The Popping Camera Bubble

Over the course of the last several days, a conversation has been happening in the NAPP forums regarding the “photography bubble”.  I am calling it this because just like the tech boom, the housing bubble, and other historical events, the photography industry seems to be having something of an adjustment in recent weeks and months.  Have you noticed it too?

It’s happening in many communities, workshops, seminars, and other such events where participation has dropped considerably.  From what I understand of things, communities everywhere are seeing marked drops in the active member rolls.  Many colleagues who teach workshops and seminars have also noticed a drop-off in attendance and interest.  The economy is certainly having an impact on the disposable income of many enthusiast photographers.  But it’s not just that…

Even the Worldwide Photo Walk, which only two years ago drew crowds that maxed out four different locales around Denver (at 50 participants per walk) is now barely cresting the 100 member count among only three active ones.  The downtown Denver one is maxed out for 16th Street Mall, but the Louisville one and the Boulder one still have several openings.  Know what the requirements for these are?  Nothing!  They’re free!

All you need is a camera.  It can be a camera from your phone!  It can be a film camera!  A pen camera, or even a pinhole camera would be enough to go out and take photos with.  Yet the attendance has dropped more than 50% from a mere two years ago.  Probably the biggest indicator for me is the amount of Meetup activity.  Leaders and managers for photo walks are not as active, and walks are getting fewer people.

So that means attendance at free sessions has even waned to less than 50% of where it was even two years ago.What happened?  Now a lot has changed between now and two years ago.  Economic times are harder…I get that big time!  But a larger trend is occurring in photography, and I think we should be standing up to take notice.  Why?

I suspect a certain degree of market saturation has happened, believe it or not.  Many people have hung out shingles.  There’s been so many workshops, seminars, and conferences held – everyone believing that there is an infinite desire to learn from anyone wiling to teach, lead, or share.  While the capacity to learn is endless, the capacity of the market to sustain an infinite amount of instruction is likely not sustainable.

The market has peaked!  Just like the tech bubble of the 80’s, the housing bubble of the 90’s, and even (as a friend put it in the forums) the CB radio bubble of the 70’s, the bubble has burst.  People are starting to hang up their hats, cameras, and photo gear.  Many have said “enough is enough”, and simply just don’t have the time, energy, or interest to sustain their habits, creative endeavors, and SOHO businesses in photography.  The market waxes and wanes, and the time to wane has come to pass…

It’s kind of sad to one degree, because it’s never easy to sustain a creative vision or energy in a shrinking market.  Monetizing that vision is even more difficult because the almighty dollar has been stretched to capacity – and as a result, I suspect that as the dust starts to settle in the coming weeks and months, many will have stopped their craft.  As I said, a sad thing, but lest we all be concerned that our own craft will die, or go silent, it’s times like these that we must muster the energy, motivation, and vigor to continue on.  Not necessarily unimpeded, but at least try to continue…it’s those that continue through the best and the worst of times that will be more successful in the long run!

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What kind of indicators have you seen that the market for photography, and photo education has seen a peak?  Has your own interest or ability to participate waned in recent weeks and months?  What trends have you seen in your own market and demographic with regard to the photo community?

10 thoughts on “The Falling Photo Bubble

  1. a fact is a fact, the market is going down. there are many cameras sold every year, but people think, that is the only thing they need to take good photos. They think, it depends only the quality of their hardware. They dont want to spend some money for the courses, or even a good book. It is a shame, but that is the recent situation. i would prefer some eco-friendly courses, without expensive dslr cameras. people could make their own camera obscura-s, and make experiments with them. the could then understand the behavior of the light better, i think.

  2. I’m finding it very hard to find classes, I’ve been teaching myself photography for awhile now. I do learn better in a class environment and the feedback is very important. I signed up for several college credit and non-credit classes only to have them cancelled due to lack of participation. Finally I am in a class, a beginner class that is mostly too easy for me but it was all I could get. Don’t even get me started on the lack of Lightroom classes that don’t cost over 400 bucks for one full day, lucked out and found two four hour classes for under 80.00 at a college over an hour away from me. I’ll take it though and happily.

  3. I’m in several meetup groups, and have noticed that the organizers just don’t want to run meetups anymore. I don’t know if others have offered to take over, but it’s that way in several groups. Even in 2 new groups (new=last 6 months), the organizers ran 1 meetup, but that’s it. I think people start something, expect it to be easy, and then don’t want to finish it when it’s hard or takes time.

    PS. I had to pull out of the Louisville walk b/c I’m shooting Endurocross that evening, and didn’t want to pay twice for babysitters. I’m bummed about it, but won’t get anything decent with my 3 year old tagging along.

    1. No worries Michelle,totally understand. Although, you do know kids are welcome too…right? 🙂

      1. Yeah..even if I put him in the stroller, he wouldn’t stay for long, and it’s impossible to shoot with him. Although I’ll think about it, might be fun.

        1. The entire walk is only about 30-45 minutes even taking your time. The whole idea was to go light this year – a short walk, meet n greet over a beverage and/or a bite, then get on with your day. Just some food for thought…

          1. Is it stroller friendly? That’d be the only way I could shoot anything. Hmmm….tempting… I’ll re-sign back up and play it by ear!

  4. I think another reason that participation in photographic workshops has lessened is that when people are worried, they simply cannot be creative. It kind of goes along with the hierarchy of needs that we all learn in psychology 101. First, we need food, shelter, etc then, we need creativity, at the top of that hierarchy. When people are worried about their jobs, their homes and being able to provide basics for their families in these uncertain economic times, creativity simply takes a backseat until those needs are fulfilled or that there is certainty that they can/will be fulfilled. Only then can the human animal want to fill a need to focus on a creative endeavor. The mind is then free from worry and can exist on that higher plane to make art.

  5. I used to attend at least one workshop per year but I just don’t feel the need any longer. My learning is now done online with subscription based training. I also have become disillusioned because some of the workshops were a total waste of money. Good photographers are not always good teachers. The best workshop I attended was presented by a school teacher turned professional photographer. There is going to be a shakeout in the business and it will actually be good for the consumer. Be the person to provide the consumer with value and your business will survive while the others fall to the wayside.

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