Generational Expectations

Posted on 11/30/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Given the existence of these contributors stock photography is unlikely to be a dependable way to earn a living in the future. Those that are trying to earn their living taking pictures should focus on getting assignments or doing something that guarantees a certain level of compensation before they undertake the work.

How Did This Happen?

Technology changed everything. New camera equipment made it easier for amateurs to produce better pictures. Technology also made it easier for everyone to show their images to the world and make the images available for sale or free use. This trend cannot be reversed.

Businesses move through cycles. The new replaces the old. The IBM Selectric typewriter dominated the office typewriter market for at least 2 decades. Now it has disappeared.

In the 80’s Wang computers was a billion dollar company making word processers that operated off of mainframe computers. Along came the personal computer that could do much more than just word processing and without the need of a connection to a mainframe.

Lotus 1-2-3 was a leader in the spreadsheet world for years. But the popularity of the Windows platform and Microsoft software to run on it replaced Lotus.

Polaroid instant cameras let you see your images in 30 seconds. Digital cameras changed all that. In 2001 Polaroid Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and almost all of its assets were sold to a subsidiary of Bank One. It stopped selling Polaroid film in 2009.

For more than 100 years Kodak was the major provider of film for cameras. Then digital capture arrived and Kodak is now struggling to survive.

Times change. People must embrace new ways of working in order to survive.

What Should The Professional Photographer Do?

Many who are trying to earn the living from photography spend a great deal of time and energy looking for ways to overthrow this new generation and go back to the old ways of doing things. It won’t happen. Here are some things to consider:
    1 – Find a new profession.
    2 – Focus your energies on getting assignments where you are guaranteed enough to cover your costs and make a profit before you start work or invest much of your time.  
    3 – Produce better images. This is a favorite recommendation of many photography teachers, but it won’t solve the problem. There are plenty of satisfactory images at low prices out there. Search iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Fotolia as well as Gettyimages and Corbis for the kind of subjects you shoot. Objectively evaluate the competition.
    4 – Find a niche. It is virtually, impossible to find one that is not adequately covered based on demand. Check the sites listed above.
    5 – Retrain. This is often very difficult because the skills needed are very different from those needed in the past. A completely different skill set may be required. The time needed to retrain may cut into the time needed to sustain your current standard of living.
    6 – Older workers may find that given the time required to gain the necessary expertise or skill level, they may not have enough time left in his working life to justify the investment. Also, technology is changing in the world so rapidly that by the time you learn a new skill the demand for that skill may already be in decline.
    7 – Recognize that the business-to-business market for photography is declining and find a way to market your work directly to consumers. For many this will require entirely new marketing strategies, but yesterday’s customers will only represent a small percentage of the customers of the future.
    8 – Test new marketing strategies. You may not like the way the market is changing, but if you want to continue in the business for any period of time at least explore the new ideas.
    9 – Follow the customers. Figure out where the customers are going and put your images where they are.
    10 – Video will be the future. Stories will be told with moving pictures, sound, narration and graphics. The work will be done by teams, not individuals. No individual will be expected to have all the necessary skills to tell a good video story.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff