Saturday, January 30, 2010

What the iPad Means to Our Business

by Gregory Bertolini
With Steve Jobs' announcement of the new Apple iPad, we could be on the verge of a new way of conducting business:

The iPad will change the business of photography, styling, writing and publishing. Up until now, the electronic tablets have been more of a novelty for the gadget inclined. If Apple is able to push the iPad as they have the iPod, the world of the printed image and book-catalog publishing will be forever changed. The iPod changed how music is sold, distributed, marketed, and even how it is recorded (musicians now record their songs in their own home recording studios and no "hard copy" such as a disc is needed).

The same could happen with the printed word and photographs. There may be BIG changes for us still photographers: Think that people viewing the iPad with its high resolution color screen, and the capacity of playing moving images, will be happy viewing a still or static image? I see that in the near future, still photography may become a small player.

Think about it. Want to look up a recipe? You open up an electronic cookbook or subscribe to a food magazine on your iPad. In front of you on the screen, is the recipe. Hit a button and a lovely voice reads you the recipe at a speed that allows you to prepare the dish. An image of the dish appears, the camera moves around the dish, giving you a 360 degree view. Need help understanding a food handling technique? Press a button and up comes a video that shows you how that technique is done. Want more information? Press an icon and a mini documentary about where the ingredients for the recipe come from and how they are harvested appears. Hear the chef explain the recipe or technique, listen as the dish sizzles on the stove; hear the liquids being poured and the clinking sounds of the kitchen preparation.

Or go shopping for some new clothing through a catalog; stroll through an exotic island paradise while local music plays in the background. A model enters the scene, turns, moves, bends. The viewer not only gets to see the clothing, but also experience how it moves and drapes in different conditions. What will happen to the standard printed catalog verses the electronic catalog? No mailing or printing fees for the company-the largest part of a catalog's expense, plus being able to instantly change the e-catalog if the product's style or color changes or sells out. Why view a product from a single angle when you can entice the viewer with movement and sound? Simple tools for 360 degree product viewing already are in use, but in the near future when we set-up a fashion, product, or food photo shoot, how important will the background or location be if it can move and interact (sell) with the product?

I find this all to be exciting, but it also makes me nervous. There are lots of questions that we need to ask ourselves, and new industry standards will need to be invented. Who will lead, who will follow and who will fade away? Can still photography compete with or complement the interactive or liquid image? Will printers, who are already being squeezed in a tight market, disappear? Will 'hot lights' replace strobes in the studio? Will food stylists also have to be 'hand models' because techniques can be filmed live? Will the standard photo shoot now include sound technicians, a lighting crew, and a producer and director? How do you dress a set, make-up a model, prop clothing, or style food if the camera will pan around, over and even under the product? (I think we need to study the film industry for this.) And will the standard still advertising/catalog photography studios be replaced by video production companies? What will happen to our fees?

The web is notorious for its low fees, but the iPad is not just the web. It is also a magazine, a book and a catalog. How do we use our businesses to cross all these platforms? And if more skills and larger crews are needed will the cost of producing an electronic advertisement, article, brochure or book go up? Or will clients expect a 'one-man-band' someone who can shoot, style, compose sound, and even appear 'on camera'? Will their costs saved in mailing and printing be off-set by the added expense of production? And is the 'standard' once-a-month, 12 magazines with 12 covers and 12 feature stories per year gone? With electronic, publishers can add new articles every day. Companies could update catalogs and add merchandise instantly (putting an end to the standard spring-summer-fall-winter catalog format). Does this mean more work for us in the future and what about us independents and small businesses? Will the work go in-house because 'instant' turn-around times will be required?

I have lots of questions, as I know many of you do. I want to invite all of you, as professionals, to add, remark and discuss together, where we think our industries are going, what were doing about these changes, and the lessons we learn.

Gregory Bertolini Photography

Gregory is a food photographer based in New York and part of the Photo Styling Workshops team, teaching food photography in our live workshops. The next Food Styling & Photography Workshop will be held in Chicago, IL June 5-6, 2010.


  1. Hi Greg
    Jocasta from Ireland. I agree exciting times ahead. Already here photographers are using the new canon camera to shoot video. Many are producing adverts on TV. I am not so concerned about shooting a moving image as post production. Are we all to become full editing houses as well ??
    Where will the book stop !!!

  2. Hi Greg,
    Great blog. Have you done 360 product or food shots before? If so what software do you prefer? I believe that the "still" image will always have an audience. It will be interesting to see what demographic appeals most to the ipad. My guess is late teens/early twenties. And yes for that crowd with super short attention spans and who twitter or text while they are "doing" something the static image might not appeal. But you do have a point as far as the possibilities of where the marketing trends are headed. And its better to be prepared for what ever that might be. Cheers!