What should we expect from the studio lighting industry in the coming years?
Several of us have perceived the reverberations coming from the report published by the Credit Suisse analyst, Yu Yoshida. The report predicts that in the future, the digital camera industry will be covered by big brands which will make sophisticated cameras, and that the rest will have gone out of business due to the boom of the smartphones. Regardless of whether we agree or not with any one of the conclusions of his analysis, we can at least agree that the DSLR camera industry will still be prosperous. This allows us to infer that, as the studio lighting industry is closely related to the DSLR market, good things are coming from that side too.
Ever more products are being placed in the market and their quality has improved at the same rhythm. Various factors explain such phenomenon, first, the obvious increase in demand which is a consequence of the invasion of digital cameras in our lives, whereas 30 years ago lighting techniques were only known to professional photographers, nowadays, any person with the will to learn plus a reasonable budget can come to dominate them with the method of trial and error. If he does not get it, at least he’ll have fun in the process.
Another factor that explains the improvement in quality of the material is the access to information supplied by the various web pages that gather together photography professionals and that offer the photographer subjective information about the reliability of new products. Thus, any faulty product is immediately sorted out, sentencing it to a very short market life.
The last factor I will mention, which might be the most important is referred to the Chinese production. Whereas 10 years ago it was still difficult to fully trust a product made in that country, nowadays, “made in China” is not synonymous to bad quality. A number of brands look towards China with intentions of building up a market in the long run, and have learned that this is achieved through a process of delivering reliability and quality. Regardless of whether this quality boom is based on commercial techniques that we may consider either fair or unfair, the Chinese products are here to stay and are betting for the long term. I am tempted to mention some brands but I fear to leave some out.
Now then, I wouldn’t bet on China dominating the market; Europeans and Americans still have advantages in their own markets, especially in what is referred to after-sales service, a very important aspect and a very difficult one to replicate at the distance. Nevertheless, the arrival of a new competitor that can produce at lower costs has forced them to be more competitive and to innovate more and better.
In any event, we are facing a situation in which the photographer is at the center of the market, observing how the brands around him work to seduce him, constantly offering him new products, which at the same time are replicated by the competition with this or that minimum change, trying to seduce the photographer more than the previous one. Therefore, from now on, we can expect to have more and better products, but they will become obsolete ever faster. If someone is willing to buy it, someone will produce it.
Francisco Urrea is an economist and photographer. He learned photography while living in Barcelona and has since exhibited in Brussels and Paris. www.franciscourrea.com