*Feb. 1, 2008 - *The digital photo printing industry only has about two to three years to gain back customers who are moving away from printing toward online storage and sharing, according to InfoTrends Associate Director of Photo Printing David Haueter.
Although the volume of images printed every year is still growing, from 18 billion in 2007 to an estimated 19.7 billion images in 2008, users are moving more toward electronic viewing online, in digital photo frames, and in HD televisions.
Online photo printing site Snapfish recently dropped the price of 4 x 6-inch prints to $0.09, a move Haueter said could spark other similar sites to do the same in a few months. This downward pressure on print prices, however, is unlikely to effect retail printing or online-to-retail printing for the time being, Haueter said.
For now, he said the digital photo printing industry must look toward new innovations to keep users from drifting away from printing their photos.
"What can we do to make printing more appealing to users?" Haueter asked.
He said photos are currently stored haphazardly by users – scattered on online sharing sites, computer hard drives, memory cards, and digital photo frames. The industry could use archiving services and high-quality paper to entice users to print their photos – some high-quality paper has a long shelf-life than DVDs and CDs, he said.
In addition, he said "photo books will become the new photo album," encouraging users to print their images in a convenient, compact form. Photo books, now often used by professional wedding photographers, have seen a 48 percent growth year over year in 2008, Haueter said.
While Internet-to-mail printing services like Snapfish have died down, Internet-to-retail services, like CVS’s online photo ordering with in-store pickup, is the fastest-growing printing industry. It’s expected to close in at 50 percent of the printing market by 2012, said Alan Bullock, InfoTrends associate director of Internet imaging trends.