I wanted to share a post from my main blog, Master of Emulsion, as I think what is happening to the stock/assignment photographer is also happening to other ‘creatives’ out there trying to make a living, in the crowd sourced miasma of the digital revolution.
Today I’m going to tell you about Lo-fi talent. And luck. And the masses. And cheap accessible technology.
This experiment is based on this lo-fi kick I’m on.
I asked myself what would happen if I stuck a 90mm lens on my 5D and shot randomly through my car window while driving to my girlfriend’s house in West Seattle.
(Illustration of how I held my camera to shoot through my car window)
It’s like that mental experiment: if an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters had infinite time to type, they would eventually produce Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Today in photography we face exactly the same problem.
With millions of new photographers in the last several years publishing photos to sites such as Flickr, we are seeing the infinite monkey theorem at work in the photography space.
With a cheap digital camera, a few Photoshop actions, and the ability to publish quickly and cheaply to the web, we are seeing an over-saturation of the photography market with work that is ‘good enough for print’ along with occasional accidentally amazing images, that over time will create an infinite library of excellent imagery covering every imaginable topic.
- 4,374,279 royalty free photos.
- 43,312 new stock photos added this week (OMFG!!!)
- 115,818 photographers (!)
So what does this all mean? Where is Kirk going with this post?
Well, as a stock photographer at Aurora Photos I can tell you that there may be a sliver of a chance that a pro *can* stay in business over the long term.
What these gigantic image aggregators lack for the time being are two things:
1. An efficient image filtering system to find the images an editor needs at a quality level that is acceptable.
2. Model released images. Most amateurs have no clue how model releases work. That isn’t to say they won’t figure it out soon enough. Without model releases images are not quite as valuable in the market place.
So here is my message to those who wish to be pro photographers. The only thing separating us from a pack of wild dogs, er, monkeys with cameras are three things:
1. The ability to choose interesting/unique subjects and shoot them with a carefully developed consistent style. Consistency people. Consistency is key here.
2. Whatever you did before the surge in photography 5 years ago is no longer good enough. Stop bitching, please! If you fail now it is your own fault. The stakes are much higher now: you have to jump higher, be better than the rest and never rest on your laurels.
3. Be a professional with your business. Learn how to make money so you can stay in the game longer and outperform your competition. This means model releases, this means learning how to negotiate, this means learning how to figure out your cost of doing business, this means having a solid knowledge of how to write a contract, this mean dressing, talking and acting like a professional, not like a prima donna, scarf wearing, cigarette smoking, globe trotting, wine sipping, reportage photographer; who, without a trust fund, is ultimately doomed in this day and age…
Remember, the pack of monkeys at your heels. Good luck and god speed.
ps. the next post will explore the same issue but from a photojournalist’s perspective. Stay tuned!