All the challenges we face in our profession today have been around for quite some time, however everything has come together at one time to bring them all to light and to focus the our attention on them.  Some photographers are reacting in desperation, rather than responding to the changes and learning new ways to prosper in this new professional and economic climate.  I see photographers that have specialized for years in one or two areas of photography that are now desperately trying to break into new markets of photography while not being qualified to do so and spending huge sums of money trying to develop markets that are not any better or less saturated than the one they are currently in.  Downsizing and refining their focus on the market they work in might be a better idea.

In my 25 years in this profession, my studio has gone from 1000 square feet to 8000 back down to 2200 which is what we have today.  We have added and subtracted space as our business expanded and contracted throughout the years.  By learning to adapt to the current markets, your business can be as profitable with fewer clients and a smaller space than with more clients and a larger space provided you respond to change rather than react in fear.

Your approach to business profit and taxes also must change, when times are great, you look for tax deduction and use additional income to update equipment, re-decorate your studio space and otherwise use additional profit rather than pay taxes on it.  When the business climate changes, you conserve.  In business this is a natural process, not one to fear but to expect and plan for.  Typically in the good times we Americans spend the money as fast as it comes in and then borrow to spend some more thinking the “hay-day” will never end.  Then things slow down and we think the world will come to an end.

Professionally we face the greatest hurdle and that is educating our clients about the necessity of thoroughly checking into a photographer before hiring them.  There are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of people who offer paid photographic services that know nothing more about photography than how to turn on the camera and start Photoshop!  This reduces the overall amount consumers are willing to pay for our product and to make a quick buck, Newfus and his friends are insuring they will never be able to make a living in this profession.

This problem has been their since the development of the mainstream consumer digital camera, but the current economic condition has brought it front and center as something that is threatening our very profession.  This is especially true for the younger professional photographers that invested the time, effort and resources to learn photography and now are finding it impossible to start a “business” of photography with thousands or people practically giving photography away.

Organizations like PPA, WPPI and others that are happy to take the paid dues of members, but are doing little to help working professional photographers educate consumers about this problem.  A few ads in Woman Day isn’t really going to educate the masses!  These organization have to see the hand writing on the wall, if you have nothing but photographers that can’t charge more that $200 to do a wedding, who is going to be able to pay for membership dues?  At those prices who can afford to go to conferences or trade shows?  Our profession will be made up of a few successful, established studio owners that photograph the clients that want something “professional”, with the bulk of our profession being made up of Junior High, High School and College students who like Newfus are willing to work for Cheeseburgers. (if you don’t know who Newfus is, watch the New Face of Professional Photography Video on YouTube)

There are no simple solutions to this huge problem.  Education of the buying public has to be the first and best option, with local professional photographers working together to educate the buying public about the choices they make, rather than trying to steal each others remaining business in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.  Professional organizations should be on the news, on televisions and everywhere they can get press urging the consumers to be careful and to choose a Photographer like they would a contractor, lawyer or doctor using referrals of friends and research to make sure they get what they pay for.

As this problem continues to grow, the purposed solutions will get more drastic.  There is a group on Facebook that is promoting a state test that every portrait/wedding  photographer must take to be licensed, much like a contractor in the State of California.  I have heard of many other ideas about this problem, but the end result is we as a profession can’t simply smile, hope for the best and turn our heads!

Young photographers are the heart of the future of this profession.  With the technology and the wealth of educational opportunities available to them, they have the ability to take this profession to new heights.  The imagery that trained professional photographers are creating today is better than it has ever been.  However, with all the talent there is in this profession, it will be lost if there are no financial rewards for young professionals that could make more money as a school teacher or UPS driver than as a professional photographer!


~ by jeffsmithbooks on July 26, 2010.


  1. I agree completely! I was a member of PPA for a few years and felt like it was the most I have ever paid for a magazine subscription. I do realize the benefit of legal assistance that they provide, and I have a few friends that have used it with success, but, there was no other benefit in my world…no presence to the general public at all.

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