So Much More Than Survival: Achieving Sustainability in Professional Photography

Guest blog post from Tim Kelly, M,Photog., IE, Cr., Fellow-ASP

I love the art and business of photography.

Photography was and still is “magical”. Running a business was, is and always will be a challenge. The rewards are both personal and professional, and often extraordinary for those who are serious and diligent.

The digital revolution took its toll on many of us and many studios could not survive because they didn’t adapt quickly enough. I began experimenting with digital a full decade before it really hit our profession even though I was told that digital would never be good enough for anything serious. It was so expensive! Because I wanted my business to have a future, I was willing to work, experiment and invest. Still, there are things I don’t love about digital, but it is the language of our industry, and for the most part, we must accept it.

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I say this as a film lover – understanding that many reading this may have never known the excitement and wonder of what can be created on film.

If you’re in Photography now, you’re likely shooting digital and 97% likely to be using a lab to print your orders. This has been one of the industry’s biggest changes and challenges in the last twenty years.

While most don’t print themselves, it’s imperative that the digital photographer understand profiles, color space, and the importance of calibration to produce a decent file for the lab to print. Serious photographers need to stay current with the latest techniques for shooting and handling image files so that we get the best images possible from digital capture. ‘

I’ve been a Kodak Mentor for more than twenty-five years and I’ve witnessed the positive effect that companies who train and educate can have. Largely speaking, our vendors want you to succeed and Kodak Alaris is providing products and software systems that help you get the most for your clients and from your lab. Take advantage of the support they have to offer.

Being the photographer is just one of the hats you wear. If you own your business, a lot more responsibility comes your way and good business practices and policies are just the start. You’ll need to work towards mastering sales and marketing too, another necessary cog in the machine. You’ll need to be the visionary for your company, bringing in new products and services, motivating clients and employees.

I’ve always felt there is a balance between what needs to be done now, and what I want to do next. Everyone’s list is different, but real growth comes from the extra hours you put in proof of the passion that you have for your craft. I hope that if your camera work needs improving, or your retouching skills need work, you’ll put that ahead of buying new studio lights. If your studio lighting or posing could be better, you won’t jump into digital painting just yet. I also hope that you go above and beyond for your clients, always bringing them your very best work. Bring new services and products forward once they are fully tested – once you’ve proven that they work – and when you have your pricing, delivery, and all your other ducks in a row. It’s good for you and good for our industry.

This is a fantastic business, as individual and unique as you want it to be. Take the time to develop as an artist and as a businessperson. Change is constant, adaptability is a must and enthusiasm is the fuel! Photography is equal parts art and science and disregarding either is a mistake.

As a Professional Photographer, I’m always looking for new ideas, things to get excited about, and that’s why I’ve started producing large format film portraits again. This format challenges me, and revisiting film, large format film in particular reminds me why I’m in this business. Learning and growing helps sharpen my skills so I can continue to offer new and fresh ideas to my clients.

In fact, I’d love to get your feedback, meet you and talk about the future of film and digital capture. I’ll be making a special appearance at PPA’s ImagingUSA 2015 in Nashville, and Amherst Publishing will be releasing my new book on B&W portraiture there. I’ll also be sharing ideas from my new book at the Kodak Alaris booth #726.

This is an invitation. Come on by – Kodak Alaris #726.

– Tim Kelly, M,Photog., IE, Cr., Fellow-ASP
timkellyportraits.com

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Capitalizing on the Preservation Era: The Opportunity for Photo Labs with Hard Copy Prints

By Joe LaBarca – Pixel Preservation International

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There’s a potential risk associated with the rise in digital photography. Most of us are unaware of the real possibility of losing our digital photos. We take countless images on digital cameras and mobile phones, storing them on hard drives, laptops and in the cloud. But what happens when you lose your phone or technology standards change or you have so many images that sorting through them is not only impractical, it’s nearly impossible?

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Printing is the simplest way for consumers to preserve their most valuable images. There’s a tremendous amount of technology and media that exist today that can preserve digital images for more than a hundred years at room temperature conditions. And yet, in today’s digital world, printing is rarely done. This represents a great opportunity for photographic printing labs – wholesale labs, large and small professional and school labs, in-store retail labs as well as on-online fulfillment services – to take advantage of a classic product: the hard copy print.

The key is to get the message out on the need for hard copy preservation. The trick is how the message is presented. A positive, value added approach is going to be more effective than a scare tactic. The positive approach is a message created about precious digital files of family events and how important it will be to have a record of these events in 20 or 30 years. Producing prints and photo books today will ensure the memories will be around for the future. The alternative scare tactic approach – imploring a consumer to make prints or photo books or else – is not only going to be less effective, it could also hurt repeat business.

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It’s also critical to make sure that you’re reaching the right demographics. Start with young moms. While historically it was often dad taking the pictures, it was mom who managed the pictures of the family through photo albums and scrapbooks. She essentially became the CFPO – Chief Family Photo Officer and that remains largely true today. As millennials become parents, they will easily identify with the preservation message for two main reasons: 1) they observe first-hand how quickly their children are changing and growing up; 2) their parents likely had hard copy photos of themselves as children and they will recognize the importance and value of seeing these images of themselves from 25 or 30 years ago. This easily translates to the importance of having images of their children 25 or 30 years from now. This will happen even though they may never have taken a film photograph or made a digital print in their entire lives.

While it may sound odd, a second important demographic is the baby boomer generation that are now becoming grandparents. Boomers made prints of their children when they were young and immediately recognize the value of pulling those photo albums and scrapbooks out to show their children who are new parents. This group also reinforces the value of printing and preservation to new moms and dads. Boomers are also active photo enthusiasts and will be taking their own digital pictures of their new grandchildren. Since they already recognize the long-term value of hard copy photos from their children’s photos, it should not take much encouragement for them to realize their best digital photos are important and need to be in hard copy form as a means of long-term preservation.

Father's day collage

A further component to hard copy prints and photo books, adding even more value for the consumer, is that hard copy comes “full circle” in the digital world. A print today was likely “born digital” – that is created from a digitally captured file. Because high quality scans can be created from hard copy prints, a new digital file can be created from the print, should the original ever need to be replaced. Clearly there is strong value from many perspectives to having a hard copy print and the key to unlocking this value is to insure that the consumer recognizes all the benefits the print has to offer.

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With state of the art image permanence and the longest lasting image in dark storage of any silver halide media in the industry, KODAK PROFESSIONAL Endura Premier Paper is the logical choice for long-term preservation. This paper provides high image quality today and maintains that image quality for generations to come in the future.

As a photographic lab, professional photographer, or a consumer, you’re probably interested in learning more about how you can take advantage of the opportunities presented by hard copy preservation using KODAK PROFESSIONAL Endura Premier Paper. Please check out two papers that were recently presented at the Society of Image Science and Technology 5th annual International Symposium on Technologies for Digital Photo Fulfillment at the annual PMA/DIMA/Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The first paper: Hard Copy Printing for Long-term Preservation as a Growth Engine for Prints and Photo Books, takes a deep dive into the trends around preservation and how to take advantage of them. The second paper: KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper: Still the Digital Imaging Media of Choice, looks at digital print technologies and how KODAK PROFESSIONAL Endura Premier Paper is optimized for long-term, hard copy preservation.

Wednesday Works: IS&T Archiving Conference and the Importance of Preservation by Joe LaBarca

Technical Blog – By Joe LaBarca – Pixel Preservation International

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IS&T, the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, is an international organization that for nearly 50 years has been dedicated to advancements in the field of imaging. Every year IS&T holds an Archiving Conference where scientists, curators, librarians, government officials and private businesses gather to discuss the most pressing issues related to the digital preservation and stewardship of hardcopy, audio, and video.

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This year’s Archiving Conference will be held May 13-16 at the Arsenal at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany (home of the Berlin Film Festival) a very appropriate venue for topics of preservation.  One key theme during the conference is the critical need for the protection and preservation of digital image files to professional labs, professional photographers, and consumers. It’s a hugely important and timely topic as there has never been as great a need to focus on preservation of digital photography.

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Last year’s conference was held at the US National Archives and featured several papers that were directly applicable to labs, photographers and consumers on the importance of preserving digital image files. Given the historical and emotional significance of photographic images, the high risk of losing digital files has made it critical to discuss these issues at many different levels.

When we hear the term “digital preservation”, our first thought is often of preserving analog originals (think scanning of film and prints) into digital formats. IS&T and companies like Kodak Alaris, are helping to put a major focus on “born digital” files, i.e., those files originated directly from a digital device.  Clearly, digitally captured photographic images fall into this category.

The idea of creating human readable objects from digital files is very appropriate.  For us that means making prints and photo books. Whether printing at professional labs, including those with on-line fulfillment websites, or even a trip to the store for printing on a kiosk, making prints is easier than ever.  And new Facebook and mobile apps from Kodak Alaris allows for easy print and photo book creation from images stored in social media.

A key point for the long-term preservation of images is to use high quality paper and print media. This includes Kodak Endura papers (look for “Kodak Endura” on the back of the print), Kodak consumer photographic papers and Kodak thermal prints from kiosks (look for “Kodak” on the back of these prints).  This also includes Kodak-recommended materials for photo books, including those using KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper.

A full session of last year’s conference was devoted to film and its ability to create “future proof” storage of digital assets. The idea of “future proof” storage and preservation applies to any physical object having excellent long term keeping properties, and which operates or exists independently of the technology used to create it. This certainly applies to photographic prints as well as film.  A photographic paper like KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper clearly fits the bill and will easily provide long term preservation of digital photographic images for over 200 years when properly stored.

Other interesting topics at the conference session included the continuing high growth rate of digital files and the use of the newer JPEG2000 standard for photographic encoding of digital files.  These are both applicable to our professional and consumer markets and customers.  Clearly the huge growth of digitally captured images comes via the growth of smartphones.  This means that there are ever-more image files for the consumer to manage, share between devices and preserve.  And the larger a digital photo collection gets, the harder this task becomes.  This is true for large institutions and individual consumers alike.  The continued use and support of JPEG2000 (“.jpf” and “.jp2”), as indicated by several papers presented at IS&T last year, implies that older photographic encoding formats like JPEG (“.jpg”) continue on a slow trajectory towards obsolescence.  At some point these vast collections of JPEG image files will need to migrate to a new encoding format or risk being lost forever.  There is no better way to prevent this than by taking those most precious images and making prints.

IS&T Archiving 2014

For more information about the 2014 Archiving Conference including the preliminary program, and to see abstracts of papers from past conferences, go to: http://www.imaging.org/ist/Conferences/archiving/

 

KODAK Photo Service

Greetings from San Francisco. Yesterday was a pretty exciting day here. First (and most importantly), I was lucky enough to celebrate 25 years of marriage to a fantastic woman. That, in and of itself, made yesterday great.

Second, on the professional front, we introduced the KODAK Photo Service at the first ever Mobile Photo Connect conference. When Kodak Alaris first formed, we committed ourselves to thinking of new ways to drive business opportunities and revenue for our partners in the imaging business.  KODAK Photo Service is just that. It takes the core competencies of Kodak Alaris, our retail partners and the roster of creative content developers and brings them together to create a solution that bridges the digital and physical worlds.

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But how? And more importantly, why?

Let’s start with the why. Hans Hartman, the host of yesterday’s conference, shared some compelling data. Today, there are more than 28,000 photo and video apps. Of the top photo and video apps, 90% are photo apps. Yet only 1% of those apps offer printing capabilities, mostly because setting up the infrastructure for printing and payment can be pretty complicated. So you have these insanely talented developers creating incredibly popular applications that remain trapped in a digital world, with limited opportunities to extract revenue from their brilliant ideas and execution.

That’s on the app side of the equation. On the other side, we have our retailer partners. We have more than 100,000 kiosks globally. In these locations, we have retail partners with the equipment, expertise and infrastructure to create high-quality output from this treasured digital content.

At the same time, consumers have said “we’ll print, but you have to make it easy.” Last year, we entered the market with our own apps to test that theory – if we created an easy-to-use connection between consumers’ mobile devices and the retail environment, would consumers print more? The answer is a resounding yes. We’ve seen more than 1 million downloads of our apps and our retailer partners who have implemented our wireless connectivity have seen a significant increase in sales of premium products.

Creating the apps gave us fantastic insight into consumer behavior. Yet our core strength lies in our high-quality KODAK Picture Kiosks, KODAK Printers and a proven, global net-to-retail infrastructure. Therefore, we realized that we could create the bridge – between the digital and physical world. Between content providers and retail partners. Which brings us to how.

With the KODAK Photo Service, we’ve opened our KODAK Network Services APIs, which allows content providers to write to our API and create a simple print-to-store option for their consumers. At the same time, they gain access to our global, trusted network and relationships with multiple retail partners. Think about it – by writing to a single API and choosing from one of two business models, content providers gain access to thousands of consumer touch points and a new revenue stream. No worries about payment. No need to create multiple agreements with multiple stores and locations. No need for marketing plans. We’re excited to have the developers listed here as part of the program launch and look forward to adding more names in the coming weeks and months.

Now, consumers who create content using any of these apps can transmit this content to their local retailer, where they will pick up and pay. For retailers, it builds volume, revenue and relevance as the imaging space evolves. Retailers participating in this program include Target and Bartell Drugs in the US. Also, dm-drogerie markt in Germany intends to join the program in time for the holidays, with more retailers expected to join globally in the coming months.

For more information on joining the KODAK Photo Service program, please visit https://www.kodakdeveloper.com

Retail merchandising – Improving the customer experience

Ahh… the shopping experience, so fun and rewarding.  Retail therapy is a proven fact.  Consumers love to shop and buy, and they will if the shopping experience is a pleasant one and guides them on a journey to purchase.  Too frequently however, retail escape is cluttered and confusing.  The product sought is muddled and mired in a wealth of communication, and eventually, the consumer becomes overwhelmed, raises the white flag, and walks out.

Retailers seem to have approached merchandising one of two ways – either focusing on a broad assortment encouraging the impulse purchase and creating a busy environment, or adopting the “clean store policy” making it easy on the eyes, hard to navigate.  There is middle ground though, a solution to feature multiple products, create inspiration and drive purchase, but in a pragmatic and engaging process.  And the key word is process.  Marketers love processes, matrixes, grids, and funnels – like the path to purchase, the consumer buying cycle, the loyalty loop, etc. But often, we get so excited about communication real estate and products that we push aside well-worn practices in favor of promoting depth and breadth.  All that product promotion can be as overwhelming as a circular on Thanksgiving Day.

Here are some simple principles that create a communication process for in-store merchandising. These principles can offer a more engaging and profitable environment by increasing conversion, up selling, and bringing shoppers back for a repeat experience:

  1. Announce – Let consumers know what you have to offer in the simplest and broadest terms.  What is your core competency? Printing photos? Photo Center.  Fixing watches?  Watch Repair.  Selling Tickets?  Ticket Booth.  This communication attracts consumers who may not know these products and services are available in your store.
  2. Amplify – Tell consumers more about what your product offers, the features and benefits.  Take this opportunity to UP SELL and INSPIRE – prints instantly, create photo books, watch repair in an hour – new watches for sale.  Tickets to shows AND exclusive merchandise from of the show.  Now that consumers are aware and considering a purchase, make it the best sales experience possible.
  3. Inform – Close the sale by providing, detail clearly and concisely.  Pricing should be easy to follow.  If you have other products to promote, present it in a relatable and compelling communication.  Consumers are ready to buy, but will abandon the purchase if they get frustrated.

So the process seems pretty simple – only three steps(!). Now where does the communication fit it?  Below are examples of in-store marketing tactics and messaging:

Announce – ceiling signs, cross-promotional collateral (shelf talkers, stickering), department signs.  Messaging: define the destination and make the destination intriguing

Amplify – backwall signs, countertop signs.   Messaging: claims, product assortment, inspiration – end benefits, promotions, special offers

Inform – brochures, sales associates, pricing lists, QR codes/links to informational websites, samples.  Messaging: pricing, education on product benefits, instructional – how to use

Below is an example of an in-store environment, from a retail partner who provided us with the opportunity to apply these principles to its photo center.

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After (rendering): after2

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Key Improvements:

Announce:

  • Disruptive branding that defines space and creates a store within a store destination
  • Clear department name
  • Destination definition

Amplify:

  • Backwall features promotional messaging, menu pricing, and samples
  • Front counter image offers lifestyle/inspirational images and additional product information
  • Counter top sign features special offer

Inform:

  • On kiosk signage and UI provides additional product information, educational and instructional content

The principles, applied to a larger in-store footprint, can be applied to a countertop merchandiser just as easily.  There might be a more selective approach on what key points of communication are conveyed, but if you follow the communication process consumers will engage and you will be rewarded.

Curation and Expression in the Connected World

Last week, Amazon rolled out a new service, called “Amazon Collections,” which lets consumers create a visual display of products they like, pulled from Amazon’s catalog of goods. Or as David Seifert wrote last week in The Verge, “Amazon Collections copies Pinterest’s layout to display your wish list.”

Pinterest, launched in early 2010, had more than 70 million users worldwide at the end of July 2013*, and has the potential to reshape the way in which commerce happens, as evidence by Amazon’s new service. In his article in Fast Company “Can Ben Silbermann Turn Pinterest Into The World’s Greatest Shopfront?” Max Chafkin writes “To create a pinboard is to say to the world, Here are the beautiful things that make me who I am–or who I want to be.”

So how do these two services relate to our professional lab customers? On Pinterest and through Amazon Collections, disparate individual products are curated to create a social visual representation (and purchases) that some argue is greater than its individual parts. We began thinking about this consumer behavior years ago and this past June, introduced KODAK PROFESSIONAL Collections and Creations software, to allow our professional lab customers to engage in this curation and present professional photographic output that mirrors this social, visual expression.

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Collections represent the manifestation of what in the past we’ve described as our Prints, Pages and Screens strategy into a tangible product and an actionable plan for the professional market.  We defined a Collection as a thematic compilation of photo products, such as DVDs, enhanced stills, prints, albums/books, photo gifts, and more to commemorate life’s treasured moments.  This expert curation enables consumers to:

  • Promote their memories and stories by sharing with family and friends anytime, anywhere. (digital output)
  • Produce their memories in story form. (photo books, albums and keepsakes)
  • Preserve their milestone memories for a lifetime. (heirloom prints)

The concept of Promote, Produce, and Preserve helps define the meaning of photographic-oriented Collections.  And the order of these three benefits is crucial to successful sales: Promote memories first, then fast follow to produce them in story form, and complete the collection by preserving them in heirloom products.

Photographers are encouraged to lead with socialization products; digital products that meet consumers’ primary need to showcase their important life moments in their socially connected world. Consumers’ today expect to use their professional images in the same manner they do their own images – to share them anytime, anywhere.  Once the photographer has achieved this objective, they can then move on to produce the memories in story form in albums, books, keepsakes, and more and complete the collection by preserving the memories for a lifetime in heirloom prints.

KODAK PROFESSIONAL Collections and Creations presents professional output, not as individual disparate products, but as a curated, visual representation of important life moments that enable consumers to share, tell, and preserve their milestone events.

*Semiocast, July 2013, “Pinterest has 70 million users
More than 70% are in the U.S.”

Kodak DP2 and Animoto Video Slideshow

Just a few weeks ago, more than 160 professional lab owners, general managers, and technical staff gathered in Rochester for our annual Kodak Pro Lab Workshop, which includes a blend of business strategy and technical sessions. As has become an annual tradition at the workshop, along with (sometimes bad) golf and Elvis sightings, we introduced the latest version of our market leading workflow software for professional photographic labs, KODAK Professional Digital Print Production Software (DP2), version 16.

While the full set of enhancements can be seen here, I wanted to spend some time on the Animoto Video Slideshow features for pro labs and photographers.  With DP2 v16, we have added two significant enhancements to the Animoto Video Slideshow feature.  Both of these enhancements are designed to create more selling opportunities for photographers and labs.

So what’s the value of the professional lab in offering these services, when photographers can work directly with Animoto on their own? It’s the combined benefit not of just what pro labs can help photographers do, but also how they do it.

In previous posts, we’ve talked about how soft-copy can drive hard-copy purchases. In this case, Animoto videos, showing professional content choreographed to impactful music, simply grab the consumer and make an emotional connection. Imagine a new bride and groom first seeing their wedding photos not as static proofs, but instead, as a series of images, set to beautiful music that conveys a story – their story. First come tears. Then comes the purchase – one that’s less transactional and more experiential.  Pro labs can encourage photographers getting proofs to consider presenting them in this story-telling format.

With Animoto videos, pro labs can help photographers generate business as well. Word-of-mouth marketing remains one of the more impactful ways of generating business among professional photographers. When photographing someone, whether it’s a wedding, a family portrait or school photography, there’s an inherent trust placed in the photographer. Pro labs can help create that word-of-mouth referral by working with their photographers to create a video, a digital album of sorts, to send to their clients as a “thank-you” following a photo session. Embed the name of the photographer, logo and contact information within the video, which at some point, will show up on the happy client’s social networking site. Once the video is posted, the client has essentially “endorsed” the photographer’s services to their friends and family.

What pro labs help photographers create provides an even greater return when how labs create Animoto videos enters the equation. Sure, with infinite time, professional photographers can create these videos on their own. But who has infinite time? By using a pro lab, the photographers free themselves up to spend more time shooting (and generating business) and less time behind the computer.

One Upload: To create Animoto videos, photographers need to upload images. By creating the videos through a pro lab, to whom they’re already uploading the images, photographers simply do one upload, rather than two.  It also frees the photographer from editing and sequencing the photos, all of which take valuable time – time that the photographer could use to acquire more clients.

Turnkey Service: The pro lab will make the video format ready for client delivery – both in how the video is presented (format, labeling, cases), as well as a guarantee that the images in the video are color corrected and match all the printed output. The photographers simply deliver the video to their clients when it’s ready. Again, less time behind the computer, more time out shooting.

Pay As You Grow: Pro labs offering Animoto services through DP2 v16 can create a risk-free business model for photographers, which in turn, will create more interest and use of the service.  Photographers only pay for videos sold to clients, or make a modest investment in videos for marketing purposes. We’ve made this even easier by adding the capability for the photographer to share a preview of the video with up to 30 of their clients to help facilitate sales of videos to a broader audience.

This value proposition means the photographer saves time and money while still receiving the highest quality output, which in turn, will help them grow their business.  This is the same value proposition that pro labs have built their reputation and business on all these years: Quality – Convenience – and Value.