Young Photographers Will Have to Develope New Markets!

Young photographers are entering into our profession at alarming rates.  At the same time, the same technology that has reduced the learning curve for the upcoming professional photographer has also made it possible for the average consumer to take photographs themselves that used to be hired work for professional photographers.  Not only do we have every new mother becoming a New Visual Artist as she opens her Rebel Kit from Costco and every high school and college students ordering his or her business cards for their photography business the second week of basic photography class, we now have technical schools and photography schools popping up all over that promise the young students the fast track from knowing nothing to professional photographer pulling down the big bucks.

There are so many photography schools advertising to young photographer wannabee’s that it almost like the models school of yesterday, where you can, “be a photographer or just look like one”.  At some point reality has to enter the picture.  You can’t have tens of thousands of new recruits entering a profession that has a shrinking number of clients using that profession. At some point all of us are going to have to start working on developing new markets to keep our profession growing, instead of every new photographers simply trying to cannibalizing clients from existing photographers.  While photography schools and equipment companies are making a bundle of money from all these new recruits at some point someone needs to be honest and explain to people considering this profession that the odds of long-term success for the student photographer in a technical learning situation is somewhere between getting struck by lighting and winning a $1000 jackpot the next time you pull the handle of a penny slot machine (maybe a slight exaggeration, but close!).  It could happen, but unless our profession sees a growth in markets that consumers can’t easily do for themselves, the future for young photographers isn’t going to be a bright one.

My advice to young photographers coming up is take things slowly, which goes against everything a person filled with passion wants to do.  We have photography studios in our city that don’t even get into their retail space before they realize they can’t sustain a business with the number of clients they attract and abandon their studio with only a business sign installed.  If you have only passion for photography, select a career to make a good living and keep photography your hobby.  If you are passionate about having a business that sells photography, Study and do your research!  Open your business with the same planning and care as you would a restaurant, (a business that also has a high number of failures).  Research the market, know the saturation of the existing photographers in the markets you want to serve and how well they are serve those markets.  To better increase your chances of business success look to serve markets that no one is currently serving or develop markets that no one has thought of yet.  And don’t laugh!  I made a lot of money when I started into profession photographing livestock.   Since I start in an Agricultural community and no one else was photographing livestock it seemed logical.  The cows and horses weren’t as pretty people-client, but their owner had a great deal of money to spend and those clients paid my bills.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on February 5, 2010.

4 Responses to “Young Photographers Will Have to Develope New Markets!”

  1. excellent. May I share this with the students I am presenting to at the schools for career day?
    Katrina Shiner, Shiner Photography

  2. Thank you Jeff for speaking the truth. After 30 years in this wonderful profession I am probably going to hang up my closed forever sign. It just isn’t the same and the difficulty keeping the doors open has taken the joy out being creative. I wish the next generation luck but I fear the technology revolution is changing the photography world as we have known it.

  3. Great article, very well stated. I only take exception in one area- the headline. “Young photographers will have to develop new markets”. All photographers will have to (if it is even possible) develop new markets to continue to stay a float as time goes on.

    There is no tenure in professional photography.

    • it’s true we all have to look new market or market that are not currently being serviced, but the reason I focused the headline and article on the young photographers is that are so many of them and they are facing challenges that established photographers never had to. Credibility is killing young photographers and that is an issue actually helping more established photographers. When it matters enough to spend the money to hire a professional many consumers are choose an established name rather than taken a chance on a young photographer and those that don’t care, just base everything on price and take a shot.

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