Why the Influx of Amateurs Is Not Killing the Industry

Cameras have become so dumbed down in recent years that pretty much anyone can take great shots with even an iPhone or an entry-level camera. Here’s why you do not need to worry about the explosion of mediocre photography impacting your business.

If an Amateur Is a Threat to You, You Are the Problem

If you are worried that a person with no skill or experience is going to take all of your business, then the problem is that you should not own that market to begin with. If you are replaceable by virtually everyone with an iPhone, then you need to up your game. The problem is that you are not good enough, not that the market is being flooded with amateurs. Amateurs coming in and doing exactly what you do is just exposing your lack of specialized skill.

Underbidding can also seem like a problem, but it’s not. If you are in any photography Facebook groups, you might see something like this:

Photographer needed for a clothing brand shoot. Paid! $100 for full day and must provide 50 edits.

That post will have 20 comments from people jumping at the opportunity. But the important thing to remember is that a client that has a $100 budget for 8 hours of work on top of 10 hours of editing was not your target client to begin with. That client is paying a budget rate and is going to get budget quality in return. If you are charging decent rates in exchange for a decent product, you haven’t lost any clients. You have lost the opportunity to work with someone who would undervalue your work. That’s not a loss.

A Good Photographer Should Welcome Amateurs to the Market

Imagine you are a Mercedes dealership and 18 used car lots open around you. Are you afraid of never being able to sell a Mercedes with all of these cheap 2005 Honda Civics for sale around you? People in the market for a 2005 Honda Civic are not going to suddenly be in the market for a new Mercedes, and people in the market for a new Mercedes are not going to be tempted by a significantly cheaper 2005 Honda Civic.  

An influx in mediocre photography should only help you stand out more. If everyone around you is a six out of ten, then even being a seven out of ten makes so much more valuable.

A pro photographer would have known to use at least a 35mm lens to capture this angle and also would have shot from an angle that is not the back of that lady's head.

How to Make Money Off Your Competitors

If you shoot high school seniors and there are five photographers in your area who charge half what you charge and offer twice as many photos, here is what you need to do:

  1. Identify what sets you apart from those photographers
  2. Communicate that difference to your demographic

I don’t mean that you should message potential clients or make an ad about all the reasons you are better than the next guy. That would probably hurt your business. Look at the people underbidding you and look for the reasons why someone should hire you instead. Is your editing better? Is your lighting better? Is your composition better? What is it about your style and your product that makes you better than the people who significantly undercharge you?

The next step is to communicate that to your target demographic. For example, if you believe that your editing sets you apart, then maybe share some before and after shots in your posts. Make it clear the work that you put into your pictures to give them your signature style. You need to make sure your target demographic understands why they would go to you instead of the cheaper version. The burden is on you to educate your potential clients.

I had a recent call with a bride-to-be. She told me that she priced around and saw that there are some people who would only charge $500 for a wedding, so she could just go with them if I didn’t lower my prices. I explained to her what a $500 wedding photographer would likely deliver, how a $10,000 photographer would be different, and how my price in between the two would probably better suit her needs and not leave her with a lifetime of regret and disappointment when she looks at her wedding photos with her grandkids.

Remember that your clients are not always in this industry, and they don’t understand the difference between one photographer and the next. If a bride-to-be sees a pretty wedding photo on someone’s Instagram and they would only charge $500 and you charge $4,000, then you can explain how you have experience in taking group photos and lighting for group photos. You have experience in low-light situations, like a dimly lit reception hall. You have a second shooter who will capture a different angle or shoot video. The point is that your potential client would probably not think about these things, even if they see that both portfolios have pretty pictures. It is up to you to educate your demographic if you want to charge more than the other people in your area.

To circle back to the original example of the clothing brand offering $100 for 50 edits, if you are worried that potential clients might see this rate and get an idea in their heads about what an appropriate rate should be, then message this clothing brand and say: “Hello, I saw your ad for a photographer for $100 for 50 edits. My rate is higher than that and the difference is X. If your budget ever changes, I encourage you to check out my work on my website. I’ve worked with several clothing brands similar to yours who have paid my rate and I’ve helped them achieve their marketing goals." Or something to that effect.

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J.d. Davis's picture

Jeff, I think you misunderstand the problem.

First, those wishing to become successful at photography it is a must to take a Business 101 course. More than 95% of the population has a cellphone - but only a fraction of them understand how to run a business.

Second, welcome those who are willing to learn, and become the one who can teach them. Not only do you cultivate friendship, you also have someone who can help YOU if need be. Never think that just because you (may) be better, you should disparage their work. It is a poor way to gain a client, and those who you talk about will never forget it!

Third, it should never be incumbent upon you, as a business owner to 'sell' or 'upsell' your product or service. You need an agent to do that for you.

Lastly, before you price your work at thousands of dollars while others are charging hundreds of dollars, be certain of your skill level!

Jeff Bennion's picture

I agree with you on all points except maybe seeling and upselling. I didn't really talk about upselling, but it can be an important part of a photographer's business model. Not to scam or squeeze in extra dollars, but just in educating about extra products you offer. It is impossible to be a good businessperson and not be selling something, whether it's your experience, services, products, etc. Learning how to sell yourself is integral to being a successful entrepreneur in any field.

J.d. Davis's picture

I hired an agent - she's expensive but gets me high ticket shots and makes intros to galleries and monied people. That leaves being the eccentric artist of few words ( except here ) to me.

At this point in my career, it's all referral.

Best of luck to you - hope you land the big ones too!

Dan Howell's picture

"I didn't really talk about upselling, but it can be an important part of a photographer's business model. " This might be where the problem with your article lies. You are referring to a specific segment of the industry--retail. Before making such sweeping proclamations and generalizations, maybe stop and consider that not all segments of the industry operate on retail terms. As such, your advice doesn't apply to far more photographers than it might apply to.

Jeff Bennion's picture

If I didn't mention upselling and retail at all in my article, but only mentioned that upselling might be important to some people in response to a comment, how can my article only be targeting retail terms?

Map P's picture

'Lastly, before you price your work at thousands of dollars while others are charging hundreds of dollars, be certain of your skill level!'

This is the very reason that I've reduced my pricing, albeit momentarily. Looking at my work, I just didn't feel right charging what I was (even though it wasn't anywhere near thousands of dollars).

Now, it could be imposter syndrome, or simply being overly critical of my work, but when I feel my work is worth being priced higher, I'll most certainly be doing that.

Side note: I signed up with Fstoppers, just so I could reply to this. :)

Jan Holler's picture

f your work doesn't stand out from the crowd, how do you expect anyone to notice it? First and foremost, you have to master your craft, then you have to add your own signature.
Many thanks for the article.

Mike Ditz's picture

"If you are worried that a person with no skill or experience is going to take all of your business, then the problem is that you should not own that market to begin with."

I think that is a bit extreme. There are people with SOME skill and experience who have a good chance of taking SOME of your business.

Ronaldo Joe's picture

I'm one of those hobbyist trying to take some of your business.

Mike Ditz's picture

Welcome to the party pal! (in my Bruce Willis from Die Hard! voice :)

Howard Barnett's picture

Sort of agree. In order to sustain a business you need to build up a strong client base with repeat custom, ie commercial work, wedding photographers lack this. So focus on commercial work. Adapt and change according to the market.

Jeff Bennion's picture

That's why I only shoot weddings if I can tell the couple is not going to make it. Be extra nice to the bride's dad. Boom. You're welcome.

Mike Ditz's picture

Commercial work has gone under a lot changes too, It is not just shoot these 4 pictures for a layout. Many times it's shoot the 4 pictures for the layout, 10 more for the PR and brand marketing dept. 30 more for the social media kids and throw in some tick tocks and a BTS video.
In commercial work there is still room at the bottom or the top but the middle ground is drying up.

T Van's picture

Photography has always been an extremely competitive business to try and make a living. Yes amateurs, hobbyists, the ever growing stock photo marketplace, and your next customers nephew do impact the amount of work you might hope to have.
I can count very few of the hundreds of clients I've worked with who can determine what a good photo is or isn't.
As someone else mentioned, business sense and effective marketing of your work (agent, or other) make all the difference in sustaining a photography business.
Good luck out there. It's not getting any easier, but you might succeed if you're smart and have grit.

James Redondo's picture

You can tell the guy at the top is an amateur because he's looking backward! Photography 101: face camera when shooting. Duh.

Dan Howell's picture

If you think that the influx of amateur/semi-pro photographers hasn't had downward pressure on fees throughout the industry then you are, frankly, blind. While not the only problem, but this platitude "If an Amateur Is a Threat to You, You Are the Problem" misses the net effect of the last 10 years in the industry.

the car dealer analogy is a complete miss.

Mike Ditz's picture

Agree, about the changes, like 100%.
The funny thing is most clients and photographers are Honda Accords.
A good reliable product that gets the job done, maybe the Accord LX but way more of them than MBenz.

Dan Howell's picture

I think a better analogy would be from the tv show The Office when Michael is speaking to a business school class about competing with the spread of big box stores like Staples. He ends his talk by saying that good personal service will always bring the customer back.

I have not observed that to be the case when it comes to professional photography.

Jeff Bennion's picture

I think it's more of a problem with a change of perceptions brought on by lifestyle bloggers and microinfluencers on social media. More people are posting cell phone pics and using brand ambassadors using amateur photos in lieu of professional studio shots. Larger companies are following that trend because it's trendy and they can connect with their customers on social media better. And those pictures are "retouched" with IPhone apps, not layer stacks in Photoshop. But, if you are a high end photographer and you do high end commercial shoot for high end fashion brands or magazines like Vogue or Cosmopolitan or high end weddings or even just $3,000 weddings, what is a guy who just bought a crop sensor camera at Best Buy or an IPhone 12 going to do to hurt your business? Things are changing for sure, like CGI being used for product shots. But businesses and industries have always had to adapt. My point is the threat is not from advanced hobbyists.

Dan Howell's picture

Honestly, I don't think you have a broad enough view of the industry to see how the topic you bring up in the article has impacted the industry. It is not a 'perception', it is an on-the-ground reality. Yes, industries have to adapt. I'm saying that the industry HAS adapted. The result is lower fees across the spectrum of assignments.

As I said, it is not the only threat, but the last 20 years of transition from a primarily print media marketplace for photographer to an electronic media marketplace has not enriched photographers. Electronic media has lowered the barrier to entry. That has allowed more amateur/semi-pro to compete or attempt to compete for paid work.

FStoppers has published several articles with the thrust of 'when should I turn pro' 'how do I make money from my hobby'. The net effect has that fees have dropped. I'm sorry if you are not positioned to be aware of this. There are virtually no longer any paid editorial fees. E-commerce which can be taught to photographers of any level has severely impacted budgets and opportunities for display photography-both fashion and product.

A clear example of this is several newspapers across the country have shifted from employing photographers to requiring their reporters to photograph with cell phones. Those that still employ photographers are requiring them to shoot both film and video with no increase in salary.

For fashion catalog or fashion press kits, the market has contracted for the past 10 years ago and the fees are lower. They simply are. Again, while not the whole impact, part of that impact has been clients turning to semi-pro/low-experience photographers. That wouldn't be a pervasive problem if the clients were using those savings in fee to hire experienced professionals for their advertising or higher end photography, however, in most cases they are not. What I do see are fashion brands reducing their budgets for photography while handing their social media photography needs to an intern or their marketing person as an extra duty.

Seriously, if you do not see an aggregate lowering in fees across the broader photography industry, I don't see the point in debating this because it is a reality not an opinion.

I have to ask since you put in your bio line here, are you a full time photographer or are you still practicing law? You are obviously free to pursue the mix of interests and opportunities that you desire. I am asking since you are offering specific and emphatic information that is counter to the experience I have had from being a full-time professional commercial and editorial photographer for the last 30 years.

Jeff Bennion's picture

I think that perhaps newspapers and other print media such as magazines have other problems that are affecting their budgets. Great portfolio by the way. I have my own law practice so I set my own schedule. I (used to) work almost entirely in the courtroom. I do both full time. Cheers.

Mike Ditz's picture

All due respect but if you are an established full time lawyer and full time photographer your experience will be radically different from full time photographers who have "all their eggs in one basket". Which used to be a good business practice, not any more.

I don't care about dollars but what percentage of your income is from photography vs. law.
In a normal non pandemic year, how many days per year do you spend doing law vs. photography (shooting, marketing, post / pre production,etc)?

Jeff Bennion's picture

Objection. vague and ambiguous. Assumes facts not in evidence. That is a tough question to answer because it's not like I would ever say, "Man, I'd love to do photography stuff, but it's Tuesday and Tuesdays are for depositions." But I schedule the two around each other. So days that I am in court in another city, I will do back end admin stuff in the evening as opposed to shooting. But overall, I'd say probably 80% photography and 20% law because the law stuff is by it's nature more concentrated by project and photography stuff is more never ending projects and marketing and social media stuff. But having a diversified income wouldn't affect the analysis of an issue, only the level of anxiety you would have being in the middle of the issue.

Mike Ditz's picture

Having two distinct sources of income is a good way to reduce anxiety! Especially these days.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I always love the "adapt" suggestion. I wonder what we adapt to?

I'm constantly losing work to part timers who offer less skill, slower service and less guarantees with poorer creativity. But they're about 1/4 of my cost so I'm constantly amazed how many clients just go the cheaper route.

And I'm not just talking about Joe Blogs for a family shoot...

I'm talking about major, multi-billion ££ corporations who would prefer to spend £300 on a shoot rather than the £1500 I might charge. (I've seen the difference that the cheaper competition gives and it is scary how bad it can be).

We wonder why, but often the reason is that the person in charge, or the art director, or the senior creative or PR person organising the whole thing - has very limited experience and they think that bringing a project in at low cost, (or at a high profit margin when they're a PR agency), will earn them brownie points. And I'm sad to say that it does.

And even more so, I'm amazed when I discover that the client is happy with the result. Happy enough I guess, because they don't know what they're missing. Our job is one where we don't have two photographers shooting the same thing for comparison.

I've been replaced on too many occasions after years of service to an agency, because they're cutting costs - and radically so.

Or that PR agency has "a guy on the team" when I know it's a muppet with a kit camera.

Standards are dropping because attention spans are shortening. What used to be an expensive print run is now a PDF or something on social media for a few days. And the people who are in charge are increasingly younger with less experience.

Or there will be some talented amateurs, but they do it for fun. No need to make a profit, so their costs are low. They probably don't have insurance, they'll most likely not have the extensive backups that guarantee a job will be successful, they may not deliver as quickly because they've only got the weekends free... But because they don't have overheads, and oft because they undercut the pros without a care for how they're hurting the industry - rates get hit hard and people actually earning a living get hurt financially.

So "adapt" would mean that I drop my rates to get work? But then I lose proper rates on jobs that will pay properly, whilst chasing my tail on all those cheap jobs.

Or maybe I should venture into yet more avenues of photography - but that means expenditure and watering down my client base - so again there's all that tail-chasing.

I could up my skill base and aim for those select high-earning jobs... But I'm pretty skilled already and any pro will tell us that the high-earning jobs are as much about a lucky break or fortunate encounter as it is skill. And besides, I've been losing those high earning jobs (up to £2000 for an hour shoot and no retouching required on the 10 images delivered), to less talented and cheaper people. (I almost cried when I saw LinkedIn use some dreadful photography printed huge on a bus for a national campaign, when I would have probably shot it in earlier days).

I have no issue with part timers joining the competition, but I do have issues when they undercut solely because they don't have to carry the overheads and are shooting for fun. Charge industry rates and anyone is welcome to play...

Cost of entry is cheap these days. Cameras are good, and good-enough is good enough for even the biggest of clients. It is harder to find clients that an discern the difference or who can believe that we're not all the same with a "nice camera."

It started happening in the broadcast TV sector here in the UK about 15 years ago and things have been getting tougher. As an experienced DoP, I found myself replaced by teenagers who'd work for peanuts - to be replaced when they finally worked out they'd never be able to buy a house or have a mortgage.

And it's happening with photography. But here the risk is bigger because people are doing it in their spare time for fun and not for money. And some of these people are actually quite skilled.

But what these part timers or amateurs don't have are the overheads, or the need to make a sensible profit - because that is handled by their day job. And if that hurts my business then apparently I need to "adapt."

I see a time when there will be a handful of fortunate high earning pros - almost like A-listers in the biz, and then most everything else will be handled by in-house lower paid 'togs, or by keep amateurs who are just happy to give it away for free or cheap.

It's why I see so many jobs advertised as unpaid (but you can build your portfolio) or classed as "entry level." In fact I've not seen a staff job advertised in video/photography here in the UK requiring anything higher than entry level (apart from management things), for several years.

Yes, the amateur industry is hurting the market. In the same way that the cheap competition is hurting the market. Because unlike a bad experience in a restaurant, the clients seem to just keep coming back for more without recognising they can have better elsewhere - even when it goes horribly wrong.

The assumption can often be "well I didn't like the pictures / service / creativity, but at least I didn't waste my money getting the same from an expensive guy...)

Early retirement beckons - and not a moment too soon... :)

Jan Holler's picture

Sorry about that. It is a downward spiral. Customers loose (lost) the ability to seriously judge work and started to hire cheap photographers (nor none at all). This leads to mediocre results at best. But then more people think: What those photographers are able to do I can do as well and offer their service too.

Bill Wells's picture

At one time the standard was to offer packages of prints. If digital files were offered, it was at an add-on price.

The fact that "we" now include digital files as standard packages is a result to new photographers. The new photographers entered the market and put files on DVD or thumb drive. This changed the industry.

The fact that you are better had no impact.

Our clients are not photography experts. They jump on the cheapest price or promise of most digital files. Our answer was to offer more digital files, to keep up.

The fact that you are better had no impact.

The new photographers posted 2 nice images on social media. They shot 100 with 2 keepers, while you shoot 100 with 98 keepers. Some of your clients rush to book a low cost, high quality shoot with that photographer.

The fact that you are better had no impact.

Folks, stop and look around. This industry is changing from the bottom up and not from the top down. There are solutions, but we first have to acknowledge that a problem/issue exists.

Many of our very best photographers have to supplement their income via training of some type. Some only do training.

The fact that they are better had no impact.

Catherine Bowlene's picture

Agree. I've never seen a professional photographer whose work was seriously impacted by amateurs, to be honest, neither do I really think it's possible. The amount of skills is seen clearly and the customers usually opt for someone whose works are cheaper just because their works are cheaper and they are fine with the quality of pictures they will be getting. Of course, there are always those who expect a hobbyist to provide the full professional level photo shoot and all the Photoworks magic possible for a couple of dollars, but these are clearly entitled people that can be met in every sphere, be it photography or not. The amateurs will come and go, some of them will stay and make it to the professional level, and if you are afraid of it then the joke's on you.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I've been seriously impacted by amateurs - so now you cant say that anymore...

Clients are often quite daft and stick with the premise that we all have nice cameras so we're all the same - but some are just cheaper.

Heck we get that in our own photographic community, with swathes of people believing that Profoto is just expensive because of the badge.

And then there are the clients who can't tell the difference - mainly because they don't have the experience to know what they could be getting. I've had "art directors" who have ok'd a shot on my tethered laptop before I've set the lights or checked focus - because they have no idea what "good" is. (And that was for an advertising shoot with a multi-billion £££ corporate.)

Clients like to assume everything will just go well, even when it didn't last time. I knew a major PR company in the pharma sector who kept employing a cameraman - despite the fact that he was rubbish, had very poor gear, didn't bring enough batteries or media to shoots - and he'd missed THREE flights on three separate jobs. BUT, he was cheap.

I bring backups but the client rarely sees them. And when I need them, no one notices because I employ them without fuss. I have insurance but have never needed it - yet. I back up my client projects to multiple drives, but have yet to lose any data. These are things a pro charges for but are unseen. Some clients recognise this essential, but a large amount ignore this service on the basis that they don want to pay for guarantees, but it is the 'tog's fault if it goes wrong.

No one wants to pay for a longer day to allow for a safety margin in getting to a location - but there will be hell to pay if we're late... same principle.

Not sure where that joke is. But is is happening. It is happening a lot. And it only needs to happen a bit to reduce profits to an unsustainable model.

25 years in the biz - I've noticed it.

Jan Holler's picture

Lee, your example of the cheap, disorganized and not very capable photographer hired by a big company is a good one. Some companies have obviously never learned: if you pay cheap, you get cheap. This is not limited to photography, but can be seen everywhere and all the time.
In the end, such companies run the risk of paying double, or at least more, than they would have paid to hire a professional, and run the risk of getting less quality than expected.

But again, this could be seen as an opportunity for any skilled and organized photographer to take on this job and do it better.

Jan Holler's picture

Catherine, with all due respect, please take a look at newspaper photographers. They mostly have been replaced by amateurs, half time pros, even normal people with a smart phone or, as we sadly see everywhere, those always the same looking boring stock photos.

Dan Howell's picture

I have had multiple commercial clients, in these cases fashion designer/manufacturers, who at one point hired me by the day at a fair day rate change to either reducing or eliminating the number of days they hired a professional because they tasked an internal (non-photographer) to take some or all photos for their marketing. Some did this at their own peril and reduce the quality of their marketing.

If you don't think that there have been numerous companies who have changed the number of days or assignments they work with professional photographers because someone's niece or nephew has a fancy camera, then I would suspect that you haven't been working as a photographer for very long.

Jeff Bennion's picture

I was a production photographer on the set of a large music video production for the Apple Music awards last December. The entire thing was shot at night from 5pm to 5am. Lots of background lights and lights in weird places that you couldn't control and that would make getting exposure tough. There were two other production photographers who had cameras with pop up flashes on them and kit lenses. Clearly someone's friend or relative who had no idea what they were doing. It wasn't a huge issue because the pics are not allowed to be published anywhere and were just mementos for the artist, but it was painful to see. Nepotism always has and always will be an issue in every industry though.

Dan Howell's picture

Cool story but hardly on point, unless you are trying to make the point that you got the job that a more experience full-time photographer would have gotten in the past. I have read several of your responses here and see only information from your personal perspective. I'm not sure you realize how limited it might be. But seriously I don't care about one individual photographer's scope of experience. However, I have a problem when I see opinions presented as fact, especially based on a limited scope of experience.

What I have seen from not only personal experience but also reports from numerous other photographers from different sub-specialties within photography and information from clients and publishers. I've seen and worked through the shift from print to digital media. What you and a lot of photographers seem to overlook is that the cost/value-per impression is vastly different from print to digital. In some cases it can be a factor of 10x. You can ask anyone who has sold advertising for media for both print and digital.

With that comes a reduction in editorial production budgets. If you can't see it, that is devaluation of original photography creation. It is not a stretch to demonstrate how formerly professional assignments are now compensated at 1/2, 1/4, 1/10th the budget they formerly were. Were you aware of this? It is not something I am pulling out of thin air.

The net effect is that clients don't value photography the way they once did. The further effect is that they assign no/low-experience photographers on shoe-string budgets. Your premise is that amateurs are not having a net negative impact. Mine is that lower fees across the board are proof that it has. It is not, nor ever has been, about a one-to-one comparison. However, I am not begrudging amateurs taking the opportunities they can find. I am not, on the other hand, going to accept that it is without a cost. If you think the professional photography industry will be the same in the next 10-15 years or even exist, I would say you are more optimistic than I am.

If you really wanted to get into nuances, an argument could be made that the visual perspective of an iPhone has actually impacted lifestyle and advertising photograph on both low and high end projects. But I suspect that you do not have the breath or depth of knowledge about the changing trends in catalog and advertising photography over the past 15 years from an insiders perspective or how it changes the visual vocabulary across the whole industry.

Moshe Strugano's picture

Nice Article

Christian Santiago's picture

I respect the spirit of the article, but I think it falls short in broadcasting the bigger picture. The threat isn't from some complete noob with a cell phone, or as you put it, a lot full of 2005 Honda Civics. The threat is more from a bunch of 2019 Honda Accords. Good, solid reliable cars that are good enough for most people and even have some of the bells and whistles of higher-tier models. It's so much bigger than what I can cover in this post but it starts with the proliferation of decent, even good photographers, with easier access to affordable quality gear and education (skill development) but who lack the business sense to properly price/ value their work and don't understand even the basics of copyright and ownership. A naive hive that brands are all too willing and ready to take advantage of. That's why you see so many commercial shoots now with 1k budgets who demand 30 edited photos and unlimited rights and usage. It's decent photographers willing to work "for exposure" or in exchange for a product that drags down the rates and expectations that people have on how photography should be valued.
Foolish newbies are all too willing to cave for a chance to get the foot in the door.

This is what drags rates down for what would otherwise be good, solid jobs with decent budgets.

Clients now expect a Mercedes at the price of a Honda.

Then there's also the shift of labels. Digital media (Photo/video) is now looked at as just "content." That just follows whatever trend the latest algorithm fancies. I've actually had clients say things like "well could we maybe pay less for editing since the photos don't even have to be that good. We don't want them to look like professional photos." As someone who spent years developing his craft to deliver the highest quality I can muster, such requests are quite demoralizing.

Jeff Bennion's picture

Excellent point. There is a huge proliferation of the need for mediocre and "lifestyle" content. But the need for media is exploding as well. The lower tier is definitely growing the fastest though. I think a lot of that has to do with Kim Kardashian and Fashion Nova using selfies to sell products effectively and Instagram adding a store button to encourage more of the same. Patrick made a good point the other day in one of the Corona Virus videos that newborn photographers who have a set time frame to take a cute picture of a baby who is sleeping or crying during that window might be at a disadvantage to a mom who has a decent camera in her pocket 24/7 and can capture the cute moments as she sees them. There's a shift and an effect from all of this in some genres for sure. I think the growth of lower tier needs has an effect on the upper tier, but there will always be a need to top tier content.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Yep, I'm with you there. Crazy when we have to justify ourselves over things that should be the norm of professionalism.

Macintosh Smith's picture

I don’t believe the author of the article, Jeff Bennion is wrong. However, he is not complete either. One of the biggest challenges is that the perceived value of photography has been denounced. You can know “what your worth is”, all you want! If the customer perceives the job to be considerably less, you are not scoring brownie points with one additional customer.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had retail prospects demand exclusive rights at retail cost. And what the image stock firms have done to the industry has caused more damage than it helped. They have absolutely imposed a race to the bottom effect upon the industry. Don’t believe me, read www.selling-stock.com, by Jim Pickerell.

I’m in awe when I read upon social media discussion boards, when amateur shooters claim the “Pro Photographers try to nickel and dime the customer over use of RAW files and prints”. And they are regurgitating these rhetorical statements from the mouths of their customers.

While I do agree that Pro Photographers need to produce higher quality content in a better context. Also, aim for a higher clientele, be better at qualifying prospects and always educate the customer. The challenge is, that stuff cost us more in time and money. And I don’t believe Jeff Bennion has offered a silver bullet solution with his examples.

I believe the better answer is to study the market in order to create and offer packaged solutions to prospects. Ignore offers as described, “A full day fashion photo session for $100 with 50 edits”. That’s not your customer… That’s an insult! You are the master when you establish the value of your solutions in the market place. Especially when you have referrals to back you up.

David Blacker's picture

Agree with almost everything you've said here, Jeff. I've been using these same arguments whenever people grumble about the industry being swamped with cheap amateurs. Anyone being priced out really needs to re-examine the products and services they're offering. Life is tough at the bottom and middle parts of the pyramid, where the prices are low and the work mediocre. Want to beat the competition? Be better at what you do.