CEIF redesigns show profile for camera buffs

Print is here to stay. That is the first impression that one gathers after three days of the CEIF show. Every booth that offered any printing device, be it the digital production presses or the small dye-sublimation (D2T2) card printers or those that offered substrates for printing and post-print devices, were teeming with visitors. And the discussions plus order bookings were quite good. So says Vimal Parmar

16 Jan 2023 | By Kalpak Shah

CEIF is back. Printed photo albums are back.

It is unfortunate that the world’s largest exhibition Photokina, a leading photographic trade show in Cologne, Germany closed shop after 70 years. The reason given was a “massive decline in markets for imaging products.” This sent a wrong signal to the global photo-imaging market.

I feel, photography is not just about a camera or analogue photo films. The photo-imaging landscape is huge.

Moreover, technology will continue to evolve. Has image capture come down? Not at all! Smartphones with the ability to produce amazing quality have taken image capture, in sheer numbers, to unbelievable heights. Instead of working on ways to unlock these images from smartphones and converting them to photo books or innumerable photo products, we are complaining that the photography industry is in the doldrums. How long can we continue to live in the past and ruin our future?

The ‘Print Photo” challenge is just a blip. Or probably a longer beep. But if every industry partner can join hands, I am sure we can make things happen.

Printing of photographs continues to fascinate people. It always will. Look at the way the industry is continuing to invest in new printing devices. From small ticket items to bigger ones.

The biggest opportunity in India is consumer photobooks.

The exhibitors flexed their muscles
This is what exhibitors like Canon, Daya Sheth, HP-Redington, Fujifilm, Konica Minolta, Monotech, Polyplex, Radix (Pinnacle) TechNova were showcasing. And the reason visitors flocked to the stalls during the CEIF show is to get an actual feel of the product.

All major brands at one place. Apart from the opportunity to connect with people who matter and get more insight about the product that they plan to invest in they could touch and feel the products.

Every brand addressed that aspect. Actual samples were on display, printing was on-site and team members were present to address all queries.

The CEIF show
CEIF is a B2B trade show for the photo imaging industry, has visitors, apart from photographers and colour lab owners, who are distributors or dealers in this space and they make it a point to visit even if they are in the fringe area of the photo business. This is where they learn about new print substrates and applications. They take a keen interest in learning and understanding as they are the ones who have to convince their buyers.

Then there are colour lab owners who see a new substrate at the show. They inform their dealers to procure the product for them. For the trade who are dealing in substrates, they know for sure that if print grows, they too benefit.

Then there are discussions at the event where companies talk about print and its importance.

This year the CEIF show was fab. First and foremost, the world-class venue. Easy access, security, parking, pillar-less pavilion, good food and not to forget - clean cloakrooms. The overall size of the exhibition was small and visitors were marginally lower in numbers compared to the previous edition, but those who came were the ones who mattered the most. The overall standard of the exhibition has gone up several notches higher.

Photography 2.0
Photography is not just about images but more than that. Photography encompasses cameras or a digital capture or design device as the starting point and ends with how and where images are printed, presented or shown. Along the path, we have lighting, image processing and sharing of these images.

All these segments offer unique and huge possibilities to innovate and grow the market and this is happening globally even while we are reading this. Pick up any segment from those listed above and we will find a wide variety of new solutions that have been brought into the market at regular intervals.

To give a small example, take the space of substrates for printing and look at the wide variety that companies here are offering. Either by manufacturing or by importing. Take post-print conversion and finishing and look at the wide options that manufacturers are creating specifically to meet the requirements of the photography industry.

There were supply challenges that affected our industry as much as it affected others. We learned to cope with the situation.

There is a lot more than wedding albums
While wedding albums are the happening thing in India, consumer books are yet to take off though it has started to happen. This market could turn out to be as large as the wedding album market or maybe more. Just add up the number of tourists going abroad, babies born, birthdays being celebrated, corporate events, housewarming functions and so many others. Every occasion can turn into a photobook.

Personally, no one has ever refused me to print photographs or create a photo book whenever I have asked them to do so. This shows that consumers are interested. All that we need to do is make the ordering process easy and create awareness for print.

In my opinion, every stakeholder should come together and work towards the common goal of making the process easy for the consumer to order photo prints or a photo book and create awareness for the same. When awareness can be created to increase the consumption of eggs, almonds or olive oil, why cannot we do something similar for printing of photographs?

The opportunity is there. We must join hands and work towards making it happen.

The future
Fortunately, with more and more younger generations coming into photography, the concern for the environment gets spoken about as they care about the planet. Photography by its sheer nature generates electronic waste. Even data storage in the cloud consumes resources. But professional photographers in their own way are becoming conscious and doing their bit. But a lot can still be done. Knowledge sharing on how to account for their ecological footprint and generate reduced CO2 emissions is the need of the hour.

Even basic knowledge sharing about phantom power and taking action can help considerably.

All large organisations, keeping global norms, are doing a lot on their part. This is helping do good for the planet.

With regard to the circular economy, we are well-placed as old equipment is sold and never discarded.

Even cartons in which substrates are sold gets utilised for repacking.

Having said so, education in this area will help and do good for the community at large.

Talking about education, I take this opportunity to thank a large number of photography mentors who, during the peak Covid months, went online to offer quality education free of cost.


The Indian photo industry in the unsteady waters?


Not at all!

With every change in technology, the industry at large has adopted it very well.

Those that did not, got side-lined.

In the good old black and white days (B&W), studios processed film and made prints in-house. With colour, one-hour labs came up across the country and the thought was that the studio days were numbered. But they survived on instant B&W ID photographs which moved to Polaroid and then to inkjet colour. Colour labs survived on consumer films.

When digital production presses arrived, silver halide (AgX) market shrunk. Wedding albums moved from AgX. It did not vanish.

So, the water is not unsteady. It is just that we are hopping from one boat to another with every change in technology.

Not that there are no challenges for us. We have quite a handful!

  • Camera sales are falling
  • Consumers are not printing
  •  Low barriers to entry than what was during the film days
  • No one visits the photo studio anymore. From around 150,000 studios across India, in the mid-80s to mid-90s, we would probably be a quarter of that number today.
  • Competitive industry

But look at the way photographs are being taken worldwide on smartphones! We just need to unlock a small percentage of images and convince consumers to print them. Or create at least one photobook per family every year of just 250-300 images.

People who think that the photo imaging days are going through a rough patch must visit such exhibitions across India to see how this industry is alive and kicking.

One take-way from CEIF
For me what was exciting was there were several students of photography including many who had just recently ventured into photography. For them, it was an opportunity to see everything – from capture to print – under one roof. They are the drivers of growth in times to come. There were solutions for everyone at every price point at the CEIF 2023. It was not just photography but booths like TechNova had even showcased products from the general commercial printing space that photographers could easily include in their fold. Products like menu cards, table mats etc. It is mind-boggling to see how manufacturers have improved their product lines and services.

About the author: Vimal Parmar is the India Editor of Photo Imaging News (Published from the USA since 1983). Also an independent marketing consultant, and digital print evangelist with over 36 years of experience in the imaging industry. During the show, Parmar was on a mission to boost photo printing in India with his lec-dems sessions at the TechNova stall.