Does the lack of clients or an obvious decline in sales fill your head with doubt? Is photography dying as a profession before our eyes?
Are there days when you wonder why you bother to continue the struggle for success from your photographs?
When we look around and see so many professional photographers struggling to make even a basic living, it can be hard to believe otherwise, right?
For example, have you visited any online photography forums lately?
If not, you might want to check out some of the ongoing (and often heated) discussions about the photography business.
I guarantee you’ll find a hot thread in there somewhere that talks about “photography dying as a business” or that professional photographers are doomed to go the way of the saggar maker’s bottom knocker.
If you lie awake at night scared about how much the photography business will have changed by the time you get out of bed tomorrow, or you’re scared that clients just won’t pay you as much as they used to because they’ve been trained to expect ridiculously low prices for photographs, this article is for you.
The question, of course, is do you honestly believe photography is dying as a viable business?
Is A Failed Photography Business Past Saving?
Frankly, it makes me sad when I see so many photographers subscribe to the idea that the photography business is dying, and I see more than several visitors here each day who searched Google for something like, how can I save my failing photography business?
Given that their business appears to have already failed, the question seems redundant, and I’m left wondering what, if anything, they tried to do to avert disaster before reaching the point of no return.
I really wish I could ask them this one simple question:
How badly did they want their business to succeed, and how committed were they to preventing failure at all costs?
Even more upsetting is that too many of these failed professional photographers are highly talented individuals.
They have great camera skills, are able to produce wonderful images, but they lack the necessary marketing and business skills that could have made the difference.
It doesn’t seem fair, but then fairness isn’t part of the game of business.
Of course, everyone deserves a second chance and they can always start over.
With that in mind I believe the answer to the question, “can a failed photography business be saved?” is a resounding “yes!”
It Depends Which Camp You’re In
Having read through masses of comments, rants, flame-wars, and other impassioned responses on various forum and group threads on this subject, two distinctly different factions are revealed.
They could be broadly described like this:
- “We’re all gonna die… the industry’s already dead!”
- “Let’s just get on with it – no one has to die today…”
This is such a polarizing issue and yet a razor-thin fence divides these two camps—so thin that no one even thinks about sitting on it.
Are You An Optimist Or A Pessimist?
On one side, we have the pessimists.
According to their assessment and belief, the photography business is deader than dead, and the modern photography client couldn’t care less about the quality of work a photographer produces, as long as it’s cheap or, better still, free.
Those photographers who dare to try to charge what they’re worth are just dinosaurs, and will soon be extinct. The world of professional photography now belongs to a new breed of photographer who’s best strategy is to stamp everyone else out based on cheaper prices. Their primary mantra seems to be “you can’t beat them, so join them”…
Over on the other side of the fence we have the stubborn optimists.
These are the photographers who live by such creeds as “understanding costs of sales”, “adapting to change without sacrificing quality”, “believing in the constant evolution of marketing and its power to educate”, “not allowing doom and gloom to slow them down”, “appreciating the value of self-investment” and “knowing who their ideal client is”.
Many of these photographers are quietly making a nice living from their work and see the photography business as alive as it ever was—different, constantly changing, and more challenging perhaps, but alive nonetheless…
And The Dividing Factor Is…
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or a member of the site, then you won’t need me to tell you which of these two camps my flag is firmly planted in.
However, what interests me the most is what really divides these two groups from one another.
What is it, per se, that separates a professional photographer in the “doom and gloom” camp from someone in the “the future looks bright” group?
I believe the answer can be boiled down to one simple word:
We all have one and it’s subject to change at a moment’s notice—it’s just a matter of whether it’s predominantly negative or positive.
Of course, it goes deeper than that, and I’ve looked in detail at each of these two camps.
What I find (not surprisingly) is that those who believe in the end of days for professional photography are the very same photographers who don’t believe in investing in their own personal development, marketing and business education (unless it happens to be free).
They’re also the first ones to get defensive and start a flame-war whenever someone tries to point out that such things as “being a professional photographer requires a significant investment in business and marketing knowledge.”
I find this a little ironic, since many of these folk are the same ones telling the rest of us that we need to “evolve and adapt to the new way of doing things, and accept our fate that no one will pay good money for photography any more…”
In the words of one such photographer whose business fell into the black hole, “the days when a photographer could make a living are finished…”
Seriously? How so?
The evidence to the contrary is all around you!
Still Wondering About The Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker?
Rather than send you away full of doom and gloom, ready to put all your camera gear up for sale on eBay, here’s something fun for you. In typical naughty British humor (you’ve been warned 🙂 LoL), here’s a little ditty about the saggar maker’s bottom knocker.
Over To You: Share Your Thoughts And Questions
I would love to get your thoughts, reactions, and questions about the question of “is photography dying as a profession?”
You can share those on this post on the Photography Business and Marketing Facebook page: