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Photo Prints - Part of the Physical Media Revival

Recent statistics from Apple indicate that over a trillion images per year are being captured globally on iPhones. If one adds Android and other smartphones, then it is feasible that three trillion plus images are captured worldwide per year on all smartphones, notwithstanding, of course, camera image capture.

For many years, despite rising image capture volumes, demand for photo prints has been in decline in all world regions, impacted by the facility for people to share images via screens, messaging, image sharing platforms and social media. 

Nevertheless, a combination of factors in recent years has started to have a positive impact on the photo prints markets in North America, Asia and Europe. The rising popularity of instant print cameras and, more recently, mobile photo printers, especially amongst the Millennials and Generation Z has segued into the commercial photo printing world. Many of these consumers grew up in a digital age – they are now turning to vinyl records, printed books and photo prints (from both digital images and film) as ‘novelty’ products, which they attribute some value to.

Retailers are noticing more of these generations making instant kiosk prints in-store, possibly driven by the facility for immediate prints, as is the case with the instant and mobile photo cameras. Mobile platform orders are also on the up overall, with existing online and newer mobile players capitalising on demand from not just these younger generations, but a wider customer base for some tangible, printed images. These may be for short-term room decoration, or as longer-term memories.

Whilst there was a “race to the bottom” in photo prints prices for many years, these newer consumers are more agnostic to price, which is allowing photo prints resellers to rebuild margin and to offer some innovative, higher margin items, such as box-set square photo prints.

These volume and value trends are highlighted by Futuresource’s newly published consumer-ordered Photo Prints Market Report, Europe. In 2017, whilst overall sales volumes were down, volumes in the instant and web-to-home channels rose and, following many years of decline, market value was relatively flat. There is a similar outlook for 2018. This report is part of Futuresource’s wider European photo market tracking, covering Photo Prints, Photobooks, Photo-Merchandise (Calendars/Cards/Photo Gifts/Wall Décor), Retail Minilabs/Print Kiosks/Photo Printers and in-depth consumer research (our Imaging Ecosystems report).

It is not yet clear if the current demand for printing ‘retro’, Polaroid and Instagram style photos from smartphones will continue, or be a passing fashion. Nevertheless, with the rising installed base of these devices and growing numbers of images captured annually on them and shared via apps and social media, there are great future opportunities for the photo printing industry to convert some of these images to photo prints, or to other higher-value photo items.

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Jeremy Wills

About the author

Jeremy Wills

Jeremy joined Futuresource Consulting in 2001. He holds a degree in French from Kings College, University of London. Jeremy is a member of the Professional AV team. He focuses on Signal Distribution, Meeting Room Control, AV Managed Services, Interactive Displays, Professional Lighting and Esports.

In previous Futuresource roles, Jeremy was part of the Imaging team covering consumer camera and photo output markets and, prior to this, a member of the Home Entertainment team, tracking the global pre-recorded media manufacturing and storage media sectors. Jeremy has managed two research and analysis teams during his years with Futuresource, as well a wide variety of syndicated and custom research projects.

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