During the past 15 or so years the photography industry has faced a dramatic change. The introduction of affordable digital cameras and camera phones, cheaper and bigger image storage media, expansion of the internet access and easiness of image sharing in social media have exploded the number of photos we take, store and share.
The hundred years old film photography has rapidly faded out in less than ten years. Risto Sarvas and David Frohlich have studied how the the domestic photography has changed during the past 150 years. They noted that in 2010 Facebook members alone shared almost the same number of (digital) photos that what was globally taken (using film) 13 years earlier in 1997: well over 50 billion images. Only two years later in 2012 Facebook doubled the number of shared images to 300 million daily or over 100 billion per year. (This and other interesting statistics about the expansion of photography here).
The graph below shows how the share of analog photos of all photos taken has collapsed during 2000’s.
This digitalization has forced the photo printing industry into major business changes:
- Online photo labs have taken a big part of the printing business from the walk-in photo shops and labs.
- Photo and camera shops had to invest into new digi lab equipment if they were willing to continue in the printing business.
- Easy-to-use self-service photo kiosks are popping up reducing the need for the over-the-counter personal service.
- Photos can now be printed on all possible surfaces, not only on paper.
What do the statistics tell us about photo printing?
According to Statistics Finland, the revenue of the photo printing business in Finland shrunk from 80 million euro in 2001 to 30 million euro in 2009. But what happened after that: the printing business turned to growth path again. In 2012 the revenue was 50 million euro, growing now about 20% per year.
In the USA, according to IBISWorld, the online photo printing business has been growing constantly since 2003. That year the revenue was 190 million dollars. In 2012 it was 1860 million dollars. The forecast for 2017 is 3700 million dollars. (I don’t have the statistics for the whole US photo printing industry, but I think it is fair to believe, it has the same trend as in Finland.)
What can explain this growth? One simple and obvious reason is the explosion of the amount of images taken every moment. Though only a smaller and smaller fraction of the digital images we take will be printed, that fraction in terms of the absolute numbers is getting bigger. The prints are not only paper prints anymore, but all kind of mugs, shirts, books, fridge magnets, puzzles, travel neck pillows, bags, key chains …
Who can claim the photo printing business is dead?