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December 12, 2007

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Nick

"How many Singletrack contributors have gone on to forge successful full-time careers as photographers?"

Dan Barham (danbarham.com) and Rob Hamilton-Smith (rhsimages.co.uk) are making good cracks at it.

Seb Rogers

Hi Nick,

That's true, except that (playing devil's advocate here, and in no way reflecting on Rob and Dan's work, which I hold in the highest regard) neither is, as far as I'm aware, earning what could be called a full-time living from photography. And that's kinda part of my wider point.

Let's say that the global market for photographic images has expanded by 10% over the past decade (that figure may or may not be close to accurate, but it doesn't really matter). In the same period the global production of photographic images has expanded by (for the sake of argument) 10,000%.

Now of course not all of the dSLR-wielding hordes harbour fantasies of becoming pros. But most people like seeing their work in print, and it's easier than ever to have a crack. Plus the law of averages tells us that, amongst those hordes, there'll be some genuine talent like the Robs and Dans of this world. And they probably really do want to earn a living from their work.

Here's the problem: the market hasn't expanded anywhere close enough to cope with all this over-supply. And that's a large part of why Dan and Rob, despite their undoubted ability, aren't up there with the Sterling Lorences and Scott Markewitzes of this world. There just ain't room.

So what, you might say, it's just market forces at work, get over it. Well, yeah, up to a point. But individuals can do their part to prevent a bad situation getting worse (see also climate change) by making informed choices, like not giving their pictures away for free.

I believe we've come full circle :)

Richard Starkie

"As for 'exposure', it looks like Mark and I will have to agree to differ on that one. How many Singletrack contributors have gone on to forge successful full-time careers as photographers?"

Why do you equate exposure with the making of a career? Some people just like to share their photographs with as many people as possible and a page in ST does just that.

A lot of us take photographs for reasons besides making money. I like seeing my shots in print, for all the world to see. I'd rather see them printed for no financial return than them stay on my PC just because I demanded a fee the magazine won't pay.

Seb Rogers

Hi Richard,

I don't. That's the point. There are plenty of bike snappers whose names now appear regularly in print who aren't anywhere close to making a living from it. Same size pie, too many people chasing a piece of it.

Most photographers, most of the time, take photographs for reasons besides making money. And that's a Very Good Thing. What's changed over the past five years or so is that more bona fide amateurs are getting published... where previously those spaces would've gone to a pro. From a pro's perspective, that's a Bad Thing.

As someone who relies on my photography to pay the mortgage, I don't have to like this state of affairs, even if there's not much I can do about it.

You seem aggrieved that I take issue with commercial organisations (by which I mean anything from a magazine publisher to a large US airline ;-)) exploiting amateur photographers' willingness to exchange their images for a picture credit. It's not a personal criticism, simply my view of the current state of the industry. You don't have to agree with it :)

Nick

Got one today from a magazine claiming to be a charity. No mention of the charity on their website, but a lot of sell to advertisers about their high income readership, in 35 countries.

Denied.

Seb Rogers

Ah yes. The old charity gig (gag?).

Thing is, charities have to pay their staff. And for printing. And distribution. And all that stuff.

So why do they expect photographers to donate their work? Because enough of them are flattered by the attention / excited at the prospect of being published to fall for it. And that makes it worth asking.

The only suitable answer is a polite 'thanks, but no thanks'. If I wanted to donate to charity I'd do so at a time and in a manner (and, for that matter, to a cause) of my choosing.

Rant ends...

Geoff Waugh

David,

If you can't imagine a painter being asked to produce a piece for free then you are not using your imagination correctly. This practice is not unique to photography,it just happens that photography is the area in which you have an interest. To keep it mountain biking and thus easy to comprehend, ask Jo Burt if he has ever been asked to cough up for nowt. I'll wager that he has.

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