Save The Environment

Posted on 1/22/2010 by Paul Melcher | Printable Version | Comments (0)

We have done a bad job. A terrible job. If picking a photograph is all about its price and not its quality than we, the photo industry, have made a terrible job at selling our work.

Every time an editor, whether  from an ad agency or a magazine decides to use an image because it is cheaper than the others, that means we have all failed to advocate for the real value of photography. We have failed, all of us, Photographers, agents, photo agencies to make the new generation of image buyers see the real value in our images. Thus the current situation.

It's not the fault of microstockers that prices have gone so low in the RF world, it is the fault of the original traditional RF sellers. They are the ones who have devaluated the work so much that consumers have no issue  at purchasing from amateurs. It is the fault of a complacent industry that has not been capable of maintaining some degree of high end quality, an industry that has put on the market a lot of crap for obscene prices.

People or companies have no problem paying high prices for products they see as being of high quality and that brings added value.  Ever since the adoption of digital,  an overflow of redundant images  has saturated people's mind into believing that photography is a commodity. It's not just the commercial stock photography world. Editorial has seen an explosion of quantity, to the point that some photographers will submit the same images to multiple agencies, who, in turn submit to the same outlets. What are the editors to think ? Why pay a premium for such a deluge of redundant images ?

If prices are dropping, it's your fault, not Getty's or microstock. It is the natural consequence of fighting competition with over production. Too much of a product on a market has always brought prices down.

If this industry wants to survive,  it is going to have to recognize that it is guilty of its own demise and do something about it.  It will have to recognize that like the Easter Islands, it is cutting its own trees to the point of self- extinction. It will have to do something about it.

Do What, you say ? Cut the edits to a minimum, stop distributing the same images via different distributors. Quality is scarce, and people pay for quality, eliminate the bad and the medium, stop thinking in terms of volume, throw out the bean counters and hire the artisans, the creatives, the bohemians. learn to say no: no to poor or medium quality, no to bad prices, no to redundancy, no to habits, not to quantity, no to the easy way.

Of course, that would only work if all the industry would agree to a voluntary simultaneous move to clean up the market. That is not going to happen. It's like trying to get all the nations to clean up the environment. Not happening either. Like with any panic situation, everyone digs in, trying to grab whatever they can before it is too late.  Like a city being looted by its own inhabitants. Everyone for themselves!! Throw as many images on the market of whatever quality. It's asphyxiating.

So, instead of writing me an email about how depressing my entry is, or how its not very nice, or how I should write more optimistic thoughts, or how I am so wrong but do not even deserved to be explai environment ned why, step away from this blog and go review your images. If you are an agency and you have a photographer submitting the same images to you and to others, dump him/her. If you have  more than 50 images of the same subject, dump the rest. If you are a photographer submitting to an agency that already has 150 photographers shooting the same things as you, leave. If your images don't sell anymore or for little money, shoot something completely different. In very small precious amount.

Don't blame the others for the mess we are in and instead of digging your nose in your smart phone and tweetering some crap no one cares about, take control and preserve the space in which you live. Limit yourself. Redo your edits, over and over. And when you are done, do it over. Eliminate, reduce, clean. Pick the 5 best images. not 500. or 5,000.

If you stop treating the marketplace like garbage, it will stop treating you like trash.

Copyright © 2010 Paul Melcher. 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

Paul Melcher brings more than 20 years of experience in technology breakthrough and leadership roles for world-renowned photography agencies and was named by American Photo as one of the "50 most influential individuals in American photography." He is co-founder and SVP of PictureGroup (, a full service photo agency as well as a writer for the blog "Thoughts of a Bohemian" ( , an industry consultant and a father of two boys.


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