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Where Will This Business Be 10 Years From Now

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  • Where Will This Business Be 10 Years From Now

    If there is anything I've learned in all my years in business it is that you have to stay on top of curve to earn a decent living. That requires a good sense of direction and a fair understanding of where you are taking your business. Guess wrong and you will invest your time or money in something that will never pay off - like a piece of equipment that is obsolete before you get it out of the box or a "how to" course on something that is automated before you get your final grades.

    The repercussion of working with "digital" is making those predictions very hard to make. To "automate" once required a "repetitive task" and human skill (creative craftsmanship) was required for all non-repetitive work. Not any more! Changes in just the past several years include scanners that can remove the cracks and flaws from old photo images, intelligent software that corrects faded colors, all you have to know is what paper the original image was printed on, etc. etc. etc. - seems like anything you learn today will be accomplishable by an eight year old putting a photo in a slot at a shopping center kiosk within a year or two.

    So what are your predictions on where this business is going over the next ten years and what kind of projects should "Pro Retouchers" anticipate will be available in 2012?

    Jim Conway

  • #2
    Good question Jim and I'm not sure I would even want to venture a guess. 10 years is a long time in the digital world! I would suspect that as more people get digital cameras and inkjet printers, the photo business in general is going to dry up some. My guess for restoration work is that it will become automated to the point where few people have the need for a "digital restorer". Only the most extremely damaged images will require the hands on work...I might be wrong about this, but it seems to be the way things are headed.


    • #3
      I hate to echo the thoughts of the post before in its whole, but as Greg points out, in the digital world 10 years is a long time. I also envisage a "brave new world" of home users and the casual enthusiast having more control of their photos and media.

      In the end I suppose their will always be a niche for 'artists' and more specialised tradesman, as by then all children will laugh at the thought of negatives and DVD's and will be too occupied busying themselves with the Molecular Structures in a Non-Secular Polygamist Society Post Holocaust World 101, to be too interested in touching up 'antiques'

      Seriously, I imagine that whilst certain hardware requirements and a degree of technological expertise is still required there will still be a need for our 'ancient' art. De-cracking and a infinite amount of small adjustments may be automated but until masking and a multitude of other adjustments are all under a simple user interface - those who's living is made out of it, will be safe for a few more years


      • #4
        Retouching: 2012

        We're dealing with 2 realms of retouching: Commercial and consumer. I'm quite optimistic about both realms in the next decade (I better be since I've committed my life-work to retouching!)

        As consumers have easier access to technology--digital imaging and printing things--their time to spend on doing these things for photographs will decrease. This is multiplied by the amount of money they spend on such equipment (which will require them to work more and have less time)!

        I've had the privilege to address about 5 Chicago-area genealogy interest groups on photo preservation and restoration since May 2001. Even though many of the individuals who attended my presentations own the right equipment, they simply don't have the time to do it right--let alone upgrading obselete software and hardware.

        The overabundance of cheap digital cameras is creating a need for commerical retouching--as well as consumer retouching: How many of us have been asked to make enlargements of 72 dpi sharpened snapshots (ugh!)

        On the other hand, with the growth of high-quality professional digital cameras, commerical photographers and publishers are under a greater demand to produce good images fast. This means that those with volume will need qualified Photoshop experts like us to enhance and manipulate those images even faster. Moreover, I have also noticed a growing demand for qualifed trainers in Photoshop and quality photo reproduction. Many of my commerical clients ask "How much would you charge to consult..."

        I believe that "antique" print photographic restoration will be around more than 10 years (which includes the need for professional retouchers). Family heirloom photos are always floating around.

        Change is the essential process of all existence. It's like the waves of the ocean: They never stop ebbing and flowing. The question is, who is willing to take the risk of riding those waves? There are always lucrative niches for a photographic artisan. I notice that those who succeed despite the odds have (1) locked in a niche that they enjoy and (2) have garnered tremendous name recognition through superb service.

        If one is into retouching for a quick buck, yes, they're in for a drab return on investment. Cheap kiosks and I-can-do-everything-myself applicance operators who never paid a retoucher to do anything anyway will never overcome the dedicated, customer-recommended and educated retouching artist who understands points 1 and 2.



        • #5
          Hi all.
          Great ? Jim. I have seen many charges in my photo life. But the biggest is and will be digital. For better or worse. At the last PMA, (Photo Marketing show) saw a demo of the new chemical less developing systems. Really neat. As an old time photo guy from large format 4x5, 8x10's to mainly Nikon's I have join the ranks of digital camera owners and imho film will disappear a lot quicker then many people think. We are getting more and more of our customers ordering cd's with their developed film.

          As for our side, retouching, the outlook isn't that bad. I like Jim C's approach. Look for people who want quality, honesty, and care. Walgreens will always appeal to the masses but there is plenty of room for us.

          You might want to find another source of money for your retirement home in the south of France though!



          • #6
            Glad you stopped by Eric. A great group of freindly and knowledgeable people.



            • #7
              Great responses Eric, I like your thinking!
              Our business was photo restorations a decade ago (meaning old photographic paper prints) - now it's growing rapidly into what you might call a "salvage" operation with everything imaginable. We are referring to the new boom as the "90 day fade syndrome"! Have you had anyone bring in a busted CD's yet? Amazing what people think you can fix!

              Jim C


              • #8
                Jim and the group:

                This is a great website to frequent. As soon as I upgrade my internet connection, I plan on submitting my own challenges!

                I've never had a busted CD request! That's funny! I'm still an "infant" in the field--I'm going full-time independent for almost 2 years. I am really excited about the future with digital.

                Indeed, film is going the way of LP records. It will remain a niche, I believe. But that's it. If photographers aren't shooting digital, they are scanning film and retouching with Photoshop. It's growing like mad.



                • #9
                  I think the art of restoration is safe.

                  I don't think the day will ever come when a computer will be able to restore missing pieces - accurately.


                  • #10
                    How about elaborating Vickie?

                    The computer as an "art tool" can do almost anything that can be done by any artist (with the same degree of talent) with conventional "image recreation" retouching work.

                    So, are you talking about oil overpainting - using fillers in cracks or doing other restoration work that applies to working with and on the original artifacts? That will, of course, be one area of our work that will always be open without being subject to any changes brought about by digital advancements.

                    Jim C


                    • #11
                      Jim - Sorry, I was referring to your statement:
                      Changes in just the past several years include scanners that can remove the cracks and flaws from old photo images, intelligent software that corrects faded colors, all you have to know is what paper the original image was printed on, etc. etc. etc. - seems like anything you learn today will be accomplishable by an eight year old putting a photo in a slot at a shopping center kiosk within a year or two.
                      I meant that although computers and scanners are capable of performing some fantastic feats, to my knowledge, there isn't a computer that can restore a seriously damaged photo without an experienced and talented individual doing the work, be it digitally or manually.
                      I was once concerned about the Digital Ice and Digital ROC technology, but after seeing what it is capable of, and comparing it to what I'm doing for customers, I'm no longer concerened.
                      I just can't see how technology will ever evolve to the point where anyone will be able to have the whole process automated.
                      I guess my cup's half full.


                      • #12
                        Another thing they can't automate Vickie is the "personal contact". That is what makes this forum a good one and it's what made photography work in the first place (who would take a photo with no one to show it to). The old urge to "tell me a story" kicks in and the clients just have to talk about their old prints. You can't tell those stories to the machine at WalMart and there are times I'm sure I'm being paid just to listen and the work is secondary.

                        Anyway the intent in starting the thread was to get everyone's thoughts about the eventual effect of the digital changes - maybe you've got it with the "half full cup" - and that's just where it will be in another decade - some good, some bad - and pretty much the same business in the end!

                        Jim C


                        • #13
                          I think we can all rest easy. Photographs are a very powerfull thing to the human psyche, and there will always be the need for a professional in this field. Are we really concerned that the computer will take over our job of bieng artists? The ability to create will never die and will always be in demand.

                          Times will, and always have changed. And thanks to vanity, retouchers will always be needed. All art is idealized. Look at cave paintings, anicient roman sculpture, the works of Leonardo. All of these examples survied a technological change. They even prospered from it.

                          Te human spirit will always have a need to create art. And there will always be a demand for good art.

                          It's late and I am beginning to babble.


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