Is An Over-Abundance Of Photos Killing Scrapbooking?

It’s widely recognized in the paper scrapbook industry that since the rise of digital photography, part of the challenge facing the industry is getting consumers to print out their photos in the first place so they can be scrapbooked. Conventional wisdom is that there is a simply an inertia that needs to be overcome to get that photo out of the computer and onto paper.

Is that the problem? Or is it more complicated than that? My own experience with photography in the past two months suggests it is more complicated for many people.

I’ve always been a snap-happy photographer, especially since going digital a few years ago. But since I got a digital SLR for Christmas, the photo volume that I have created is massive.

When I used to shoot a film SLR, a whole week’s vacation would consist of less than 200 photos due to the cost of film and processing. Now that I can snap away without concern for the cost of each individual click of the shutter, and am working hard trying to learn the art of digital SLR photography, I can easily generate that volume of photos in a single day’s shooting. On several occasions recently, I have generated upwards of 500 photos in a single day, due to shooting multiple versions of a shot using different settings, or taking “insurance” shots to guard against camera shake from my hand tremor. And in some cases, there were simply a lot of things to take pictures of! (Like Tom Cruise and Keith Urban at the Daytona 500 last weekend…)

Even after culling out the obvious rejects, I’m still left with a huge volume of photos to study, process and decide whether to print (and to convert to JPEG to post to my Flickr gallery). The task of doing this has been very difficult to keep up with, and has distracted me from actually scrapping. When I’ve gotten any scrapping done it’s been with older photos, since it is just too difficult to pick out what to scrap from my current avalanche of photos.

I didn’t have this overwhelmed feeling when I first switched to digital but I was also a prolific film photographer so the switch to digital photography wasn’t so much of a dramatic shift in volume for me as it probably is for most people. I personally didn’t experience the feeling of being overwhelmed until I started specifically taking a lot of pictures to try to learn what I was doing with my new dSLR. But it’s not hard to imagine that the way I feel now is the way that a lot of people – who aren’t long-term avid photographers used to dealing with lots of film prints – have felt faced with the results of their new ability to take lots of digital photos.

All of this has lead me to the realization that the scrapbook industry needs to probably reach into the world of photography in our education to help consumers. We need to teach scrapbook consumers how to manage their avalanches of photos so they don’t just throw up their hands and walk away, overwhelmed by the task in front of them.

Being overwhelmed by the volume of their photos can drive away potential (or existing) scrapbook consumers who feel that they will never be able to “keep up” with scrapbooking them, or who simply can’t figure out where to start getting their pictures into scrapbook-able format. This sentiment can definitely drive people out of scrapbook stores and may be part of the appeal of photobooks, where consumers can drag-and-drop photos in and out of books without having to commit to printing a certain photo in a certain size until their book is actually done and being printed as a whole.

Some education is currently being done now about photo organization on topics such as “what do I do with my photos that are waiting to be scrapbooked”, but little of that education reaches back to when the photos are still in the form of digital files. It seems it would be of value to the industry to change that. Offering consumer education on things like sorting, organizing and storing digital photos (and even photographic workflow for dealing with RAW files) would help people get their photos under control in a way that makes photos easier to find, print – and scrapbook.

There are some great tools available for dealing with digital photo files. Many scrapbookers already own one of them – Adobe Photoshop Elements – but don’t know how to use the organizing power of the software to its fullest. A surprising number of scrapbookers – even those with digital SLR’s who are shooting RAW – are unaware of the existence of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, or what it can do to make organizing and processing their files much simpler, or think that it is too advanced for them. Giving consumers control over their photos with programs like these gets them one step closer to scrapbooking those photos. It would help to overcome that feeling of being overwhelmed.

I think it is time the scrapbook industry threw a lifeline to consumers who are drowning in digital photos, and taught them how to deal with their digital flood. It might just be ourselves that we save in the process.

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