MADISON, Wis. -- How many photos do you take in a given year? 500? 1,000? 3,000? More importantly, what you do end up doing with them?
You might leave them languishing in your SD card. If you're a little more energetic, you could burn them on to a CD or upload them to Facebook. Or -- God forbid, are you still ordering prints?
These are all variables that influence the market. Rapidly changing consumer behaviors are certain to effect the electronics industry -- increasing NAND flash sales, Facebook's servers, and demand for smartphones and digital still cameras.
Though Facebook has been somewhat coy about how many photos it's amassing in its database, the company did disclose in its pre-IPO prospectus in 2012 that it had "250 million photos uploaded per day." Now that Facebook has acquired Instagram, I'm sure that number is much higher. In fact, Facebook today has arguably the world's largest photo library.
I bring this up because I came across an interesting article this morning in Nikkei, Japan's economic journal (registration required), that says Fujifilm Corp. is trying to revive the print photograph. The article cites a survey by Photo Market that shows declining use of photo prints among Japanese consumers. In 2011, the number of photo prints shrank 37 percent from a decade earlier to 6.579 billion. Curiously, though, they rose 1.2 percent in 2012.
Fujifilm is apparently banking on that tenuous uptick (one might call it negligible) as justification to reinvest in photo hardware and services. In this digital age, is Fujifilm in denial?
Just to be clear, Fujifilm is a well-diversified company that gets the bulk of its revenue from its document (office products like printers and production services) and information (medical systems, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences) businesses. Its photo and electronic imaging business generated only 13 percent of its total revenue in the fiscal year that ended in March.
Photo imaging (i.e., print materials) is doing fine, but the company says its electronic imaging business is struggling due to a decline in overall demand for compact digital cameras.
Against that backdrop, this bet on a reversal that will have consumers clamoring for their photos to be printed won't exactly make or break the company's businesses. And yet, call me old-fashioned, but I sort of like the idea of printing photos.
Of course, everyone who is married has a wedding album, but whatever happens to the pictures we take the rest of our lives?
Clearly, going digital frees many consumers forever from that dreaded shoebox full of old photos they don't know what to do with. And yet the same sort of chaos appears to prevail even in the digital age. Weeding out bad pictures (it's called editing) and intelligently sorting things out does require time and patience -- and possibly a human touch.
Year Album service
I did find it fascinating that Fujifilm has rolled out a Year Album service. "The popularity of the service is skyrocketing," a company official told Nikkei. Users take their image data to a Fujifilm shop. Working from a huge volume of images, the printer in a shop "can automatically select pictures that are in focus or show people smiling and create a yearly photo album in as little as five minutes."
I know of similar services done digitally. One Facebook app, for example, automatically picks the most Liked photos you uploaded during the year and creates an album.
Either way, the editing process is automated, avoiding a painful process most average consumers would rather avoid. But then, the issue remains whether you prefer printing them out to keep them as a physical memento.
I want to hear how you sort and archive your own photos. Engineers have a reputation for being both inventive and organized. If that's true, there are probably a lot of interesting (and quirky) solutions out there, so spill.