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  1. #1
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    Unhappy Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Hello everyone,

    I was wanting to call attention to several things that I think is killing professional photography as a business and will potentially destroy it unless something major is done. To give you a background on what I've done in photography, I specialize in auto racing photography and have done it on a local level for almost seven and half years. I'm currently doing two local race tracks one on Friday nights and the other on Saturday nights. Many people seem to like my photos and think I"m right there with the top photographers in NASCAR. Also in years past I had fair to fairly good print sales (back in years 05,06, and 07). But in recent years especially last year and this year, my sales have decreased greatly even to the point I've walked out several nights with nothing. From what I've observed this decrease in sales is from three things, one, from the downturn in the economy, two, from people 'stealing' my images off of web sites, and three, from the popularity of point-and-shoot digital cameras and cell phone cameras. If it's ok, let me briefly expand on these three issues.

    Issue number one, the economy, used to in years past race teams, race fans, and family members of race drivers would buy prints from me quite often and they would not only go for personal use but in the case of the race teams buying, they would go to many of their corporate sponsors or to potential corporate sponsors that were looking to have their company name on a race car. Well since the economy has taken turns for the worse that demand has decreased somewhat but is still there but it does without a doubt, hurt photo sales alone, but as I go on, that's just one of three potentially fatal shots to the photography business. Reason number two, since I am required by the owners of the local race tracks to provide them with photos for their web sites in order to keep shooting and be "the official track photographer", I've been running into the constant problem of people (be it race drivers, race team members, race fans, even corporate sponsors) going to these race track web sites, right clicking on my photos, hitting the "save picture as" option and saving it to their hard drives where they then post it on their Internet profiles (I've seen them do this with watermarked images as well), freely e-mail it to others who are potential customers of mine, or they make prints themselves or take them to be printed at much cheaper price than what I offer. Now what I've tried to do in the past and recently is to put watermarks or copyright info onto the photos that I send to the people who do the web sites for the race tracks but they complain that because of the watermark or the smaller image size they "look to ugly" and demand that I send them large unmarked images or else. The third problem I want to touch on is the increase of the use of point-and-shoot digital cameras and cell phone cameras. Because of these small, light weight, cost effective gadgets it has made nearly every person a amateur photographer. Another thing that I find extremely disturbing with today's point-and-shoot digital cameras (which I was in a department store the other day looking at the latest models) and from what I've seen, many of them dwarf or exceed the megapixel level of top SLR cameras, dwarf or exceed the optical zoom of many SLR telephoto lenses, and many of them cost under $100.00.

    Now with those details in mind, and with nearly everyone with a point and shoot camera at their disposal especially race drivers, race teams, race fans,and family members of race drivers, this basically puts me as one of the most unneeded middlemen around. Especially since most of these people don't have a eye for professional quality at the most and at the very least don't need the quality of a SLR in the hand of a pro to get what they want when a point-and-shoot camera in the hand of anyone will more than do since the point and shoot camera nearly takes the photo itself. And with these three problems all acting in unison, my professional photography company which started in 2004 is quickly drawing to a close. And with that, I'm under the impression that it won't be too long until similar photography businesses will have to shut down as well because of these three fatal problems.

    The only way I feel that a pro photographer can make a living doing this is by working for someone else and get paid a salary. Basically you work under a contract where for a set amount they get your talent, experience, equipment etc. The only other thing photographers like me could do is try to band together and do something like what the recording industry has done in their attempt to keep free music peer-to-peer web sites from hurting sales. But personally I'm not to confident because like them if we did that we would come off in the public's eyes as being greedy cooperate rich folk looking to make extra profit when in reality we just want to get the bills paid and have enough to live. But if somehow anyone here can give me some tips or ideas on how to handle this even if they don't work, will be great in my view just to cheer me up. If there isn't much of anything else we can do to solve these problems and salvage professional SLR photography as a business I assume it is destined to be demoted to a akward and expensive hobby, nothing more nothing less. These are sad times we are living in. God help the pro photographers, we severely need it.
    Last edited by strader_images; 05-11-2010 at 05:23 PM.

  2. #2
    project forum co-moderator Frog's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Can't argue with you on your points.
    The stealing photos has become rather rampant and the only thing to do is hire a lawyer..
    With the point and shoot crowd, its mostly not having the eye for professional work or caring that much to get the best, and I'm not putting down p&s cameras or their quality.
    Keep Shooting!

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  3. #3
    Member Iguanamom's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    I don't know what's killing photography, but I know that run-on paragraph is killing me.

  4. #4
    Learning more with every "click" mjs1973's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Fist off, sorry to hear that your business is not doing so well.

    I agree with several of the points you made but there are things you can do about some of them. You can't turn the economy around but there are steps you can take to protect your work.

    The first thing I would do is talk to the track owners about your issues with people stealing your photos from their sites. If you can't come up with a solution that all can agree on, you still have options. You can hire a lawyer to help you protect your images but in order to do that you are going to have to register your images with the copyright office. Once that's done you have a lot more options for recourse against the people stealing your images. One of the photographers I follow on the internet makes a nice chunk of income every year off of people who steal his images from the web. This option may not be all that practical for some people but it's better than loosing your business.

    The other way to stop people from stealing your images is to not have them on the internet at all. In this day and age that really isn't a practical option if you want people to see your work.

    Being in business for yourself is not always easy and the business models that worked yesterday may be obsolete tomorrow. As photographers we need to be creative and keep on top of the business of photography. We need to be able to adapt and change with the market and with the clients needs. If we can't do that, someone else will and they will be the ones getting paid while we watch from the sidelines.

    Look at what happened to the stock photography business when micro stock sites came on the scene. People who were making a comfortable income from stock sales found themselves competing with everyone with a camera and $5 images. I'm sure some of them went out of business because of it. There are many who adapted to the change in the market and expanded into different areas of the photography business to keep doing what they love.

    The bottom line is that as photographers we need to be able to adapt or we will be left behind.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Quote Originally Posted by Iguanamom
    I don't know what's killing photography, but I know that run-on paragraph is killing me.
    Wow not only everyone is a amateur photographer nowadays, they are also English teachers... as well as comedians. Maybe those two professions are the next ones to go under.

  6. #6
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    But anyway, great points mjs1973 and Frog. Thank you two for your responses.

  7. #7
    Co-Moderator, Photography as Art forum megan's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Hm. This might be stretch depending upon the web skills of the people maintaining the racing website, but there are scripts to prevent right-clicking of images. I did a quick google search, and here is an example of some javascript that the web master can add in to help protect your images. If they value your images on their site, I think it's fair that you ask them to do what they can to protect illegal downloading of your photos.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    That is a very good idea megan, but what about the people that also can print the photos directly from the webpages? How can that be prevented as well? Not to mention, many of the people I deal with (who operate the sites) are old fashioned and hard headed so I have little hope that they will see things the way I do.

  9. #9
    Learning more with every "click" mjs1973's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    One simple way to help protect your photos online is to create a blank image and save it as a bitmap (I think that's the format). You then place that clear image over the top of your image. When someone tries to right click on it, they are actually clicking on the clear image, and not your photo.

    There are scripts as well that you can apply that disable the ability to right click on the image.

    Flash photo galleries are another option too.

    Of course the simple way around all of these are to take a screen shot of page and a would be thief has a copy of your image...
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  10. #10
    Formerly Michael Fanelli, mwfanelli, mfa mwfanelli2's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Some quick musings...

    Things change, professions come and then die out. If people are not willing to pay out the bucks, in any economy, you can't blame point and shoot cameras. Most people want memories, not works of art. I can't think of a single race fan I know (admittedly, not many) who ever bought a photograph. I can't think of a single time I bought any photo of an activity. Perhaps, as a photographer, you have skills that can be transferred to some other photo business endeavor that can't be done by an amateur.

    Stealing of images is a real problem. Some hints have been given to you about how to try to handle this. But stealing hurts all pros: photographers, singers, artists, writers, etc. The way the RIAA is handling music is just making things much, much worse. You really don't want to duplicate that legal mess.

    Pointing out that one giant paragraph is hard to read is not being an "English teacher." It is a matter of using the simple rules of the language that make reading work well. I see you made some changes but still... Most people will skip over something as disorganized as that.
    “Men never do evil so cheerfully and completely as when they do so from religious conviction.” — Blaise Pascal

  11. #11
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    OH WELL, It's great to see a Atheist physics professor here to throw even MORE salt on my wounds. You know one of the main reasons why people steal my images along with other peoples images is because they believe it's ok at the time. The reason why they think it's ok at the time is because they believe that morality is relative. The reason why they believe morality is relative is because they believe there is no God. The reason why they believe there is no God is because they believe the universe came to be essentially from nothing via quantum particles and fluctuations. And the reason why they believe that is because atheist professors teach them that and they also like to turn around and pin the blame on Christians for causing the most evil and suffering in the world when in actuality it was the communist regimes of the 20th century that really caused the most bloodshed. And communism is rooted in atheism pure and simple. But that is not the topic at hand so I don't want to expand on it anymore. But anyway getting back to the topic at hand, there are essentially no jobs right now that I could get into that are motor sports photography related since all of the top auto racing magazines have been closing their doors, wire services are having a tough time selling photos and freelance photography is doomed from the very start.

  12. #12
    Senior Member jetrim's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Mr/Ms Strader,
    After reading through this, I tend to agree - your business is doomed, might as well pack it in right now. I recently had the opportunity to speak with a photographer named Bill Sorenson (google it) and something he said during the conversation really hit home: "If you believe you can't do it - then you're absolutely right!" Your subconscious is gonna make sure it's a self fulfilling prophecy. The reason I dropped this guy's name is because you probably haven't ever heard of him (I hadn't) but he did $2.4 million dollars worth of business last year, selling mostly senior portraits. Professional photography isn't dead, dying, or going away any time soon, but it is changing; and if you aren't willing to adapt and embrace those changes, you WILL be left behind. Instead of complaining about the track owners, come up with viable alternative solutions that benefit them as well as yourself, make it easy for them to agree with you about implementing these solutions. Offer them stuff that nobody else can (or is willing to) give them and sales will grow. There isn't any magic bullet but it can be done.

  13. #13
    Member Iguanamom's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    And here I thought money was the root of all evil and therefore the root of atheism. Darn it if it isn't communism after all and we know they don't like money, or god!

  14. #14
    Captain of the Ship Photo-John's Avatar
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    The Subject Is Photography

    I just want to make sure we keep this on track. When we start talking about god(dess) and politics, I start removing threads. It's been proven that we can't handle talking about politics and religion here. Photography is the subject, thank you.
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  15. #15
    Formerly Michael Fanelli, mwfanelli, mfa mwfanelli2's Avatar
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    Re: The Subject Is Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Photo-John
    I just want to make sure we keep this on track. When we start talking about god(dess) and politics, I start removing threads. It's been proven that we can't handle talking about politics and religion here. Photography is the subject, thank you.
    I'd say we can all clearly see now what the real business problem is here.

    His comments were completely self-incriminating. It was nothing that even I ever felt needed to be answered!
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  16. #16
    Captain of the Ship Photo-John's Avatar
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    The Bottom Line

    Quote Originally Posted by jetrim
    Professional photography isn't dead, dying, or going away any time soon, but it is changing; and if you aren't willing to adapt and embrace those changes, you WILL be left behind.
    You summed it up pretty well here. Like it or not, things are changing. We can either face reality and make our own future, or we can get angry and bitter and wish things were different.
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  17. #17
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    I wholeheartedly agree John, there should NOT be any discussion of politics or religion on a photography message board, and that said, you should have mwfanelli2 deleate his little quote at the bottom about religious conviction causing evil. That phrase can easily be offensive to many people and it encourages people to comment about that and thus spark a religious type of a conversation. So to keep things even and fair, I won't make hurtful comments about atheists if atheists will not make hateful comments about my view or anyone elses view. Sound fair enough? I look foward for your cooperation John. Thanks for your time.

  18. #18
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    But anyway back to the real topic at hand, I certainly agree with most of you that things are indeed changing. I just think that there is no real way to salvage professional photography as a business. As I said in my origional message, I think it is going to be demoted to a expensive hobby. Unless if you all have any good ideas on how to salvage the business of professional photography let me know. How do you create consumer demand when most of the consumers either take their own photographs or steal the photographs of true professionals off internet sites? I know that we could make a living off of suing people for stealing photographs but one it makes us look bad since people will view us a sue happy trap setters and eventually the laws might get twisted to where we could no longer sue people for stealing photographs. So, I just don't know what needs to be done or if there are any real good options that will stick.

  19. #19
    Captain of the Ship Photo-John's Avatar
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    Stolen Photos

    I feel your pain when it comes to stolen photos. I think the thing to do there is come up with a strategy that works for you. For me, that means I only upload them at a size that I feel can't be used by anyone for anything that really hurts me. And I put my logo on everything so that if a photo is "borrowed," I get some branding out of it. I accept that there's going to be a certain amount of borrowing but that my brand gets distributed in the process. And if I do catch any serious commercial abuse, I take the appropriate action.

    Incidentally, I used to do some track photography. I don't do it anymore because I figured out a long time ago that I was losing money at it. This was before digital. I think digital and the Internet would have made it easier to make money. Until everyone started doing it, that is. Now I shoot the ocassional mountain bike event and put up a gallery of photos for racers to buy. I price myself higher than everyone else and I make it a point to take great photos instead of worrying about getting everyone. If people want to pay my price, fine. If they don't, no problem. I was there to create greatness, not sell 8x10s.

    It would be good to qualify myself, though. I don't make a living from selling photos. Nor do I want to. Managing this site is what takes care of me. I shoot what I want, when I want. And I agree that it's very difficult to make a living as a photographer. However, I follow hundreds of photographers on Twitter and Facebook and I know people are making things happen. Figuring out how to do that is the trick. I think those of us who are older need to let go of the way we think things are supposed to be and open our eyes to the future. I hated the idea of microstock for a long time. But I've come to terms with it. I'm not doing it. But it's not going away, no matter how much I complain that it devalues photography. Not to mention the fact that there are photographers making their living from it.
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  20. #20
    Learning more with every "click" mjs1973's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Quote Originally Posted by strader_images
    if you all have any good ideas on how to salvage the business of professional photography let me know. How do you create consumer demand when most of the consumers either take their own photographs or steal the photographs of true professionals off internet sites?
    I think there are lots of opportunities for people to make money from photography. I just made a sale of 5 large canvas prints to someone I have never met. His sister happened to be an editor at a magazine where I submitted some images for a contest. He even found some of my images on flickr that he wanted to purchase. This ended up being the single biggest sale I have ever had just because I "got my name out there".

    Like I said, and many others did as well, you need to adapt to the changing market. If you can't sell photos maybe you're aiming at the wrong market. If race photography isn't doing if anymore you could try a different sport. You would be surprised at what parents are willing to pay for photos of their kids playing football, baseball etc. If sports in general aren't doing it, try portraits or weddings. Market your images to magazines, go to art fairs, sell as stock on the internet. There are lots of possibilities out there if you look.

    What about educating others? There are tons of people interested in photography and want to learn more so you could offer to teach a workshop in your area. Almost all of the big name pros I read about are on the road teaching workshops.

    So the two tracks you take photos at on the weekends aren't doing it for you anymore. What are you doing with the rest of the week? Is photography your full time gig?

    Like PJ, I will qualify myself. I don't make a living from my photography either. I have a full time job and my photography make some extra money on the side.
    Mike

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  21. #21
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Photography as a profession is a bit like prostitution as a profession. You need to satisfy the john and whatever perversions he has. They will be fickle, capricious, and perverse. If this is not your thing, then get a technical education. Believe me you will make a LOT more money. It isn't even close unless you are a particularly talented courtesan. Art hurts. Live it or move on.

  22. #22
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Wow dag7 you must be a big hit at coctail parties. You know how to keep everybody on the up that's for sure.

  23. #23
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    I agree that photography as a profession is starting to die off. With the professional equipment readily availible to anyone who can afford it, now anyone can take professional pictures. Also without professional equipment, and with just a computer and some software you can make even terrible pictures look professional. So it sadens me to agree with you, but you are correct.

  24. #24
    Sports photo junkie jorgemonkey's Avatar
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    Re: Stolen Photos

    Quote Originally Posted by Photo-John
    Now I shoot the ocassional mountain bike event and put up a gallery of photos for racers to buy. I price myself higher than everyone else and I make it a point to take great photos instead of worrying about getting everyone. If people want to pay my price, fine. If they don't, no problem. I was there to create greatness, not sell 8x10s.
    I'm basically in the same boat. I do a fair amount of bike races out here in California, and there are lots of other people with cameras at the race, so I have a lot of "free photos" to compete with. I decided early on that I wouldn't try to compete with them. I decided that I was going to go out and get images they weren't or aren't able to get. Sometimes that involves me walking an entire XC race course to find the perfect spot to shoot.

    I do try to get each racer, since the more racers I can get the more potential sales I have. I don't want "snapshots" of each person either. I want to get an image of them that tells a story about the race. I want someone to look at that photo and make them want to ask what was going on at that point.

    I've also adapted my products for sale to match current demand, and so far so good. To steal a slogan from Specialized Bike CO, "Innovate or Die".
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  25. #25
    Captain of the Ship Photo-John's Avatar
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    Re: Why I think professional photography (as a business) is about to die...

    Quote Originally Posted by bfletch
    With the professional equipment readily availible to anyone who can afford it, now anyone can take professional pictures. Also without professional equipment, and with just a computer and some software you can make even terrible pictures look professional.
    Total falacies - both of those points. Yes, current camera technology makes it much easier to get better photos. But "professional?" No. A true professional will benefit from the same technology. There is a problem and that is the general perception that if I buy camera x I will be able to take "professional pictures." That belief is taking business away from some photographers. It's the "Uncle Bob" effect, where a couple decides to have a family member or friend shoot their wedding because , "Uncle Bob," bought a pro camera.

    Good photography is a result of experience and technique - not the camera. A real, experienced pro will take better pictures with a point-and-shoot than a beginner with a $5000 digital SLR.
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