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The decline of mediocrity

apples.jpg   There are no absolutes in this business. Fresh young and not so young MBA’s, whether from l’ENA in France or Harvard in the USA have come and gone, and have left nothing behind them besides their rulers and equations, hopelessly ineffective.

There has been so many failed attempts to predict the future of photography that Sisyphus would not feel so alone anymore, if he only knew.

One of the big killer of photography is the sales analysis : The simple belief that what has sold will sell. Not that it is a bad exercise. One should know what image sold and which didn’t. Why ? would be a better analysis but that is much harder to quantify. How many times can you poll your customers before they hate you forever?

But the main reason it kills photography is that it makes a good case for repeats. It takes the logic of “it has sold therefore it well sale” to a scientific level. It assumes that there is a pattern to photo sales and that the market evolves according to some natural rule.

There is safety in numbers, or a sense of. Analyzing Excel spreadsheets with lots of tiny numbers spread throughout rows and columns makes for a good afternoon of hard work. And creates more and more images of computer keyboards and handshakes. But certainly does nothing to generate better images.

What frequently happens is that the thinking then proceeds in a vicious thought patterns that assumes that if you create more of the same and increase the price, you will be successful. Which, to make things worst, could happen to be true.

But really, if one would think hard and strong about who and why images are sold across the spectrum, one would notice something immediately.There is no pattern. And there is no projection to be done. There are so many non quantifiable variables that it is more an exercise in stupidity.

The logic of photography is talent. The one and only rule, the golden rule, the magic number, is creative talent. And this is where mediocrity fails.

It is really not hard to take pictures. And if it still is, the camera manufacturers are doing a hell of a good job of making sure it will not be. More and more people are taking good pictures. I am always amazed at the quality of images I see on Flickr. While some seem to be “accidents”, the majority are well thought. Same goes with Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Istockphoto, Fotolia and others. And this without counting on the emergence of independent professional photographers, finally finding their voice through portals such as PhotoShelter and DigitalRailroad. And now, they will also compete with agencies while setting their own prices.

Since they have no 50% or other fees than to pay themselves, there is a very good chance that they will price themselves, in the majority, much lower than agency pricing. And they will conquer their place in the photo world. Probably in a price point between Microstock and Agencies.

The first to loose in this competition is mediocrity. Bad images will stop selling because there will be an unbelievable amount of choice. Therefore, mass production bean counters will suffer greatly, more than their our now, at least. These are the first ones to complain about the emergence of new sources of content. They are already screaming, winning and emitting vocalized sounds that they would like to be the trumpets of the apocalypse.

But we should rejoice. More content means more great images. More great images means that the competition will finally go back to a level which it should have never left: quality. Great images, compelling images, genius, pure talent, art. A Mark Seliger or James Natchwey among many others have no fear of Microstock. For two reasons, they take incredibility great images and they have branded themselves. Commercial stock photographers, who have long lived in the shadows of their agencies should do the same. But that is a whole different topic already covered very well by AGE.

So let the competition begin and let us great images.

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