Are The Golden Days Of Pro Photography Over?



Can you still make a living in photography in 2020 and going into 2021? I see and hear a lot of negative talk about the profession online, so I wanted to set a few things straight, from the point of view of someone who is a professional commercial food photographer, but who has also worked in other genres in the past.

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26 thoughts on “Are The Golden Days Of Pro Photography Over?

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Dig this channel. I do think continent and currency is a factor when marketing to your own nationals. In South Africa and other so called "developing" countries, businesses that can afford pro photographers at pro rates are rare and we end up doing a whole educational spiel to most people as to why its even essential. I believe Africa and Eastern Europe we may need to work twice as hard to get local people to part with well earned cash. ln SA we do our own styling, photography and post production – its almost a given that that is all one job. X

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    I will admit, at least for life style photos cell phones are getting scary good, but they still lack the ability to control external lights. Also there is still a skill to compose the scene and so on. I see huge potential in commercial photography for local businesses and or communities too.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    I’d like to agree that you have to be good to be successful but I don’t think it’s true. There’s a photographer local to me who is really bad but she’s been doing it a long time so she’s fully booked

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Christian, sorry but I have to do disagree. Most ad agencies don’t get photographers / videographers anymore its’s stock. Stock used to pay, not mulch anymore. You have to understand light, equipment and all but mostly clients. Reading through pages and pages of market studies and then succumb to a failed photographer that became an “art director “ that tells you “you didn’t get it” , sometimes they are right. But knowledge of the physics of light and keeping and repeating and getting it right every time, it’s called consistency, the beginning of professionnalisme.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Yes, the golden days of photography (and other creative fields) are over.

    I have a commercial advertising photo studio in the SF Bay area and have been a commercial advertising photographer since the late 80s. I've watched the slow decline of the profession due to many reasons and it isn't going to turn around.

    I guess I should define "golden age" before I go any further. I don't define it as a time when a skilled photographer could get rich, I define it as a time when a competent photographer could make a really good living. I mean buy a house, save money, have a new car and spouse can stay at home kinda living. For the mass of photographers, those days are long gone.

    I've watched my friends and colleagues be priced out of business by people calling themselves photographers and charging rates so low that they themselves were out of business in 6 months – to be replaced by 10 more people doing the same thing.

    I've watched client's perception of photography as a skill eroded away by the perception that it's all about equipment and easy. That perception (that it's easy) has depressed the rates that they are willing to pay.

    I've watched as too many people have flooded the field wanting to be a photographer also because they think it's an easy way to make money and are misled by schools with photo programs and online photo "masters" telling them the same thing. "Just take my course and I'll make you a pro…"

    I've watched as more and more product photography is being outsourced to China and other places where there are manufacturing bases. I've lost clients to this myself.

    I've lost clients to 3D rendering providers as well and this trend will continue to grow.

    All in all, you can make money as a photographer but the Pareto Principle is in full effect. 20 percent of Photographers make 80 percent of the money – and the number of clients willing to pay a living wage is shrinking. Like it or not, it's the reality.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Yes, they are over. creative jobs in general are over from what they once were. Creative careers whether it's photography, writing, art, digital art, graphic design, etc. are dying the same way our society is dying because the arts reflect the times.

    It used to be up until the early 2000's (2008 pretty much killed this) you could be in a creative career and do one or two projects a month, spend a lot of time, and make a decent wage that reflected the intangible benefits of having true skill / talent / experience etc. You could comfortably live for a month working on these two projects. there was a balance.

    Now the work does not pay any where near that. Quality is not in demand anymore (we don't fix TVs we replaced them) (we give up quality audio for the ease of streaming) Everything is instant and quality will always be the thing that suffers, but since most people have no idea what "good" is anymore, it doesn't really matter. There is still work, but instead of two projects a month, you need to do eight, and still won't make as much as we did in the days we could get away with two.

    Some might see this as a good thing, however, what it means is that there is no benefit to making money from being creative. you can make the same money in less time doing many other things than being creative. Most famous pro photographers today give this advice all the time. if you love photography, get a job that pays well so you can shoot what you want, how you want, when you want. Need more proof. just look at the photographers doing well on youtube, they aren't making money from shutter clicks, they make it from selling you (us) a way to do it. Like the guy who is selling a book on how to get rich, it starts by sending him $50 for the book 😉

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    I've been photographing in one style with one type of set up for about five years. I only now feel as if I am accomplished enough to move onto something different and artsy-fartsy instead of so technical. The proliferation of camera work has just flooded the landscape with bad photos and lowered the bar for self-proclaimed photographers.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    I turned pro fairly quickly. I was lucky, worked for a museum. I borrowed money to get the equipment. This was the 80s. I think you need to get good but also do a specific job. General shooters have a much tougher time, even tougher without enough equipment.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    The whole "you can't anymore, everyone is a photograper, no one makes money out of photography anymore" chat drives me mad. 15 years as a photographer now, 100% income made from photography…. I see alot of (working) photographers now complaining that the work isnt there, its been degraded, there's too many photographers and a whole other excuses, but wont 'pivot'. The key is always a smidge of luck and being able to pivot/evolve with whats going on.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    I totally agree. We have to adapt to the market and not complain that the market isnt the way we worked before. One point I disagree on however is the point with time. I agree that you have to spend alot of time to become better, but slaving for 10 years as an assistant I belive is unessecary unless thats what you want to do. You would learn alot in those 10 years, but I belive you will learn more doing it yourself. Then you will truly see the impact of your decisions, both creativly and businesswise. There is a balance tho and I think its good to work as an assistant for a while.

    That said, im not a professional photographer. Im a journalist and have been working freelance both for the newspaper and for clients for 4 years prior to starting as a journalist. I also went to film school for a year. Im by no means an expert, but I feel that I have learned the most when I get thrown out of my comfort-zone and have to deal with problems that occur.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Plan. Exit. Strategy. Now. Very Soon we will see that Photography will no longer be a profession. It will be a hobby..You will have to make your money from selling tutorials and from YouTube channels. There are Far too many advances in AI and everyone has access to affordable camera technology.these days. People are looking to spend less. Everyone has a friend or family member that is into photography that will do it for free or low cost.. it sucks but I believe it is inevitable.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Lol photography is require more out of the photo. Compare the father of photography to our current photos. Photos will be part of society but they won’t be a large part of society. More and more will be required of photographers

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Generally speaking, I would not advise anybody to take up the profession of photography, and especially don't get into debt at college pursuing a photographic career having put yourself in 30k in debt. I have been in the professional sector a very long time, and compared to many years ago, its now dead for many…. Some even try YouTube, but that only pays about 2 or 3 pounds per thousand views, its a struggle…

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    You holding your cat was annoying. What is the point of holding your cat? It was distracting. Otherwise your video meant well.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Tim, in many ways you are correct in the thoughts of diversity to stay currant and alive. With that said, as someone who was, and I still consider myself a professional photographer working for 35 years in the profession, it has changed and many today are not technically trained, or savvy to skilled technique or just the basics of photography 101.
    Having been a member of the PPA, held the level of CPP, was working to move to the craftsman and then master level, digital changed the entire industry, which for many at the time needed to reinvent themselves and could not.
    I read an article back in the mid eighties which predicted the demise of the working professional due to the digital medium. It did come true and the demise started with Kodak, who with the help of one of their own technicians, created their own demise as the so called leader of mass production photography. It's ripple effect being felt still today, as so many light options, equipment costs being so much cheaper for many of the tools needed, that anyone can get started, make a meager living and flood the profession with…more less than competent photographers, with more post skills than image creating skills…and yes, many make little to nothing because the entire perception of the professional in the eyes of the mass public is no longer there. It is not perceived as the profession it ounce was and I don't see it ever returning to the medium and stature it ounce held. You have the major camera companies shifting from consumer SLR production to software for phones. They too are destroying the industry as did Kodak did in a different way. If you can make it today, to earn a living, that's wonderful, but it won't nor will it be what it ounce was as a working profession. The sad reality is that you have to be a better business person first, and also learn the skills needed to survive. Artists are by nature, bad business people. Learn that as well as the skills of image creating and you will do well. Good luck to all and happy shooting!!

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    I think that the more 'traditional' outlets are vanishing. Press work, with a massive shift to press agencies from staffers and the much reduced day rates from the regional press support this. But it just means the opportunity lies elsewhere.

    With social media, on-line opportunities, still offer a market. The one thing to be mindful of is the fact that people are less and less inclined to pat for the work. They see the value to them and their business, but not to the extent they are prepared to pay for it.

    The top end of the commercial world will always pay big bucks for a quality product. I just think because the size of the market has increased, but this increase is coming from the bottom end of clients that want the moon on a stick and want it for free, then the general perception is that it is a reduced market for the professional photographer.

    This is not helped by the weekend warriors who have just gone out a purchased the latest and greatest, stuck it in P mode, for professional, and think they are the next David Bailey! At this end of the spectrum brass neck counts more than technical proficiency.

    I guess newbie photographers are just not prepared to put in the graft!

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    I think that the more 'traditional' outlets are vanishing. Press work, with a massive shift to press agencies from staffers and the much reduced day rates from the regional press support this. But it just means the opportunity lies elsewhere.

    With social media, on-line opportunities, still offer a market. The one thing to be mindful of is the fact that people are less and less inclined to pat for the work. They see the value to them and their business, but not to the extent they are prepared to pay for it.

    The top end of the commercial world will always pay big bucks for a quality product. I just think because the size of the market has increased, but this increase is coming from the bottom end of clients that want the moon on a stick and want it for free, then the general perception is that it is a reduced market for the professional photographer.

    This is not helped by the weekend warriors who have just gone out a purchased the latest and greatest, stuck it in P mode, for professional, and think they are the next David Bailey! At this end of the spectrum brass neck counts more than technical proficiency.

    I guess newbie photographers are just not prepared to put in the graft!

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Here I tell you the shitty cynical secret that governs ALL CREATIVE PROFESSIONS…. its 80% who you know 20% skill. Skill gets you appreciated by your peers, networking gets you more work.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    Ah a real photography channel, subscribed! Most photographers seem to live on the prosumer segment selling presets, YT lens reviews and online education, with no actual clients. Maybe a few weddings. Thanks for insight!

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    The "golden" days ended with the 90s. It's not impossible to make a living in photography today by any means, but the "golden" days are as over for photography as they are for print media. It's like what happened with the California Gold Rush. At it's peak, anyone could dip a dish in a stream for a few weeks and get rich; by the end, it took years and years of dedicated gold digging to get rich.

  • October 14, 2021 at 13:28
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    You've hit a point about giving it time. I went self employed at start of 2018 with photography and have made next to nothing from it. 2020 was going to be the third full year (and last I was going to try it with the resources I had available. Now you point of giving it a good decade has lit a fire again. I might not be able to do it full time for a little while, but I definately going to give it another seven years to see where it goes. Great video.

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