Printing is Alive and Well by Joe LaBarca

Today’s Wednesday Works comes from Joe LaBarca

Joe LaBarca Photo

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On Wednesday Works, we’ve discussed topics relevant to both the retail and professional photography industry. While we’ve talked about how as an industry we can drive printing, just as important as driving printing is the media on which you print.

First, why so much discussion of printing when some say printing is dead?  If you look at the statistics of number of pictures printed and compare to the number of pictures captured, it’s a very logical assumption because the number printed is such a low percentage.  However, let’s go a little deeper to understand why printing in general, and printing on silver halide photographic paper in particular makes so much sense.

In the beginning, there was film, and negative film required a print to be made.  While a seemingly obvious statement, as a result, you could say that 100 percent of images shots became prints. Consumers today still want prints, but they have the choice to print or not to print. So they don’t ask for every print, but rather, the “keepers” that they want to have around for months, years, and generations.  This includes consumer snapshots, as well as professionally captured images from important events such as weddings and school photography. While the amount of prints made today is certainly less than those made during film’s peak years, the number of prints made from digital is growing and the growth is accelerating, according to InfoTrends, in its January 2013 Consumer and Professional Imaging Analysis titled “Road Map 2013: Photo Printing Trends.

So let’s get the math straight – the percentage of images printed is smaller than ever because of the explosion in the number of images captured.  Many in the industry estimate that nearly 400 billion images were captured in 2012.  That’s four times more than the roughly 100 billion from film’s heyday.  And with this number growing the number of images printed will also grow even as the percentage of images printed versus captured continues to decline.  A fast rate in growth of images captured with a slower rate of decline in images printed versus captured, means images printed will grow.  And this growth could mean that prints from digital might actually meet or exceed the number of images printed during film’s peak in the not too distant future.  Bottom line: a very small percentage of a very large number is still a very large number.

So, as a professional photographer or a professional lab, how will you print this growing number of digital images?  Knowing that people want the “keepers,” as a professional lab or a professional photographer, you should consider what paper would ensure that these images last a lifetime. While there are many choices in digital printing technology, KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper, is optimized specifically for digital printing and reflects the newest emulsion and dispersion/dye technologies to provide further improvements in an ongoing stream of benefits to the labs and the consumers. A technical paper presented to the International Symposium on Technologies for Digital Photo Fulfillment provides the technical specs of ENDURA Premier, as well as the benefits of this silver halide paper to both wedding/portrait and commercial labs. Among those benefits: the latest in efficiencies for high speed, low cost digital printing, providing consumers with greater color gamut and improved image quality. At the same time, the paper maintains the critical characteristics of excellent flesh tone reproduction and all-around image longevity that, in my opinion, simply cannot be matched by any of the other digital print technologies available today to professional labs and their clients.

“Good Enough” Not Enough

Recently, a friend of mine walked by a luxury boutique in New York City. In the front window was a large display of a super model/TV personality. She related to me the following:  “I don’t remember which model and I don’t remember what she was modeling. What I remember is the large two-foot blotch on the upper edge of the print.  Not the highly paid model. Not the luxury item for sale. Not, to think of it, the brand selling it.“

Paco Underhill, one of the industry’s foremost experts on retailing and founder of Envirosell, said “Today, the photograph in retail is everywhere—silk-screened images in windows, lifestyle graphics in the aisles, flat screens mounted from ceilings, projections on the floor, and the incorporation of images onto packaging. The creative drive has been focused on making good stuff look great.” http://click.si.edu/Story.aspx?story=787

Make good stuff look great. When I heard the story above about what should have been a gorgeous display instead tainted by the quality of the media on which it’s printed, I’m even more committed to what we’re doing at Kodak.  In recent years, lower quality display materials have entered the market, and as marketing budgets have shrunk, some brands saw using these “good enough” materials as a viable cost-saving alternative.  “Good enough” does not create great. And in this case, it created just the opposite.

We recently introduced our new KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Transparency Display Media to the market, based on the fundamental belief that our customers in this space require media that creates the most visually effective output – for large displays (such as trade-show stands and booths), in-store point-of-purchase materials, and indoor transit displays (airports, subways).

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Our labs partners and specifiers use Kodak Display media for some of the world’s most well-known brands because they know that no matter where in the world an image is printed, our media ensures consistency and the preservation of the quality those brands represent. Dominick Dunne, COO of Splash Worldwide, a technology based communications agency, said this when asked why he recommends Kodak media to his clients.

We recommend Kodak media because it is the most consistent and has the highest quality. In most offset printing applications, there are industry specifications that enable Splash to show a digital proof and know that no matter what press they will print on the printer can match the proof. The best examples of this are SWOP and GRACOL. No specifications exist in the out-of-home or in-store production business. By standardizing on Kodak media, Splash has created a de-facto standard.

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In an era where competition for consumer attention and ultimately dollars is fierce, we want to make sure that our customers have the best output to contribute to their success. That means consistency.  It means reliability. It means high quality. Our R&D continues in photographic paper because to succeed in a competitive market, our customers deserve, and frankly, need more than “good enough.”

The New Retail Era

Hans Hartman, Principle Analyst at Suite 48 Analytics, recently conducted research on photo purchasing behavior among smart phone users.  Among the key findings of Hartman’s research is the following:

The biggest bottleneck for this new generation of photo app users is not the quality of smartphone photos, as is often assumed. Only 13% of the photo app users stated that the quality of photos from their smartphone has held them back from ordering photo products. It turns out the bigger problem is a lack of innovative photo product creation and ordering apps, coupled with cumbersome creation and ordering workflows.

Hartman assets that it not a lack of interest in printing that dissuades younger and older generations from printing, but rather the lack of a workflow that mirrors their lifestyle and way of interacting with their content, including images.  Even those smartphone users older than 25 years old seek ways of tapping into their content on their smartphones that untethers them from the desktop, USBs sticks and clunky workflows.

The need to untether consumers from the desktop takes on even greater urgency as smart phones and tablet sales overtook PC sales in 2012. At the same time, mobile media growth is outpacing other forms of media, including TV, radio and even online by almost 2:1, according to Tomi Ahonen Consulting. Therefore, to reach the consumer with compelling offerings, retailers need offerings that fit in the connected environment in which the consumer lives.

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Coinciding with this technology shift, we’re also seeing a cultural shift and the birth of a new social collective.  The exponential growth of social networks has redefined the process by which consumers choose how to consume and what to consume.  

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Source: Rachel Botsman, http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com Feb 2013

The combination of technology enablers and this cultural shift requires a retail revolution in this networked age.  Earlier on this blog, Ed Monahan, in relation to the professional photography market, said “As an industry, we need to meet today’s consumers on their terms.” In the retail space, we need to do the same. This decade will continue to reset the retail experience. How consumers shop, when they shop – consumers want to be able buy anything, from anywhere, at any time.

Against this backdrop, we’re investing in solutions that  “free” valuable content from our consumers’ smart phones and tablets, via our retail solutions, and meet consumers at their primary engagements points.  

Last year at Photokina, we introduced a series of applications that help our retail partners meet the consumers at this key intersection point.  The apps include our Kiosk Connect App, which lets users create and print customizable gifts, including KODAK Photo Books, KODAK Personal Greeting Cards, calendars, photo cards, collages and prints, within minutes after wirelessly transferring their images to the KODAK Picture Kiosk.  We also tapped into the growth of social networks and introduced the My KODAK Moments Facebook App, that lets consumers tap the wealth of photos, including square Instagram prints, create photo books and prints.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IOHgv_XSos

This is just the start. In coming months, we’ll bring new solutions and programs to the industry that work to harness the power of both this technology shift and consumer behavior. By harnessing this power, we hope to help our retail partners not only adapt to this new retail reality, but also thrive and grow.

Kodak Kiosk: Imagine

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Walk into any well-known retailer and odds are you’ll see a KODAK Picture Kiosk. That yellow box that invites consumers to create prints, collages, calendars, cards and photo books.

In the past year, we’ve developed and implemented new applications and technologies to make it even easier for consumers to engage with our kiosks and in turn, ensure our retail customers can extract the maximum value from their investment in our solutions. Those technologies have included mobile applications, in-store and out-of-store solutions and the ability to interact with images on some of the fastest growing image platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

But images are just the beginning. We have more than 100,000 kiosks installed worldwide, working with retailers ranging from global brands to Mom-and-Pop shops. The common themes among all of these retailers, based on our expertise, are solutions that meet two key criteria: relevance and experience.

So what do we do with the portfolio and what do we do with the products? First, to create the experience, we’re heavily investing in building solutions that allow consumers to engage with kiosk from anywhere – through mobile applications, in-store, at-home, out-of-store. This comprises both technologies that easily enable consumers to “communicate” with the kiosk, as well as applications and products that consumers can easily use to create memories from their images.

Second, we’re thinking beyond the photo. This could mean books, movies, music and even personalized home goods. Through the kiosk, our retail customers can extend the relevance of their investment to broaden the content consumers can create. In the coming months, we are looking to build on the partnerships we announced last year, providing new content creation opportunities for our retail partners and in turn, new revenue streams from a current investment.

“Beyond the photo” illustrates our strategy moving forward – we enable personalized content creation. We are a market leader in the photo category, but that’s just the beginning.  Our strategy embraces better connectivity, broader content creation and ultimately, revenue driving relevance and experience for our retail partners. In the coming weeks, here at Wednesday Works, we’ll explore more of these solutions. We look forward to your feedback.

PRINT. PRESERVE. PROTECT

So what is Pixel Preservation International and who is this guy, Joe LaBarca?

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I retired from Kodak in January of 2011 after 34.5 years in R&D, commercialization, technical and management roles.  I spent my entire career in various aspects of hard copy output technologies, with the first two-thirds of the career working on professional color photographic paper.  I managed the Kodak Professional Imaging Systems lab and oversaw the systems and integration development of KODAK PROFESSIONAL Endura papers and display materials (look for “ENDURA” on the back next time you purchase prints).  A majority of my career found me involved in work on image permanence testing, reporting, and communications, both internally with Kodak and externally with the ISO international committee developing image permanence and physical durability standards. Within these roles I became expert in the permanence of not only traditional silver halide color photographic paper, but also the newer “digital technologies” – thermal dye transfer (think instant prints from retail kiosks), inkjet (think prints at home from your inkjet printer), and electrophotographic (think photo books from retail and online locations).

So why tell you about this? Here’s today’s reality. People – your customers – have millions, if not billions, of pictures stored on mobile devices, computers, external drives and clouds.  When those technologies become obsolete, how will they access those memories, those moments, those stories? There is only one proven technology that we know consumers can use to view their images today, tomorrow and 100 years from now. And that is the print. Your job: help your customers free those images from their devices to create lasting, viewable photographs.

In the coming weeks, I’ll guest blog here on Wednesday Works on the topic of long term preservation of images through printing. Last week, Ed Monahan wrote about how soft-copy offerings can drive more hard-copy output. This need for hard copy and preservation are the reasons I founded Pixel Preservation International in 2011. Hard copy is the only format that is totally independent of any current or future digital technologies. Think about that – the only format.

This reality drives Pixel Preservation International and similarly, much of the R&D at Kodak. In essence, only technology independent preservation of digital files through printing can help ensure that as technology advances, your images and your customers’ images are “future proof.” This means making prints, including professional prints on silver halide paper, complementary professional products using electrophotographic media, and instant printing at places like Kodak Kiosks. Kodak has created a framework through which it offers commercial labs, professional labs, wholesale labs, retailers and by association, consumers, multiple proven methods to print, preserve and protect their valuable images. This will help ensure that decades into the future, these moments, these memories, these stories, will be accessible for generations to come.

Socializing Professional Content in the Social World

Immediacy. When we think about ways in which we can help our professional labs and photographer clients drive business in this ever increasingly connected world, we keep coming back to this word. Today’s consumer wants to instantly showcase images, share them with family and friends, and gain immediate reach across their connected world. They still desire “output,” but with the proliferation of smart phones, tablets and social networks, as an industry, we need to broaden our definition of output, starting with soft-copy.

Did anyone cry “heresy?” Giving consumers soft-copy? How will that help drive hard-copy and premium professional output? Simple.  As an industry, we need to meet today’s consumers on their terms. Once we capture the consumers’ interest, we then show them just how much more they can do with the professional content.

It all begins with Socialize – where pro photographers help consumers to satisfy their most basic craving.  Pro photographers can deliver images through Facebook and Twitter, place them into video presentations, or make them accessible on web sites via QR codes. Consumers can then text, email and share via their phone/tablet screen, with family and friends, and push pro content into their connected world.

Having met the need for immediacy and connection with Socialization, we now help the consumers tell their Stories.  Professional photographers excel at helping consumers bring their images to life in something physical and tactile, in the form of high-quality albums, photo books, calendars, cards.  We then follow to complement those story-telling vehicles with high quality heirloom portraits and unique, creative canvas wraps and wall art to the preserve the Memories. Creating a storyline is a much better way for consumers to experience and share their memories.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a high quality portrait album or storybook worth?

Driven by the realization that consumers want to use professional images just as they do their consumer images to enjoy immediate/infinite reach and anytime/anywhere access, we continue to work on our Digital Print Production Software (DP2), to enable professional photographers and labs to meet the consumer where the consumer wants to be met! In version 15, we introduced QR codes and Animoto Slideshow videos – which lets professional labs create visually exciting soft-copy offerings, starting the “Socialization,” component of a complete offering that’s complemented by individual prints and high-quality premium output.

Scan to view a video slideshow demonstration Scan to view a video slideshow demonstration.

Play example videos:

Wedding slideshow ›

Baby slideshow ›

So, from Socialize to Stories to Memories, we can create a logical flow from immediacy to more effective storytelling to the opportunity for display and the security of longevity.  The photographer serves to originate the image, consult and sell across the memory lineup, and champion this message.

Meet consumers where they want to be met.  Lead with the need for immediacy and connection, fast following into the desire for storytelling, and completing the offer with quality portraits that preserve the memory forever.

Introducing Wednesday Works – Laura Quatela

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Welcome to Kodak’s Personalized Imaging “Wednesday Works” Blog!  Every Wednesday, we’ll feature business topics relevant to our customers in the retail, wholesale, and professional photography markets.

Here is an introduction by Laura Quatela….

I have the privilege of managing Personalized Imaging, which is comprised of our Film Capture, Paper & Output Systems, Retail Systems Solutions, and Event Imaging Solutions businesses (together, “PI”).  As many of you know, in August 2012 Kodak announced that it was initiating a sale process for these businesses.  We are moving full-steam through this process, and are confident that PI will be under new ownership by the middle of this year.

In 2012, Personalized Imaging sustained a consistent record of profitability.  We introduced market-leading products and services, entered new partnerships across multiple regions, and renewed agreements with some of the world’s largest retailers and professional labs.  Of course we continue to engage with talented and inspiring professional photographers around the globe, who use Kodak Professional films to create thought-provoking, visually stunning bodies of work.  All of these interactions reflect an ongoing commitment to PI by our customers, suppliers, and partners.

On a personal note, I want to underscore my pride in the ongoing efforts of our PI teams around the world to maintain the high standard of service that is essential to our customers and yours.  We have hundreds of staff members in development, manufacturing, sales, marketing, customer service, technical support, and other core functions.  These experienced, talented, and committed employees are passionate about meeting your needs, and driving a bright future for PI.

We look forward to engaging with you every Wednesday about the issues that impact you and your businesses.  Thanks for reading!

NOTE: This post was up previously but due to problems to the old blog platform we have had to repost it this week.