What’s the Deal With…

…the Camera anymore?

Canon 40D

I mean, seriously…everyone has one, and any schmuck out there with a phone has the ability to capture some image that can get picked up by the AP for mere cents.  Photography is no longer a business model people get into for the profit margin.  The profit margin in photography is horrible!  Unless you are famous (and how do you get famous anyway?  Why does everyone think they’re entitled to their “15 minutes of fame”?  It’s this sense of entitlement that just blows my mind.  You’re not “entitled” to anything! You gotta work for it, and want it BAD.

And what if you do work for it and want it bad?  Does that mean anyone else will want to buy your photo?  Nine times out of ten, these days, people will likely say “Cool, I can go do that now with my iPhone or Galaxy!”  Of course, they never do, but the intrinsic value of the photograph seems to have been demeaned.  It’s there for an instant and it’s gone.  Big whup if you spent hours, days, weeks, months, or years doing selfies of your hair growing, getting cut, shaving, getting older and posting it all together on YouTube.  People see it and move on to the next time lapse.  Where is the return on your investment?  It’s zilch – zero – nada!

But, what if you do work for it, want it badly, and by some stroke of luck, someone else wants to buy one of your photos from you?  How much do you charge?  Is it belittling your investment of time, years in the craft, your gear, your hours of blood sweat and tears to charge only $10 for an 8×10″ print?  Or, are you pricing yourself out of the reach of that one person that wants to buy your image by saying “That’ll be $150 please…”

And let’s say you do work for it, want it badly, someone else wants to buy it, and you still are able to get that $150 price tag! First off, congratulations…because you’ve passed 99% of the other photographers out there in your drive, motivation, and sense of keen marketing at finding a buyer. That’ll cover one tenth of a root canal these days (if you have dental coverage).

Time to spend another ten years in blood, sweat, and tears to make another photo that someone will pay $150 before you can get the rest of that tooth taken care of.  Who wants to deal with that?

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3 comments for “What’s the Deal With…

  1. Scott
    at

    I’m with ya. It seems to be the state of the arts… I can’t help but think that the same thing goes through the mind of that “starving artist” painting portraits or caricatures at art fairs. I spent all this time for this? Maybe someone will buy one of them and I’ll be “discovered” for all the other art that I do.

    I’ve managed to find a niche in architectural photography that someone will pay me for. I love it. I went to school for architecture. It’s a great application of the things I love to do, photography and architecture.

    The one thing I probably love more is sports photography. (I know, obvious combination…sports and architecture, right?) But the economic opportunities in sports photography are extremely limited. People always say “I’d love to have that job”. Until they find out no one pays me to do it. I’m dependent upon a sports editor somewhere hopefully selecting my image for their needs. It happens. Not often enough, but it is the one thing I would probably do for nothing. Don’t ask me why. I have a hard time explaining it myself. I have managed to catch the eye of a few though. Enough to get 3 of my images on the covers of Sports Illustrated. I guess that keeps you coming back. For the golfer a out there, it’s like that frustrating round of golf that you swear will end your participation in the game. And then you hit that perfect drive on 18 and drop the second shot next to the pin. It’s always enough to keep you coming back.

    Sorry to take up all this space. But, it’s my 2 cents worth.

  2. Walter
    at

    Why the rant? The way I see it is that there are still a large number of photographers making a living as photographer. Sure, some becoming educators, book writers, etc. I would say that a fairly young person (which I am no longer) who wants to work as a photographer, will find a way but just because a lot of us can take pretty/interesting/etc. pictures now, process them, etc., doesn’t mean that we have a product.

    One either photographs what’s needed (advertising, corporate, wedding, etc.) or one dabbles in art (HDR, filters, B&W, etc.). The former will get paid (hopefully), the latter will hope for buyers … or create a world and aura around them which will increase their market value (see Trey Ratcliff).

    Before, during the analog (good old?) days, the initial and ongoing investment in gear and an expertise in craftsmanship might have limited the number of photographers in a more natural way, now that everybody can afford a good to excellent camera, limitations come from the surplus in the marketplace …

    But of course this avalanche of image material had and has an inflationary effect on photography, its perceived value and the price structure. We all know that there is no turning back and today might still be better than tomorrow, so why the rant?

  3. at

    Oh, I should have read this one first before your part 2. Heh, go figure I went in the wrong order.

    I don’t think you ranted at all in this one. Pretty much, you’re spot on and honest about it. I closed the doors to my studio and gallery work a year ago now. And I’ve refocused outside of photography to earn a living. Sure, I still shoot, and sure I get requests from publications regularly. But what they want to pay today with the flood of free images to choose from is peanuts. So, they go with the free or cheap stock.

    Where I lived in Arizona might be a unique market. I found myself competing with over 25 “studios” in one town, most of which were charging $50 for a one hour portrait session, and selling prints at $5 to $10 each, with disks included occasionally. And potential clients wanted me to match those prices. You can’t make a living that way, not at all.

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