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Priya Gohil

Photo Printing Services in the United States

A digital revolution is changing the way we buy our keepsakes

Sep 28, 2023 9:23:32 AM


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Photography is still an important industry, even in the digital age. The widespread popularity of smartphones means that the average consumer is likely to take photographs with their mobile phones these days. And, given their size and portability, it’s an easy and convenient way for people to capture moments and be able to take candid snapshots of daily life and special occasions.  


Despite the plethora of social media platforms where images can be easily shared, people still want their personal images turned into physical keepsakes—whether it’s an impulse buy experience photograph capturing a thrilling theme park ride, a casual family holiday shot, a birthday or wedding, or even a more aesthetic, professional image. The look, touch, and feel of the photograph on paper is unique and powerful.


Author’s photo: Lunch time in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam



Photos remain relevant because they connect people together and capture shared experiences. However, the way we buy our photos and the way they are printed has changed radically since the turn of the 21 century. To better understand these trends, Keypoint Intelligence looked at the photo printing market in the US in a recent study. We surveyed some leading photo printing service providers (PSPs) to get a clearer picture of the current state of the market and the direction it is heading. Here’s a slice of some of the key findings:

  • The trend towards ink on media over traditional AgX silver halide technology is the biggest disrupter in the market—more so than what we saw when film was usurped by digital back in the early 2000s.
  • Digital printing lends itself well to opportunities in the B2B market, which favors a larger base of products that can be personalized (e.g., photo albums, mugs, puzzles, and posters) for corporate events and marketing opportunities.
  • Supply chain struggles (exacerbated during the pandemic) associated with AgX in terms of paper and chemistry, and an increasing focus on sustainability, are likely factors in the growth of photo digital printing at the expense of AgX.
  • Consumer purchasing habits leaned towards online buying during COVID and continue to dominate today. More of us turn to online photo services to upload our images from our mobile devices and receive our prints in a matter of days.


Other themes explored included staff retention and the need to grow businesses from within, which means a careful appraisal of roles and finding the right training to nurture staff. Competition was cited as a concern; respondents noted that competition was being squeezed in the photo market. A rising demand for online photo services is bloating the larger PSPs at the expense of smaller ones, who need to build up and offer additional value around customized services.


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

Photographs are personal and priceless mementos. Electronic formats can never fully replace print on paper when it comes to photographs, which contributes very strongly to the sustainability and the power of print. The challenge for commercial and consumer labs is to hone their services and operation, invest wisely, dissect their operation, and identify opportunities to grow. When it comes to opportunities, there’s a clear place for artificial intelligence (AI) in the photo market with the idea that it can make the curation of images better and easier for customers.  

This blog is an excerpt of a much more detailed research report written by Keypoint Intelligence on the Photography printing market in the US. If you are interested in accessing the full in-depth report, click here.

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