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.
I am a pro of many years.
At the top of the blog world, the community of stock photo industry analysis is coming from guys who made good money ten years ago shooting content that now comes out of eastern europe as microstock. So now they think that its all over. I don’t think that its all over.
Three points from me short and clear as I can:
1. When online media properties become profit centers for publishers, they will spend more money for better artwork on their sites. They will do this in order look better than their competitors. Stock image agencies will raise prices as they sense that they can get more money for quality images published online.
2. Better artwork is not going to come from microstock, Its going to come from Professionally created RM artwork. I’m not going to talk about microstock here.
3. Inexpensive full color electronic ink readers. They are on the way and I think that they will change the media business- and make more money for better art. When I brought up this point on another industry newsletter, its like I’m the sound of one hand clapping- This is not even that far in the future.
Follow the smart guys. If future prospects are so dim in this business, why did a bunch of Harvard MBA’s
(literally true) buy Getty images?
One last comment from me after my thinking about your comments over the weekend. Should I hide my best artwork because it can be copied? I think thats amateur fear.
I think that real talented artists get brand new ideas all the time, its the continuity of style and craft that gives you legs in this business. I’ve seen Russian copies of my images, so what.
three points or more:
– Microstock production is not from Eastern Europe. That is a fable that is dangerous to beleive in. Some very famous and succesful photographers, and agencies, participate in Microstock. all from the Western Hemisphere.
– Dunno about electronic ink readers being the savior of photography. Media companies will still be in control of the content and up to now, have not shown a lot of love for photography.
– Agree on your point about Getty. we have not heard the end of this.
– Hiding your content: Really, its up to you. It’s just a suggestion.
Thanks for your comments !!
You seem to consider that assignments (more precisely editorial assignments) are an answer to todays problems with stock photography. Take it from me: This market is at least as spoiled as stock.
Guess it is rather time to leave the kitchen than to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
“……….Shoot commission work only and put that in stock. That is how the whole market started anyway and how it will survive…….”
how does that work?
Who would commission work to you and yet allow you to put that into stock ?
Did I miss something here
anycase, thanks for the article. Indeed its something to think about.