Everyone’s a Photographer Series (1/5)

In a world dominated by images and a market place saturated with “professional photographers”, it may seem like a daunting task to find and choose a photographer that’s right for you. This series of articles covers the current trends, and provides some tips to help you in the selection process.

Part 1

Current Trends in the Market Place

Is there still a place for professional photographers in a world dominated by images?

In 2017 it was estimated that over 1.2 trillion images were taken worldwide with 85% of those images captured on a smartphone. In 2019, about 90% of Australians owned a smart phone and in effect were carrying a camera with them at all times. The image quality gap between smart phones and a DSLR camera is closing due to significant improvement in smart phone camera technology and automated image processing in recent years. Never before have so many people had access to a camera and been able to take photos with such ease and convenience.

Although smartphones may have contributed to a photography boom across the general population in the past decade, the field of professional photographers continues to grow and displays increasing competitiveness amongst the ranks. According to the last Australian census, there are over 13,000 professional photographers in the labour market, and this number excludes the growth in serious hobbyists who may freelance as a side hustle to their full time jobs. The rise of shared economy sites such as Airtasker, Freelancer and Snappr have all broken down the barriers of entry for interested photographers to find customers and to be paid for photography work.

We all live in a digital and visual world. There is a healthy appetite for images. Although almost everyone has a camera at their fingertips, it does not mean that everyone is a photographer. It simply means they own a smartphone with some really cool features to take pictures. Some of us still own expensive dedicated cameras to take photos “the old-fashioned way”. Paying a hefty price for a dedicated camera, will not magically improve your photography. The adage “it is not the size of the equipment but how you use it” aptly applies, and crudely differentiates a photographer from a person that takes photos.

Infographic: Smartphones Cause Photography Boom | Statista

There are some amazing and talented photographers that are not professionals. These individuals pursue their passion for creative expression or from a desire to master technical aspects in the field of photography. A serious hobbyist may produce quality of work equal to or even better than a professional photographer, but are more likely to be driven by self gratification rather than having a client-focussed outcome, and are less likely to have the processes, assurances and insurances in place to deliver against a contractual agreement. Serious hobbyists may be willing to do a photoshoot for free or for a very low fee because the experience or the nature of the work is appealing. They are not relying on the work to manage a business and earn a living, so it is natural that their approach and considerations while on the job are likely to differ from a professional photographer.

Although there are many benefits to seeking out serious hobbyist to do a photography assignment for you, there are also hidden risks. These risks can be mitigated if you choose to hire a professional photographer instead.

Read More in the Everyone’s a Photographer Series.

Everyone’s a Photographer Series (2/5)

In a world dominated by images and a market place saturated with “professional photographers”, it may seem like a daunting task to find and choose a photographer that’s right for you. This series of articles covers the current trends, and provides some tips to help you in the selection process.

Part 2

Key Criteria for Professional Photographers

If it’s not about the equipment or the quality of the images, who are these “professional photographers”?

A professional photographer, in the true sense, is a person who earns the majority of their income from the business of photography and dedicates the majority of their time refining their craft in the field of photography.

At the end of the day, an independent professional photographer is a business person. As a commercially viable business faced with extreme competition, they may not necessarily have the most expensive equipment or the latest camera model; their images may not necessarily be the most artistically creative, or follow the latest trends on instagram. However, the professional photographer will be able to show a potential client, a gallery of images that respond to a commercial brief and shows the versatility in meeting the needs of a diverse range of clients over an extended period of time. The independent professional photographer will have:

  • a registered business (an ABN if operating in Australia) with business liability insurance.
  • business processes and contractual arrangements in place to interact with the client before, during and after the photoshoot.
  • a motivation to build long-term customer relationships, and are more likely to be customer-focussed.
  • a website or online galleries for public view to showcase their work with a number of previous clients.
  • measures in place to protect their clients’ images; have a good understanding of copyright, image licensing, model release forms, and be able to address concerns about privacy.
  • on request, be able to provide clear pricing and fees for services rendered.
  • protocols in place to manage situations when things don’t go as smoothly as planned.
  • they may (but not necessarily) have formal accreditation.

This list is vastly different from what a serious hobbyist will be able to provide as assurances to their client when entering a payment for service contract. As you will read in our next article, there may be many valid reasons and situations when you would hire a serious hobbyist, freelancing as a photographer rather than hiring a true professional.

However, there are some specific situations, when it is strongly recommended that you consider hiring a professional photographer in the true sense of the word; for example,

  • when a long term relationship will be beneficial; or
  • when the engagement of a photographer may have commercial ramifications to you and for your business; or
  • when you need to protect your images and investment;
  • when you want to mitigate the risks, in case something goes wrong.
Read More in the Everyone’s a Photographer Series.