*NEWS*EPSON PHOTOFINISHING NICHE DEVELOPS
*NEWS*EPSON PHOTOFINISHING NICHE DEVELOPS
2006-01-16 at 10:10:00 am #13822
Photofinishing niche develops rapidly
being a self-described technophobe, Peggy Larez used a computer to
design a hardback book of photos of her 14-year-old son, who is
hospitalized while awaiting a heart transplant.
“The books are
really, really nice. They’re beautiful,” said Larez, who plans to give
one to her mother. “It’s the best present, and everybody likes books.
And, oh my gosh, it was so fun.”
To create her book, Larez used
Seiko Epson Corp.’s StoryTeller kit–one of a number of products to
help shutterbugs buried in digital photos. With sales of digital
cameras surpassing those using traditional film, printermakers Epson
and Hewlett-Packard Co. are fighting filmmakers such as Kodak Corp. and
Fuji Corp. for business in a rapidly growing niche.
in digital photos creates a whole new category need for photo
management,” said Jill Aldort of InfoTrends CAP Ventures, a market
research firm specializing in digital imaging.
The U.S. market for
online photofinishing and photo merchandise more than quadrupled
between 2002 and 2005, to $307 million, according to preliminary
figures from InfoTrends. That’s still less than half the estimated $885
million taken in this year by photo retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores
Inc., Target Corp. and legions of drugstores and camera shops. And it’s
a fraction of the estimated $2 billion that Americans will spend this
year on ink and paper to print photos at home.
But it’s growing
fast, while paper and ink sales are expected to peak this year then
start to decline. Helping the trend toward do-it-yourself photo
projects is home computers with faster processors, bigger hard drives
and more memory.
Help for home users
providers such as EasyShare.com, Snapfish.com and Shutterfly.com allow
users to post photo albums and order reprints and calendars, coffee
mugs and other photo-emblazoned gifts. Epson’s product allows users to
lay out, print and assemble photo books at home, for those who want
more control over their creation.
And sophisticated photo-editing
software originally intended for professionals, such as Photoshop
Creative Suite from Adobe Systems Inc., is available in versions for
consumers who want to organize and touch up pictures. Adobe’s Photoshop
Elements, Microsoft Corp.’s Digital Imaging Suite, Apple Computer
Inc.’s iPhoto and Google Inc.’s Picasa all vie to be the center of the
photographic universe. With each, users can order photos online or
produce slide shows to view on computers or burn to DVDs.
“Everyone wants to be in photos–hardware, software, cameramakers, phonemakers,” said Snapfish.com Chief Executive Ben Nelson.
rivals Shutterfly.com and Ofoto.com, Snapfish was a start-up service
offering photo sharing and printing. Snapfish was ranked 127th in the
online film-developing market when it launched in April 2000; by the
time HP bought it in April 2005, Snapfish had grown to No. 1 in volume
of 4-by-6-inch prints, said Nelson, who is now also an HP vice
Seeing a way to keep revenue from customers who were
defecting away from traditional film cameras, Kodak acquired Ofoto,
renaming the service Kodak EasyShare Gallery.
Harnessing the Internet is one approach.
is the biggest online presence in terms of revenue, followed by
Shutterfly and Snapfish, according to InfoTrends. The services don’t
disclose separate financial details.
Snapfish has positioned itself
as the price leader for 4-by-6-inch prints at 12 cents per photo
ordered, or 10 cents prepaid in lots of 1,000. EasyShare and Yahoo Inc.
charge 15 cents, and Apple and Shutterfly 19 cents, with Shutterfly
offering as low as 15 cents prepaid. Adobe’s Photoshop Elements offers
prints through EasyShare, and Google’s Picasa provides hard copies of
photos through a number of services including Snapfish and Shutterfly.
Snapfish, users can order photos and pick up hard copies an hour later
at more than 4,000 Walgreens stores. Snapfish also has a partnership
with Costco Wholesale Corp.
The service lets users download
high-resolution photos from friends’ albums and print them at home for
free, and can send photos to cell phones at no cost.
Neither represents a revenue stream for Snapfish or HP, the world’s largest maker of computer printers.
we’re getting people used to communicating with images,” said
Snapfish’s Nelson. “The more images are shared, the more money HP will
make in the long run,” he said, because if people are printing photos,
there’s a good chance they’re doing it on an HP printer using HP ink.
Yahoo, Google and others getting into photo sharing and print ordering,
Snapfish and others are branching out to personalized photo-based gifts.
online photo-sharing sites are in the middle of a significant
transformation,” said Ross Rubin, a consumer technology analyst with
NPD Group. “Now major multinational companies have huge imaging
ecosystems to leverage in order to drive usage of these digital images.”
Shutterfly, Snapfish, PhotoWorks.com and Sony Corp.’s ImageStation.com
are among those offering a variety of gifts such as photo memory books,
calendars, cards, coffee mugs, T-shirts, blankets, neckties, dog food
bowls and even cookies (for humans), all emblazoned with favorite
Revenue in the U.S. from such merchandise has ballooned from
$15 million in 2002 to an estimated $79 million this year, and is
expected to grow to $395 million by 2010, according to InfoTrends’
Boom in photo books
Photo books in
particular are gaining popularity. Most sites provide them through a
partner such as MyPublisher.com, which runs its own consumer business,
or Pixami.com, which doesn’t.
Apple focuses on reprints and memory
books made in the iPhoto organizing and editing program that comes with
every Mac computer, eliminating the need to install additional software
the other services require to order photos or gifts.
“Let’s face it,
the quality of a print on the side of a mug is not the same as
high-quality photo vendors,” said Peter Lowe, Apple’s director of
marketing for consumer applications. “Not everyone has graphic
professionals like Apple does to call on to make your books look great.”
boasts special effects such as extensive layouts, backgrounds and
fonts, and effects such as cutting up a photo into a mosaic that other
At $30 for a large hardcover 10-page book, Apple,
Shutterfly and MyPublisher charge more than Snapfish, whose books start
One Apple user created 800 iPhoto books for all 82 guests
of a 60th birthday celebration where participants jetted off to Paris.
Another made 20-page booklets as wedding invitations for $3.99
each–extravagant to some, but unique and still cheaper than fancier
Epson’s StoryTeller is based on a different
model, in which everything is done at a computer, without the Internet.
A 10-page, 5-by-7-inch kit costs $19.99; an 8-by-10-inch book is $23.95
for 10 pages and $29.99 for 20 pages.
“The whole process took me
about 30 minutes,” said Larez, who tried her StoryTeller out at an
event Epson held at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford in Palo Alto,
Calif., which houses financially strapped patients.
“It was exciting
because I didn’t have any money and anything to give to my mom, and
this was the perfect thing to give to her. Memories are the best.”