I am not sure if anyone caught this report on ABC News during a segment called Real Money aired on March 5th 2014, but I did. The segment is on how to make money with your smart phone photos you have taken. You don’t need to be a professional photographer if you sign up with Foap and sell your photographs to Corporate America who is dying to underpay you for the photos you shoot. Yes because of the amount of images being uploaded on to the web it seems to be easier to pay pennies to the dollar for someone’s snap shot rather than pay a pro to make a great image. Sorry I know I am sounding a bit negative but I am just a little frustrated at where the photographic industry is heading.
Let’s look at the big picture as it stands today. At no time in history since the introduction of the Eastman Kodak’s Brownie Camera has photography been obtainable to the masses. We have cameras everywhere and we constantly take and upload snapshots to the web. Unlike the Brownie, we can see the photograph instantly and decide whether to delete and take it again or keep it. Because there are so many images out there everyone fancies themselves as a photographer. They can shoot anything, portraits, landscapes, weddings whatever people want for either really cheap or free. This is starting to and will kill the professional photography industry. No there will be a need for real pros out there but the amount of money for the real pros will get smaller and smaller until it will not pay to be one.
Right now if you are a professional photographer (where you drive most or all of your income from photography) you are most likely supplementing your income with classes or educational material. That was not heard of 15 years ago. And there is nothing wrong with having an education element in your business model but that aspect is starting to get saturated and then what? Unless you can draw on a large cliental for your living, the education aspect will dry up and you are going to have to come up with something different.
Speaking of professional photography, I would have to say I am one. All of my income comes from taking photographs of clothing for a (remain nameless) online store. Not to complain but I don’t make a whole hell of a lot. It is in the ballpark of a better part of a starting wage. But that is the point. The person believes that what they are paying is what that job is worth. Yes it helps them sell the item, yes the photos are the first thing they look at, but they believe that anyone can do it. In fact they set it up so that anyone can do it. It is just that easy to do so.
So what is the solution? I am not sure but the path professional photography is taking is the same path graphic design has been on. The mentality of most people is if I can push a button, throw it through some effects and have it turn out good, they why pay a professional? Corprate America is on that road, the regular consumer has been going down that path for awhile now. If someone told me that they wanted to be a professional photographer I would tell them this; get a business major or marketing major, hell any major that works with data or microbiology. Do that and shoot on the side for fun because there is not a lot of money out there to make a living.
Something will have to change. We must show value to the images created. The path of photography has to change direction or it will not pay to take photographs. Read the article, watch the clip and tell me that I am wrong. I would like to be convinced I am wrong.