Friday, May 16, 2014

Belief is a really strange thing.

Have you ever seen a Fairy? Have you ever spoken to a Fairy? Have you ever seen a Fairy being arrested by the police? Have you ever seen a Fairy in a mugshot line-up? Have you ever seen a Fairy being elected? Have you ever been to a shop owned or run by a Fairy? How much money do Fairies contribute to the IRS each year? How many Fairies do you see buying things in the shops? How many Fairies are involved in road traffic accidents every year? How many Fairies are lying in hospital beds? Have you seen the school dropout figures for Fairies? Have you seen the chronically high alcoholism, teen pregnancy and drug abuse statistics compiled by police regarding Fairies?

Do you believe in Fairies? Do you also believe that photography is a viable business? The answer to both should either be yes or no. There is no grey area. If you believe in Fairies then you must also believe that photography is a viable business. If you do not believe in Fairies then you must also believe that photography is not a viable business. OK, that might sound a bit strange to the fervent believer that believes that Fairies really do exist.

If Fairies don't exist then does it not automatically follow that photography as a career does not exist either? What's the career path of a photographer? Is there even such a thing as a career in photography? Let's look at some examples:

Little Johnny picks up a callphone and takes a photograph of some famous politician romping in the woods with his secretary then submits the image to his local newspaper. The newspaper publishes and writes the headline "Little Johnny subjected to ordeal of watching famous politician romping in the woods with his secretary". The newspaper won't pay Little Johnny for the image yet it becomes known, worldwide and becomes a really famous image. Does anybody care who took the photograph? Does anybody care who fixed the holes in the Whitehouse roof last time it leaked? The answer to both of those is an emphatic no. Nobody cares who Little Johnny is. Little Johnny believes his name in the paper will bring him fame and fortune. Indeed, his mates all slap him on the back then promptly forget about it, 3 days later.

Dean Misfit fancies himself as a fine art photographer and goes out with his expensive cameras and expensive lenses to all the fancy locations that he has seen pictured. He takes hundreds of pictures that look as good as the images he has seen pictured in books, magazines and art galleries. He contacts books, magazines and art galleries getting few if any responses. Where he does get responses they're along the lines of "cool image. No requirement at the moment. Call us again in six months". Dean Misfit feels disgruntled because his images are as good or even better than those used. The fact is that the magazines, books and art galleries already have more than they can use and just don't want more images. There are so many Dean Misfits around that are desperate enough to pay to have their images displayed or used that Dean Misfit is always going to be at the bottom of the pile. Why should anybody use his images?

Diane Gormless fancies herself as a wedding, pet and children photographer. She has a nice camera and takes pleasant images even if some of them are a bit fuzzy. She has plenty contacts with children or pets and plenty friends who're getting married. She takes a few photos for friends and people give her money for her time and effort. Diane Gormless now fancies her chances at being a professional photographer. The local Community College offers courses to wannabe professional photographers so she enrolls and pays lots of money. Having been hyped into believing there is a market for professional photography, Diane Gormless spends her precious savings on advertising and marketing. The results are disappointing. Now that she has to charge a living wage from her photography, all her friends and acquaintances that used to give her $10 or $20 for images of their pets and family drift away and use friends with cameras that don't charge or use a cellphone. Why on earth should anybody pay for Diane Gormless's photographs when they can get them free elsewhere?

Roger Midfield fancies himself as a sports photographer and gets into as many sporting fixtures as possible with his longest lenses. He takes quite nice images of dramatic sporting moments. He tries to interest the local paper with them to no avail as the local paper is publishing clips taken from TV coverage of the match and with their own photographers who're standing beside the touchline. Roger Midfield is out of luck.

Bertha Beecham fancies herself as a news photographer since she's always there when things are happening. She submits images to the local paper for name credit only. Sometimes her images are published, sometimes not. She applies to the local paper to become a photographer with them and is told they have no staff photographers and use freelancers only. She asks if she can be a freelance for her and is told to join the list. The list is very long due to everybody with a camera being able to take newsworthy photos, including those with cellphones.

So, why do people cling to the ludicrous belief that photography is a career? When was the last time anybody saw a job advertised for a photographer? Checking on the general jobs websites, worldwide, there was no mention of anybody needing a photographer. Indeed, the much maligned Chicago Sun Tribune was one of the first newspapers to do away with staff photographers. And why not when so many amateurs are willing to do the hard work for just a mention in the paper?

There is more chance of becoming the leader of the Fairy Resistance Movement (FRM) and using that group to overthrow the government in order to set up the Confederate Fairy States (CFS) than there is of anybody becoming a professional photographer yet people believe in photography as a career. It just plain is baffling.

Photography is a hobby and nothing else. It never will make money. It never can make money. There sure are a load of delusional people out there claiming to be professional photographers. They might indeed make some money out of it but that money is definitely declining. This is having a great knock-on effect.

Notice how the shelves of Target, Walmart etc all of which used to have entire aisles devoted to cameras are now displaying very few cameras - usually on an endcap? Camera sales are declining as cellphone cameras are now good enough that a "real" camera is not needed.

With more cameras of good enough quality in cellphones, camera sales are declining. With more people using cellphone cameras and those images being published by the media, demand for cameras is falling at just about the same time that demand for "professional" photography has fallen off the cliff never to return.

Why are photographs needed? This is one thing the believers in Fairies never ask. The first reason is because people want to record family events. A cellphone will do this and crucially upload it automatically so all one's friends and family can see it. The second reason is so that events can be recorded for posterity publication on websites etc - again a tablet or a cellphone does a more than adequate job of this task. What about advertising? When so many flaws in an image can be fixed in Photoshop, there's not real requirement for a photographer to be skilled in photography any more and since it's possible to take 10 photographs and more every second and to reshoot until an image is seen as right, no particular reason to use anybody other than a minimum wage yokel to do the job.

Yet people fervently believe that as one of the 80% of people in the US with a camera chasing the minuscule number of opportunities to sell photographs, that they will be the one to do it. The odds are better of winning the lottery than of making money from photography. People believe in photography and that their skill is better without ever realizing they are on an expensive path to nowhere.

One of the books on the subject that I read recently held the advice of one individual that attempted photography as a career. It is good advice. Start small - one body and one lens. If it's not possible to earn the expenditure back from that one body and one lens then there's no point in throwing good money after bad. Believing that buying just one more gadget/lens/flash is the way to get the work is the thinking of a fool. A fool and their money are soon parted. If a job requires equipment that is not possessed then turn the job down.

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