Is professional photography dying out?

Started Mar 27, 2013 | Discussions
Hulamike
Hulamike Senior Member • Posts: 2,810
Hmmm....

I'm beginning to think this is all just a little bit of theater, performance art.  No one has this much continuous bad luck. That and 19 total posts starting two days ago. You pulling our leg machine gun?

OP deleted080512 Regular Member • Posts: 205
Re: Hmmm....

Think what you like.

I wish I could say my business had been a success. It hasn't. It has been a dismal failure and an utter waste of money - most of which I can't even recoup from selling everything. It has been an expensive learning experience. I rather suspect I would have had better use of the money if I had spent it on drink, drugs and loose women.

I won't even add up the amount of money thrown away on this venture. It sickens me that somebody I trusted was able to scam me into trying this lark. My relatives had doubts about it but believed me when I repeated what the person I trusted had told me. I now, of course realise that person had less business sense than the average pile of manure despite owning their own business.

The one comment I keep hearing is that when people get laid off they either buy a garden tractor and call themselves a landscape gardener (they cut grass) or a camera and call themselves a photographer (they take pictures).

I have had work but not enough to make this viable. In 7 years, 3 contracts - one of which was paid by check drawn on a closed bank account.

OP deleted080512 Regular Member • Posts: 205
Re: Exhibition Prints?

That sounds about right. I entered the state fair one year. Didn't win and I don't think anybody I met had even attended. The winning entry in the photography section wasn't even a recognisable photograph. It was more digital art. More photoshop than photo.

Flip bins are an idea. I could try that at a flea market. That might work. I don't want to spend money though. I never seem to recoup any where photography is involved.

ChristianAdam Forum Member • Posts: 68
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

Free business advice.

I know this works in western Europe, and will probably also work in the U... S... of A!

Find local (used) car dealerships/leaser, not the "my first little/rusty dodge" used car dealer with balloons and small flags.
But upscale dealers/leasers, you know... steel and glass front. No cars standing in the open, and everyone of then clean as a whistle.

Take contact to them, and set up a "plan" where you come once twice a month, and shoot their latest cars for local advertisement/newspaper/internet.
You have to sell yourself well (first shoot for free?), but it can be a nice and steady source of work.
Car dealers don't want a car standing just looking pretty, it has to be sold/leased ASAP and make room for the next one.
They earn quite the dough on each car sold/leased, so to them 80$ per vehicle is pennies.

Got a buddy in Denmark who told me, and he finance his own car, education and a little more this way.
Know one in Netherlands doing it as well, personally i don't do it, as it would have to be in my spare time  and my time is worth more.

cptrios Senior Member • Posts: 1,352
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

I think it's hard to argue against the idea that professional photography is dying out. Will it ever completely die? No...but it'll come close. Eventually, only a handful of folks are going to be able to actually make money off of photography:

1. A select few who are truly, inspiringly talented and who are at least passable marketers.

2. A slightly larger group who are at least "decent" photographers but very good, very hard-working marketers.

3. A few people who have gotten into profitable niches such as the ones discussed earlier in the thread. (And I imagine that many of those will be fading out too.)

4. A much larger group of people with wildly varying levels of skill who sell their services at prices too low to qualify as anything but a "little side job."

ultimitsu wrote:

3, People in general have become more wealthy and have more disposable income. there are many situations where people would not have hired a photographer 30 years ago that they would now. But you have to be the top 10% that really makes them want your photo.

Heh, how bad is it that I agree more with the guy upthread spouting Glenn-Beckian doomsday warnings and telling us to buy precious metals than the generally reasonable ultimitsu? Some people are becoming more wealthy. For most people, the exact opposite is happening. The average American has very little money for luxuries, and in most cases that luxury money is already spent on more "important" things than photography...a smartphone, a computer, cable/ISP, the occasional dinner out. (Yes, we're still insanely opulent compared to pretty much anywhere in the developing world...that's not the issue here.)

It's therefore entirely possible that almost all of the OP's problem is that he very genuinely lives in an area in which there's no market for decently-paying professional photography. If everyone within a 100-mile radius of you has an average income of $25k/year, you are not going to be doing a whole lot of $2500 weddings. And when even those areas have hundreds of people trying to be professional photographers, the outlook for someone like the OP isn't exactly sunny.

PenguinPhotoCo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,284
pick a position and push THAT

ultimitsu wrote:

I do some part time paid work, and I have friends who do weddings and newborn full time. We talk about this business often and how to grow and get better etc... so let me share some of my thoughts:

1, This is a winner-takes-all market. More than any other market, customers can compare photographers within a few clicks. This is not testimonial or review type of comparison, this is photo vs photo. Unlikely plumbing or electrical work, you cannot hide lack of skill and quality. Because it is so competitive and for most people, if it is worth hiring a photographer, it is wroth hiring the best (or close to the best). Your work has to be significantly better than what they can do with their gear to be worth hiring.  The top 1% get 50% the business (money wise), they get the big clients and they shoot MF. Top 10% get 70% the weddings, and the rest get, well, the rest. the closer you are to the bottom the less photos you get to do, it is that simple. If you are not getting much business, and you charge very fair fees, then there is only one explanation, you are not good enough.

Yes, but no.
True, the top 1% get 50% of the business, but that is true IN EVERY INDUSTRY. Usually, it's the first that gets 50% and the second gets 30% and the remainng 20% is fought over by everyone else. There are a few industries (or products) where this isn't true, but overall this pattern holds true in everything else.
Being better isn't the key. It helps, sure. Who makes the best car? The best food? The best clothes? What store has the best service? And who is the biggest in each area? Not always the same.
You have to OWN a position in the consumers mind - cheap, best, edgy, outstanding service - and then market the hell out of that ONE thing.  Sell "Fun" to brides. Or you can sell 'traditional' or 'classical'.
And you have to make that point in EVERYTHING you do marketing wise. I bet if you did a survey in your area about photogs and asked 'name the cheap guy, the fast guy, the cool, the edgy, the fun - nobody could tell you who was what.
But if you asked that about bands, restaurants, jeans, cars you'd get answers.

3, People in general have become more wealthy and have more disposable income. there are many situations where people would not have hired a photographer 30 years ago that they would now. But you have to be the top 10% that really makes them want your photo.

One of my friend started a studio from scratch 5 years ago, first it was in partnership with 3 others who were slightly immature. Business wasnt taking off and the other 3 left. 2 years ago he took over the studio himself. Today he has one sales manager, two post processing artists, and about 10 contract photographers. He just recently bought a new premises setting up an indoor studio. So, yeah, the business is out there, but it is taken by the winners.

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PenguinPhotoCo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,284
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

cptrios wrote:


ultimitsu wrote:

3, People in general have become more wealthy and have more disposable income. there are many situations where people would not have hired a photographer 30 years ago that they would now. But you have to be the top 10% that really makes them want your photo.

Heh, how bad is it that I agree more with the guy upthread spouting Glenn-Beckian doomsday warnings and telling us to buy precious metals than the generally reasonable ultimitsu? Some people are becoming more wealthy. For most people, the exact opposite is happening. The average American has very little money for luxuries, and in most cases that luxury money is already spent on more "important" things than photography...a smartphone, a computer, cable/ISP, the occasional dinner out. (Yes, we're still insanely opulent compared to pretty much anywhere in the developing world...that's not the issue here.)

I think this divergent perspective is one of the issues with our economy, congress, etc. I know my wife and I are each better off than our parents were, our grandparents.

We ALL live way better lives than our parents. Of course that depends on your metric of course.
Computers, internet, cell phones, cars, cable TV, eating out - how does this 'lifestyle' of yours compare to your parents?
MY wife and I both work, growing up both of us had 2 working parents. Both of my mom's parents worked as well. Two income households were not uncommon in our families.
We never took vacations growing up. We do now. We own more cars than our parents did, bigger house too.
But we also spend, well, foolishly. Cell phone, internet, cable TV bills add to what in your life? Couple of hundred a month perhaps? I bet your car has more options (and a lot more safety) than what people drove 30 years ago.
A lot of what has changed is CHOICE. You can buy anything today - the internet puts it a click away. You can buy coffee or gourmet coffee, a burger or gourmet burger. People are 'trading up' in certain areas- photography is one - and cutting back in others.
Also there are 100 more avenues of advertising making it more difficult and more costly to advertise and reach your prospect who has now 10 times as much advertising being thrown at him Harder to stand out in the noise.

It's therefore entirely possible that almost all of the OP's problem is that he very genuinely lives in an area in which there's no market for decently-paying professional photography. If everyone within a 100-mile radius of you has an average income of $25k/year, you are not going to be doing a whole lot of $2500 weddings. And when even those areas have hundreds of people trying to be professional photographers, the outlook for someone like the OP isn't exactly sunny.

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The Davinator
The Davinator Forum Pro • Posts: 21,860
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

You did TV and radio advertising as a part time photographer?

I may be wrong....but I'm not buying your story.

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PenguinPhotoCo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,284
Re: I did notice..

knowing when to get out, move on, etc is smart.
I've worked for many small busiensses and I"m still amazed how much marketing effort there is to being a photographer.

This year, as I get wiser, I'm trying a few new things- "paying" folks to post on FB for example - paying for WOM really.

Sounds strange but I"m not the first to try it. Go check out 'viggle' - I saw TV ads for it yesterday for the first time. They pay you to watch TV. Then I suppose you see the ads and will buy the products.

I can buy ads on FB or pay people to post on FB can call their comments my ads. Same cost to me and hopefully better results.

It's a way to get the customers that love my work to TELL SOMEONE! Or so goes the theory.
I tried one of these 'theories' for my bridal shows this year and got no calls, no emails, no nothing. First time every for that. Not sure what to take away from it and what I can do to change that for the future.

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NancyP Veteran Member • Posts: 6,208
Try cold-calling local advertising firm art director for a 10 min. sales talk

with portfolio CD and make the portfolio contents reflect the firm's needs. If you have a particularly strong specialty, eg, food, sell yourself as a food photographer, and include a few shots of other subjects in your portfolio, so they know you can do other things as well.

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Marques Lamont Contributing Member • Posts: 561
Suckered?

I don't understand how you were suckered by a friend into starting YOUR own business.

awb1000 Forum Member • Posts: 51
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

1.  Everybody and their dog has a camera.

2.  Excellent equipment is relatively cheap.

3.  Digital media is fast and cheap, so it is easy (for everyone) to improve shot quality.

4.  There are lots of good 'how-to' guides for improving your photography.  Even the seasoned Pros dip into this pool for revenues - i.e. the money is in teaching.

5.  Supply & Demand has devalued the end product.

6.  Conclusion (for most people) - don't quit your day job.

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Biggs23 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,454
Re: Hmmm....

Hulamike wrote:

I'm beginning to think this is all just a little bit of theater, performance art.  No one has this much continuous bad luck. That and 19 total posts starting two days ago. You pulling our leg machine gun?

Agreed. Or perhaps a scare tactic meant to discourage as many potential (or existing) competitors as possible?

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Peter Berressem Forum Pro • Posts: 10,647
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

awb1000 wrote:

4.  There are lots of good 'how-to' guides for improving your photography.  Even the seasoned Pros dip into this pool for revenues - i.e. the money is in teaching.

4a. If you don't know how to light an ambitious subject there's always a forum where someone guides you through the steps.

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cheers, Peter
Germany

alpha90290
alpha90290 Regular Member • Posts: 255
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

Machine Gun Kelly wrote:

Speaking as somebody that has run a part-time photography business for a few years and almost completely failed to attract customers, the question has to be asked.

It's not as though I haven't tried - I just can't get anybody even to look at my portfolio. Let's see what I've done...

Yellow Pages - one or two calls about irrelevant matters

Website - no visitors

Van signage - one or two calls from other "pros" digging for information.

I did get a ton of people calling trying to sell me stuff from my online contact information. The web form attracted loads of resumes and spam. The web phone number attracted loads of people trying to sell insurance, internet services, credit-card devices.

Chamber of Commerce - polite interest but nothing more.

TV advertising - no callers.

Radio advertising - no callers.

It's all a very nice tax deduction but leaves me with very much the feeling that nobody wants photography any more - especially since most people now have a camera on their phone that's really quite acceptable.

One of the major problems is that people only want 1024 x 768 images to put on Facebook. I don't think they care about anything else.

Professional photography is not dying but the traditional advertising media are dying.

Reason => your customers are in FB and youtube

I am not a Professional photographer but there are people asking me in FB to take their wedding photos after they saw my photos that are post in FB.

And I wasn't even advertising my services.

I have to politely reject their request and direct them to a friend, who works as a free lance wedding photographer.

OP deleted080512 Regular Member • Posts: 205
Re: Hmmm....

Biggs23 wrote:

Hulamike wrote:

I'm beginning to think this is all just a little bit of theater, performance art.  No one has this much continuous bad luck. That and 19 total posts starting two days ago. You pulling our leg machine gun?

Agreed. Or perhaps a scare tactic meant to discourage as many potential (or existing) competitors as possible?

Read into it what you wish. I have no power to make you believe anything. I would say this though - if you plan to set up as a photographer, check to see how hard your accountant is laughing.

OP deleted080512 Regular Member • Posts: 205
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

I do have a youtube account but nobody views it. I did get a few hundred views from my assembly/disassembly of my automatic. That was about it though. I did at one time have a video of me telling everybody how great my photography was and somebody else proclaiming the same but no viewers. Nobody was interested.

As far as Facebook is concerned. That was a bust too - I had a photography webpage but absolutely nobody viewed it so in the end I dumped it.

To get anywhere online you have to start from a critical mass of viewers or it just doesn't work. I have never had any luck with this online garbage, no matter how much money I throw at it. As an example, I tried advertising a sideline that nobody else does locally and had a Facebook paid advert. All I got was site hits but zero page views. That was an education for $25 of the worthlessness of Facebook.

I have tried all the avenues. I had a 3 month TV advert running every 15 minutes for $1,000 all in. It got me zero callers. It was pretty well targeted too.

There are 140 people advertising photography locally in an area of 250K people. I know one lady with her own studio - in a mall - that works daycare as well because the photography does not pay enough. I know one couple who seem to move their studio around at the drop of a hat; presumably when the first month's rent is due.

Try explaining to Joe Soap and Jane Doe down the street why your photo with a DSLR is better than their photo taken with a cellphone. Some of those cellphones are pretty darned good - even in low light. I think you'll find that's where part of the problem is. The only photos people want these days are photos they can put up on Facebook.

OP deleted080512 Regular Member • Posts: 205
Re: Suckered?

I won't go into great detail; there are issues involved. I very much suspect the desire to have me spend a ton of money on photo gear that I would not otherwise have purchased revolved around  tax deductions.

Had I not started this business then I would most likely have stuck with one DSLR, a flash and two or three lenses. I would not have bought two DSLRs, several flashes, studio setup and several lenses. You see where this is going?

Right now I'm looking at getting the best price for the stuff I don't actually use. Thus far it appears that the bodies are pretty well unsalable. The lenses and flashes have dropped by 25 - 50 percent and the studio equipment might get no takers and end up in the dumpster.

Biggs23 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,454
Re: Hmmm....

Machine Gun Kelly wrote:

Biggs23 wrote:

Hulamike wrote:

I'm beginning to think this is all just a little bit of theater, performance art.  No one has this much continuous bad luck. That and 19 total posts starting two days ago. You pulling our leg machine gun?

Agreed. Or perhaps a scare tactic meant to discourage as many potential (or existing) competitors as possible?

Read into it what you wish. I have no power to make you believe anything. I would say this though - if you plan to set up as a photographer, check to see how hard your accountant is laughing.

Plan to set up? It's what I do full time. I've shot 25+ weddings a year for the last several years and have just as many for this year. Next year is shaping up to be even better if my early indications are accurate. I seem to get busier every year.

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Marques Lamont Contributing Member • Posts: 561
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

Machine Gun Kelly wrote:

Try explaining to Joe Soap and Jane Doe down the street why your photo with a DSLR is better than their photo taken with a cellphone. Some of those cellphones are pretty darned good - even in low light. I think you'll find that's where part of the problem is. The only photos people want these days are photos they can put up on Facebook.

???????

What exactly is your product?

If your work doesn't stand out from a snapshot on a cell phone camera, WHY would someone hire you? Aren't you the imaging expert? If I were to hire you, what would I be paying you to do?

No really, what would I be paying you to do? I'd like to know.

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