Better and cheaper digital cameras. More amateur photographers. Web-based agencies willing to sell an image for under a dollar. It’s no wonder there is so much stock photography available these days.
So what are committed pros to do about this spreading competition?
Specialize and survive.
For more than 40 years, I’ve watched hundreds of photographers enter the profession, stay a while, and get out. Those who survive seem to have a common trait: They love what they’re doing. Wild horses couldn’t pull them away. They adapt. They adjust. They assess and move forward.
Survivors Change as Industry Does
Outsiders may say, “Too bad for stock photographers. They’ve lost their market in the enormous flood of available photos today.” But the survivors haven’t noticed. They’ve already adapted to new ways of selling themselves and their talent to the public and the photo buyers. They know pictures will never go out of style.
Many stock photographers have wisely moved toward targeting their photography focus to a segment of the market, where they feel comfortable and speak the language of their clients. They have narrowed their personal expertise down to a point where they are no longer generalists; they have planted a flag as a specialist.
They concentrate on building a massive photo collection and knowledge in a specific field, such as health sciences, motor sports, education, deep-sea fishing, and so on. They get so good at their brands that assignments build in a vertical direction for them, all in their area of expertise.
Buyers Prefer Specialists
Art directors, photo researchers, and photo editors prefer working with such specialist photographers. Why? To cover their own tails. They know if a photographer is well-grounded in the subject area they work in, it comes through in the veracity of their work. Editors and buyers now choose photographers based on what knowledge and expertise they possess in the target subject area.
The Digital Age has made all this happen. Clients now have the capability to swiftly find the right photographer for the job through a keyword search. This has resulted in a new opportunity for photographers, veterans and newcomers, to step forward and move forward.
I, for one, see great things ahead for our picture-taking profession.