The future of photography is exclusive content. Not exclusive as in no one else wants to shoot this, otherwise called “niche” photography. No, no. Niche photography is just exactly that : a specialized market. And with specialized comes limited.
When photography was still film, print and slide, no one could really copy as they could not see what you had shot. As digital distribution came to become a standard, other photographers saw what was being offered, and said :”hey, I can shoot that”. They invented Royalty Free. As broadband became more and more available, individuals saw royalty free and rights managed and said ” hey, I can shoot that”. And microstock was invented.
The pricing of images became inversely proportional to the volume created. The more created, the least costly.
Sure, some did some variation on images. But they only tapped on the variation of the market. Which is never much. Others came out with some new ideas, quickly replicated by the thousands by diverse photographers worldwide.
Others decided that the only way to keep some value was to get content hard for others to copy. Like exploding volcanoes, or deep underwater photography. Or rain forest insects. and get really specialized at that. Problem is, that is also not a big market.
So what is the solution? Do video? doubtful. we will see the same trend quickly in video. actually microstock have already invaded video before it got mainstream and beat the traditional RM and RF companies to it. Forget it.
First, stop shooting stock. The market is not there anymore. well, not for pros. Shoot commission work only and put that in stock. That is how the whole market started anyway and how it will survive. why? because commission will give you access to places, or people that are not available to the common mortal. It will also create images that are specific to a need that no one else has thought about. why ? well, because if they had, they would have used stock instead of hiring you.
Once you have that content, sell it well and hard. Do not drop it in the dollar bin. Those images will be your calling cards, both for stock and for more assignments. Yes, you are expensive, but your are also very good.
Second, do not copy. If you have an idea, look to see if it has been done. If it has, drop it. Move on. be creative.
Third, stop looking at your sales report. They tell you what sold, not what will sell. and while you are at it, stop reading those creative intelligence papers. If you read it, thousands of other photographers have too. What is the point ?
Go to workshops to learn how and what NOT to shoot. Same as above. Learn to be a loner.
Dis-learn: Forget all the rules, regulations, obligations, conditions, and other “…ions” that are stuffed in your head. Each one is another rope to your creativity.
Dis connect: Your computer screen is more a distraction than anything else. If you don’t have one, get a smart phone for those important emails and use that. On top of being a distraction, it can lead very quickly to a “groupthink” mentality . Its not a good crowd to hang out with.
Do not offend. If your images are offensive in any way, they will never be used for commercial purpose, and less and less for editorial. If you want to shock people, do it with beauty, talent and art. Beautiful sells, sometimes much better than sex.
Be emotional : too many photographers, in an attempt to be as generic as possible in order to be attractive to the biggest market, create blend, lifeless images. Be as emotional as humanly possible. The more your images generates emotions in its viewers, the better. But do not shock, or repulse. Reach for the happy, good emotions.
Hide your best work. Only your clients should see it. no one else.
Do not share or post your techniques. You will only be popular with the ones that have no imaginations. Like leeches, they feed on others knowledge.
Never, ever ask for the opinion of another photographer. If its good, they will copy you, if it’s bad, they won’t tell you.
Do not think volume. One image will not compensate for the other. The more scarce your work, the more valuable. You are not a factory, after all.
Do not beleive there is a “secret”. There is none. That’s the secret.
Work on the process, not the result. If the process is perfect, the result will be.
Do not equip yourself too much. Talent is not measure by the numbers of lenses or gizmos you carry. Actually, the less you carry, the more you can concentrate on your images.
In other words, be exclusive. Make your content unique and keep it so.