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Opportunities and Challenges in the Photography Industry Chapter 4: How can you succeed?

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Chapter 4 of 5:

What opportunities exist within the photography industry?

The photography industry is projected to evolve rapidly in the next few years, creating new opportunities to market players. With low barriers to entry, it is now far easier for newcomers to enter the market than it was 5 -10 years ago. In the UK there is an even playing field, absent of dominating competitors and mainly made up of sole traders and small businesses. This is a healthy market indicator for upcoming talented professionals who may have been repelled away by fears of monopolistic players.

Further opportunities exist within the photography industry itself but newer entities must have a strategic vision to position themselves in the market. Instead of a broad approach, audience targeting will increase the chances of success, especially for newer professionals with limited budgets. Targeting and specialisation is the foundation for branding – an important element for any business wishing to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is even more essential in the photography business where clients want more than a photo. Therefore, photo traders that have realised this have gone on to create brands and brand communities around their businesses.

The growth of cities and towns is also another opportunity presenting itself in the photography industry. Here, the majority of the dwellers have got disposable income which they can utilise for luxury activities, such as photo sessions. Furthermore, towns and cities are also characterised by a lot of events requiring photography services, including charity events and marathons for example. Therefore, the expansion of these areas is providing a great opportunity for the photography industry to grow.

Funding Opportunities

It isn’t unusual to find a visual artist with an exciting photography project but short of funds. Luckily, today, numerous profit and non-profit companies are willing to finance talented photographers. Some operate in the UK while others operate internationally with different eligibility requirements.

1. Arts Council in the UK

This council has got grants for all kinds of artists. Photographers with exceptional talents have gone on and secured grants to fund their startups. The grants range from £1000 to £100,000 depending on the art scope. To improve funding chances from this council, the proposal must include the following elements:

  • Visual art quality – The photos must not only be of high quality but also have a lasting effect on the audience experiencing it.
  • Targeted towards public engagement – The art must attract public engagement in the short and long-term perspective.
  • Realistic finance plan – The project plans must be viable and realistic enough to warrant the need for funding.

2. Getty Images Grants

This private company offers funding opportunities to highly talented photojournalists. It divides its awarding sections in three. The first section includes editorial photography funding to general photojournalists with unique projects; The second section covers emerging talents under the age of 30, provided with support and career mentorships (funding varies); The last group covers international visual artists with exceptional creative skills.

3. The Aaron Siskind Foundation Fellowship

This is a limited and exclusive opportunity for photographers that are confident in their abilities. A panel of distinguished visual artists goes through each applicant’s work and decides their eligibility to receive the funds. Successful applicants receive a minimum of $10,000 each and an opportunity to network with high profile artists. The fellowship goal is to give serious and committed photographers (employed and self-employed) a chance to showcase their abilities.

4. Documentary Project Fund

As the name suggests, the award is tailored to assist documentary photographers. These are professionals that use photos as a medium of communication. They offer a voice to the minority and oppressed communities through visual art. The fund is divided into 2; the upcoming vision award ($3500) and the established photographer award ($5000).

 

The above 4 main funding opportunities include private and non-profit companies willing to finance talented photographers. However, there is always stiff competition for the awards. To stand out from the crowd make sure:

  • The application process is well thought and developed. Take time to read guidelines and award criteria process;
  • Seek counsel from professionals, if possible attend networking seminars;
  • The budget is comprehensive enough with viable and realistic numbers.

New and Emerging markets

Stock Photography

The rise of visual-centric marketing has led to the growth of photo content markets. Both amateurs and professionals have realised the money-making opportunity of supplying high resolution and quality photos. In fact, the market is projected to generate over $4 billion by 2023, with a 5% growth each year. Over half of that revenue is expected to come from photo sales for commercial purposes such as social media marketing and advertising. This trend has therefore led to the start and growth of stock photo agencies and companies.

Video

The demand for visual content goes beyond photos with consumers requiring a healthy balance between video and photo content. Therefore, marketers have reacted to this by requiring photographers to adapt and combine the two under one service. Furthermore, few people want to hire a photographer and videographer differently, as they want the service in one bundle.

Wedding Photography

In the UK, wedding photography represents the largest segment of this industry. Wedding trends ultimately affect the demand for photography services in the country. Despite data indicating a stagnant growth in the number of weddings in the country, the numbers are expected to improve with time. Recent forecasts show an expected rise in the number of marriages in 2018-19 and beyond. The immigration of people with marriage-oriented cultural beliefs is a positive indicator for the industry. This is therefore a clear opportunity for emerging photographers to further increase their experience and portfolios.

Major Events

Major social and political events raise the demand for professional photographers, since they can summarise and foretell the events in a few photos. Upcoming events expected to raise demand include:

  • Cricket World Cup 2019: The event is expected to attract thousands of cricket fans worldwide. Photographers with sporting photography experience can exploit this opportunity and offer their services such as personal photography sessions or commercial sports photo services.
  • General Election 2022: Election time is full of moments worth capturing. Politicians and the public are all interested in campaign photos and hence a serious demand for professional photographers. The UK will be going back to the polls in 2022, and visual artists can capitalize on this to make more revenue and boost their portfolios.

Technological Advances

Technological developments simultaneously presents opportunities and poses threats to the photography industry. The following are technological advances affecting the industry:

Social Media

Social media platforms provide an avenue for artists to exhibit their art to a large audience. It provides a marketing opportunity where people can discover a talented photographer and order their services. People wishing to drive a message via art have found social media significantly powerful. Unfortunately, these media platforms have sometimes threatened artists. Some genuine photos have been captioned and redesigned to further fraudulent courses. Original photos have also been misdirected for selfish purposes they were not intended for.

Online Portfolios

Every photographer’s dream is to spread his/her message through art to as many people as possible. Online portfolios provide a perfect opportunity to do this. Through technology, an artist can upload his/her photos in the world-wide-web where anybody with access to the internet can see them. This way, it is possible to be easily identified by a potential customer. However, online portfolios also present the challenge of copyright infringement, where photos can be stolen and edited with software such as Adobe Photoshop.

Speed of Service

Technological advancement has hastened the service periods. With advanced and sophisticated optical technologies, artists can capture photos, process them quickly and assure quality.

Adding Video Work

Any professional photographer can add a new layer to their business by offering video work services. Other than offering video shooting sessions, one can use photo-to-video converting software. Today, artists can use such technologies to design photo flow videos for their clients.

Rental Photography Studios

Rental studios exist to offer services to photographers in need of a controlled environment created for photography only. Such studios have the technological apparatus and props needed for shooting. Some studios are more advanced, allowing artists to fake exotic outdoor elements in an indoor environment.

What issues lie ahead for the industry?

Brexit

Upon realisation of Brexit, all UK residents travelling across Europe will have to pay for the gadgets they carry. For photographers, they are expected to pay more than £325 if they intend to carry a camera in other European nations. Brexit is also expected to cause a sharp drop in British Pound, leading to an upsurge in prices of cameras and their accessories. Furthermore, the UK will be forced to form their own data protection laws after leaving the EU. The new laws to be formed will likely bind all content creators including photographers.

Loss of Commercial Revenue through Digital Copying

Digital copying is expected to continue with thousands of photographers unaware of ways to approach copyright infringements. Under UK copyright and patent laws, copying or reproducing someone else’s content without their approval is illegal. However, the interpretation of such laws is always technical, amounting to losses for most creators.

Demand from Ad Agencies

In the past, advertising agencies did their content creation activities in-house. Today, traditional and social media marketing agencies have realized the need to outsource and seek professional services. Direct response marketing has become more dynamic and competitive requiring quality photos and videos. Whether coming up with branded written content or designing marketing campaigns, there is a significant need for highly engaging visual content. All these have raised the demand for highly talented photographers and videographers.

Disposable Incomes

Different sources indicate that an average British family has £276 disposable income. This makes luxury photography expensive for most families, with the figure expected to stagnate for a few years. However, most people save money to spend on social occasions such as weddings.

What are the challenges and threats to the photography industry?

IT Developments

It is always challenging for any photographer to keep up with IT developments. With new camera sophistications becoming more and more frequent, it can be confusing and expensive to update your tools. Furthermore, some IT developments may pose a threat to the industry by offering photography services substitutes.

Consumer Tech

Consumer tech accessories like smartphones can be threatening to the photography industry in the future. Advanced phones with high photo capturing capabilities can replace the need for a professional photographer. The camera industry has also been shaken by the rise of smartphones with dual lenses. They fear photographers may opt for such accessories offering more flexibility and convenience.

Commercial Demand Tied to Economic Growth

The demand for photography services is directly proportional to any country’s economic status. Citizens with more money in their pockets are expected to spend more on luxury services. They are also more likely to hold weddings and other social events that may require photography services. The same is expected among companies, the more they have the more they can spend on marketing services and photography. This dependency is not healthy for the long-term growth of the industry.

Established Businesses

Although the UK photography industry is made up of small businesses, some companies still have a significant market share. Companies that hold a significant portion of the market have the power to threaten the sustainability of smaller businesses. They have the resources to operate on low-profit margins and offer lower prices.

Running Costs

Over the past five years, the running expense has averaged 70% of the total revenue. This indicates a highly competitive environment filled with high running costs. This can be repelling for new businesses, which are less likely to breakeven in the first year.

Job Growth

The photography industry’s job growth has stagnated over the past few years with a 0.3% annual growth rate in the past 5 years. In 2019, the job growth rate is expected to hit 1.6%. This slow growth cannot sustain the huge supply of professional photographers out there.

 

There are plenty of opportunities out there for those who can capitalise on technological advances and stay abreast of upcoming political changes. 

In the final chapter of this series, we look at the future of the photographic industry and the strengths and weaknesses that must be identified in order to succeed in this changling climate.

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