Monday, June 3, 2013

Chicago Sun-Times

More proof that the photography world is changing quickly. The Chicago Sun-Times has recently laid off all their staff photographers and is switching to freelance photographers and reporters. And they are emphasizing the importance of future news on video.

What does this mean for me and you?

For starters this doesn't really affect me at all. It's basic business and economics. Cut costs or increase revenues to increase net profits. Supply and demand dictate the going rate. Looks like there are too many photographers and not enough jobs. I'm not surprised. Everyone with an iPhone is now a photographer. As of March 2011 there have been 108MM iPhones sold.

That's a lot of potential reporters.

But this has been happening to all the photography related industries. From headshots to weddings and fashion. Anyone can now live the "dream" of being a photographer. The question is and has always been, "Where do you fit in this picture? Do you have a niche? Are you good at something that no one else is good at?"

Now more than ever we have to know and define our role. With nearly every private fashion photography workshop I teach I am asked "How do I make it in this field?" And with each incremental workshop I find myself pushing photographers to get more and more specific about what they want out of this "career" because the competition becomes more fierce with each passing day.

Considering that the statistic above was from March 2011, I'm guessing Apple has now sold close to a billion iPhones.

So what to do?

1. Combine niches. Think portraiture combined with marine-life photography

2. Push one specific micro-niche. Hard. Think portraiture of marine-life but only as it pertains to the micro-organisms that live on the hairs inside the mouths of whales without strobes.

3. Take your expertise and implement it in a non-photography field. e.g. art director

4. Take your expertise and create a product. e.g. Gary Fong

5. Invent a new field in photography and dominate. e.g. I dunno. It's a new field. Go invent something. Stop asking me for suggestions.

The point is this. Be creative. You call yourself and artist and yet you can't be creative about your art. Isn't that an oxymoron? I challenge that most "photographers" don't quite know what you want out of photography. Half-in half-out. Hedging their bets about truly dedicating themselves to this field. I understand. I was once there. I didn't know if I could make it as a photographer. I was afraid to call myself an "artist" until very recently. I used to think it was too pretentious to call myself an artist. Especially the field was chock-full of talent. But at some point you have to choose. You have to acknowledge yourself. Stop looking outwardly and turn your attention inward and develop yourself. Only then can you realize your own potential. Only then will you stop being a few steps behind the competition and reacting to new trends.

The other thing that allowed me to get this far was the fact that I didn't have another job to fall back on. I had to make things work financially and that became a huge motivating factor. If I had a day job, someone else would be writing this blog and I'd be reading it thinking, "Someday I'll be a fashion photographer..." But it's not to say you should quit your job and dive right in. Maybe you're not cut out for this. Not everyone is. All I'm saying is that when your stomach is growling from hunger you become very focused and creative about how to find food.

And watch the news. The industry is shifting constantly. For example there's this contract I'm bidding for that needs 10-second commercial spots in addition to a 3-day photoshoot for the company's Fall/Winter line. Photo and video. iPhones are now good enough to shoot documentaries that win Oscars. Vine. 'nuff said. Are you working on your video editing skills? Do you have new ideas for how to contribute to the fashion video front?

This is of course a generic set of questions designed to push you in the right direction. If you need more specific consultation let me know. But the point of blog posts like these is to get you fired up. Get you do do something different. Anything different. You can't keep repeating the same old tricks over and over again. Remember...


1 comment:

  1. Photo-Journalism never did pay well and has always been one of the most difficult types of photography since as it always required being on the scene as it happened or moments afterwards.

    I trained to be a photojournalist in college, and I was dissuaded from entering the field after meeting and conversing with a young reporter for the LA Times back in the day.