Let's applaud the dramatic growth of (discretionary) photo printing!


All too often members of the “photo industry” choose to reference the current size of output volume to that of the predigital era (naturally so for those who have watched a highly-profitable business irreparably disrupted). That reference, however, fails to do justice to the growth of a new personalized printed output business.

Here is how the former, analog amateur photo business looked 20 year ago:

The total amateur photo business in the U.S. in 1996 (these are PMA numbers and quite accurate) was a respectable $13.5 billion. Of that “photo processing,” “film sales,” and “digital imaging” (which were prints from digital files) accounted for 68% or $9.2B in revenue. “Photo Processing,” or what is generally referenced as the comparison for today’s printed output volume, was almost entirely driven by 4x6 prints made from rolls of film that required processing and printing (i.e. non-discretionary). Of the $5.8B revenue from “Photo Processing” in 1996 $5.5B was driven by 4x6 prints from rolls of film processed. Therefore, the entire non-discretionary photo output totaled $300 million 20 years ago.

Every dollar spent today on personalized printed output is discretionary. That $300 million in total U.S. revenue has grown to $3B+ in 2016. That growth has occurred in spite of many barriers to successful engagement (e.g. lack of awareness, disconnected capture devices, inelegant and painful processes, slow internet connections, closed ecosystems, poor image quality, hard to rediscover photos, retreating traditional photo retail support, little meaningful industry leadership, and more).

Those who say that a former $6B+ has declined to $3B are categorically wrong. The truth is that a $300 million industry has grown to a $3B industry, in spite of major headwinds, and that emerging tailwinds promise to lift those revenues exponentially in the near-term.


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