Pro wannabes, listen up

Started Aug 28, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Michael Thomas Mitchell
Veteran MemberPosts: 9,577
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Pro wannabes, listen up
Aug 28, 2012

Veterans have long cautioned pro wannabes about the dangers, pitfalls, difficulties and risks associated with becoming a pro. Contrary to some of the perception from those who don't like to hear such advise, this shared wisdom has been, I believe, LESS about trying to keep them out of the marketplace and MORE about helping them survive once they get there. For instance, we don't say "don't become a pro photographer", but rather "if you want to become a pro photographer, make sure you have the training, skills, equipment, and drive to succeed in business that is necessary".

I have never seen this advise so relevant as I have over the past month looking over classified ads for used photographic equipment. The amount of cameras, lenses, studio light kits, printers and so forth that I am seeing listed for sale just in my own area is mind-boggling. From entry level to top end, from well-used from established studios to "barely-used", it's all there. And what is also remarkable are the comments that frequently accompany the sale. For instance, I'm seeing a lot of studio gear coming from veteran brick-and-mortar businesses in which the advertiser states that "everything must go", from filters to backgrounds to every camera and lens in the store. And then I see others advertising gear such as 7D bodies and even entire kits with the plea that they "desperately need to sell" gear which they claim has been used, for instance, "only five times". But what is also revealing is how I'm seeing the gear posted and re-posted again and again, never selling, yet always inching ever downward in price. I often see stuff selling for near-retail cost, and I think "Yep, I'll see that here for a while", and sure enough it re-appears nearly every day, maybe a few dollars less each time. It was both sad and amusing to see a Nikon SB-800 flash start at $250 and then fall $5 every three days until the last price I saw of about $175. Or the 4-light CFL light kit than started at $350 and is currently listed for about $200 along with the plea "must sell today!" And though much of the stuff starts are prices that are way too high (certainly the product of owners attempting to recover with as little loss possible what they paid for gear that they envisioned using more than just 4 or 5 times to take photos of their cat), some good deals can be had. Though I didn't need it, I quickly snatched up a barely-used 10D which came with a charger, 4 batteries, and half a dozen 1 and 2 GB CF cards for only $100. I can make a hundred dollars easily with that camera.

So what do I take from this? Well, to ME, it says that there's a lot of people who at least INTENDED to make money with photography who decided to no longer pursue it for one reason or another. Is because they are retiring after 50 years of taking school portraits? In a case or two, maybe? Or are they merely upgrading their gear to higher end stuff? Perhaps here and there. I think, however, that the vast majority simply couldn't make any money to justify a continued effort, and are now trying to get out of the "business" and mitigate the loss as much as possible. And I believe that the majority of these are people who had no solid business plan, expected to make easy money (after all those great comments from friends on facebook), and then over-bought a lot of gear that ended up not being used.

We've long observed that photography is one of the EASIEST businesses to get into. It used to be easy to get out of, too. But, if I am analyzing these ads properly, with so many exiting at the same time, it might actually be a bit difficult these days. I think the market for used gear is about to become absolutely flooded. Wannabes may wish to exercise even more prudence before jumping in. You may not be able to sell all that gear for enough money to pay the credit card bill the way you once could.

Canon EOS 10D Canon EOS 7D
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