Are Pro Photographers Going Extinct?

StrayCat 14 19.1k 3 Canada
14 Jan 2018 7:10AM

This youtube video was made 11 months ago, so it's fairly up-to-date. Imo, it does a good job of describing the state of pro photography at this time, and where it might be heading. I have noticed that many nature photographers are doing instructional work now instead of selling their photos. It's scarey where stock photography is today, although a few photographers doing stock may do alright now and then. How can you live on 25 cents or less for your photos? Also, other avenues of revenue seem to be drying up. Equipment is getting outrageously expensive, increasing a pro's overhead, whilst revenue is dropping, sad situation for those who hope to make a decent living from their camera; some may even find it difficult to make a monthly payment on kit.

I found the comments on this video interesting as well. Several more videos I've watched recently back up this one, some of them done by pros who one time made up to $250,000 for a single wedding, but now find themselves making these sponsored videos for a living.

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Dave_Canon 12 1.4k United Kingdom
14 Jan 2018 10:42AM
Some of the professional photographers who have visited my club used to make a living from selling images, books and lectures but can no longer do so. One of them was a serious wildlife photographer who made enormous efforts to capture wildlife in the wild but was being displaced by photographers who took photographs in controlled locations so many of the animals were tame or semi-tame. Eventually this professional started arranging photography holidays in these same places as it was the only way that he could continue to make a living from "wildlife" photography. It is the same with landscape photography in that you now book a photography holiday and the professional photographer tells you where to place your tripod and what camera settings to use; virtually everything other than press the shutter. Of course all of these professionals who provide these services learnt their profession the hard way but how will those following learn the skills.

I have been happy with photography as a hobby and have never wanted to be a professional photographer and nor do I try to take work from the profession.

saltireblue Plus
8 8.4k 33 Norway
14 Jan 2018 10:46AM
Haven't watched all of the video, Denny, but I see the same trends happening here in Norway. There is a national online marketplace for buying & selling, and it includes a Small Jobs section where people can advertise to have any kind of service done - from photography to removals, painting name it.
People who want the job then respond and the job advertiser chooses one candidate based on recommendations from previous tasks performed, price, etc.
Photography is a popular job to advertise. Usually private people looking for wedding togs, portraiture, events, property for sale. People aren't looking for pros, but good amateurs, hobby photographers, photography students. Your profile as 'job-seeker' included a portfolio of your work so people can see what level you are at.
Price-wise, I would say that most jobs are pitched at 50% or less of what a pro would charge.
On a Norwegian photo forum, the pros complain about their livelihood being stolen from them by amateurs willing to do the job for peanuts, thus destroying the established 'pricing tables' that they adhere to.
Why should you pay NOK 20K for a job that a decent amateur will do for NOK 5K? People aren't really taking a risk as they can see your portfolio and read previous comments on your work.
Euan65 Plus
1 316 United Kingdom
14 Jan 2018 11:13AM
Technology is obviously the thing killing off the pro photographer.

Very high end gear is "reassuringly expensive" and out of the reach of most, but pretty good cameras can be had for not much money these days. Everyone has a mobile phone and pretty much every phone has a camera. Phone cameras are good enough for posting on social media, which seems to be the modern photo album. And those modern cameras, whether bridge, DSLR, compact or even phone, can do almost everything for the user so there is much less need to learn the skills than previously. Obviously a skilled pro can get more out of them than the average user, but there's much less in it these days.

So why pay someone a chunk of money to do something you can do yourself almost as well?
thewilliam2 1 983
14 Jan 2018 12:02PM
Much the same thing happened in the pre-press industry a few years back.

In the good 'ol days, reprographics was a highly skilled art and the closed-shop meant that many tasks were restricted to those who were members. The majority of publications wouldn't accept artwork, even for an ad, unless it had the NGA sticker on the back.

Then Quark came along and successive versions became easier to use and cheaper. When Aldus Pagemaker was taken into the Adobe stable and "marketed", it seemed that everybody could design their own publications.

End users didn't seem to know or care whether the results were good or bad, which brings us neatly to photography. When I started photography, back in 1956, it took considerable technical skill to make a good picture. Now it's virtually impossible to get a "bad" picture, even with with the cheapest entry-level Nikon, provided the user doesn't interfere with the factory settings. The technical quality isn't much different from that given by a "pro" camera unless we're working at the margins. Even a phone can yield a good picture!

Now that everybody can be a photographer, the professional has to do something that the ordinary punter can't even hope to match. That means that the high-end professional is safe for now, but they're going hungry at the fag-end of the market.
Philh04 Plus
13 1.9k United Kingdom
14 Jan 2018 12:09PM
I spent the large part of my professional photographic career photographing extinct species, sadly I seem to be going the same way now Tongue

Not really sure if I am ready to become extinct mind you...Wink

I can be confident though that not many are able to carry out that work....
14 Jan 2018 12:14PM
'Good enough' is slowly killing off everthing and the Smartphone has won.
And yet it's a great time in many ways with fantastic new cameras, lenses and software. Which means it's far easier to obtain acceptable results without a deep knowledge and skill set.

But I think there will always be a place for quality for those who are more discerning and are prepared to pay extra for a skilled professional.
And in most cases the pro will do a much better job and faster especially when using more complex and demanding lighting set-ups.
In the end, it's that experience, vision and skill that your paying for.

I'm a graphic designer by trade and in this sector making a decent living has also become increasingly difficult but I'm still plugging away and doing ok.

DaveRyder Plus
4 2.7k 1 United Kingdom
14 Jan 2018 1:10PM
Not going extinct but adapting.

As William says above, other sectors have had this.

I've worked in Laboratories for 43 years now and the skill set is now very different to when I started, in many ways driven by technology.

I've worked in the same lab for the last 41yrs. When I started as an Analyst (age 18 in 1977) I was part of a 50/60 group of staff within the QA Lab of a commodity chemical facility. As Manager in 2018 I have 10 staff, doing about the same volume of work.

We didn't go extinct we adapted and reduced numbers. Oh yes and saw pressure on salary relevant to other roles.

There will always be a need for Photographers but in a different way, and yes likely at lower cash value.
filmforever 10 762
14 Jan 2018 1:13PM
I saw this coming and got out of the profession about 10 years ago. One of my former colleagues who's worked in a number of war zones, summed it up when he said; "Why should I go (back to a war zone) risking my life, when the Paper's prepared to use mediocre smartphone pics sent in by locals for free"? It's the same with TV news channels; they want viewers to send in their pics., but they don't want to pay for them.
Do the mugs who send in stuff for free realise that on the occasion they might get a good picture, it could be syndicated in the worldwide media, making money for the TV company, but nothing for the photographer?

I predict that when all newspapers eventually become "web only" and print editions are a thing of the past, they will dispense entirely with their staff photographers, relying on "sent in" pictures.....after all with pictures on a small screen they quality doesn't have to be particularly good.

With today's managements, photographers have become little more than disposable items on a Company balance sheet.
thewilliam2 1 983
14 Jan 2018 1:24PM
Do newspapers have any staff photographers left to fire?
filmforever 10 762
14 Jan 2018 1:37PM
Very few, compared to 20-30 years ago....It's all about "cost-cutting" these days. Not just photographers, but whole departments within newspapers have gone. People replaced with AppleMacs. Some newspapers now have more (sometimes non-English speaking) "security guards" than they do staff photographers!
saltireblue Plus
8 8.4k 33 Norway
14 Jan 2018 1:40PM

Quote:Do newspapers have any staff photographers left to fire?

Here, all the local and districts papers have laid off all photographers and the reporters have to take their own pictures to accompany their articles...some are pretty good togs, but you can see those who are not as much at home with a camera as they are with a pen...
filmforever 10 762
14 Jan 2018 6:26PM

Quote:Do newspapers have any staff photographers left to fire?

Here, all the local and districts papers have laid off all photographers and the reporters have to take their own pictures to accompany their articles...some are pretty good togs, but you can see those who are not as much at home with a camera as they are with a pen...

The sad fact is, local & regional newspapers have largely been taken over by large corporations with their eye on profit margins rather than producing a quality product.
Where local papers still exist as a genuine reflection of the community, you find they are probably family owned concerns where there is a genuine attempt to serve the local area.
However, how long they will be able to function from a financial point of view is uncertain.
14 Jan 2018 6:29PM

Quote:It's all about "cost-cutting" these days. Not just photographers, but whole departments within newspapers have gone.

Quote from the following linked article
Quote:Conflict photography has never been more dangerous. Since 1992, 1,197 journalists have been violently killed trying to do their job. In 2015, that figure stood at 109. As major news publications close down their foreign bureaus, they rely more and more on independent photographers working without the backing of a large organisation and on a shoestring budget. And, as we saw with the death of the British journalist Marie Colvin in Syria, journalists are now targeted as enemy combatants.

The camera is not a shield: life and death of a war photographer
lemmy 11 2.7k United Kingdom
14 Jan 2018 7:57PM
I know photographers who are doing very well and others who have fallen by the wayside. The best explanation I know was an observation of Steely Dan's Donald Fagin. He said there were two types of musicians. One could work his instrument, the other could play it. With photographers, it is the button pusher who has fallen by the wayside while the creative types are thriving.

The stock field isn't as bad as as it seems. If you just upload odds and ends, you'll get low prices but if you look at the market and shoot accordingly, there's money there. Not a living probably but most of my sales are between $50 and $150. It's not a lot and not that frequent but enough to make the little effort entailed worthwhile.

With stock or video or editorial or wedding work you have to be able to do it better than a person with their mobile phone. When I see some of the wedding photographers around, taking thousands of pictures in the hope of getting something usable I'm not surprised they are going out of business. On the other hand, my nephew, when he got married recently, paid over 2,000 for the photography. He researched carefully and got exactly what he hoped for, an imaginative and lively record of the couple's big day. I'm assuming that that young woman is making a good living as she deserves.

Newspapers have been dropping photographic departments for years. The papers are in dire straits with plummeting circulations and the average reader doesn't give a monkey's about the pictures, so papers have concluded, correctly, unfortunately, that a snapshot on a phone will do. Or even a screen grab from Google maps in some cases. And since more and more people view on line nowadays, a mobile phone is perfectly adequate technically for the job. It's very sad to me, personally, having done my 3 year apprenticeship on a local paper that had 11 staffers who trained me. Who trains anyone now?

On the other hand, change is inevitable and necessary and needs to be embraced. I've found that it throws up far more opportunity than it stifles. As they say, in Chinese the word for crisis and opportunity the same.

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