Monday, January 25, 2016

The changing market place.

Last week I was going through some old job files to make room for 2015’s records.

It gave me a moment to pause and observe how the state of the advertising and photography industries has changed.

Before you make any assumptions that this is a rant about the good old days, its not.  It’s only to make some observations and let you draw your own conclusions.

One of the consistent observations I made was that there are significantly fewer photography projects, photographers are being asked to shoot.  Here is one example of a simple shot of a newspaper clipping on white with a drop shadow.  About a third of what I shot in years past were C.O.B.’s of simple things on white.  Now these shots rarely exist.   These are now mostly computer generated or shot in house by an art director.

I’ve included the invoice for this shot and blacked out any names of people or agencies.  Observe the limited usage licensing and the price we were regularly getting for a shot like this.

COB of a newspaper clipping with a drop shadow.

Invoice and licensing for the Newspaper clipping photo

I found another classic invoice for a few food shots we did in one day for a national client.

Invoice for a couple simple food shots that took a day to shoot.

My observation is that in today’s marketplace photographers are getting around the same price, as we did 20 years ago, but in order to get the project you will need to do twice as many shots in the same amount of time.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow for much creativity when you’re pushing every second of the day to rush threw the shot list.

So what’s changed?  Well for starters here are some observations:

When these projects were shot, photographers would buy one pro camera ($650.00) and some lenses every 10 or so years and just kept loading film in it.  If you shot with 4x5 or 8x10 then you would have to spend ($3000.00 to $5000.00) once in your career.  Today, one needs to purchase a new pro DSLR camera ($3000.00), if you shoot with a large megapixel back you’ll be spending ( $10,000.00 to $25,000.00), plus a good computer ($2000.00 to $4000.00), plus software ($1200.00), plus, plus, plus.  All of these will need to be up graded or purchased new every 3 years to keep up with the technology changes.

Today, gas, utilities, insurance, cost of rent, food, cars, housing, crew, models, stylist, etc have all doubled or tripled in cost yet photographers, in general, still charge about the same or less than they did 15 to 20 years ago.

Ten years ago P.O.’s were simple, non-confrontational, and easily negotiated. Our terms and conditions were 5 to 6 items (less than a page).  Now, terms and conditions are 15 to18 items and 2 to 3 pages long.  This is to counter act current P.O.’s that attempt to take away creative’s ability to make a living. 

One observation that seems to have stayed the same over the years is what I call, “The grass is always greener over there” syndrome.   It’s when a local client has a good budget and a cool project they tend to go out of town to shoot.  I know, this is painting with a broad brush and not every client does this, but many times it’s true.

My observation is that this is short sighted.  It takes tax dollars out of the local community that provide better schools, roads, and infrastructure.  I’ve seen this happen in years past and the result is a reduced high quality talent pool in the local market.

My final observation is this:  In general, photographer’s costs have increased, and our client base has decrease. Corporate consolidation and changes in the market place has led to (few if any catalog, annual reports, print campaigns, etc.) more video and still shoots are being done in house, and budgets have been cut.  Along with this, photographers have started to take a piece of the video pie, which dilutes the viability of talented video and production companies.  Agency’s art directors and designers are swamped, portfolios are mostly viewed on line.  This rarely allows for the personal interaction that builds beneficial relationships.  This historically leads to a vendor – product relationship instead of a mutually beneficial creative partnership.

I wonder how long our current commercial photography business model will support a creative and high quality photo industry in the mid-west.  This isn’t good for either the advertising industry or the photography industries futures.

On the positive side, digital has opened up a whole new realm of creativity, the internet has made the world our market place, and for some clients your IPhone and a GoPro is all you need to shoot a project.   Wait, is that positive?

The market place is what it is.  It always changes.  I thought it would be interesting to reflect on a few of the market place changes in the past 20 years from someone that has lived it.

Do you have a different point of view?