There’s no denying that it’s a challenging time for professional photographers. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most significant is the fact that the supply of stock photography has seen explosive growth while demand has only grown slightly. The result is extreme downward pressure on the price of stock images.
The availability of stock images at rock-bottom prices affects not only the market for stock photos but other areas where stock could conceivably be used. When a credible stock image can be had for a few dollars from a microstock agency, designers, art directors and photo editors will go out of their way to find a way to use stock (or will be directed to do so by the people who manage their budgets) rather than spend hundreds or thousands of dollars hiring a photographer.
With that said, there are many areas where using stock imagery is not an option. Generally speaking, the more a photographer can establish themselves in an area that doesn’t compete with stock, the better their chances to have financial success.
There’s a long list of specialties for photographers that aren’t directly threatened by the over-supply of stock. These include event photography, sports, portraits, fashion, products, news, fine art, high-end advertising, specialty science and some feature work.
Of course being a professional photographer means more than just making a living using a camera. If you’re wildlife photographer and business is slow, that doesn’t mean you should try to get hired to shoot a fashion spread for a magazine. Not all skills transfer well from one photo specialty to another. And it take years to establish the expertise and connections needed to succeed in a specific specialty. But if you imagine that you can make a living shooting generic images of couples on a beach or business people in a conference room, you might do well to investigate other areas of photography that are at least immune to competition from stock images.
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