definitely, it won't appeal to journalists or sports shooters, but it will make it so much easier for the guys who shoot conservation,humanitarian and cultural photojournalism. We can never be sure because the technology is still in its BETA stage if you could say so. Nowadays nanotechnology,portability and multitasking are the craze.
Photography is a unique business.
When it was still film, one copy is one copy. Now with digital, one copy is many.
I think there is a mindset difference. When it is just some bytes in the computer, why do I have to pay so much?
What has happened to photography is the equivalent of the invention of the printing press. The history books don't state what happened to the scribes but I would guess that they had to switch trade except for the best or the cheapest. What professional photographers are facing at the moment is something in the order of a printing press/industrial revolution type of a tsunami.
90% of the commercial photographers (not advertising) I have known in the 90s are gone. They have left for other fields. The 'Industrial', 'Corporate' & 'PR' photography genres in photography are gone.
All across the board, rates are dropping. After the 1997/98 crisis, they went up till 9/11 happened and it's generally downhill. In 1999, commercial day rates were approx $1600/day. Now, it's much less. So there's more expenditure and lower fees.
Educating clients doesn't work because it is near impossible to educate a client, people have talked about educating clients for the last 10 years. I have never seen nor heard how a client was successfully educated.
I have been shooting since the late 80s for clients and I think these are the main issues in the professional market:
1. Digital photography - Supply/demand economics.
2. Photographers are not businessmen - Actually this is the most serious issue, because of this reason photographers do not
a. Study the market carefully and apply business rules to pricing. Fees are reached arbitrarily, there's no consideration for overhead expenditure, capital investment, savings, etc.
b. Consider networking, marketing, PR, long term and exit plans as integral to the work.
c. Realize that clients are playing them off each other (all sectors, including advertising). Read Prisoner's Dilemma.
3. Professional Photography is Business 1st & Photography 2nd - If you don't want to think about the business, do it as a hobby.
In short, here's the only thing that has worked. I came across this by chance. In my genre of photography, I was commanding rate that I thought (worked out the sums) was a sub par rate but it was considered very high (in my clients POV). I couldn't raise the rates because nobody else was charging higher rates. And even though I knew my work was worth a lot more, I just couldn't do because it was not accepted by clients here.
I left and came back to this genre after a hiatus and found out that the top rate had almost risen twice fold. I was elated and proceeded to charge what I thought was a fair rate (worked out the sums again, including inflation etc). I have had some success with clients signing up.
I had been keeping my eye on this market and did further research when I re-entered. What I found was this, a group of photographers had come together and formed a group. And by hard work and ingenuity, they had become the bench markers. I am sure that their rates were calculated based on their research and understanding of the business.
I am sure that you know I am talking about WPN and the wedding market, especially the wedding day photography market. The photographers in the network do not under quote each other. By setting a bench mark in pricing, potential clients take their fees and rate the fee scale accordingly to the ENTIRE market. Remember the Screen Writers Guild protest 2 years back? There's a reason why guilds are formed, it is to protect their profession and livelihood for the long term.
In the commercial/advertising field, there is no such group. There's very little sharing and communication. It's very old school, it's every man/woman for himself. High end photographers regularly under quote each other when threatened by clients. And when that happens, the rest of the commercial guys will get hit because clients will say "XX Studio charged XX amount, how can you do charge higher or on par with them?". That is the truth, nothing personal.
There is no other way to do this. Unless something is done to build close knit guild-like organizations for different tiers/genres, there is very little hope for professional photography as a solid profession.
Looking at how things are going, the professional photographer (>70% income from photography) might be cease to exist in 10-20 years if nothing concrete is done in the professional community.
Last edited by Zohan; 16th October 2009 at 09:44 AM.
think one of the guy in PPAS who had perform very well is this guy call Ian Lloyd..company go public listing.
asking for perspective on the market in future is just like asking what will happen after 2012 ?
no body here is or capable of predicting, but you can safely be assured that the photographic market will still prevail, only that the players will changed and maybe the rules too.
why ? bcoz all link to the advancement of technology.
if the sea is rough, does not means no one will go fishing or surfing or yachting.
do whatever your heart/mind tell you to, and don't look back.
I hate to disagree with you but I have to. Don't take it personally, but your advice is completely unsound. People who have gone into the business with this mindset eventually leave the business within 5-10 years.
rgy1993 is doing the right thing by asking for information about these turbulent times.
When the sea is rough and people will die going out fishing when they don't read the weather condition. Diving headlong into this business armed with a camera and passion without a clear idea of what's happening will kill you. This is serious business.
I have met people who did professional photography for years without a clear retirement plan. They are currently taxi drivers and real estate agents.
If any of you are seriously thinking about going pro, think of how much you need for your children's education and retirement, work out the sums and see how much you ACTUALLY need to net a month, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the figures.
Last edited by Zohan; 17th October 2009 at 09:08 PM.
with all due respect, your point is accurate to the last full stop. It is like a complete comprehensive insurance policy. But somehow, I figure that not many, there may be some like your goodself, working into the future of children's educational fund, medisave, property investment, stocks investment, retirement plan etc everything all taken into account of how to price your service / or fee.
so, in your opinion, should our friend be advised to take up journalism photography as a profession or shouldn't he ? Since he'd ask about the future perspective of photography market.
On my view, I strongly encourage him to do so, how about yours ?
If you disagree with my view , meaning you are not encouraging him to pursue his interest or unless he had study and weigh all the pros and cons before he make the decision, hope I get you right.
But as my previous boss said, something you never try, you will never know.
Every venture there are always risk factor involved, good example is just like Temasek. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Big bank, with so many consultants also can gone bust.
So, yes. If you cant plan for a business, you should just stay out of it and do it as a hobby. The mindset of photography is easy money needs to change. If this mindset doesnt change, we can't talk about educating anyone including clients.
It is not a comprehensive insurance policy. It is doing homework that's vital to making sure there's a future. These are 2 very different things. If there is no risk assessment, then it's basically gambling.
I am very sure you mean well. But I need to address this point because I do not want the readers of this thread to get the idea that the professional photography scene is fine and dandy. I have met far too many photographers (from 90s to 2009) who have no exit strategy. Why the need to think about retirement? The key issue is that you are self employed, so there is no employer CPF contribution, bonus, medical benefits, etc. So a professional photographer has to cost that in.
Many have tried, jumped in without risk assessment and found themselves in deep water, having been deluded into thinking that the business is easy money (to quote Chris).
Let me show you guys a simple calculation. Let's say you want to retire at 55 and have a good 25 years living off your earnings. Let do some figures:
1. Monthly expenditure from 55 to 80years, assuming no holidays, etc: $2000/mth = S$600,000
2. Equipment at approx $10,000 a year.
3. Transport at $800/mth.
So, assuming that professional photography life span is from 30-55, you have to cost in at least ~$3700/mth to cover the your retirement, equipment investment and transport. Kick in living expenses, flat/apartment and you are looking at S$5-6k/mth. Please note that medical and education are not even factored in.
I remember that my old boss used to to say "There is no try. Do or do not."
Last edited by Zohan; 23rd October 2009 at 01:04 AM.
Dear Zohan sir,
forgotten to introduce myself, yes, now you can add one more taxi-driver to your list of photographers. Can be seen that all your points are valid and variables of uncertainty has been taken into account. Basically, your strategy should rightly be the formula for anyone thinking to step into the line of biz photography ( I use biz, coz as you mention so had chris, biz comes first before photography, which i shall elaborate later ).
Take it any form of trade or biz, there exist a lot of unknown factor, even the best risk consortium also unable to factor them in.
Here are a few life examples of which I shall intro , the rest you can pick up...
* when the SAND venture into IR, they had left out the shortage of sand...
* when our Govt plan the Sports Hub, they didn't foresee or do they, the financial tsunami already on its way here.
* when late MJ planning for his comeback performance, he didn't know....
* so is our plan for a T4.
most important, as our MM Lee said, base on calculated risk, like the Soo Zhou industrial park, some lost there maybe, but it can be cover up in the long run.
However, in reality biz, long run means how long ? As a biz person should aware, the econmic performance will always turn in a cycle, besides natural disaster like SARS, H1N1 etc.
But , in my view, those who wish to go into the trade of biz photography should make it as early as possible, like those Olympic medalist.
We had a group of ladies here, who'd put down their works and go climb the Himalayas and succeeded.
Agreed with your DO and DO NOT, bcoz it is a committment, there fore we have sales person asking customer, are you buying this product, if yes, deal closed, otherwise no try try lah.
Thanks for those self-less Veterans sharing their takes and wonderful insights.
What's Singapore needs is more Visionaries, instead of mass production "Photo-Copiers".
It's true that those whom has forecasted that the Peak of the Golden Era of the Digital Age of Wedding photography ( in 2008 ), will be more prepared and takes on the challenges facing the Industry ( wedding ) in the next 5 years ...
Anyway, those who are offering niche services and ( real ) good photography should trend higher and doing much better than the lower range, run-of-the-mill wedding jobs -- reserved for Clients who not willing to pay (or can't tell) for quality works, or are on budget ( mostly putting photography services last on their vendors' list ).
In the next 2 years, the market will be in a 'silent shake-out', and i can see that at least half of what today's Wedding players will be left standing, which majority will be the part-timers and new faces in the last 2 years - where Wedding Market was at it's Peak / Best -- it terms of opportunities for new entrants and good pricing ( which includes a cross-over from players in other sectors of the industry - corporate and commercials ).
Innovations is the Key -- not cheaper pricing, to keep the wheels going.
Good luck !!
Should there be an influx of Foreign Talents, the impact is even worse.
As technology is getting more complex with nano tech, the arrival of a future camera which pack with of the millions or trillions of preset images composition in the rule of third or fifth, categorize into landscape, still life, portrait, weddings etc, it could even help the camera operator to align his/her subject into proper composition and choice of lighting mode, just like the now CID using finger print identification and matching software, within seconds, the ideal composition will be presented to match on the screen, so that all one need to do is just press the button.
Very daunting prediction, but very possible.
Driverless car and self parking car are already here.
Actually, don't need to have influx of foreign talents to make an impact. Our neighbour just across the causeway is already doing something that attracts our local market. If this was a strategy game, its as if we 'kena' attack left right centre.
Yes, especially with the current exchange rate of S $1/= equals RM $2.40/=.
good news for you Zohan Sir, this evening's Shin Min Daily News, just featured our MM Lee saying he is a person of DO or DO NOT, resemble of what your boss' principle, and also of yours.
A bit different with PM Lee, where he likes to try on evrything, like the 2 IRs, and F1 which MM Lee is strongly against.
frankly speaking no job is safe.
Work for others, you have to worry about retrenchment. (this is one hard fact of life that is faced by most...... some have to do drastic midlife career change).
Work for yourself, you have to worry about the financial stability of the operations.
So, try lah. Make sure you have done your prep- homework on what is required to succeed and do alternative planning. If plan A dont work, do plan B and if plan B dont work do plan C..... worst case scenario........ do plan Z.
Failure should never be looked upon as setback but rather as an experience... provided if you can learn something from it. Even success is not an experience unless you know what makes it successfully.
If you are still young, all-rounder type of experiences are very useful in shaping a person sense and sensibility especially in the later years making you much wiser. If you are older, then perhaps mending own pocket for retirement is a more important task.
Do or dont do...... depends on who said it and how much influencing power does the person has. If i said it then probably only 20%.
Another reason for biz photography market getting more difficult is the knowledge and technique of photography is much easily available and mostly being taught in most design colleges and schools. Plus the cost of digital camera is getting more affordable each day, makes most consumers think that it is not justifiable to pay so much for a photographer's service.
As a full-time career option in Singapore, there are a couple of options:
1) Full time freelancer
Basically you work as a free agent on contract basis. You shoot for the papers on assignment basis, a couple of weddings and events here and there where and when you find them, assist studio owners for shoots. It is a workable model. You can earn a living from doing that. Income will depend on your network with the photography industry.
2) Employed Photographer
Be a full-time employed photographer in production houses. This is where the formal education in photography may help. I don't know how frequently they hire and the chances of getting in. But that degree or diploma will help. I've had several diploma holders looking for jobs with me, many of whom have a decent portfolio that looks polished, planned and refined. I'm guessing those are assignment works from school. As an employer, that definitely has an added advantage when I'm comparing applicants.
Another alternative would be to seek FT employment with the press. Again I'm not sure how often they recruit. I do know a couple of FT press photographers, but I have no idea how regularly the press recruits, as the full-timers I know tend to work for a long time with them.
3) Self-employed Photographer - Starting your own business
I am speaking for only wedding photography, specifically targeted at those who want to specialize on wedding day photography. This is a double edged sword. There are very few barriers to entry. All you need is a decent portfolio, some knowledge on building a site or blog (or having the funds to pay for one) and basic equipment. I know a number of FT wedding photographers who do not have their own store front or studio, and quite a number of them do well. Thus, overheads and start up capital is relatively low.
At the same time, exactly because the barriers to entry is low, you will face a tremendous amount of competition. There are 20980 weddings in 2008. I'm guessing it's not the full 20k weddings that has full-scale wedding celebrations. A large percentage could be a simple ROM... Averages out to about 1750 weddings per month. Further averages to 219 weddings per weekend.
I won't surprised that 2009 records a lower number. Numbers for 2010 should drop as well. I googled for wedding photographers in SG and scrolled a couple of pages to be convinced that there are at least more than 200 'working' photographers who does wedding day photography. A quick check with Singapore Brides reveal 50. About half of them not listed on the google result pages with my search terms. Include another 50 bridal studios, each providing their own wedding day photographer. It is (more than) safe to work with an assumption that the 219 weddings per weekend is being shared among more than 300 unique photographers. I am assuming that each listing there represents one photographer (which is of course an underestimate).
Even among Singaporeans photographers who do not specialize in weddings, there is a misleading notion that wedding photography is good money. So many of them (including those who specialize in commercial weddings, press photographers, fashion photographers) want to shoot a wedding every now and then. So we may be looking at 200 weddings per weekend behing shared among 400-500 photographers.
The margin for wedding photography appears to be a large one. So if you're not depending solely on weddings, it may work out. Many people realize that, so they shoot wedding on the side with a main income. Thus the pie is shared among even more people than what has been projected.
And once you include the cost of doing business, like Kuang mentioned, the whole story changes. The cost of doing business (I parrot) is escalating very rapidly each year. Advertising costs in Singapore has always been more costly than other parts of the world (even in US). Listing in Singapore Brides costs about as much as a magazine ad (where portals in other parts of the world charge 10% of that, or less). The ROI is extremely low. Other portals use SG brides as a guide and charge a fraction of it. But the CTR (click through rates) and traffic are more than proportionately lower than that of SGB. Magazine ads are worth it if you're priced above the market average, otherwise based on expecting 50-60 weddings a year, and the rate of leads from magazines, the ROI is unattractive as well. I won't even go into bridal shows. While DSLR seems cheap and memory cards seem to negate the cost of film from the old days, most people forget to consider that the cameras from pre-digital days can last for decades. A 2k top of the line flagship cam for example, easily lasts you for more than 10 years. Compared to a 10k one today which will last you only 3.5 years. You can choose to keep shooting with that, of course. But you would be ignoring the competition who are offering images from newer technology. Not to mention computer obsolescence, software for post processing and album design, as well as education materials to stay ahead in competition.
It would be unwise to depend solely on anecdotal evidence and observations as well, because many of such observations can be misleading. Case in point - rental in Singapore is amazingly high. Why do one shopping mall after another sprout out year after year? How do the shopping centres get full tenant occupancy? It must be really profitable right? Pause for a moment and observe over a longer period of time. Many people are attracted by such optimism and enter the business. They usually last about 1-2 years and have to close shop after their capital runs out. There are TONS of wannabe entrepreneurs in Singapore waiting to fill that store space. The vibrancy attracts a new group of start-ups and the story goes on.
In short, it will be increasingly difficult for small businesses in SG to survive, not just photography or wedding photography. Critical mass and volume is needed for more effective ROI based on sharing of advertising and other business cost. If you intend to start a photography business, then it will be useful to prepare yourself for the skills required in doing business. If nothing else, start observing small businesses around you. What business models do you see the small businesses adopt? Volume based? Competition among volume based biz is very high. How do they survive? Niche-based? They cannot do volume, how do they survive with the costs?
Hope this helps. All the best in your photography endeavors. Cheers.