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With every event, celebration or experience which occurs in the modern age, there is likely at least one photograph available to sum up and showcase the occasion. This photograph could be printed, it could be tuned into a digital frame, it could be posted on social media, or it could be stored on a phone – and which of these is true will likely depend on the demographic of the user.
Once an industry dominated and owned primarily by the wealthiest individuals and career photographers only, the cameras and photography industry has seen a huge shift over the last few decades – making every smartphone user and every camera owner a photographer in their own right. When you break down the cost of the industry as a whole, it quickly becomes clear where the vast differences lie, and that is in the price and the quality of the cameras at either end of the industry scale: from the high end digital cameras used by official career photographers, down to the affordable cameras shrouded in different deals and discounts which are available to the mass market.
As an industry, the world of photography and the variety of camera products available for purchase is such that most individuals now have access to some form of photography device – be it a camera phone, a disposable camera, a digital camera or an instant-print camera. But where did it all begin, and how has the industry grown from something so exclusive to something which dominates much of our social media sharing and is barely given any thought as we snap hundreds of pictures to capture every holiday and every experience.
The history of the cameras and photography industry
Remember the days of the disposable camera where every shot mattered, and every click of the shutter meant another photo down on your countdown from twenty? These disposable cameras may have made photography a concept available to the mass market prior to the release of camera phones and smartphones – in fact, they are still enjoyed today for their slightly other-worldly and remarkably vintage finish on photos printed – but the photography industry actually began long before the invention of the disposable camera, with ancient and vintage cameras now collecting thousands at industry auctions thanks to their vast importance in the history of media.
The very earliest examples of photography in action can be traced back to the 11th century – however this was not photography as we know it. Rather, in these very earliest examples, images were projected onto another surface – upside down – and then drawn by hand rather than captured in seconds as we are used to today.
In fact, photography as we would recognise it in this modern era was not fully developed until the 1830’s, when a French photographer used a portable version of the early camera to expose a pewter plate coated with bitumen to light. This may sound super technical, but the details don’t really matter – what really matters within the industry is that this is the very first example we have of an image which was captured, and which did not fade immediately. It really was a revolution in the industry.
From there, the experiments around photography and the use of cameras grew and expanded quickly – with various experts carrying out experiments on different chemicals and different techniques in order to track the effects and ascertain how the images were being presented. During this time, photographs were only captured by experts and those who had the chemicals on hand to process images immediately after capturing them – meaning that the industry was very much an exclusive area available only to the very wealthy who could afford photographers.
The next big date in the cameras and photography industry came in 1880 – when George Eastman founded the company we still know today as Kodak. This is when photography finally became a concept available for everyday use – taking photographs and then sending the film off for development, just as we still do now when we use disposable cameras. Eastman’s initial invention for Kodak allowed for 100 photographs to be taken, with a single small lens that allowed for no adjustment, but which finally made cameras available for the mass market. However, with 100 shots, the film was still large – and it was not until the much smaller films were produced years later when these products became available and affordable for buyers at every level of society.
Top products and retailers in the industry
It can be easy to look at the cameras and photography industry and see only the camera and the end photo; forgetting about all the accessories which make up and enhance the rest of the modern industry. Back in the earliest days of the industry, these accessories were the chemicals and tools needed to develop the photo on the spot and ensure the image was captured. Today, these accessories and products have much more to do with the way that the photo appears and the way that it is presented, with top products including not only the frames we use to display our photographs but also the different lens’ and adjustable filters we can add to cameras in order to adjust and alter the appearance of the photo itself.
Some of the most popular products in the camera and photography industry include:
- Digital cameras
- Disposable cameras
- Instant print cameras
- Detachable camera lens’ for smartphones
- Smartphones with cameras
- Video cameras
- Photo frames
- Photo printers
- Photo gifts
- Black and white lens’
- Coloured lens’
- Camera lights
The list goes on.
When it comes to purchasing these various products, we tend to find that the more technological and functional parts for cameras are available online and through specialist retailers like Snappy Snaps, Kodak and the electronics department across retailers like Argos and John Lewis. Meanwhile, the accessories which are responsible for the display and presentation of photographs can be found in designer stores, homeware retailers and home design stores, extending the reach of the camera and photography industry into a more mainstream marketing channel and meaning that depending on what it is that consumer is looking for, they may well have a variety of different retailer discounts and deals to choose from.
Another sector in the cameras and photography industry deals with the rise in video cameras, including both private use and personal video cameras, and CCTV and security cameras which cover both corporate and commercial spaces, as well as homes. Again, these types of cameras tend to be found across specialist retailers particularly given their functional purpose and the need for proper installation.
For those consumers looking for cameras and photography accessories which are more affordable, it is worth noting that this is an industry which is rife with recycled and resold products, whereby users upgrade their camera devices and then use reselling sites in order to pass their older products on. When it comes to looking for great deals and discounted products, often these resale sites are a good place to start, with popular examples including eBay and Gumtree, among others.
And then we have the rise in the use of smartphones and cameras, extending the retail industry for and around cameras and photography accessories outside of its own limited sector and into the wider world of personal mobile device technology. Over the past few years, camera phones have gone from capturing fuzzy and low quality images to capturing photos which are worthy of framing and even blowing up into large portraits; with event photographers and videographers alike using a combination of sophisticated camera equipment and smartphone technology to capture the best moments from hired events and occasions. This is then supplemented by the rise in photographic apps and features which have been added both to phones as part of their built in capabilities and have been formulated into a variety of apps and software downloads, giving the user the ability to edit photos, patch together videos and footage streams, and of course share photos directly with others through the use of social media and messaging.
The leading brands within the smartphone camera industry, and the ones which have put the most focus on developing their built in cameras and image capturing features, include Apple, Google and Samsung. In fact, camera technology is now so advanced and so important as features within these phones, that most of these top brands elevate the prices of their devices based on the increased camera quality as a primary reason: leading to more and more consumers looking for contracts and deals which allow them to access the device and its features at discounted prices without skimping on quality.
Trends in the cameras and photography industry
The main trend in the camera and photography industry is of course technology and the way that various developments in the technology sector have impacted the way we capture, use and share photographs. Once upon a time, taking a photo meant taking home a single print – and even that was an ordeal which required time and money. Even a mere ten years ago, most of us used early digital cameras and disposable cameras which had to be sent off for the prints to then be printed or transferred onto a CD. And then came a shift in the way that the industry interacted with technology – and from there everything changed.
One of the biggest trends to come out of this rise in technology is social media – with entire platforms dedicated to images and photo sharing now dominating the sector and driving consumer demand for better cameras, more innovative filters, and more interactive platform messaging capabilities. Users today want to be able to take a photo from any angle, using both sides of the camera, enhanced with filters and colour perfecting light settings which make them look as good as they possibly can. Entire careers are built around exactly this – not merely referring to event photographers and modelling photographers, but also influencers and social media stars who use videos and images to gain a following and make a name for themselves in the saturated world of online fame. Prime examples of these platforms which have made camera usage and photography so mainstream include:
What is interesting to note about the social media industry and its impact on the photography industry is the way that it has removed direct trade from photography and camera shops. With smartphones able to take such great images which can then be shared online for free, the demand for high quality cameras might be expected to fall – just like the demand for printed photos could again be expected to drop. However, where this industry recovers itself is in the value and power of a well-staged professional photograph – with career photographers in the modern industry now owning such high quality and expensive equipment that the shots they are able to take always come out perfectly regardless of light quality and setting – something which many smartphones are not quite sophisticated enough to be able to do.
Another trend in the cameras and photographs industry is the rise in demand for gimmicks and fun photo-enhanced gifts: for example, instant print mini cameras which act like and produce photos in the same was as the traditional polaroid cameras, photo mugs and t-shirts, photo cards and even edited photos which can be uploaded online and adjusted before being sent to the recipient in a postcard format. This sector of the industry takes hold of the popularity of personalised gifts and unique products and turns them into something completely unique and fun, with top retailers offering this level of personalisation including:
- Snappy Snaps
- Instant Print
- Funky Pigeon
It is testament to the rise in online that more than half of the retailers listed operate entirely online through their own ecommerce presence – each boasting their own deals and seasonal discounts in line with demand.
For the best selection of cameras and photography accessories subject to deals and vouchers, head to our Cameras and Photography industry page.