It is not what you photograph that matters anymore, it is how you photograph it. It used to be that cameras, processing, access and mostly distribution was the privilege of a few, all nicely rewarded by a comfortable income. This closed “Boy’s Club” had many high level entry barriers . Not so much. Cameras have remain expensive tools, although currently starting to follow Moore’s law. But processing, access and mostly distribution have become so dirt cheap and easy that anyone can join. And because the pie seems to be limited, the photo industry is experiencing a Malthusian moment.
It is not clear yet if the photo licensing business has limit. Like the Universe, it could be expending and we might not be aware of it. yet. We know for a fact that microstock pricing and content, has either brought in or converted thousands upon thousands of new licensing customers. We also know that they are billions upon billions of images on the internet, mostly unlicensed, either by will of their creators or just plainly stolen. And as millions of new web pages are created every day worldwide certainly all containing at least one photograph, we can safely assume that the photo market is expanding.
We just have not, like scientists in space, found our dark matter, or it’s equivalent . How to reach and turn all these usages in paying customers. Sure, we battle the constant threat of the evil empire take-over, also sometimes called Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier or even Google, as they try to manipulate the rules of the universe by making all these images free.
But that is not what this post is about. This is about how photography, that used to mostly about what you shot is becoming more about how you shoot it. It used to be that a news photographer only needed to take pictures of an event to see it published. Since they were practically alone, or were the only ones with a distribution channel, the images were almost guaranteed to be published. Not so much anymore as photography, like our planet, has experience an uncontrollable population growth. There are photographers everywhere, shooting everything, either with cellphones or high end Leica M9’s (who pricing, BTW, is more adequate for a lawyer or Wall Street Ceo than a pro photographer). And, in consequence, there is photogrpahy everywhere too. From Photobucket, to Flickr, via Alamy, Istockphoto, Shutterstock and many many others, the total offering of images must be in the billions. Of everything and nothing. Creating a pool of images probably ten times bigger, and expanding ten times faster, than the user pool.
So, some curiously unamusing professionals have taken to their soap boxes and have either called for rallying behind HD video, Twitter, Facebook, time lapse, HDR in a desperate and futile effort to try and recreate, or protect, what is left of that “Boy’s Club”. They have failed to understand that what is available to a pro is also available to any amateur. There is no salvation in equipment nor in fads. Unless if you sell them.
Even less amusing is how the official photography press continues to embellish this myth with a monthly passion.
So what is the solution ? POV. What was always the tool of any brilliant photographer. Point of View. That is always what any photo editor worldwide is going to look for. Not what camera, lens, or technique is being used but the Point of View of the photographer. It is not so much the access either, as even with exceptional access, one can still make bad images. If you want to license images and make money, then shoot everything with a POV.
It is not Peter Souza’s access, White House staff photographer, that make his images brilliant. It is how he uses it. It is not Annie Liebovitz privileged access to celebrities that makes her images incredible, it’s her point of vue. We could go on and on with examples ( Think Steve McCurry, for example, or HCB, Doisneau, Ernst Haas, Willy Ronis, and so on) of photogrpahers with no privilege acces to our world who have done wonders. Without fancy cameras either, or zoom lenses with built in GPS’s.
So next time you stand in line to listen to some succesful photographers telling you that whatever he is holding in his hand is the key to that elusive “boy’s club” you all so want to be a member off, you turn around and go outside to take some picture. That, and only that will give you access to the most exclusive club on the world where no one can you chase you away from, your own POV club.