In the early 1990s my No. 1 marketing goal was to offer a short-run portfolio card to my prospects and clients. I wanted to be able to scan my photographs into the computer and have my local photography lab or desktop printer cheaply create a card to hand out.
It was a long process with years of baby steps. My first real attempts were around 1994. I scanned my film images into the computer at work and designed my card in Adobe Photoshop. (Yes, they had Photoshop back then.) I would then take the floppy disk to a local lab where they had a $20,000 high-definition CRT screen. There they would capture the design again on film. We called the screen high-definition, but it is nothing like the today’s HD screens sold for a few hundred dollars.
The negatives from the screen image cost about $5 to $10 each. I used these negatives to print black and white cards in my dark room. I shared them with some clients and mailed a few as postcards to selected prospects.
As digital cameras grew in popularity, the advances in technology helped my cause. Not until around 2001 did the process become practical enough to start using the cards on a regular basis. I credit my 4×6 portfolio cards for playing a major role in the growth of my career.
Today I have a new vision: a portfolio card created on e-paper. I desperately want to create unique video, promotion and portfolio presentations on the plastic paper used to create the Kindle and other e-book readers.
I have shared some of the advances of e-paper with readers during the last year. It’s getting exciting: the price and practicality barrier of e-paper is starting to come down. In October, Esquire magazine will have a simple e-paper cover. The Sept. 18 edition of Entertainment Weekly will include a video advertisement for CBS in the magazine. The future is beginning this fall. Are you prepared?
It has been speculated that within the next five years or so, e-paper will be cheap enough to give away. It will take time for it to be a customizable platform via your home computer or handheld computer. When e-paper is both easy to customize and affordable, you will have a multi-media presentation to give away straight from your camera bag.
I’ve never been a fan of business card CDs. Yes, they can be entertaining and provide an excellent introduction to a photographer’s work. Unfortunately, they require too much work on the part of the recipient. They are not effective.
Meanwhile, what does e-paper mean for the professional photographer? Designers, animators and photographers who get in early and establish themselves as pioneers and experts will find it to be a career-enhancing move.
E-paper will require quality imagery. It will demand the ability to capture people’s attention and impress. This will require the storytelling skills of a photojournalist and the excitement of visionary commercial photography and video. Creative image makers will be in demand again. A new set of skills will be required.
A revolution is about to begin. Remember when we celebrated the expansion of RAM storage capacity, faster processor speed, and lower computer prices? Remember how we begged for more mega-pixels, memory buffers and full frame in our digital cameras? We now have something new to track every eighteen months.
Over the coming years — maybe only months — it will be more commonplace to see animated editorial pages and advertisements. E-paper will become cheaper and “print” media will become more interactive. Street flyers will have interactive Google maps, videos and downloadable information. Business cards will actually offer sales pitches and updated product information.
Most importantly, I will have my HD interchangeable lens video/still camera hanging off my shoulder and a pocketful of 4×6 interactive portfolio cards waiting for my next prospect.