Is professional photography dying out?

Started Mar 27, 2013 | Discussions
GMartin Regular Member • Posts: 227
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

Machine Gun Kelly wrote:

But how does THIS support your initial question that professional photography is dying out ? It's not......it's just a new ear and has to be run differently. Out with the old, in with the new. It's in everything in life. Not just photography. Adapt or wither away.

But professional photography is dying out. The amateurs are taking over. When it becomes a case of not what you know but the quality of your connections then it's a hopeless case.

As an example, my advertising costs more than my income from photography. I cut back on the advertising non-budget - slashed it totally.

Now, there seems to be a ton of amateurs here that are saying "if you're work is bad, nobody will hire you" which is a complete distraction from the fact I can't even get people to look at my work to make that judgement. Zero genuine website hits. No calls to see my portfolio. In conversation "Oh. Your're a photographer. That's nice *yawn*". There is absolutely no interest in photography any more.

Look at what Canon and Nikon etc are doing - they're producing micro four-thirds cameras. They realise that a lot of people are buying superzoom compacts rather than digital SLRs now because they don't want the bulk. People are not buying small zoom compacts any more because their phones can do just as good of a job.

The amateurs will argue over the size of the image sensor versus image quality until well after the cows have come home. The fact is, a picture is a picture and it doesn't matter whether it's taken with a Leica S2 or an iPhone. The rest is all subtle nuances.

I don't have a crystal ball so I can't foresee the future. I wonder whether the rash of ILCs will be another version of the APS SLR debacle of the 1990s where nobody could actually see any point to a camera that cost as much as an SLR but used smaller film. I can't see any cost advantage for the ILCs over SLRs to be honest. Never mind image quality - that's not really that important since all the current cameras take pictures that are of easily sufficient quality. I would say that even the humblest of the phone cameras takes pictures of better quality than was obtainable with Ilford HP5, Kodak Tri-X etc.

The only advantage of the ILCs is of purely size. I would much rather have something small that I can carry more easily without the need for a gadget bag. Women photographers may even find such cameras light and small enough to carry in their shoulder bags. Now wouldn't that be wonderful?

The whole photography market is lurching rapidly toward amateurville now that amateurs can produce what professionals can produce without the business overheads (because they run as amateurs). Out of sheer laziness when I put something up on ebay the other day, I took the picture with my cell phone. I didn't even bother dragging out a light tent to make sure it was attractively illuminated. It just doesn't matter - what matters is that its visible for what it is and that the image was easily uploadable.

Taking pictures has never been so easy and is getting easier. Some cameras have face detection and composition aiding. Some will lighten dark areas and darken light areas to produce a more balanced image. I really cannot see that professional photography can last very much longer. Certainly there will be the top gurus as there will be for every profession but as with the old profession of being a script, professional photography will die out almost entirely. We do not need scripts any more - we can almost all read and write. Those here certainly can read and write.

As far as connections go, I've never found it easy to make connections and never really got anything worthwhile out of the connections that I have. Thus, as far as I am concerned professional photography is in its last dying gasps. So, as I have said before, I'm looking to sell off most of my stuff. I just don't need it and don't see the point of housing it any more. I curse the individual that sold me on the idea of starting but on the other hand, when I was under their spell I would have believe the moon was green and made of cheese. Now I'm not, I see the world for what it is and that I got scammed. My dad was right in his comment that he couldn't see any potential for income in photography. Having tried with all my heart and just utterly failed time after time after time to get people even to look to see what I have on offer, I am in absolute agreement with my dad that there is absolutely no money in photography and that investment in gear for it is a total waste of money. Might as well spend the money on drink, drugs and loose women.

So what do you say to those who are making money at photography ? It sounds more like your business model, lack of business skills and possibly your photography talent is the real culprit.

Im not the most social guy either, but I still have a handful of contacts for my wedding work that brings in business. I would love more, but i can't in in the door with those that I want to get in with. So be it. So I'll keep on working the one's I have and draw from that. Every year something new comes into play and I add that. That's how business works.

Remember, this is photography, not selling cars, meat or clothes. One has to be talented in photography, decent in business and have a friendly personality to succeed. It sounds like you are lacking in all three.

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

alpha90290 wrote:

You need to find your niche.

If you cannot compete with amateurs, it means your photos are not much better than them although you may be using the so call "pro" equipment.

There we go with the "your pictures aren't good enough because you're not getting business" while completely ignoring the fact absolutely nobody wants to look at my website nor see my portfolio. Sure - I have done some photo jobs. Interestingly, none have asked to see my work in advance and everybody has been happy with the results.

Connections don't work if your connections are not rich or don't have many rich friends.

Rich people/ big companies are the one with the the money to engage your services. They will not hire those  amateurs who don't have a proper studio and contracts that guarantee quality result.

What you need is to learn the correct marketing skill to market to these companies.

Don't go after the average Joe.

Oh, I know the average Joe doesn't have money. This is why my business cards say "commercial photography" rather than "wedding photography" or some other such thing.

It's also why I now advertise solely through the Chamber of Commerce.

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

GMartin wrote:

So what do you say to those who are making money at photography ? It sounds more like your business model, lack of business skills and possibly your photography talent is the real culprit.Im not the most social guy either, but I still have a handful of contacts for my wedding work that brings in business. I would love more, but i can't in in the door with those that I want to get in with. So be it. So I'll keep on working the one's I have and draw from that. Every year something new comes into play and I add that. That's how business works.

Remember, this is photography, not selling cars, meat or clothes. One has to be talented in photography, decent in business and have a friendly personality to succeed. It sounds like you are lacking in all three.

Ah... Now I know you're just trolling

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

Machine Gun Kelly wrote:

alpha90290 wrote:

You need to find your niche.

If you cannot compete with amateurs, it means your photos are not much better than them although you may be using the so call "pro" equipment.

There we go with the "your pictures aren't good enough because you're not getting business" while completely ignoring the fact absolutely nobody wants to look at my website nor see my portfolio. Sure - I have done some photo jobs. Interestingly, none have asked to see my work in advance and everybody has been happy with the results.

When you hire a pro - to fix your car, teach you golf, cut your hair - you have certain expectations and generally want to spend as little as possible. Once images reach a certain level they're salable and meet client expectations.

After that comes style, unique vision etc and that's rather rare. So to most folks 'all pictures look alike' is how they truly feel.

Few people 'rave' about any business. How many people have you told to go to mcdonalds? Or best buy? Or staples? None I bet. How many have you told to go where you bought your car, get your clothes dry cleaned, your grocery store?  Yeah, about as many as have sent their friends to you.

You have to go well above and beyond 'normal' to get customers to rave about you. Well above. well beyond. You have to do something truly memorable.

Connections don't work if your connections are not rich or don't have many rich friends.

Rich people/ big companies are the one with the the money to engage your services. They will not hire those  amateurs who don't have a proper studio and contracts that guarantee quality result.

What you need is to learn the correct marketing skill to market to these companies.

Don't go after the average Joe.

Oh, I know the average Joe doesn't have money. This is why my business cards say "commercial photography" rather than "wedding photography" or some other such thing.

It's also why I now advertise solely through the Chamber of Commerce.

Didn't you say they laughed aloud when you stood up and told them what you did? Unless you're a comedian I'd say you've not found your target market.

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

That's not trolling. He's speaking the facts, the truth and asking questions.

You need to sit down and truly evaluate what's been brought up in this thread. You've got it in your head that you've done everything there is to do - and done it right and frequently enough - to get results. However, since you seem to have few customers the proof is obvoius - you have NOT done it right.

Now I'm sure if you were in the midst of an amish community it would indeed be true that nobody buys professional potraiture. But there would be a market to toursists of scenics and amish life.

You claim to do commercial photography and nobody visits your website. Well, to be honest I bet very few commercial folks go googling for photographers when then need something. They'll first think of photographers they know firsthand, then ask around to their friends. And unless it's a new business needing a photographer for the first time they'll have someone to call already in their rolodex.

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

Well, I have tried just about everything I can think of. I tried the consumer market and found it pretty well oversaturated to the point that nobody was interested in another photographer.

As far as the chamber of commerce is concerned, I get the feeling very much that there's no business to be had from the chapter I joined. I rather suspect the whole area is a bit dead. I would go so far as to suspect that the chapter in the next town will be just as dead.

My new accountant roared with laughter when I said photographer and asked with a laugh how much business I got. Now that accountant is in a much bigger city. I am very much getting the feeling that trying to work as a photographer is not going to work out here. Like I said, I got mugged into it and just cannot see any likely potential for profit. My decision-making was clouded when I started by the situation I was in at the time.

Where I do make money is from my books on photography. I have some niche books on photography and they do sell. Not in vast quantities as they're print on demand but they do sell. On the other hand the niche is a very tight niche (and I'm the only one in it).

As far as I'm concerned, the decision is pretty much made. I'm going to sell off what I can of the photo equipment for as much as I can get. I know I'm going to lose a ton of money and that some expensive stuff is probably going to go into the dumpster. I need to move on with my life. I have tried, I have tried hard and it just has not worked. There just is no viable market for my business.

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

I switched from targeting private clients toward commercial clients at the end of last year. I just figured that I'd had so little luck attracting any private clients that I'd try the commercial end. I get encouraging noises - people saying "yes we need a commercial photographer" at Chamber meetings BUT nobody actually steps forward and asks questions. Interestingly, I look at all the local photographers and none of them seem to be members of any known organization; not chamber members, not members of anything.

I won't do any more advertising other than through the chamber this year. Heck, I'm not even going to blow money on a business license this year. I'm going to heed what the accountant advised which was just to dump the business. He said he would get 500 people a year coming to him saying they'd started a new business and he'd say "photography" and they'd act surprised and ask "how'd you know". By the end of the year, none of them would be in business as a photographer.

As I've said, I got mugged into starting it as a business. Originally, I just wanted to take pictures and hang them on the walls of local cafes and see if any sold. That's all I wanted to do. I go mugged into this by somebody that stood to benefit financially. So, starting this month I'm beginning to sell off as much as I can of the surplus photo gear. I really don't need as much as I have, for my own personal use. I just want to get back to taking nice photos to hang on walls and if some of them sell, so much the better. I don't want to have thousands invested in a business entity that never stood a snowflake's chance in the fiery bowels of Hell of working.

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

Interesting thread. Lots of insights.

RhysM wrote:

Digital photography is cheap, even full frame cameras that are capable of producing stunning image quality are in financial reach of most people and with so many internet resources available to learn how to use the camera, people are able to grasp the basics and start shooting acceptable images very quickly.

I know this will upset the pro's but the harsh reality is an amateur with a £/$2000 setup can take photos 90% as good as a pro. This leads to "Uncle George" doing the wedding photos for all people on a tight budget, and all other family events.

I don't think sheer "image quality" or sheer capability of the equipment has ever been an issue. The camera is simply a recording device, a capture device. "Uncle George" can take photos just fine if he has a decent camera. And if the people who he's shooting for like Uncle George's photos, GREAT! That's a win for Uncle George and a win for them. If that's all they want from Uncle George, there's nothing wrong with that. But for those who feel that they're worth more, and desire a more polished product and final presentation, they'll find a way to look past Uncle George, as convenient as he might be. Why? Because he's usually shooting in a VFW or a fire hall!

Point being: If the clients can only pay to have their events in fire halls, VFWs, community centers, rec room lodges, and such, you can't get them to pay for a more expensive photographer! Why would you expect anything else? They can't afford a more expensive venue? There's nothing wrong with that if they can't afford it. If the bride isn't paying at least $75 per plate, (and that's being very conservative) she's not spending anything significant on a photographer. It's been my experience that the more a bride or organizer or whomever, pays for catering, the more they will budget for a photographer. Guys that are charging super low prices are the guys shooting in VFW, fire halls, rec room lodges, basements, and community centers. NOTHING wrong with that. Everyone has to start. The money is STILL money at the end of the day. A hustle is a hustle and you have to do what you you have to do. But who exactly are those guys taking business from? Those guys don't go to the showcase wedding and banquet venues anyway because they don't have insurance. Neither does Uncle George.

The days of having a photographer to small weddings, christenings, birthday parties, retirement parties, etc are pretty much dead and not a place to be starting a new venture.

I think you may really be correct on that. If guys were charging $2500 to shoot a wedding or a small retirement party, at a lodge, those days are long gone. And for a lot of guys, honestly, SHAME on them at those prices! Photogs doing that were riding a bubble. But some money can still be made doing small events, I believe. If you'd like to make an extra $100-$150 per month, just on the side, I think that's possible.

Interesting insights, still.

brokensocialscenester Regular Member • Posts: 410
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

Just spent a couple of hours reading this thread top to bottom. Interesting stuff. It's hard out there right now.

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brokensocialscenester Regular Member • Posts: 410
Re: Is professional photography dying out?

ultimitsu wrote:

cptrios wrote:

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.

Then do not charge 2500 for weddings. I really do not understand why eevry photographer thinks he has to charge this much. it is as if the price of film days wedding shoots ought to carry over - well it doesn't have to. Today the cost of learning photography is a lot less and time required is a lot shorter. It is not a skill that still takes years and years to develop. This is why many uncle jacks are happy to shoot their nephew's wedding for free with a half decent job.

To put things in a little more perspective for you. I live in New Zealand, Gear price is generally 30% more expensive than the US, GDP per capital is in fact lower, so it cost more to be a photographer. My friend that I was telling you about earlier, who has more than 10 contract photographers now, he charges 1500 NZD per wedding ( that is 1200 USD). That is one full day of shooting. He is super busy.

Good advice here.

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rockford wedding photographer
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