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Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-10-2009, 12:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
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...Or lack of one.

I don't envy young or new photographers starting out these days, leastwise, those with a mind towards making a career out of it. It's a tough business made tougher by the economy, technology, and more competition than ever.

It doesn't matter whether your hopes and dreams include being a photo-journalist or shooting editorial, fashion, glamour/tease, commercial, events, or most anything else. These days, the future for professional photographers looks like a bleak landscape, more so for those just starting out. READ MORE?
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-11-2009, 11:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I read your OP and all the responding comments on M and actually added my two cents too. I can agree with most of your statements and know where you're comming from, as I've stated before here and elsewhere I'm working on re-opening my old part tiime photo business and turning it into a full time job. It ain't easy by any means. I'm looking at this as my ideal retirement job and so far have done fairly well with my expectations and timeline. I think some of the reasons this is happening for me is word of mouth advertising and the fact that established photogs in my area are closing shop, making holes in the market. I'm picking up a lot of last minute jobs because the photographer that was going to do the work went bankrupt. My market is the middle of the road jobs since most in my area have targeted the top end weddings, portraits and such. This gives me room to improve and an ample customer base. I did my homework and research prior to moving this way and it has been one of the best moves I've ever made. I do get a kick out of some of the protogs in my area. One of the fire stations I work at also has a hall that they rent out for weddings and I get to see the others in action there. I've seen several that make the job more difficult than it needs to be with the complexity of their approach. I've also been at several functions where I've had the opportunity to assist with the latest and greatest equipment someone else has purchased and can truthfully say it's nice, but there is other gear that will do the same job for less. In particular the Nikon D3 compaired to the D300 and D200 for weddings. Yeah, the D3 is nice, but not for the price. I can do the same with my D200s and D300 withoout a doubt. I see a lot of photogs in my area that don't understand the workings of their gear and a few that have not mastered some of the basics of photography such as composition and exposure control and expect to fix all woes in Photoshop and I find Photoshop to be a pain to navigate through at times. I've said for sometime that new photographers using digital oinly gear have missed out on a fantastic learning experience by not using an old fashioned manual 35mm body that made you think about exposue, composition, and focus and didn't blast through six plus frames a second. It's a new world out there no doubt with lots of folks trying to do the same thing. It's no wonder that the companies buying photo work can pick and choose who gets the job not by talent and quality of work anymore but by the lowest bid, at least around here. Add that to the depressed market because folks don't have the expendable income like before and the availability of stock that might be good enough for the assignment and it is a real jungle at times. I have my little piece of the market here and think I can get a bigger chunk as time goes by, but don't know how some are doing it and making any profit at all. I guess that's where my next piece of the market will come from, someone else failing and me just stepping in quietly and do the best job I can in the time frame given.
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-12-2009, 02:46 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Would I like to make Photography a Profession (ie. my housing, food, transportation, living expenses based on the soul income from photography)? I'm not so sure. Would I like to get to the state of being thought of as a Pro due to the quality of the work I produce being on that scale (or the quality that jimmyd produces)? You bet your ass I would!

So if I attain the second goal (I have a LONG way to get there...but I'm getting better as time and shots go on), would I be able to attain the first goal? Well, maybe. I mean I've seen beautiful high quality work here on GG and not all of it being done by a Pro (see definition above). So maybe someone will come across my future work and offer some insane money to do a major shoot...but I'm more likely to win a lottery than that would happen.

Too many Pros I've talked to say that the actual photography bit of their business only occupies about 20 to 25% of their time (more like 10 to 20%). The rest of the time it's them taking care of business...hunting down jobs, hunting down payment, keeping the bankers, the creditors, and other such ilk from the door.

So, keeping in mind that I've often and strongly said that "...if my photography becomes 'just another job', I'll drop it...", I'm happy with the current state of things. Oh sure I'd like to at least cover my costs and maybe a few dollars ahead to buy more 'toys' but there's no sense in bemoaning the outgo of the money. Hell, I could be spending Way More money on wacking the bejeezus out of a little white ball and going in circles doing that...and not have the Fun I am having now.

So as an Enthusiastic Amateur I tip my hat at all the current and upcoming Pros out there. I wish them all the luck and skill in the world. As a standard thing I collect their business cards so that, if ever asked to do something I'm not good at (ie. Weddings) I can refer the potential client over to the Pros who do. I'm not going to 'scoop' them as it would be an insult to them and to the client to produce less than stellar work...and work I'm really not interested in.

I remember one Pro who, at the time, was doing SX70 Polaroid manipulations. My wife was just starting into it and so I went to ask him how he handled some problems she was running into. Well, his reaction was 'icy' to say the least and he stated that he was not in the business of giving away that information. Okay no prob but he sure as hell did not handle that well...*****!

So, does this mean that I (as a grunt photog) am taking away potential work from them? I'd rather like to think not and even if I were...they weren't there to pick it up, eh? But with my infrequency of shooting I don't think I'm making a dint in their backlog.

Truly, I do wish them all well. Life is going to get tougher.

Richard W.
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-12-2009, 07:48 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Based on the many true professional full time photographers I've met, I tend to separate them into two groups; the confident (arrogant?), and the scared. The confident ones are of the breed that they will always be able to out sell and market any competition no matter what the opponent offers. They work hard, generally produce an on par or better product, and would probably succeed in what ever business they undertake. Many of the scared are the ones who often produce the most amazing work, yet have little or no clue in how to run a successful business. The balance of the second group are the ones who really should be so named. They cling to the old ways of selling and basing their business on the $50 8x10. If they haven't already discovered, they soon will that the general consumer they've relied on for so long isn't going to pay that much for their work just because that's how it's always been.

My personal opinion is that the revenue simply has to be based on up front cost and the ability to enhance and deliver a product that the 'mom with a digicam' simply can't produce. The problem is that those little P&S machines can and will continue to produce better and better images so the pro had better keep their game at the top of the heap. Or learn how to sell.

Of course, YMMV.
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-12-2009, 09:46 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srwatters View Post
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>The balance of the second group are the ones who really should be so named. They cling to the old ways of selling and basing their business on the $50 8x10. If they haven't already discovered, they soon will that the general consumer they've relied on for so long isn't going to pay that much for their work just because that's how it's always been.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<.
I can understand it is all changing, but what would you say is the alternative for those photographers?
Lower the price of their print?
Not offer 8x10 size?
Not sell paper prints?

If the $50 @ 8x10 is the problem, what is the answer?

I have heard some say to charge a substantial “creation fee”, and then include X number of digital images on a CD. However, in some parts of the country people who are strictly price shopping will not pay (example) $300 to have the work done, no matter how good it is, and no matter if it includes X number of images on a CD. That same customer might still pay (another example) $50 for a session and purchase $250 in prints.
Then you have the problem of what the finished product looks like, if you provide them with a CD, depending on where they take it.
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-12-2009, 12:04 PM   #6 (permalink)
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My daughter told me an interesting story recently. She was at work and one of her co-workers, one who had recently married, brought her wedding album into the office. My daughter and others gathered around to look at the pics which were contained in a very nice album.

First thing my daughter noticed was that all the pics had the word "PROOF" watermarked on them and the quality of each image was decidedly low-resolution. Yep. The newlywed had downloaded her wedding pics from the photographer's gallery site, not caring that they were watermarked as proofs or that they were low-res, and had them printed (printed them herself perhaps?) for the album.

Perhaps more revealing: No one but my daughter noticed, or let on that they noticed, that the pics were proofs and of low quality... nor did any of her co-workers seem to care. Rather, they all giggled and laughed and said how great the pictures were.
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-12-2009, 01:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Perhaps more revealing: No one but my daughter noticed, or let on that they noticed, that the pics were proofs and of low quality... nor did any of her co-workers seem to care. Rather, they all giggled and laughed and said how great the pictures were.

And there is the problem. Many customers nowadays have such low expectations when it comes to quality. As far as portraits are concerned, if the eyes are open, and they have a toothy grin, it is wonderful.

Now, let's hear it for the "give them quality", and "give them something they can't get anywhere else", comments.

Those comments are not new. I have been hearing them for over 30 years, and many of the photographers who made those comments are no longer in business... or else they have gone on the "association" speaking circuit, and are talking the same old tired rhetoric

Now for a quick story. I have a good customer that goes back about 25 years; weddings, family portraits, high school portraits, children. They always placed good orders. I had an occasion to go to their home, and on the wall, beside one of my portraits, there was one from a famous
franchise studio, in all its un-retouched, un-color corrected, poorly posed glory.

Did I offer them something better? Sure did. Do they honestly know the difference? I am not sure.
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-12-2009, 03:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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If I were to offer my services as a professional full time photographer, I would base my session cost on the profit needed to run the business and see the product as a true product with a typical mark-up (100-200%). If I expect to spend one hour on the session, one hour editing, and one hour preparing proofs, then the session will cost at least three hours of my time. Expecting the customer to pay for the time I'm not working isn't realistic. That's why lawyers charge higher per hour rates. You're not paying for the paper but the words on it and the cost of learning how to choose and put them in the right order. Ask for a second copy of the words, and there is a charge, but that is based on the cost of creating the copy, not the original work.
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-12-2009, 05:28 PM   #9 (permalink)
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If I were to offer my services as a professional full time photographer, I would base my session cost on the profit needed to run the business and see the product as a true product with a typical mark-up (100-200%). If I expect to spend one hour on the session, one hour editing, and one hour preparing proofs, then the session will cost at least three hours of my time. Expecting the customer to pay for the time I'm not working isn't realistic. That's why lawyers charge higher per hour rates. You're not paying for the paper but the words on it and the cost of learning how to choose and put them in the right order. Ask for a second copy of the words, and there is a charge, but that is based on the cost of creating the copy, not the original work.
I am not sure what being a full time photographer and any other "time" photographer has to do with prices. I assume you mean part time.
Am I understanding that part time photographers should charge less, or more?

As far as lawyers, go... I am not sure if that is a good comparison or not. Lawyers do not sell a tangible product... Ok. maybe a will, or divorce papers are a product, but still that does not seem to be a good comparison. And, there are very few people who look at a photographer the same way they do a lawyer.. LOL.. whether that is a good thing or not, I am not sure.

Speaking from what I know in my area, and portraits, not models portfolios, very few customers would pay me in the manner I mentioned above. They do see portraits as a tangible product.

What I do know is that most times what goes out the door on the original order is about all that can be expected in the way of revenue. That is why many photographers are going with minimum orders.
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Re: Photography as a Profession: Its Future
Old 11-12-2009, 11:33 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The 'full time photographer' comment is to distinguish between the 'stealer of business' (aka, the part timer) and the 'pro'. They should charge what ever they feel appropriate, but that's a totally different discussion.

My comparison with a lawyer is very apropos IMHO. They take many years to learn their craft and are compensated accordingly. I use lawyers for consultation and creation of many kind of documents and contracts in addition to patent work. There absolutely is a tangible product in addition to research and other 'work' time. If I need two copies of a document, should I pay twice the cost of the original? This has always bothered me about photography no matter which side of the lens I'm on.

A minimum order should be no different from a higher session fee. It's all in the way it's sold and based on the photographer's skill in getting the shot(s) that the customer will want to display or hang.

I'm not saying it's easy and it shouldn't be. Success should be earned not a given...
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