Digital Photography As a Disruptive Technology and the Development of New Photographic Products

Introduction to DisruptionDisruptive technologies are innovations that unexpectedly create a new market and displace established market leading products and services. The music industry has been a great example of this: records were the first products that allowed consumers to own music and play it on-demand, but these were slowly replaced by cassette tapes and then compact discs. Each of these innovations had a profound effect on the market, on the one hand the quality of sound reproduction was better and with cassette tapes consumers were able to record music themselves. On the other hand they had to replace their old players with new technology and their previous music collection slowly became obsolete. Hardware such as the Sony Walkman became popular phenomena.Compression formats such as MP3 were another disruption in this industry, making it possible to store large quantities of music electronically and more importantly to exchange these files easily. As a result of this disruptive innovation P2P networks like Napster developed for exchanging music, along with various software for copying, playing, cutting and modifying music. As with the previous innovations, this one had an immense impact on the hardware side as well, the best example being the Apple iPod which in a way inherited cult status from the Walkman.Disruption in PhotographyDigital Photography is another disruptive technology it has almost completely replaced film photography over the past decade. The decline in prices of digital photography equipment has made the technology accessible to the mass market. Digital Photography penetration exceeds 60% in many western countries.One of the major changes heralded by the rise of digital photography has been the way people use their photos. With a 35mm film camera, that was the norm before digital, consumers would snap 12, 24 or 36 photos and then take the film to have developed without knowing the quality of the photos before seeing the finished product. Digital photography has had the effect that photographers take more photos, but print them less. This is due to the fact that they can screen the photos before having them printed.New Markets and ProductsAnother major change digital photography has brought about is how photos are used. Developed photos were often stored in boxes or pasted in albums, sometimes framed and hung on walls. Digital photography bundled with advances in printing technology have given birth to a new market for customized photographic products. The self-made photo album has been replaced by the photo book, which is created using software and digital photos and is hard to distinguish from a regular hardcover book. A large variety of novelty photo products is available that ranges from mouse pads to coffee cups.A product category that has recently begun to emerge as a result of the proliferation of digital photography is that of wall art or wall d├ęcor. Increasingly, art prints, framed photos and paintings are being replaced by photographic wall art. Many amateur and professional photographers are using wall art as an outlet for their creative energy. They go to great lengths to make photographs and want to display them somewhere. One of the first types was the poster, as it is easy and inexpensive to produce and dispatch. But a premium segment has developed for canvas and other photographic wall panels. Printing technology has evolved to be able to print not only on paper and cardboard but directly onto canvas, acrylic, metal and other materials. This has made a new class of photographic wall panels for interior decoration. Photographic wall panels have become a tool for design due to their unique properties. Acrylic panels, which are essentially plastic panels onto which an image is directly printed, are particularly attractive because they can be combined with innovative lighting to create unique effects.ConclusionDigital printing has profoundly affected not only the photography industry but it has also paved the way for new technologies, products and markets. It has influenced the way people take photos and what they do with them afterward. It has made established industries and products obsolete (film development, 35mm products), while creating new products and industries (web-to-print, acrylic panel, canvas print, photo books etc.). Digital printing is a prime example of the power of disruptive technologies.

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