The “Photo Enthusiast” Market is Growing and More Enthusiastic than Ever

Industry Perspective

The “Photo Enthusiast” Market is Growing and More Enthusiastic than Ever

by Ron Leach

Two leading industry organizations recently combined forces to release an interesting joint study on the status of the “photo enthusiast” market in the United States. PMA and Future Image, Inc. have concluded that the advanced amateur category—or photo enthusiast group—has doubled over the past decade as the transition from film to digital photography took place.

In their Rise of the Amateur study, they identified photo enthusiasts as those photographers who view picture-taking as a form of creative expression rather than simply a means of documenting their lives and preserving family memories. In other words, advanced amateur photographers enjoy the imaging process as well as the results they achieve with their cameras. Casual picture takers, on the other hand, value their photographs but tend to minimize their time and involvement in the process.

According to PMA U.S. Consumer Photo Buying Reports, 25 percent of digital camera owners took more than 480 photos in 2008, compared with 13 percent who captured this many images back in the year 2000. As evidence of the active nature of the advanced amateur photographer, PMA points to the fact that 79 percent of enthusiasts say they take photos on at least a weekly basis. These shooters also tend to store large numbers of images on their computers, DVDs, external drives and other storage devices.

While the photo enthusiast market is growing steadily, it is not a new segment of our industry. In fact, the Rise of the Amateur study indicates that 72 percent of enthusiasts purchased their first digital camera prior to 2004, and 88 percent currently own a digital SLR. Almost all photo enthusiasts (96 percent) describe their level of photographic expertise as intermediate or greater.

Another interesting facet of the evolution of the photo enthusiast market is that today’s digital photographer no longer needs to spend considerable sums on film and processing. This translates to greater spending on digital cameras, accessories, peripheral devices and other imaging gear. Despite bleak economic conditions, 78 percent of advanced amateur photographers spent more than $500 on cameras, accessories, storage equipment and photo software in the past 12 months.