Overwhelmed by the challenges of managing digital images, consumers long for the simpler days of film photography

Suite 48 Analytics study sheds light on how consumers manage and search their photo collections, and how photo management solutions, including some powered by Artificial Intelligence, could solve their problems

For many of today’s consumers, keeping track of one’s precious photos is harder than ever, according to The Photo Management Challenge study, conducted by Suite 48 Analytics.  The study is based on a survey among 1212 North American smartphone photographers aged 25-44 – the typically "most photo-active" age – and centers around the challenges consumers face when searching for the most appropriate or valuable photos within their collections.  

The main findings are:

57% of respondents believe their photo collections either “need a lot of work” (they’re “somewhat organized”) or are “largely disorganized.”

74% of the respondents “almost never” or only “occasionally” sort through their photos to separate the better photos from the rest.  Among those who don’t routinely sort through their photos to identify the worthwhile ones, 53% regret their inaction. The most important reason for not identifying “keeper” photos is that the respondents “just don’t have the discipline,” followed by “find it to be boring/cumbersome.”  

Females and parents are more concerned about the lack of photo organization than males and non-parents.  They also more frequently state that there is “no easy software or app available to help sort through [their] digital photos.”

Regardless of the rise of cloud-based photo storage solutions, such as Dropbox, Flickr, iCloud or Google Drive, individual computers are still the main hub for most respondents’ photos, which for many makes it hard to combine photos residing on one’s own computer with those on their smartphone or on their family members’ computers

According to Hans Hartman, author of the study and president of Suite 48 Analytics, the satisfaction that could be derived from today’s abundance of photos is seriously hampered by the hardships involved in finding the precious photos that do matter.  This causes some consumers to long back to the days of film or to prefer printed photo sharing methods over digital sharing, as illustrated by these sample comments:

“I miss the days of film photography where every picture counted.”
“I think we often take too many photos to enjoy, whereas 100 years ago a single photo was cherished.”
“When I was a child, I remember my mother having so many books with photos that she could show to anyone. Now it's complicated.”
“Despite all the digital formats, a printed book and printed framed photos are still the best way to share photos (in my opinion).”

According to Hartman, technology – which caused the photo organizing challenge to begin with – is rapidly progressing to make it easier for consumers to find or enjoy their precious photos.

“Cross-device and cloud-based photo syncing solutions are making big strides forward.  Rather than having server folder structures as the main interface, syncing solutions such as Dropbox and Apple iCloud Photos now offer photo-specific features, interfaces and apps.”

“In addition, whereas last year we found that most cloud photo solutions only captured metadata but didn’t yet offer ways for consumers to utilize this information, now we’re seeing more and more syncing solutions with interfaces for finding photos that are, for instance, taken at a particular time or place.”

A more dramatic improvement to make discovering precious photos easier is on the horizon, he added.  “I expect that in the next 12-24 months most consumers will start to deploy photo organizing solutions based on automatic image recognition.  The image recognition field has made a quantum leap after it began deploying deep learning algorithms two years ago. Most major storage and social network companies are investing heavily in making image recognition a reality for average consumers.”

The study is sponsored by PhotoGurus. Suite 48 Analytics is solely responsible for the content.

The Photo Management Challenge white paper consists of 20 pages with 2 chapters.

Publication date:
November 2014


Please register to download the white paper and join our newsletter: