The future of photo books

We are experiencing a golden era of photo books. There are opinions that there is no substitute for a pure photo book in our hands, and despite its biggest enemy looking strong at the moment, digitalization – the classic will remain popular.  

A dream became reality 

Photo and book – behind these two words is a rich history. Both are meaningful, and both keep experiences and memories immortal. Although in different ways.  

The very first photo book was created by Anna Atkins (between years 1843–53) and was called Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Together with the facilitation of access to cameras, there was an opportunity by allowing everyone to make their own photo books.  After about 170 years, many things have changed dramatically. In the case of photo books, they are still in the paper form, and their sales are growing and growing despite their biggest enemy – digitalization. Paradoxically, that threat hasn’t stopped photo book growth.  

The impact of Social Media  

These days every one of us can be a photographer because of the small devices in our pockets. And these little cameras are getting better and better each day. Moreover, a big part of photos taken nowadays is shared on social media. We can expect that trend to continue. For our market – it is an obstacle and an opportunity at once. 

Let’s take Instagram as an example. When people have photos there, they probably want to show them to their audience. They don’t need to keep a physical version of them, because they store them in their accounts. But where is the opportunity here? There is still a large group of people who would like to have a physical version of the photos from their social accounts as a real keepsake. Therefore, they want to take a photo book of the photos from these channels. Making it as easy as possible means new (and happy) clients. 

It is already happening, and we can expect that trend to be growing. Social media already had changed customers’ behavior. Their needs are to have a photo book ready within few clicks without any uploading.  Let’s take the example of an enthusiast couple who like to travel every year. They would like to keep their memories in the book from every adventure. Imagine the time that they would need to take a photo book every time. Deep integration between social media and photo book stores seems inevitable.  

Quality over quantity 

There is another way of seeing the future of photo books. When everyone can post a photo, we have them everywhere on the internet. We have an overflow of images. In 2013 alone, more photos were made than in 170 years of photographic history. A quick analogy to visualize a difference between physical photo books and uploading photos online: 

On the internet: I was at the music festival with friends one week ago, and I took 70 pictures. Look at my 25. 

In the book: We were going with friends to the same music festival every year within six years. I took more than thousands of pictures. I’ve chosen a dozen, the best ones. 

That is one of the main advantages of photo books. What’s more, a story told digitally is different than the one we are holding in our hands. And this unique plot cannot be shared on Facebook under someone else’s name, it cannot be stolen that easily. It belongs to the author. 

“It’s impossible to throw away a book” 

Photobooks are still with us after 172 years. Since then, many have changed. However, it’s almost impossible to throw away something that is with a community for such a long time. An iconic photographer, filmmaker, and collector, Martin Parr described photo books once as a: “physical and visual connection to people, places, and events from the last 172 years of world history”. Besides a message to photographers and artists, we think it includes all of our community and our customers. It’s not the same to keep memories in a book and on a Social platform. This first one is different and remarkable. That connection British photographer talks about is the essence of photo books and one of the reasons why classic is here to stay. 

People try to make an “amateur work of art”, a keepsake for themselves, which tells a story – and our mission is to give them a real masterpiece.

Executive Editor of Culture Trip Magazine, Anne Bourgeois-Vignon said:

“The engagement with a photobook plays out over space and time. It has a physicality which prints or digital don’t: books can be handled, smelled, shared. Engaging with the photobook is an extended, different experience that plays out over time;” 

Photo book creation future 

Thanks to AI, the creation process of photobooks changed and will change because people demand this. In Printbox, we have joined that technology race with our brand-new Smart Creation. Our average client wants and will want to have a beautiful photo book ready in no-time. And what is the beautiful photo book? 

The most important component in a photo book is the story that it delivers. It is critical to reduce the activity that people usually do to create a project. But to tell a story that fully reflects the sequence of events as whole and meaningful – it is hard for a creation system, but crucial for the customer.  

And another factor – personalization. People have different preferences, and it does not differ when it comes to photo books. It means giving such options such as templates or layouts to a user that they will be most satisfied with. Therefore, when we think about a masterpiece photo book, it means for us: most personalized and with the most meaningful story. And in Printbox, we are working hard to achieve that fully. 

Conclusion

The personalized photo book market is still growing. And it seems that even despite digitalization and social media, photo books will remain with us for a long time.  Futuresource predicts a 10% increase in value across the six largest European markets in the years to 2024. But for sure, technologies are going to change photo products market as we know it today.  

Krzysztof Szczepańczyk

Student of the University of Economics in Cracow. Photo products business is something new for him, but he's already making a name for himself at Printbox with his curiosity and desire to learn. Loves sports, travel, playing guitar, and scrambled eggs for breakfast.