Insights into the Oversaturated Photography Industry
Over the past five years, photography in the US has grown by 1.6% to reach a revenue of $10B in 2018. Significantly slower corporate profit growth is expected to make the industry more vulnerable to external competition
Photographic Industry Trends – Source: IBIS World
You can blame Instagram, or maybe Facebook and the internet (selfie anyone?). In 2019 anyone with a cell phone (and therefore camera) can become a self-proclaimed photography professional. This, along with technology enhancements, has lead to massive industry changes in pricing, creative opportunities, and over-saturation in the profession.
Photographic Industry Changes
The line has become significantly blurred in differentiating between a professional and an amateur photographer. Previously, only a few trained professionals would take interest in the subject as the equipment was expensive and editing technology took extensive training and background knowledge.
But in the past decade or so, photography has become far more user-friendly and affordable. This evolving technology has created opportunities for new skill levels of all kind to enter the market place.
Nearly anyone with a decent camera can explore photography as a profession and edit to a near-professional standard. The ability to create and publish a portfolio has become as easy as pushing a button.
So for an average photographer, doing average work, the rates have been generally pushed lower (as the required skill set has changed). That’s not to say there isn’t ample opportunity in the Photography Industry. The entire market including camera equipment, editing software, etc. is supposed to exceed >$110B by 2021 (Source: DP Review)
So why do some professional photographers demand such a high rate? The simple answer is most photographers don’t work 40 hours a week taking pictures. They are more simplistic image makers or editors.
When you hit the high end as an elite photographer, you know the time involved after the assignment for editing/post-production is high. Not to mention their personal brand and portfolio.
So how can you go about properly evaluating the skills and pricing to go along with professional photographers? And how do you know which level of ‘professional’ you need for each project?
A key fact is to remember that the act of hiring a new photographer is a risk. So you should take a look to understand what level of skill you need to be involved in. Is it something standard or off-the-shelf an ‘amateur’ could do? Or is the brief high profile and business critical? Quality needed drives your level of skill-set needed and pricing.
From Amateur to Elite Photographers
The fact remains that the average photographer does not make a lot. For instance, the average US photographer makes about $34,000 per year and you’d have to be in the top 10% to make over 76k. But the oversaturation and decrease in pricing aren’t always reflected when working through a third party when a mark-up is likely to be involved.
Amateur – These are the photographers who have ambitions to join the ranks of the professional (think semi-pro). Typically, this isn’t their first job or source of income. Their overall technical skillset is average at best despite not dedicating 100% of their time.
Professional – You could argue that a professional really is anyone who has been paid at least once for their photography. So to clearly define a professional, it would be a persons’ main source of income or 100% dedicated to the career. They typically have a solid portfolio to represent their specialties such as product, lifestyle, food, or portrait.
Elite – As with any other industry, there always will be an élite group. This group is driven by brand recognition and portfolio.
As with any profession, there is always room to negotiate rates. But there are limits to someone’s willingness to bend. And in this industry, you get what you pay for. Getting a deal, may end up not being a deal at all.