Even though today is the 13th anniversary of this blog (the actual website has been running for more than 16 years) and it’s a time for celebration, I also feel like I’m long overdue for a rant about the state of photography.
I am not one to complain too much usually – I tend to keep my head down and carry on with producing the images I like. I always tell anybody that asks that the reason I got into photography was one of pure love for traveling and capturing what is in front of me. The fact that my wonderful clients over the last ten years or so have been paying me to do what I love is just an added bonus. Having said this, I do have a bone to pick with what I have been lately calling the trend to zero. This is not just in photography – it’s almost a global race to ask for cheaper prices which in turn force companies to hire cheaper and cheaper labour, which leads to those same people who don’t get paid enough to ask for cheaper and cheaper products. This is not sustainable in the long run and anybody that says differently is either fooling themselves or is a shareholder that is looking for more immediate returns than long term business health. An interesting book on this particular topic is Dan Lyons’ Lab Rats.
This trend is being particularly exacerbated during these difficult economic times and the photography businesses are not immune to it. I will give you a couple of examples – I recently had to say no to a shoot after the client had agreed to my daily rate and then proceeded to ask for free for a half a day recce for a one day shoot. Just because it’s a recce does not mean that I am not utilising my photography skills or spending time away from my family or from anything else I might love doing. I would maybe understand if this would be the case when I am shooting for a client for one week, but spending a free half a day to charge for a full day makes absolutely no business sense. Another example is stock photography – I don’t shoot much for stock for a variety of reasons, but recently the percentage share for the photographer is dropping constantly (I am not even going to address the topic of sites offering images for free). It started somewhere around 60% when I had my first stock images available for sale about 10 years ago and now it’s somewhere around 20%-30%. Add to this the virtual disappearance of rights managed images which are being replaced with cheap royalty free photographs and again you have something that is not sustainable. I know so many amazing photographers who have simply abandoned photography as a business because it was not covering their expenses and I think the trend will get worse and the quality of work will suffer as a result.
It’s not all gloom and doom though – there are solutions to these kinds of issues. Most photographers I know (if not all) are not really looking to become rich – nobody ever got into photography to be a millionaire and most are more than willing to compromise for interesting work (NO, NOT FOR EXPOSURE – please, please, please, if you are a client don’t suggest to photographers to work for exposure – exposure does not put food on the table). If you are a client, try to be mindful of the fact that photography is not just someone with a phone who comes and takes a few snapshots of your business and be reasonable when evaluating costs. Try instead of hiring an agency who hires another agency who hires another agency who hires a photographer to maybe just use only one agency. That will most likely reduce the cost by at least 70-100%. And above all, be respectful – a photography business is just like any other business – it has operating costs, equipment costs and most likely a family who puts up with the long hours the photographer spends shooting, editing and marketing themselves.
To end on a happy note, here’s to my 13 year old photoblog! Thank you to all of you who visit from time to time and may there be many more years ahead!