The misconception of the pro photography world is that, without their content, publications, blogs, and other companies cannot be successful. They believe that they are in a position of power in an economy that is rapidly doing without them.
True, a decade or plus ago, it was very hard, if not impossible, for a print publication, or an ad agency, or anyone needing visuals to not abide by the rules – and pricing- brought forth by photo agents. It was the Golden Age for those agents and associated photographers and it worked very well . Clients would fight with ten of thousand of dollars to secure an exclusive image, wether it was for a magazine spread or an ad campaign. Why ? There was a limited pool of images controlled by a limited group of companies.
Today, after the arrivals of the corpocrates who dumped images at fixed pricing and the rise of non professional photography, the walls have fallen. For good. Forever. However, most continue to believe that this is a passing storm and that all will return to normal ( at least what they think is normal). Some continue to believe that without their content, businesses cannot function. Some even take a very condescending attitude about it. As if they were sitting on a throne, ignoring the fact that their kingdom is no more.
There is nothing wrong in being proud of one’s business. In fact, it is a requirement. But it is also important to adapt to the changing landscape and if needed, learn a little bit of humility.
The recent valuation ( $3.8 Billion) of Pinterest- a business entirely made of photography of which not one is properly licensed- is a great example. As well as Instagram’s $1 billion sale – also made entirely of non licensed photography and as well as Tumblr’s recent massive acquisition – also a business thriving entirely on non properly licensed photography. In other words, businesses can be extremely successful without ever knocking on the door of a photo agent.
This does that negate the fact that those photo agents do not have incredible content with high value. Rather, it is a confirmation- if needed- of a few new realities :
- There is a huge discrepancy on how photography is being licensed and the needs of the marketplace.
- No one controls the market of photography. The unlimited supply, associated with non enforceable copyright legislation, has made impossible for anyone to be an indispensable supplier of images.There is always a cheaper- if not free- alternative.
- The gates have been cracked, forever. Photography is ubiquitous and it cannot be gated. Believing that your content is exclusive and will remain so is outdated.
- The needs of the marketplace are the needs of the companies supplying them. How people display and consume photography has dramatically changed in the last 5 years. Ignoring it by trying to enforce antiquated licensing rules based on obsolete models is making the content inaccessible and therefore worthless.
The successful agent will quickly recognize that without quick adaptation to market requirements, even the most exclusive,perfectly curated collection of photography is doomed to business failure. It will cease to operate as a closed kingdom that rules on its empire by the threat of ineffective supply embargo. It will cease to view business relationships as a power play and rather seek successful relationships. It will listen to market needs and requirement and response accordingly so that it can build its next kingdom, it’s next empire, on the foundation of intelligent humility.