An Amazing Schism Between Markets Based on Demographics and Categories.

Started Apr 14, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Kirk Tuck
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An Amazing Schism Between Markets Based on Demographics and Categories.
Apr 14, 2013

I've been following a thread started by Machine Gun Kelly about the idea that no one is making any money in photography and that it's a dead end career now. On another thread a retired law enforcement employee scoffed perjoratively when people told him he could make a decent amount of money for a job he described traveling all over his state photographing 200 people for a governmental department. In many of the threads here on the pro forum there is an assumption that everyone's imaging business is in horrible decline and getting worse. The same forum where people (amazingly) question the value of social media....

It seems that most of the threads with this depressing sentiment are being written by photographers in very depressed, rural markets. And most of the depressing agreements with these sentiments are coming from people who would still like the business to be the way it was before digital. They would like customers to come to their location, pay for a "sitting" and then buy many physical prints of various sizes that have "big" margins built in.

When people from a different part of the industry chime in here to say that day rates are rising and bookings in advertising are healthy it is beyond their belief. Suggestions that we license usage rights instead of just "shoot&Burn and hand over everything" are met with scathing suggestions that people who propose hewing to the time honored tradition of owning and licensing our intellectual property are either lying or living in a fantasy world which could never be true.

But every day I talk to people in major markets such as New York, Boston, Dallas, San Francisco and L.A., as well as people in Germany and the far east and the ones who are working in commercial and advertising markets tell me that they are seeing day rates equalize around $2500-$3500 for basic and that intelligent business clients understand and accept licensing usage in addition to those day rates.

My question is this, Since most of the people working in tech forward, affluent metro markets seem to be university educated and have clients with university degrees are we seeing the photo version of "red state vs blue state"?  By that I mean are the practitioners in the rural markets less well educated and less well informed about where modern business is going? Does the lack of access to the APA and ASMP chapters frustrate their understanding of current business practices? Is there such an enormous disparity between the wealth of the ascendent metro markets versus the declining rural markets?

With decent houses in good neighborhoods in Austin starting at $400,000 (3 bed, 2 bath, good schools) no one could ever survive here if what the rural pros are saying is true across the board. And yet Austin has hundreds and hundreds of imaging specialists who make decent livings.

If things are so depressed in rural markets why are people staying there and trying to make a living in such depressed niches of the industry? Why don't they sell off their properties and move to the nearest big, affluent, modern and economically healthy city and ply their trade?  Is is just more fun to stay and bitch about it?

While shooters in Austin and Dallas may have experienced the same decline in clients asking for prints they have responded by adding video production services, workshops, retouching services and moved into more licensing deals. This market is a moving target. Change is part of the business. But thinking that the world of consumers will keep asking for the same thing, or nothing at all,  is about as dumb as trying to sell them 1980's K-cars as new product. And then wondering why they would prefer to buy a brand new Honda or BMW.

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Austin based advertising and portrait photographer, and author of the book series, Minimalist Lighting, and the books: Commercial Photographers Handbook, Photographic Lighting Equipment, and, LED Lighting for Digital Photographers. www.kirktuck.com

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