitpic entered our vocabulary and became part of our everyday conversation before we knew it. After all, what’s the point of taking pictures that no one will ever see?
Thinking back to that presentation of that HP executive, I still feel he hit the nail on the head. The challenge was getting pictures off hard disks but where those pictures had to move, was what Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook ironically had the answer to.
Hurricane Katrina is a bitter memory for most Americans but as Vyomesh Joshi, the head of HP’s Imaging & Printing Group said during his presentation, at least thousands of photographic memories were saved due to the growth of photo sharing services at the time. Social media has saved photography but more importantly, it’s saved the millions of memories that would be lost if a phone gets misplaced or when a hard disk gets corrupted. Thank you Mr. Zuckerburg and everyone else in the social space who helped saved photography