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Visual 1st attracts imaging industry leaders

Visual 1st, the annual Silicon-Valley imaging conference for industry leaders and upstarts, once again brought together a worldwide audience for a day-and-a-half executive conference. The event, held Oct. 2-3 at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco, addresses topics as far-reaching as artificial intelligence and as every day as printing. As with most conferences, the real meat of the event is the hallway discussions and informal meetings over a beer or wine at the reception.

A few session highlights:

  • At the “The Camera is Dead – Long Live the Camera” panel, the panelists discussed the different use cases for cameras and for smartphones, considering the rapid die-off digital camera sales. Zeiss’ Richard Pignataro noted, despite the fact camera sales have dropped 24 percent in the last year, the share of mirrorless cameras continue to grow. Suzanne De Silva, head of Mobile Product Strategy and Marketing at Samsung, observed the advantage smartphones have is accessibility and the fact there is rapid technological advancement. Jennifer Waicukauski, President and CEO of local camera retailer Looking Glass Photo, has built her company’s business around experiences, not hardware sales. She noted 80 percent of the store’s sales come from hardware, but most of the profits come from services like classes. Young people are growing up without seeing family photos (on walls or in albums) and are intrigued by print formats and film. She embraces disruption, contending it will help her business.
  • Dr. Christian Friege, CEO of CEWE,  provided some insights in his fireside chat, CEWE: the European market leader’s growth surge in a mature photo print market.” Considered one of the top three printers in the world, Friege described how the company’s culture of adaption and innovation has provided the keys to growth. Once only a white-label photofinisher, CEWE is now driving growth with its branded CEWE Fotobuche product (of which the company sells 6.2 million per year). This is premium product that is never discounted; in fact, Friege drew applause from the crowd with his professed disdain for discounting: “I don’t think, as an industry, we are doing ourselves a favor by giving away the product for free.” Friege is optimistic about the industry’s future, especially with the growth in smartphone-driven volume.

Below are some photos from the conference, courtesy of sponsor, Sweet Escapes.

2019 Visual 1st Awards and Show and Tell presenters

Each year, a panel of high-powered industry experts presented the four Visual 1st Awards to the most outstanding among 30 products competing in this year’s show-and-tell demo sessions.

The 2019 Visual 1st Awards winners are:

·     Best of Show: Bellus3D

·     Visual 1st Best Technology: Skylum

·     Visual 1st Best Business Potential: GotPhoto

·     Visual 1st Special Recognition award: Generated Photos

Best of Show award-winner, Bellus3D is a venture-backed Silicon Valley startup founded in March 2015 to create and drive the next generation of 3D face scanning hardware and software technologies. Its CEO Eric Chen is co-inventor of Apple QuickTime VR and holds 16 US patents.

Awards Judge and smartphone imaging expert Mike Chang commented, “One of the least forgiving use cases of personalized imaging is face scanning, as the user will immediately notice when their face scan is not perfect. Bellus3D has done an impressive job in providing users a 3D face scanning solution by simply using their smartphone. In addition to the technology demoed, we were also really impressed by the variety of markets and use cases Bellus3D is pursuing for their 3D face scanning products.” 

Best Technology award winner, Skylum is a Ukraine-headquartered developer of AI-powered standalone and plug-in photo editing software, including its flagship product, Luminar 3.

According to Awards Judge, Robert Blumberg, Managing Director of the Soquel Group, “We were very impressed by Skylum demoing how to change an image background through a few clicks, which everybody knows can be incredibly difficult to do in a program like Photoshop. We look forward to seeing what other easy but powerful features they will add to the next version of their Luminar software!”

Best Business Potential award winner, GotPhoto is a Germany-headquartered workflow platform provider for volume school photographers. Its web-based tools automate admin and sales tasks, allowing the photographer to spend more time behind the lens rather than behind a desk.

Awards Judge Anna Dickson, Visual Lead, Google Image Search at Google commented, “GotPhoto shows that mature industries like school photography can be successfully disrupted when offering innovative tools and services that enable gig photographers to serve their local communities.”

Visual 1st Special Recognition award winner, Generated Photos is the company behind the recently launched 100K Faces Project, a repository of 100K artificially created photos available as free headshots for non-commercial use. Generated Photos has built its dataset by taking and tagging 29K+ photos of 69 different models, and by using StyleGAN to construct its machine learning dataset to generate face photos from scratch.

Andy Kelm, Managing Director at Palmarés Advisors, commented, “We were impressed by the technology and the original imagery approach Generated Photos has developed to artificially generate facial images. We were also impressed with the company’s business potential, which includes disrupting the modeling and stock photo industry by offering these images for free, generating usage analytics, and new, unforeseen opportunities with this significant new category and era of algorithmically-created content.”

This year’s Show and Tell demo presenters were:

Aestatix, Amir Hariri

Allez Interactive, Phil Ammar

Artsy Couture, Lisa Nunley

bellus3D, Eric Zarakov

Cloudprinter, Brian Raaijmakers

Forever Connected, Robert Davidson

FujiFilm, Ryan Moore

Generated Photos, Ivan Braun

Gooten, Brian Rainey

GotPhoto, Markus Posselt

HP, Qian Lin

HYPNO, Champ Bennett

Magicbook, Laurent Martin

Mediaclip, Marie-Eve Lemieux

MemoScale, Per Simonsen

PastBook, Wouter Staatsen

Pex, Todd Brown

Phlay, Mario Amura, Terence Swee

Piclife, Paul Montfort

Printbox, Michal Czaicki

Profoto, Tobias Lindbäck

Roader, Sjoerd Pitstra

Skylum, Evgeny Tchebotarev

SpotMyPhotos, Ryan Jacobs

Storyo, Manuel Costa

SweetEscape, David Soong

Taopix, James Gray

Viewbug, Ori Guttin

Zenfolio, Kurt Hilmerson



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