So I’ve been seeing/hearing this a lot these days from photographers – both professional and beginner. “Everyone’s a photographer.” My favorite was, “If you are a human and you don’t own your own photography business yet, just wait, you will.” – Hilarious. Largely because it’s a generally accurate statement – especially in the wedding and portrait photography market. Since the rise of photojournalism as a wedding and portrait photography style coupled with the accessibility and affordability of professional grade or near-professional grade camera equipment, “Professional” photographers have become a dime-a-dozen, so to speak. I don’t believe that this is a bad thing for the industry as it provides a healthy amount of competition to the market, competition controls price, and competition creates a climate of excellence.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos264.htm), in 2008 photographers held about 152,000 jobs – half of which were self-employed. This is just the number of professionals actually reporting to the IRS that they are a business. This doesn’t count the number of photographers who run a photography “business” from their facebook page and make beteween $100-$10,000 a year. Now this is some serious generalizing and butchering of statistics but I’m going to do this anyways to make a point. Taking 152,000 divided by 50 states you get 3,040 professional photographers per state.
I’m a capitalist, so I believe competition is only good for the market. As well, as a capitalist, I know that the better products will rise to the top and the stinky ones will sink into oblivion. That’s what capitalism does, it weeds out the good from the bad and it separates the low-end from the high-end. It creates markets that people can identify with and afford because of their socio-economic status. In the end, captilism will weed out the photography climate. Bad photographers won’t make it, good ones will. That’s just the circle of life in business.
A lot of wedding photographers out there get annoyed with people who hire friends to shoot their weddings and have no experience. Or they are trying to save a buck and so they find a photographer on the cheaper end who isn’t as much a professional. I get a little tired of hearing photographers complain about this. Why? Because most professional photographers are way out of the price-range for an entire market of people who don’t have a large budget to spend on photography for their wedding. So these photographers are complaining about lower end photographers infringing on a market they are not even a viable competitor in.
Secondly, competition controls pricing. A healthy amount of competition in the photography market will minimize price-gouging and will keep photography affordable for all markets. The more photographers there are, the more choices people get to make which forces photographers to be smarter and more creative with their business models and what they offer. Be careful though, as you grow in skill and business-size as a photographer, make sure to increase your pricing to match. Don’t sell yourself short, stand by what you do and charge what it’s worth. The danger comes when “budget” photographers offer the same quality as pros but never change their prices. That becomes unfair to pros and really, is unfair to you.
According to TheKnot.com’s statistics, in 2010 the average amount paid for wedding photography was $2,320. Do your research for your area, figure out where you fit in, and price yourself accordingly.
Thirdly, a growing market of photographers will continue to inspire a climate of creative excellence. Don’t be afraid of all the people coming onto the scene – look at it as a challenge! Be inspired by their work as they are inspired by yours and work harder, smarter, and more creatively. The idea of competition, while maybe slightly frightening, should spur you on and excite you in a positive way.
So give a hand up to a young photographer. Rather than seeing them as a threat, see them as a student. Someone did for you at some point I’m sure, so pass on the favor. If they’ve got what it takes, they’ll pursue it, if they don’t, they’ll quit. That’s life. Rather than complain, be a mentor and give people opportunities.
I truly believe that while the photography industry is exploding with newcomers who do or don’t have talent – let’s all remember that at one point – we didn’t either.