URPhoto.com Brings you the 3rd Wave of Photos — URPhoto
HONG KONG – Oct. 9, 2018 – PRLog — Photokina, the world’s largest exhibition for the photography and imaging industry is again being held this year. This year will be our sixth time attending Photokina, which makes this our 12th year of attending this biannual event. What we have noticed in the past 10 years is that most people now can purchase photo prints and products online, and the quality of digital printing continues to improve in terms of quality, automation, speed and costs. However apart from these, there has been few changes in the photo printing space, ultimately it is the same old mediums such as on paper, for prints, cards, calendars and photobooks; on gifting items, like mugs, magnets, key chains; on fabric, like t-shirts, blankets, aprons; and on large format mediums like canvas, acrylic and metal. Many of these items continue to sell well, so there has been few needs to change, but is there really nothing more we can do to put more new energy, excitement and business opportunities into the photo printing space? We do not think so, and this is why URPhoto and our new sister brand Photolabs are bringing you the 3rd wave of photos.
The term “3rd wave” is well known in the coffee industry, which is widely accepted to have gone through 3 waves of evolution. The 1st wave was the proliferation and mass marketization of coffee into every corner of society by companies like Folgers with their low cost instant coffee. The 2nd wave was the rise of coffee culture pioneered by the likes of Peet’s and Starbucks, where more emphasis was placed on quality and the coffee experience. The 2nd wave also saw an increase in innovation of new and different coffee styles and related products. The 3rd wave is where coffee customers began to appreciate coffee beyond just the drink. It is about gaining a true understanding of coffee and bringing coffee to a higher standard overall so that everyone in the entire coffee supply chain is cared for and appreciated. For example, in the 3rd wave, customers learn and appreciate everything about the entire coffee supply chain, from growing to sourcing to roasting to transportation and to the person serving it, and so on. The 3rd wave places a big emphasis on the people who are part of your coffee experience, true experts/artisans that not only provide you with top grade service, but are highly knowledgeable experts who are willing to share their knowledge and experience about coffee with you. The 3rd wave is primarily pioneered by small artisan coffee shops around the world, and its’ a fast growing movement that is seeing good success for all those involved, such as suppliers and customers. And most importantly the 3rd wave is not about lower and lower prices, it is about helping customers understand there needs to be a reasonable price for the best people working at the highest standards to bring you the highest quality products and services. With the emphasis on quality, standards, knowledge and reasonable pricing, it has become beneficial to the entire coffee industry from the small operators to the large chains.
The photo printing industry has similarly gone through 3 waves of evolution. The 1st wave was the popularization and wide penetration of silver based low cost colour film and prints from the 1950s to the early 1990s. This wave was primarily driven by the likes of Kodak, Agfa, FujiFilm and the countless number of small photolabs in every country. During this wave, there was an explosion of high quality low cost colour prints that were printed on silver based paper. By the end of the 1st wave, almost everyone could go to their local neighbourhood photolab and get high quality cheap colour prints, often in an hour.
The 2nd wave of photos can be characterized as the digitalization of photography in both photo capturing and printing. The 2nd wave is from the 1990s to the 2010s and saw an explosion of the number of photos taken and the number of photo products sold. During this wave, digital photography became the norm, and the quality, cost and automation of digital printing improved by leaps and bounds. The number of substrates that an image could be reproduced on also expanded way beyond standard prints; images were printed on everything from dinner plates to metal surfaces to phone cases to blankets and many more. Another big leap during the 2nd wave was the advent of online purchasing of photo products via the internet, and the fulfilling of these online orders via large highly automated central printing facilities. Even though photo printed products exploded during the 2nd wave, most of the many traditional small neighbourhood photolabs that exploded during the 1st wave began to disappear. This is because most internet purchases can be done without leaving home, and in most cases zero direct people to people interactions were required.
The 3rd wave of photos began in the late 2010s and is ongoing. It can be seen as a reaction by customers to the mass marketization and commoditization of photo products, and the fully automated online ordering processes. The customers of the 3rd wave do not view their photo products as low cost easily replaceable items or gifts, they view them as something of high value to them, something they treasure for themselves or for others. When they purchase, they want to learn about the product from the seller, such as how it’s made, the longevity, and all other aspects. Like coffee’s 3rd wave, these customers also expect expert guidance and advice from knowledgeable and experienced sellers. And they expect tip top quality service from the sellers, from first contact to final product, and all after sales services as well. While service is important, due to digitalization of photos, it is not completely a person to person interaction like a traditional high street photo printer, a well-functioning website that allows the customers to make purchases online directly, and a good product range is also expected from these customers. The 3rd wave is a melding of the online world with a high level of personalized expert service.
The 3rd wave of photos is also about making printing exciting. Traditionally cameras have been all the centre of interest for photo enthusiasts, many people get super excited about the different camera brands, lenses, sensors, resolutions, card slots etc. However, if asked, few know about or care about what paper or ink the printer used to print their photos. Just ask a friend what brands of paper for photos they can name apart from Kodak and Fuji, and what is the difference between digital offset printing, inkjet, and dye sublimation. The 3rd wave’s sellers knowledge of prints are not only important in educating the customers about the products, it is also essential part of getting the customers excited about printing. Like with cameras, coffee and wine, the more a customer learns about the product, the more they begin to appreciate them, the more they know what they want, and most importantly, the more they get excited about it.
The 3rd wave of photos is not only about taking good care of the customer, it is also about taking care of and working with responsible partners in the industry. Just like the 3rd wave of coffee where it is important to buy from farms that adhere to the highest growing standards, it is important for 3rd wave photo companies to work with partners who also have the same high standards and methods. Partners that we work with, include suppliers, business partners, web services, logistics firms, etc… our goal is to try our best to ensure high standards, sustainability and responsibility of all the partners involved in the supply chain. A key element in achieving this goal is to educate our customers about our commitment to standards such as quality and sustainability;
URPhoto.com is a pioneer of the 3rd wave of photos. We believe what we are doing is not only helpful for our own business and valued by our customers, it is beneficial for the overall photo products industry. We are part of a wave that is ushering in a new golden age of photos where a new breed of customers who are willing to pay a reasonable price for a better online experience, better customer service and better photo products. Most pioneers of the 3rd wave of photos, like URPhoto, are not big companies. We are small businesses dedicated to the improvement of the entire photo products industry through dedication, experience and knowledge. We do not want to carry on the type of unhealthy competition based on lower and lower price photo products; an unsustainable direction for most practitioners in the photo industry except for the small number of large players that will remain.
At URPhoto.com, our dedication is not only for the good of the customer, but the good of the entire photo industry. We are helping to usher in a new golden age of photos, where your photos are not only made into a product, but something special that can be treasured for many years to come. Come visit www.URPhoto.com today and see how we can help you create your treasured photo product.
Finally, at URPhoto.com we are also working on the 4th wave of photos, where we believe it is beyond the products, and all about the photos. Will let you know more as we develop this new phase of our work…
[URPhoto.com is one of Hong Kong’s top photo prints and products website and technology company, we have been providing photo prints, products and online photo e-commerce systems to consumers in Hong Kong and a few countries for over ten years. We are known for our top quality photo prints and service, and dedication to customers. We are pioneers of the 3rd wave of photos, where we combine tip top quality service, knowledge and customer care to both our online and offline customers. We are also launching a new brand called Photolabs outside of Hong Kong which will be all about our dedication to the 3rd wave of photos, stay tuned for more about Photolabs. For more information, visit http://urphoto.com/
Casey Chu – Business Development Department