We are well into the dog days of summer and it’s been sweltering in Manhattan, but gorgeous at the beach. The water is warm with cool breezes bringing relief from the stagnant humid air in the city.
It has been a surprisingly active summer in the business. Workbook has acquired Dripbook, and is in the process of developing an agency list called Yodelist, to complete with Agency Access. Livebooks, was acquired by WeddingWire, with the CEO citing an overly competitive marketplace as his reason for selling. On the flip side, Jon Oringer, the CEO of ShutterStock, has officially become a billionaire, according to Forbes, with his 18.5 million shares of the corporation, and silicon valley’s first billionaire.
How does this affect photographers? Well, as with most involved in a retracted economy the choice is fight or flight. With increased competition the marketplace is less forgiving of more of the same. With an increasingly younger generation hiring talent the need to adjust to their shorter attention span and desire for something “fresh” can be frustrating and daunting. Even with reinvention, photographers are finding it increasingly difficult to get a client on the phone.
This trend is likely to continue for the forseeable future. With advertising agencies demanding higher profit margins and clients demanding lower day rates, agencies are eliminating “fluff”, which translates to less employees. Those surviving are coping with increased work loads. Magazines and newspapers have less ad revenue and tighter budgets, resulting in a migration towards using generic existing imagery and poorly funded productions for new content.
Photographers must keep pace with technology moving forward at a rapid pace, in addition to shorter time frames to allocate for natural learning curves. So, is this all just a giant kunundrum with no discernable path towards new creative inspiration, and increased revenue? That all depends on who you ask. I believe that with every obstacle there also exists a solution.
This solution will be different for everyone and not always easy, but new opportunities exist for those that seek them out. In real terms this means photographers should strive to continue developing a style, and way of seeing that cannot be duplicated. Expanding and improving their communication skills, along with an awareness of the pressures faced by those in the position to hire them. They should continually grow their sphere of influence, networking through social media, in addition to meeting people face to face at venues and events not strictly populated by other photographers. One must own the responsibitly of expanding those connections that go beyond the “sale”, along with continuing to master their craft and skill set. Equally important is rigorously updating your portfolio and website so it reflects your most recent work
A competitive marketplace dictates an increased dedication to providing impecable customer service, well executed follow up, and an awareness of the little details neccesary to create a memorable, lasting impression. Creative inspiration can come from a day at a museum, or something as mundane as a trip to the post office. There is an excitement in being open to change and the freedom that comes from a new way of thinking. It is possible to learn from everyone, even “competitors”.
I am often asked by known photographers, “why would I need a consultant?” My answer is, everyone needs to examine new ways of expanding and improving their business acumen, motivation, and editing skills. We all benefit from knowledgable coaches who push us to strive for success. Even Tiger Woods has a coach to keep him on his toes and drive him to be better than he was the day before.
I believe, I offer a unique perspective gleaned from my 20+ years involvement in the photography community, beginning as a photographer’s assistant, and later as photo editor, agent and then consultant. It has been my privlege and good fortune to remain invigorated by the industry and inspired every day by my clients that trust me with their careers, and what I can offer those that gift me with that opportunity.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to the pleasure of speaking with, and assisting you in the future.