A Positive Look at Today’s Photography Market by Eduardo Frances (El Salvador Beauty Photographer)


Guest Post by Eduardo Frances, El Salvador.
Eduardo is a fashion and beauty shooter in San Salvador. Eduardo has been featured on LE before.

Another look at today´s market: Positive and I hope inspiring too.
(Or how adding a violin soundtrack is not needed when we talk about photography).

Read Eduardo’s view of the market’s volatility and what it means to him working in El Salvador after the jump.

I want to take a moment to thank those of you who have been supportive of Lighting Essentials for these many years. It is heartwarming and I am humbled. I do so love working with photography and photographers. Thank you.

Off to Cincinnati for a workshop this weekend and I will be speaking about portraiture at MPEX on next Monday. Still have room in Norfolk, Raleigh, and Houston, though not that many in Norfolk.

I am very excited about going to Norfolk. Lots of history there and I am a nut for history. Same with Raleigh. I was there when I was 12, but at my age, that doesn’t even count. Looking forward to making some great friends there next month. Last plug… Anna Maria is half full and when I announce the surprise we are working on it will fill in a couple of hours. So if you are thinking about it, Florida in early December… white sand and wonderful temps… I am just sayin’…

Zack Arias unleashed a mini firestorm this past week with the posting of two somewhat controversial posts on the current business of photography – at least how he sees it.

Part One: Over Saturated Market You Say? You Can Blame Me.
Take away graph:
“These days those paths aren’t so clearly defined. You can go to school via blogs, workshops, YouTube, and DVD’s. You can upload pictures to flickr and suddenly get a message from an art director wanting you to shoot a job. You can be a kid from Canada, travel the world, shoot some bands and end up shooting campaigns for a company you aren’t even old enough to buy their product. You can be inspired by your own wedding photographer, buy a camera, a fast lens, and rise to the top of your zip code within a year. You can go to Wal Mart, buy a cheap DSLR, shoot your friends and family, shoot their friends and families, put a blog together, and start a business. There are so many easy entry points into the market now. There is an abundance of inexpensive cameras, free learning portals, and free advertising routes that allows just about anyone with a camera to get out there and make a little or a lot of money with it”

Part Two: Cheap Photographers Only Kill Themselves, Not The Industry.
Take away graph:
“This is what happens when you are the low ball cheap photographer. You either don’t get enough work to stay alive and you have to quit the business or you get so busy being the low ball cheap photographer that you can’t keep up with the workload and you have to quit the business and that’s what happened to me. You can only stay cheap for so long before you have to make a change to your pricing to either stay alive because you aren’t getting enough work, or to get fewer clients so you can keep up with the workload and actually have a day off from time to time.”

You really should read both of the posts. All the way through including comments. You will gain a valuable insight into what a lot of photographers are thinking. You may not agree with the sentiments expressed, but you damn well sure should know they are out there.

Either way, I applaud Zack for making bold statements and for the courage of his convictions to state them.

Kirk has a post entitled: Sometimes I cheat myself by believing things that just aren’t relevant. Wherein he discovers that his trusty cheap Canon ‘nifty fifty’ holds up very well against a top of the line German model. Some good things to think about the next time you are absolutely SURE you need that expensive thingydoohicky.

Make sure you check out our recent two part post on preparing your image files for printing a book. Coffee table books are really fun to do when you get them back with perfect imagery.

Preparing Digital Files for Printing a Book by Jan Klier
Preparing Digital Files for Printing a Book (Part Two) by Jan Klier
And my random musings entitled: Slightly Random Thoughts on Photography and Related Stuff has some stuff to consider.
Now – let’s get on to Eduardo Frances’ take on the current state of Photography.

After reading Zack Arias´ article I would like to chime to give him thumbs up and maybe offering another point of view in some other parts, this article is a counterpoint on how some people perceive the state of the photography market today. I would like to put a different perspective in this topic, perhaps a more optimistic and positive look to this whole new era that has opened to us. And also one that’s less social media (angry forum posts)/ price of gear biased one.

I started in a different career although photography is related to what I was studying at that time and my very first camera was a really battered second hand Canon EOS Rebel film camera it was a camera I used to study photography, the next camera I had was a really beautiful second hand black AE-1 program that my father was kind enough to give me, a camera that to this day I keep with me (I sold the EOS a long time ago), with this in mind have you noticed the kind of cameras that I had? Those were really cheap cameras that have been recommended for years and years to anyone who wanted to start into photography (as the Nikon FM, and the Pentax K1000 too); there have been good and cheap cameras available since the Kodak Brownie (which started the whole movement of vernacular photography) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernacular_photography that have allowed a lot of people to be in photography and also to pursue later to be professionals in this field (Besides how many biographies of famous shooters have you read and how many started with cheap film cameras? The answer is: A lot of them).

So that leaves us with the first question: Has the digital revolution has changed the field of photography in the last 10 or 20 years? Sure thing – but cheap cameras and people that wanted to do photography and later having an interest of pursuing a professional career in this field has been like that for more than 20 years. Sure the number may have risen thanks to the instant feedback the color LCD on the back of a digital SLR screen provides, but to those complaining: if things have become easier for the amateur, enthusiast and the up and coming pro then it means that it has become certainly easier for us professionals too. There´s no denying that the workflow has changed and it has facilitated things to us and clients too which makes for a more dynamic work relationship. And that helps us get things faster for them, which in turns means we can get more time to get more clients too. How then is that it only benefits the $100 wedding shooter in the US or EU and not established pros?.

It is true however that there have been drastic changes to the market we are in, you get to hear people complain about microstock as an example and they are in their own right to do it in some way. But there´s the point to where one should do a deep analysis of the situation. I for one am not affected by microstock and I work in a really small market but still there are a lot of clients craving for original work. Thus the analysis for shooters in larger markets should be to find if you are doing your marketing in the right way? Is there´s a market for the kind of photography you are offering? (There´s no sense in trying to put together an Igloo architecture photography business in California)

However there´s also the issue related to the the professional photography associations, educative sites, shooters doing seminars, etc. Only a really, really, really small group of shooters doing seminars and other educative endeavors are taking the time to show people wanting to enter the arena that there´s a way to do a living from photography without undercutting themselves by resorting to microstock or giving away your work for Super Mario Galaxy 2 and a bottle of Coca Cola… Don as an example makes the effort to show them that if the tide rises we can all be benefited in each one of his seminars. He has dedicated himself to not teach mechanically about lighting or how to operate a camera, or to teach you how to shoot mimicking the way he shoots. His seminars are based on subject and concept driven photography but also to show the right ropes to those wanting to enter the market.

So are the rest of shooters in the seminar market, photo education sites or blogs doing the same? If not there´s no better day than today to start doing it instead of complaining. The tide can rise and benefit everyone in the sense that we would be competing for who can offer the best quality of work instead who’s doing it cheaper if we teach people to not undercut themselves.

But the biggest point most people are missing in the analysis of this whole issue is the economic meltdown. We are still in one of the biggest economic turmoil times which many of us has seen and in the state of the global economy as it is today, forecasting and talking about the topic is really hard. Signs of a slow but steady recovery in various parts of the world are being reported; with this in mind are we sure that’s how the photo market will be forever and ever?

Most likely it will have some changes but not as drastic or dramatic as many seem to think, there are still printed magazines being sold with strong numbers (although in the US could be less but I would attribute to a cultural issue rather than the imminent death of printed media, look at Europe and Asia things are different there). Who says that when things get better after the crisis people won’t start to buy more magazines again? How can someone project a forecast on that?. As it is throwing a forecast in this situation until we don’t see how the market will react in times of abundance is kind of speculative, there have been other economic crisis before and things were better than in the time when they were the economic downturn happened.

Another problem I see with the analysis of the photography market done these days is that is based on what people in the net say but usually they add an unnecessary dramatic tone to it which in the end it distorts the view of the real issue, Sure there’s the 100 buck shooter, the microstocker, the person who believes in the “we are gonna make you famous”, but to make a counter point here to those saying they are stealing clients from them…. If they are looking for a $100 bucks shooter or a microstock royalty free photo, etc. Then they weren’t interested in the first place to hire you. And if they aren’t interested then that means they weren’t potential clients at all. So the thing is to stop worrying about what other people do and start identifying your real potential costumers. Search a way to get them to be a costumer (sans the “potential”). If your wedding portfolio looks in quality similar to the $100 shooter, of course your higher prices will be laughed on. But if the quality of your work goes along side with the price tag you have set for your services, then you are bound to find more costumers happily willing to pay for your work.

Things are hard for everyone not just photographers (although it seems that the most dramatic and with uber depressing cello soundtrack articles are written by photographers – thus the spot light on us). But other business work hard and still get clients, even with a slow economy… which means they found a way to keep a steady flow of work.

So Let’s recapitulate a little here: While it is true that digital SLR cameras have changed the market it doesn’t means that people weren’t shooting with cheap film SLR´s that had an auto mode in the film days. Much less it means that the only differentiating element from an established shooter is how cheap someone charges, also the market has changed because of the global economic problems that are still here although there are signs that our market is recovering (slowly but moving forward). Every day there’s a new shooter discovered and rising in the ladders of our profession. Ad agencies still hire shooters, magazines still hire shooters, wire services are still using shooters, couples still hire shooters, families still hire shooters, companies still hire shooters, etc. You even get to hear established pros in different areas of the world saying their work load is steadily increasing. So the point isn’t how many people are in the market or how cheap is their camera but how you are competing in the market against them and how good is your service and final product:

  1. What makes you more valuable and better prepared to take the assignment than the other 499 shooters that are wanting that same assignment you are bidding?
  2. Are you competing with the quality of work and service you provide to your clients or with yard sale prices?
  3. Are you networking actively or are you in Twitter and Facebook thinking that´s the “easy way” and waiting to be “found” instead of using the old but proven method of using your Chevrolets to get clients?
  4. Are you up to the standard of the work potential clients require, crave and want or are you contempt with what you know/what you do and you don´t want to evolve your craft?

I took a long hard look on how I was running things with my business in this crisis. Before this turbulent economic time I was saturated with work and then things were slowing down and slowing down and slowing down. I took a hard look at my portfolio, at my client list, at the potential clients I hadn’t addressed. I took a hard look to everything and decided to go and put even more effort to get me more clients, to update my portfolio with photos with even more quality and more variety in my own style too.

I revised the way I do things to offer my clients a better service and final products, etc. And the results are in: I have more gigs, more clients, more people that I network with (clients, MUA’s, models, ad agencies), etc, than when this year started.

Was it hard? Sure it was hard!! But there´s isn’t a single business that runs on dreams or hopes! If you want something then it is time to stop day dreaming and to start actively searching for a way to do what you have set as a goal as a professional.

It isn’t just about getting a cheap or expensive camera, setting a blog and start receiving gigs (because this rarely -if ever- happens). It is about YOU as the person behind the camera, the creative, the visionary!!! Because blaming cheap cameras, cheap lenses, cheap lighting gear, (or even expensive gear which seems to be the fuel for many futile forum discussions too) for the state of the market or your business… why?

Simply because you would be relegating what makes a photo a good photo to a second plane: In other words you are relegating yourself as an artist, as a passionate person who expresses him/herself through photography as less than the chunk of metal, plastic, electronics and glass that you are holding in your hand every time you do click, click, click -which if I may say, it would be viewing things in a really wrong way. The value of your business, your service and your final product is YOU.

I know Judge Joe Brown and some other people will be kinda angry with me because I don´t blame cheap gear – but such is life you can´t keep everyone happy ;)
– Eduardo Frances, San Salvador, El Salvador : Eduardo’s MM Page. Eduardo’s Facebook Business Page.

No you can’t Eduardo. Not at all.

But one can strive for excellence in all one does in this world. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always fun. But it is life changing for sure. Thanks, Eduardo, we appreciate your perspective from down Central America way.

As always, follow along on Twitter if you are so inclined. And if you are interested in a workshop, take a look at Learn to Light. There is a lot of info there.

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

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