Digital Photography in Action (1,105 words)
By Judie Eakins
The technology has arrived to bring improved quality and greater efficiency, and catalogers are taking advantage
Now in its fourth generation, digital photography has "arrived." And major retailers and catalogers, including Nordstrom, True Value, The Container Store and Eddie Bauer, have adopted it almost fully—for both traditional print and Web purposes.
A few years ago, many in the industry—direct marketers, printers and photographers themselves—perceived digital photography as incapable of producing photos of superior quality.
Beyond the subjective issues were very real limitations: Equipment was awkward and difficult to use, and the technology lent itself almost exclusively to static shots. Improvements in CCD chips, different combination of chips and their ability to pull in images has strengthened.
Digital camera backs, which were heavy and bulky, are now more like standard camera backs. Original systems also used heavy cables to hook up to a nearby PC. Now these systems use either lighter-weight cables that can move with the camera, or on-camera storage.
A novelty no more, digital photography is here as a quality-enhancing, time-saving alternative to film photography. The following manufacturers provide most of the digital systems used by professional photographers: Leaf, Phase One, Sinar Bron, Kodak and Megavision.
Currently, 15 percent of catalog and retail photography is done digitally—a number that is expected to double or even triple in the next two to three years, according to R.R. Donnelley's own estimates.
Catalogers who haven't yet done so will want to begin assessing the new technology, to see how to make the most of its capabilities for their print and online needs.
Case in Point
TruServ, one of the largest member-owned cooperatives in the "do-it-yourself" industry, is benefiting from the merits of digital photography. TruServ produces mostly circulars, but also prints specialty catalogs that are used as inserts or are mailed. "Almost all (95 percent) of our photography is done digitally," says Harry Adams, advertising operations manager at TruServ.