We all know the importance of photography, whether it’s journalism’s role in changing the world to a wonderful moment captured of someone’s special day. As photographers, we value our craft and the importance it has in our lives. But the market is valuing it less and less. Why is that? What is happening?
Bear with me on this analogy, but photography is like water. Without water, we wouldn’t be here. It’s one of the most valuable resources on this Earth. But for some reason, it’s cheap. That’s because it’s abundant. It’s everywhere and accessible to almost everyone, which drives down the cost and value of it. Much like photography today.
Just because you value something doesn’t mean the market values it the same. The consumer dictates what is in demand and what is valuable. That’s hard to hear but its true.
When was the last time you paid for someone to take your portrait? Or even better, when was the last time you knew someone else that paid for a photography service outside of weddings and commercial needs? It’s very rare these days because the profession isn’t needed as much anymore. Creating a photograph is cheap and easily accessible with digital photos and smartphones. Everyone now has a camera in their pocket.
So what am I saying? What’s with all this doom-and-gloom pessimistic view of photography? I’m definitely not a romantic living in the past, thinking about the good old days and the way it was. Memories don’t keep the lights on or put food on the table.
What I am saying is that times are changing, and as photographers, we need to change with the times to meet the demands and needs of our customers in new markets, be it art buyers to corporate headshots or social media consultants — insert new job title here. The need for photographs isn’t changing or going away, but the need for professional photographers is.
Many of us are playing the cheaper price game to stay afloat, which is just a race to the bottom. Or playing the Instagram influencer clone game. For myself, I’m going down the fine art print path. High-end, one-off prints, signed and handmade in the darkroom along with a workshop here and there.
Remember: it’s not the customer’s responsibility to give a company work or a freelancer a job. It’s yours for not innovating and evolving to stay in demand. Staying the same is a sure way to go extinct. You don’t see many large corporate fax, postage, video rental, or CD stores anymore. That’s because the demand for their products and services is no longer needed or wanted by consumers. Something faster and cheaper has taken their place.
It’s up to you to find out what the new demand is and to fufill it. Ask yourself: what can you do that no one else can? What can you do that can’t be learned on the Internet? Or at the very least, what can you offer that no one else can do in your area? Specializing is the key.
Like I said, photography is like water. The world still needs it, but abundance drives down cost and price. Why would your customer pay for a photographer when their cell phone can do just as good a job from the customer’s perspective, and for much less? Why pay for a chef to cook you dinner at home when you have a perfectly good kitchen and the skills yourself?
The answer is: an experience. Think about this: What can you offer that turns water into wine?
About the author: A.B Watson is a New Zealand photographer based in Auckland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, head over to his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.
Image credits: Water photo by Linus Nylund