Picture.com Counts on Collaboration for Success

David Haueter
Jun 7, 2013

There’s no question that the output side of the photo market has been impacted in some negative ways by the electronic world, as more people are using websites, social networking and the cloud to share, manage and archive their photos rather than print them. However, that electronic side of the world also presents some real opportunities for vendors that are proactive about taking advantage of the benefits that merging the electronic and printed worlds has to offer.

InfoTrends believes that the future success of the photo output market relies in large part on how the physical, output side of the market melds with the electronic virtual world. Our research has shown that a significant percentage of consumers are interested in producing output from photos that are shared and viewed electronically, be it on a social networking site like Facebook, a photo gallery site like Flickr or through an online photo services provider. In the recently published 2013 U.S. Photo Merchandise End-User Study, InfoTrends found that 83% of photo merchandise buyers had interest in creating photo merchandise products that allowed people to work together online in product design and/or creation.

Lulu.com has established a reputation as a site for people that want to publish their own books (including photo books) but is now striking into new territory with their Picture.com site (www.picture.com), which harnesses the power of electronic sharing and collaboration to create unique photo books and calendars. The Picture.com site has collaborative features that allow people to add their own photos to a single gallery, which can then be used to create photo books or calendars, and photos can not only be uploaded from the computer but also pulled from Facebook or Lulu.com accounts.

The Picture.com site has a fairly easy to use interface that walks users through the process. I created a photo book and it was a fairly simple process, with the interface asking for easy choices to make on book style, hard or soft cover and size (four sizes are currently available on photo books) before going into the screen where photos are chosen. Once you get into the more creative part of the process where photos and text are added and the design work is done, the user has options for backgrounds, page layouts and adding clip art. Users can also pull photos from sites like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Twitter, which all works pretty seamlessly.

There was a bit of trial and error involved in getting others to contribute pictures to the photo book I was creating. There are options to share either the book itself or the gallery, and anyone that you wish to have share pictures for the project must sign up for a Picture.com account and be sent the “Gallery” sharing option to add photos. If you send them the “Share” link for the book itself, all they can see is the book and they cannot add pictures. Another part of the process that’s a bit confusing is that when I sent the gallery to another person, I was shown a blank screen that said “E-mail Connecting,” which didn’t go away even after they had received the e-mail.

All in all, the entire process worked pretty well but I was already experienced with creating photo books online. It could be more confusing for a person that’s new to creating photo books and hasn’t been through the process before. I had to look for help on the website when I was confused by the sharing issue, but there will be some who may get to this point and just give up. Another issue I ran into is that any files larger than 10MB are not usable on Picture.com (this same rule applies to the Shutterfly Share Central sites which also allow collaboration). I shot the photos I was trying to load for the book with a 24MP Nikon D600 in Fine JPEG format, and they were all too large. This created another hurdle with actually finishing the book, because I had to go and downsize the pictures before they could be uploaded. As higher-resolution cameras become more popular, this could be an issue that leads consumers to either not create anything at all, or look elsewhere.

All in all, it’s exciting to see sites like Picture.com that allow others to get involved in the act of creating photo products. Given the high interest in collaborating that we’ve seen in our research, we think that sites that allow collaboration have potential to do well and generate more sales and revenue for the market. Going through the process of creating a book, however, also showed that there are still “friction points” in the creation process that require some stick-to-itiveness on the part of the user to get through it. We’re hoping that sites like Picture.com will continue to work on making the creation and collaboration process easier to deliver a satisfying experience.


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