Picture This

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There is lots of discussion around how certain companies have adapted to the digitization of their industry. From music and movies to books and newspapers. One industry that’s equally as fascinating is photography.

Let’s begin with two disclosures:

  1. I’m not much of a "picture guy". I have a camera (both for photos and videos), but I’m definitely not a shutterbug (unless you count having an expired pro account at Flickr as a shutterbug).
  2. My agency, Twist Image, works with Fujifilm.

Taking pictures is a big deal. In fact, it’s still a huge deal.

The shifts in the photography industry have been astounding. Even if you can look beyond the reality that many people now take photos (lots of them) with their mobile devices (iPhone, Blackberry, etc…) and can instantly publish them online (look no further than how amazingly photos integrate into Twitter with TwitPic), it’s much more about the whole way in which we take pictures that has changed so dramatically.

No more waiting for the perfect shot. No more waiting for the film to be developed.

Talk about an industry that has always been in flux and change. If it wasn’t the first versions of the Polaroid camera, then the entry of the digital camera was certainly not just a game changer but a culture shifter. Without the added fear of development and printing costs, photographers can now take thousands of shots, rifle through them (either on the viewer or on a computer), discard the ones that aren’t right and then tweak and fix those that they like with some fairly basic and easy-to-use software. It’s remarkable to think that almost every step in the old photography food chain has been not only digitized but rounded down to the point where one person can do all of the tasks (though there’s no accounting for always using the right professionals as needed).

People are taking more pictures than ever before.

Consider this stat from Facebook: "More than 2 billion photos uploaded to the site each month." And, that’s just Facebook.

Cameras are also changing.

What really inspired this Blog post was a supplement in my daily newspaper (yes, I still read printed newspapers) titled, Digital Photography. Just looking at all of the advancements to the camera itself is staggering. Beyond the iPhone-like touchscreens, digital cameras now have:

  • SD memory cards with built in wi-fi that can transfer the photos without plugging in the camera to a computer.
  • Cameras with screens on both the front and back, so you can take pictures of yourself (and see what you’re shooting).
  • Cameras with built-in projectors that will show your pictures (up to 50 inches) on any clear surface.
  • Cameras that take 3-D pictures (no glasses required).
  • Cameras that will produce a panoramic photo by sweeping the camera across the desired direction.

It’s some pretty cool stuff, and we’re not even looking at newer inventions like handheld HD video cameras (like the Flip Video) that take pictures as well, or all of the amazing innovation in printing, software to optimize and organize your photos, digital frames, and the many online tools and social networks to share and connect. It’s an industry that should be proud of their innovation along with how much more fun they are making their products.

It’s somewhat surprising and a little bit curious that there’s not more conversation around the photography industry, especially if we still all believe that "a picture is worth a thousand words."


  1. Going digital must have caused some horrible pain to parts of the photography industry, but they definitely survived the transition away from paper.
    Maybe the printed media should study them to see how they did it. I’m going to get all Kevin Kelly for a moment, but would people ever pay for the privilege of “remixing” the news, breaking the fourth wall in newsgathering, or… I dunno. Did you intend, albeit subtly, to make a tiny nudge at the news/print media with this post?

  2. Wow! Wouldn’t it be awesome to have one camera with all those features?
    I hadn’t thought of it until your post but there are a lot of parallels between the publishing and photography industries aren’t there. Consumer-generated content has presented challenges and opportunities for both.

  3. I think there’s plenty of conversation, but just about the wrong things. Instead of these great advancements inspiring people to talk more about photography, they’re talking more about hardware and software, and how to keep up with the ceaseless introduction of new gear which seems designed with an expiration date not too far in the future. I love the latest toys, but it feels awfully similar to what happened to the music industry a decade ago with the advent of pro-sumer digital multi-track recorders.
    PS-thanks for a great blog!

  4. Remember, not just the camera has changed… Now, you don’t even need to get photos developed! Just throw them on your digital picture frame. I have to say, I love these advances in photography. Gone are the days of shoe-boxes full of unsorted photos! Great post, Mitch.

  5. Hi Mitch,
    You’ve said in the past you liked the concept of my blog, but where unsure you got it (not being a photo guy). But, I think you got it with today’s post.
    All the unique equipment, the digital methods to share images, applications, software, digital marketing of photography and issues with publishing photography to the Web.
    I sincerely don’t mean to be self promoting. You just hit my sweet spot.
    The photography business has gone through much painful change.
    @eden – has it 100% right. There are many parallels with photography and the newspaper industry. The web has lowered the bar to publishing and digital has lowered the bar to photography.
    Dollar photography has really hurt the industry. Today cameras are more computers than cameras and professionals need to update at the pace of technology. We are now also the lab. So rather than dropping off our film we have hours of post production that people don’t seem to want to pay for.
    Photography is huge. It’s amazing how many people are taking on photography as a hobby – not to mention trying to become professional photographers. It’s a continuously changing landscape.
    All the best,

  6. >> “It’s somewhat surprising and a little bit curious that there’s not more conversation around the photography industry”
    There is but not of the “cool” stuff you mentioned, which are considered more as gimmicks than real innovations.

  7. I’m also not a shutterbug, but know I need a camera for my business. I’m thinking of launching a photo/video blog website next year. So I know I need a digital camera and camcorder that will take simple photos and videos. I’m amazed to find out, upon doing some research, that I can get cameras that do both, and do them quite well. So I”m looking at one camera that will take good digital photos and take good digital videos. I know there are a bazillion more features to look at, but I could take the rest of my life researching each one because so many things are changing in photography. So I will research just a couple key features and then pick a camera to buy, and hope I’ve picked well.

  8. I think you’ve struck the right cord- “.. if we still all believe…”. We don’t.
    And by this I mean our actions, not our rhetoric. Photos are ubiquitous and disposable and we denigrate them as being “Photoshopped”, devaluing an already struggling currency.
    As we reach the masses, great becomes good and good transitions to “good enough”, which itself is a sliding scale:
    Time magazine plucks a $30 stock image for the cover shot, a local magazine features a $1,000,000 swimming pool via horrific point and shoots and the dumbing down of the art accelerates as our attention spans decrease.
    There’s been so much conversation about photography that it’s about as fresh and new as dirt. Revisit your bullet list- is there anything there truly remarkable? Perhaps 10-20 years ago, but not today, not even close.

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