If you’ve been following along you’ll know I put out a report a little while back called “The Death of Stock Photography?” It was a detailed look at our industry and some of the challenges facing it, and I believed it also offered some practical solutions. Well it’s definitely stirred a few people up!
Mostly the feedback has been very encouraging… people who’d been thinking much the same thing and looking for solutions in similar areas… but there’s been a few comments back that weren’t so cool. I suspect they were mostly from people who didn’t read the report all the way through and only got the negative stuff at the start, so just to be totally clear…
I think it’s a FANTASTIC time to be a professional photographer!
Sure it’s all super competitive, prices are down and there’s no question… a lot of photographers are finding it extremely tough to make a living… but despite all that, the outlook for a talented photographer with some basic business savvy has never been brighter!
The Internet has given us access to a global market the size of which we couldn’t begin to imagine 10-15 years ago. It’s open 24/7 and knows no international boundaries. At GlobalEye our Client list now spans some 154 countries! I didn’t even realise there were that many countries in the world, but now I can sell my photos to people in any one of them!
It gets better though… in-house desktop publishing means that virtually every organisation on the planet is now a potential photo-buyer. That’s business, government departments, not-for-profits, major corporations, mom-and-pop outfits … the yall need photos and they’ll all doing more and more of the buying and publishing themselves.
It’s no surprise that the corporate/government buyers often account for more sales across our network than the editorial and advertising buyers combined!
The demand for quality photography has simply never been higher.
And this demand is set to go even higher again as whole new markets are now emerging in the areas of mobile devices and applications. We are regularly getting inquiries for uses we’ve never even heard of before. This are generally small screen repros, so the prices are generally quite low, but the volume of them is set to go through the roof.
The photographers who work out profitable a way to supply this market are going to clean up! So far, the low-res requirements mean most buyers are probably going to the RF & Microstock libraries and their photographers, but as this market evolves there’s sure to be a sector that emerges that needs to know publishing history of the images it uses, and some buyers who’ll be looking for exclusive use. The RM libraries and photographers will need to be ready when they come knocking.
Without going into a long monologue on the technological improvements in digital photography in recent years,I do need to mention the less obvious benefits of the near instant results, no film processing and no hard copy originals … it all adds up to less time, less costs and less stress for the photographers.
I suspect a lot of the younger photographers out there don’t realise how much time and effort and stress digital photography saves us these days. We can show our portfolios to multiple buyers at once, anywhere on the planet, and we don’t need to send our precious originals off for weeks or even months at a time in the hope of a sale.
That mightn’t sound ground-breaking to the younger photographers, but anyone who’s ever packed up a submission of film originals and posted them off to some distant buyer, knows how it feels to drop it in the mail and ‘hope’ they make it back undamaged and complete, some time in the next few months!
You could spend a small fortune getting dupes made but most buyers would still want to see your originals before they bought, so you’d often have your best images ‘out’ for months at a time. And all you could do was wait for their return before you could even think about offering them to someone else.
It doesn’t stop at Stock Photography either…
Any photographer with a bit of talent can post images to the fulfillment websites and have their images printed on framed prints, posters, calendars, clothing items, you-name-it… and shipped directly to consumers around the world totally hands-free.
Seriously … how amazing is that!
Upload some photos, add a few descriptions, set some options and suddenly you have a whole line of your own custom photo products, ready for sale!
We set this up as an option for our photographers last year and some have gone to town with it. One Member is doing a whole range of traditional paper products, another a line of mugs,a couple of others are doing their own clothing lines. For all of them it’s set-and-forget passive revenue!
>Another photographer having good success having her photos printed on framed canvas that she’s then marketing to local businesses. Ten years ago, it would have cost thousands of dollars to set something like this up, but she arranged her fulfillment for free through an online provider and printed her own sales materials … and set it all up in a weekend!
So I’ll leave it there, I just wanted to make sure no one thought I was actually ‘giving up’ on our industry or jumping on the doom-and-gloom bandwagon as a few suggested. I’m actually incredibly optimistic about where ‘photography’ is right now and what we might achieve in the next few years.
Sure there are some challenges we’ve got to face… both within the photography industry and in the wider world economy… but seriously… if you had to tackle those issues as a photographer, at any time in history, wouldn’t you rather be doing it now with all the fantastic tools we have at our disposal?
I know I certainly would!