Many Pro photographers are now shooting some or all of their work in digital and others are employing a film-to-digital workflow. Combine this with an estimated 40% US household digital camera penetration and the growth of camera phones and other digital imaging devices and the number of digital images being captured is exploding. This translates into increased demand for prints from digital images. PMA reports that the number of prints made from digital-still camera images grew by 78% in the year ending October 2004. Printing volume at retailers grew more than twice that rate. IDC predicts that prints from digital images will surpass film prints in 2006 on a worldwide basis.
Lab Technology Continues to Evolve
by John Blake, worldwide general manager for professional output, Eastman Kodak Company
The transition from black and white to color processing in the late 1950s was a watershed moment in the evolution of lab technology. That event led to the heyday of the pro lab in the 1960s as color printing exploded and customer demand for color portraits outpaced capacity. In the 1970s, technology focused on perfecting color reproduction and was signified by managing color through PVAC. Workflow automation took center-stage in the 1980s and saw the advent of central systems, package printers and faster Color Negative Papers. Lab technology advanced again with the advent of digital workflows in the 1990s. The digital infrastructure provided labs with software and printers that reduced waste and greatly improved labor efficiencies in the lab.
In the future, labs must build on the digital foundation and use technology as a way to differentiate their business. The business model is moving from capture and print to capture and publish, where the economic life of a professional image moves from finite opportunities with 2 dimensional prints to infinite possibilities with digital files for sharing, displaying, and creating compelling output as new stories are told about children and families. Digital will allow the pro market to expand market reach for images, increase applications to create and print professional keepsakes, and open the business to wealth even when an image is never printed!
Kodak has a rich history with the last forty years of lab technology advancements, and is excited to pioneer new products and technologies in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. The end consumer will only grow more demanding and labs must move from a mindset of workflow automation to product innovation. Recent announcements at the CES show demonstrate that consumers want to access music, voice, and other content anytime, anywhere and why not? It's up to the portrait industry to deliver - and capitalize - on these new opportunities where consumers anytime, anywhere, use portrait content.