I have spent the last two weeks talking with photographers, studio owners and retailers and the common thread is that the industry has changed or is changing and possibly not for the better. As a rule the photography business has not seen any growth in day rates or volume of work for many years, in fact the uptake of digital, it could be argued heralded the devaluation of the photography industry and its been a downhill slide since then. Anecdotal information and my personal conversations lead me to believe that most photographers are still charging a similar day rate to those they charged in the mid nineties.
Where is the future going to lead us? There are opportunities out there in the new reality but most of these are going to revolve around online and the delivery of goods and services via the web. What COVID-19 is teaching us is that the end of retail is having a domino effect for those industries that fed of it. Catalogues are now online, magazines are closing down or rapidly moving online and the demand for content to engage audiences is increasing so why are we not seeing the demand for professional content creators increasing? For the Australian content creator our major problem is that big brands are creating their world wide content in their home countries. I see the same imagery when I shop at Nike Australia’s website as an American would see, the consolidation of creation.
How do we survive? The answer here is that there is still a demand for local identity. It takes a lot of work to identify where this is and then tap into any sort of budget, its not that we create an inferior product its just we are swamped by a global market that also does it well and has the budget to “go big”. My take on the current situation is that those photographers who were on the fringe and marginal but drove the pricing down in a desperate attempt to get work will have now exited the business allowing both the quality of the work and the average hourly rate to increase- not by much but enough to ensure a viable industry remains.