Photographers: Finding New Clients, Not Gear, Is Biggest Challenge in 2013


In late 2012, Photoshelter surveyed around 5,000 photographers to find out the industries outlook on 2013. Some of the findings were pretty interesting.

The chart above shows the top challenges the photographers think they’ll face in 2013. Only 10% of those who responded were worried about gear-related issues. People don’t seem to be having a hard time finding the right equipment to use for their shoots — it’s the business-side of the photography business that’s weighing photogs down.

The most worried-about thing is the task of finding new clients — something 74% of photographers said was their top challenge.

In terms of investing money in their photography, 93% of photographers said they will be shelling out dough in 2013. Here’s a breakdown showing where that money will be going:


Even though finding the right gear isn’t a concern for most photographers, 63% of respondents said they will still be dropping their hard earned cash on new equipment this year.

Workshops and courses geared toward improving your photography and business are apparently very in-demand these days.

How about the issue of marketing? How do photographers plan to get their work and their brand out there in order to attract prospective clients? Two of the biggest things this year are word-of-mouth marketing and social media (i.e. networking and personal connections are huge):


73% of the photographers will be using Facebook to promote their business this upcoming year. You might want to think about setting up an account there if you’re looking for a new marketing channel in 2013.

If you’d like to delve deeper into how professional photographers are feeling about 2013, Photoshelter has released detailed findings of the survey as a PDF. You can pick up a free copy here in exchange for your email address.

P.S. Here’s another interesting graphic in the survey results, showing the primary and secondary specialties the survey’s photographers are involved in:


  • Cameron Bashaw

    I diversify my freelance work but even then finding business is still priority 1 and the biggest challenge I face. Whether it’s photography, video productio, music production, composing, etc. I think we’re all in the same boat.

  • Zos Xavius

    and the market just gets more and more crowded!

  • WickedPotato

    Finding new clients is hard in an industry where there are more and more photographers every year. It’s saturated with photographers and only the best get the clients. Supply and demand.

    Because of this, many of the photogs from my camera club had to quit wedding/event photography for a normal job. Photography is now just a hobby for them. They complain that there are too many photographers and it’s too easy for anyone to become one. Cameras and lens are getting better every year and it’s a lot easier to shoot a wedding/event now than it was 5, 10, or even 20 years ago. Because of this, photography is what they say, “made too easy”.

    I noticed that it is generally the older ones, especially the ones from the film days, who go out of business. They have many reasons to blame, but I find that they are not as willing to learn as the younger & newer photogs and somewhat more defensive. Old photogs mistaken their many years of experience as skill. Because of this, they don’t feel the need to learn because they “know enough already”.

  • DamianM

    Learn what exactly?
    there 30 years ahead of the younger digital crowd.

    The over saturation is the problem, not the inability to learn.

  • Allen

    I have to agree with this. We had local photographer in his 50s who shot 80 weddings in 2007 to 12 weddings in 2008. He’s out of business now. His work in 2008 looked like a newb photographer now, and he was considered the cream of the crop locally back then. Times have changed and you gotta keep up.

  • Allen

    Photography went from a skill to an art very quickly because digital made it so easy to catch mistakes. You don’t have to be as careful and deliberate now. It’s just plain easier, and you can’t get by with *just* being a technically competent photographer like you used to.

  • WickedPotato

    That’s exactly what many of the old photogs say. But being 30 years ahead of the digital crowd doesn’t entitle you to clients if your work is is below par. Clients care more about your photos more than your years of experience.

    We don’t have anyone with 30 years experience at our club. The closest is around 20-25 years. The problem is that their standard is too low. Their photos looked great back then, but in today’s standard, it’s not very good. The poses are dated and compositions are bland. They go to the same spot for the same shot and are appalled when clients say they don’t like that.

    There’s a lot they can learn, such as off-shoe lighting, more contemporary composition/poses, etc. The biggest one of all is postprocessing which most struggle with. Luckily, they’re really good at getting the exposure spot on so that they can get away with little retouching. And thanks to Lightroom, they can buy presets to mimic the look that clients want without any knowledge in Photoshop.

    You are right that they it is not their inability to learn. They are very capable of learning – they just need to stop saying they “know enough already”. Blaming the crowded market is a poor excuse for not improving.

  • Zos Xavius

    Post processing has made portrait shooting far more involved than it ever was with film. Now everyone retouches faces extensively, something that was formerly only done by publications before photoshop came along. Too many people go out and buy a dslr and think that they can go pro with no basic knowledge of how photography even works. I feel bad for the old timers that couldnt adequately adapt. I see it time and time again locally here. Some people just can not get out of the same routines.

  • Swade

    Sorry, but over saturation is a problem in most job sectors at the moment. That is not the problem, but an obstacle.

  • Erwin

    I am writing my thesis on how the (Swedish) photography market is changing due to the influence of new ICTs, this article gives some first insights, thanks!

  • Rodrigo Blanco

    What is ICT? Thanks.

  • Erwin

    I know the term ICTs (information and communication technologies) is too vague and it needs a better definition. But I decided to wait with making a definition until my pilot study is finished. However, when I say ICT think social media, think mobile phone camera’s, think FlickR, think smart camera, think technologies that make the market easier to enter.

  • Zos Xavius

    disruptive technologies :)

  • Michael Dorausch

    Great discussion! I’m in the category of new photographers, and while it may annoy the folks that have been in the field a long time, I’m not finding getting contacted about work too difficult (but I have a day job), only challenge is what can I get accomplished at my skill level. Got my first billboard up on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood just this month thanks to being found online by an ad agency.

  • Scott

    Really there is an oversaturation of Mechanics, Doctors, Electricians?