A couple of years ago I blogged about a “not so distant future” where the portrait photographer Debra has an all-digital operation and a camera that makes it brain-dead easy for her to get beautiful images. A lot of people labeled it “doom and gloom.” I found that very interesting since nothing in that post suggested I thought that future was a bad thing. (I guess it all depends on your perspective. One person’s “doom and gloom” is another person’s hey day.) As those predictions start to come to pass (e.g. Animoto integrated into desktop software; the ease and proliferation of photos posted via mobile devices) I pose this question to my readers: what is your digital strategy? You do realize that the days of print are numbered?
This is not doom and gloom. It’s just the way of things. It may not happen in the next two years, but I would be so bold as to predict that in 5-7 years, except in the most rare occasions, the majority of consumer photography (and video) services will be delivered 100% digitally. No wallets (who needs wallets when you have iPhones,), no 5x7s, 8x10s or wall portraits (digital frames), and as the Pixar generation reaches child-rearing age, you may even see a decline in physical albums.
But even before we reach that day, in the meantime the number of requests by clients to have digital negatives will be significant enough that you will need some sort of competitive strategy to offer it. The three key areas you need to figure out are pricing, distribution, and copyright management. Do you know how you will manage these three in an increasingly digital-only world?
This isn’t just something photographers have to figure out. All those labs out there making millions on prints will need to have a digital plan too. It will be curious to see how the Pictages, the PickPics and the H&Hs of the world are going to adjust. How will they continue to empower photographers to offer services in a world where high quality printing is no longer required (or at least not as much)?
More of a Filmmaker’s or Commercial Photography Model?
In many ways, this is an area where the photo industry can take a lesson from the film and video industry. The bulk of a professional video producer’s rate is in the creation and execution of our vision as opposed to DVDs (which would be equivalent to prints and albums in the photo world). If someone pays me $6,000 to shoot a video, 99% of the time, that’s all they’re getting, is a digital copy of that video. Commercial photography is pretty much the same deal. It’s in wedding and portrait photography where I see the biggest changes will need to be made. If you make a lot of money on multi-thousand dollar albums or wall prints, a time is coming where those sales will dry up.
So, do you have your strategy in place? How will your business look in a world like the one portrayed in this video below. (The future is not as far away as you may think). (Note: I did not make this video. Though I wish I had.