There are some that still combat royalty free in what seems to be an unfounded hope that it will disappear. Others that turn a blind eye towards microstock and its user generated content. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Then, there are those who strongly believe that this whole technology thing is just a fad and sticking with the old fashion way of doing business is but the obvious way of doing it.
And all this while, image buyers are having a field trip. More choices, a huge and illogical range of pricing structure, extremely isolated image suplliers competing in tight corners. It is a good time to buy images or rent a photographer. I would even say, it is the best of times. You can get really great images for a bargain these days. The photo industry is so focused on survival rather than growth, on retention rather than expansion, that it has adopted an “any sales is better than nothing” attitude. And that means accepting any prices given to them.
It has also put then in a no investment position. Many agencies or independent photographers do not even want to consider cost saving solutions as they do not feel it is the right time to spend money. They are not willing to analyze their work flow in order to reinvent the rules.
It is quite ironic, since this industry was created by risk takers. From the crazy photographers who picked up a camera in the early 50’s and decided to sell their images to the crazier day dreamers who brought them together and build the first licensing offices. From its inception, the photo industry was lead by wild innovators with a sharp sense of business. The photo industry owes its phenomenal growth to those who chose to do things a different way. To those who did not believe in rules.
Today, its the “copy and save” model. When you introduce anything new in this business, the first question you get: is my neighbors doing it ? or my competitor ? if not, than why should I ? The second is : How much will it cost me ? It is never, ever, how much will I save or better yet, how much more revenue will it generate ? and the final one is always the killer : Can you give me some numbers to prove it ? An example ? I love this one the most because it puts the burden of running the business on the solution provider, not on the business owner.
The underlying thinking is that you do not invest in anything new unless someone else has done it before you and proved its success. In the mean time, you keep with the the status quo and desperately try to protect your business from others. Thus, the “Copy and Save” model.
If NASA had waited for an example to walk on the Moon, we would still be waiting. Do we really think that Apple, who everyone admires, really had accurate projections for its Ipod and Itunes?
Japanese archers never need to check their targets after they shoot arrows : If the movement, the position, the aim and the equipment’s is perfect, the arrow will most certainly hit the bullseye. The outcome is defined at the moment the arrow leaves the bow, not when it hits the target. At the instant the archer lets go the arrow, the outcome is already obvious.
Most business owners wait for the arrow to hit the target to see if they succeeded. They seem to hope that, regardless of their aim, there is some magical interference that will happen in between them releasing their arrow and the bullseye. They repeat it over and over in the hope of scoring a hit. The result, for them, is the justification of their action. They do not realize that the action justifies the result.
The photographers that succeed, and the photo agencies that grow are the ones that constantly innovate and master their tools. The ones that go with the gut feeling and the instinct. The ones that smell good ideas million of miles away and focuses on the benefits, not the costs.
There are great products and solutions on the market right now that can make an agency or photographer highly competitive for the next 5 years. Some have already adopted them and are reaping the benefits of being early adopters.
The rest are still busy waiting for the next industry meeting to see if it is really worth it.