How to Survive as Quality Photography Becomes Less Scarce

When the web first emerged, web design knowledge was a scarce commodity, and developers were able to charge ridiculous amounts of money to create simple websites. Now that everyone and their mother knows how to do simple HTML, you’ll need to learn a lot more and offer something unique to stand a chance in the freelance market.

The exact same thing is happening in the photography industry. As the cost of shooting, printing, and distributing photos goes down, simply knowing how to take “good pictures” is no longer enough.

Marketing guru Seth Godin just published a short, simple, and motivational post on this subject, titled “If you want to get paid for your freelance work“. He writes that freelancers must,

[…] find and lead a tribe, build a base of people who want you, and only you, and are willing to pay for it.

[…] develop both skills and a reputation for those skills that make it clear to (enough) people that an amateur solution isn’t nearly good enough, because you’re that much better and worth that much more.

[…] pick yourself and book yourself and publish yourself and stand up and do your work, and do it in a way for which there are no substitutes.

It’s easy to point at the fact that amateur photographers are willing to shoot for little or no money these days, but the fact is that the whole landscape of the industry is undergoing a massive shift away from scarcity.

Godin’s point is that as scarcity in the industry dies away, freelance photographers who want to survive will need to make themselves the scarce commodity.

If you want to get paid for your freelance work [Seth Godin]

Image credit: Crumpled Cash by

  • Jeremy Madore

    And the best way to make yourself a scarce commodity? Follow up. Near-immediate customer response should be your baseline. Clear communication and solid expectations are standard. Anything less will not survive the cut.

    I will say it as much as I can: Photography isn’t about art – it’s about business and how you handle yourself. Sure, if you have crappy photos it’ll be more difficult to sell them – until you turn it into your own trend… that’s where a good business owner earns his wings.

  • Allen Mowery

    Sure, Godin’s points are all good. But, it just seems like more of what he’s said time and time again. Yes, building a tribe and making oneself a scarce commodity are wonderful bits of advice, but they are an “end,” the means to which he often leaves out. Many of us know the WHAT…we’re looking for the HOW.

  • cb

    No, photography is about exceptional ideas – and most people don’t have them.
    Business is what it ever was – for ordinary people.

  • Mansgame

    It’s simple: Take great pictures and give the customers what they want. I hear so many photographers say “I would never give full hi-res images to customers. They don’t need it”. Well, screw you. They need it, it doesn’t cost you any extra, and the other guys will do it. Just charge for your time and forget about print sales.

  • Eziz

    It all comes down personality, I think. If you are visible and people like you, then they’ll most likely come to you more than once.