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If you’re a new photographer, or studying to become one, then you’ve probably asked yourself more than once what the future holds? Is there demand for photographers in the current market and is it easy to get work?
The truth is that although there is plenty of work available the industry is highly competitive and landing those top clients won’t be a walk in the park! That said though, with hard work and determination you can make almost anything that you set your mind to become a reality.
Healthy competition in the photography industry is one of the underlying drivers of evolution and change and has helped keep it relevant in the modern world, even as video takes up more of people’s attention every year.
It’s always hard to accurately predict the future, especially with so many unknowns in the current climate, however research conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the photography sector will see a 4% decline by 2029. This is actually a worse outlook than most other sectors of the economy and although it’s not great, this doesn’t spell disaster and shouldn’t put you off from pursuing your dreams.
Why is the Outlook Negative for the Photography Industry?
There are many reasons why this slow growth, and even decline, is predicted. One of the major factors is the falling prices of high quality digital cameras. This not only means that more people are taking their own photos but it has lowered the barriers to entry for the industry, meaning that there are more photographers than ever competing for a shrinking market share.
Another significant factor that is fairly unique to the photography sector is that the rate of retirement is lower than most other industries. This means that new job openings are reduced and the photographers who are starting out face higher competition. This also impacts on their salaries – particularly in their early days.
The decline in readership of the traditional print media has also led to a shrinking demand for professional photographers and although many of them have moved into the online space the competition is steep! A cursory glance at a freelancing site such as Fiverr and a quick search for photography will deliver nearly 5000 photographers waiting to be hired! Standing out in this environment is tough to say the least!
5 Keys to Succeeding in the Photography Industry.
Now if you were thinking that’s quite a gloomy outlook for the photography sector there’s no need to fret and throw up your hands in despair! You’ll need to be determined and flexible but with the right attitude you can achieve great things!
You’re not just a Photographer!
To make it in the super competitive photography industry you’re going to have to wear many hats at once! The fact is that you’re not going to spend all your time taking photographs – even if that’s the best part of the job.
You need to have fantastic interpersonal skills, be able to keep track of your incomings and outgoings and schedule future appointments. You need to master social media, online marketing and maintain a top quality portfolio that will attract new clients.
Your Website Must Be Great.
One of the most important ways that you can market yourself is through your website. This is likely to be the first thing many people see of you and so you need to make sure that their first impression is good. When a new client sees your website they should be thinking that you are professional, talented and organized.
You should also have an up to date portfolio on your website that is relevant to the work you are currently doing – so ditch those old photos and keep it fresh, punchy and polished.
Photography is a visual art and so if your website is not highly appealing and stylish you are going to do more harm than good by driving away potential clients. People are always going to judge you based on your website so getting it right is critical to succeed in such a competitive industry.
If you can design and put your own website together then that’s perfect but if not then it will be worth every penny to invest in the services of a pro web designer who can deliver you something which will really impress visitors to your site.
Diversify Your Business.
It’s never a safe bet to put all your eggs in one basket! Diversifying your photography business is a sure fire way to make sure you have work even during the tough times. If, for instance, you primarily work as a wedding photographer you’re bound to be busy between March and October but then during the winter your work will dry up.
Offering a wide range of services means that you can be busy throughout the entire year. You can, for example, work in a freelance context during the quieter months as a photo editor and retoucher.
Alternatively you can work in multiple genres at once all year round. You can do product photography in your studio and then go out to do real estate photography for a local realtor. This means that when one is quiet you can fall back on the other one.
Working in multiple genres, or at least being prepared to, will keep you on your toes and allow you to survive in the industry when people who have over specialized find that the demand has dried up.
Expand Your Skill Set.
Never stagnate and never stop learning! The photography industry is a fast moving sector of the economy that has been at the cutting edge of innovative technology since its inception. Only a few decades ago the idea of a 360 virtual tour of a property was almost unimaginable and yet now many realtors include this in their promotional materials.
You need to be on a continuous journey of learning to succeed as a photographer, learning how to use new equipment, mastering new techniques and staying up to date with the latest software.
When you’ve been going through a good patch and have a little extra money then you should be reinvesting that in yourself! Set aside some time to go to workshops, read industry magazines, make new connections and take courses. Not only will this keep you at the forefront of new developments but it will also fuel your creativity which can wane if you get stuck in a routine.
Be Brave – Try New Things.
If you see an opportunity don’t even stop to think – grab it with two hands! The photography industry is an exciting place to be working in but if you don’t have an adventurous spirit you might struggle to keep up.
While you are working as a photographer, even if you have a good gig right now, you should always be looking over the horizon in the search of new things. Join mailing lists and forums to stay in touch with developments in the industry and make new connections that might lead to unexpected future opportunities.
The Good News – Parts of the Industry are Booming.
Genres such as portraiture and wedding photography are surging in demand so selecting the right field to work in will make the biggest difference when you’re looking to navigate the sector successfully.
Your location is also critical when it comes to determining your future prospects as a photographer. If you live in a city then the chances are you will be able to find plenty of clients however if you’re in a more remote location you may be forced to work online. Tailoring your services to the market’s demands in your area is always advised so you’ll need to be flexible and be able to think on your feet and pivot to new genres where necessary.
The average salary for a photographer in the US is just over $40,000 however at the upper end of the earnings people are bagging millions! This huge spread of potential earnings can be daunting if you’re starting out in the industry but it also represents the opportunities that await if you are successful.
Photography – A Mixed Outlook for the Industry.
Despite some of the challenges that you’ll face while working as a photographer in a market that is predicted to shrink, with increasing competition and more amateurs taking their own photos, with hard work, dedication and a flexible approach you can still do very well. Always be prepared to try new things, keep your options open and put the time in to learn skills as you progress through your career.
What is the outlook like for photography in your neighborhood?