The world economy, as we all see, is not doing well. Between massive layoffs and the beginning of a deflation trend in the USA, signs are all pointing towards catastrophic changes ahead. what does it mean for the photo industry ? Let take a look and make some predictions.
The first place photo agencies and image buyers are going to save is on what is seen as non essential cost. Trade shows, reunions, festivals, awards, all will see a dramatic cut on attendance. Already National Geographic in the USA and PICTA in Germany have been canceled. Two reasons for this : they will not find sponsors and they will not be able to book enough presence. More shows will follow. The ones probably the most hurt will be photojournalism shows as on both side of the market, creators and users, there is no more money. Visa Pour L’image in Perpignan will certainly will see a huge decline in its attendance, especially from US participants, as the cost of attending is rising every year, with no tangible return. But others, like PACA, or even CEPIC will greatly be impacted , for the same reasons. The only shows that might survive are the ones that get image buyers and sellers together, like Picturehouse. But the attendance might be only local, as everyone else will continue to save on travel cost.
When times get thought, companies tend to rely on their finance department for help. Thus creative management is replaced by bean counting management. For some unknown reason also known as the turtle reaction, they no longer look at what will make them more money but rather what will save them money. This will accelerate the adoption of the subscription base licensing scheme as it makes easier for everyone to manage and budget. Agencies working only with freelancers photographers on a commission basis will try to follow until they realize it is too cost prohibitive. Which will be too late.
Smart businesses will see this as an opportunity, as failing agencies will hit the market for a bargain price. Some will be great opportunities, other will be rotten fruits. Either way, there will be more consolidation.
All image buyers will rush to budget photography. If you though microstock was doing well, wait until 2009. no one will care so much about great photography, or at least no enough to matter. Any image with a good price will do the job. Since more freelance photographers will hit the market after being laid off their staff job, it is not the supply that will lack.
Even assignment and wedding photography will be hurt. First, because companies will reduce their marketing dollars and not feel that a CEO head shot needs a pro, especially with the husband of the marketing VP who is unemployed and has this cool Canon 5 D mark II he bought before being laid off. Others will be happy to do assignment work for free if they can keep the licensing rights.Furthermore, ex newspapers staffers will join the growing ranks of wedding photographers and will slash down prices.
If anyone gets married anymore or hires a photographer.
Than, there is also the looming SAG strike. The SAG is the Screen Actors Guild and every single movie star is a member. 75% of their membership is already out of work so couldn’t care less if they went on strike. That would create havoc on the editorial celebrity world, one of the last healthy places for photography. No more premieres, no more red carpet, no more award shows. Some photo agencies only cover those. It would be a catastrophic blow to them. Others might precipitate their photographers into the street to chase the celebrities, doubling the already overwhelming amount of paparazzi in the streets. Besides the fights amongst them, accident with celebrities will happen and laws will pass.It is already an over saturated market anyway, so prices, like others, will plummet.
Not a pretty picture : There are no safe heavens. There is not one photo agency or publication that will not be tremendously affected by this economy. not one. No one will be able to pull into their degrees to find solutions. The ones that will survive will do so by pure brilliant instinct, by being ingenious and street smart. There are ways to navigate more or less safely.