I’ve been a professional photographer since 2005, around the time digital was coming of age in the photography world. The shift to digital represented a sea change for those who made a living on film photography.
Since that time, I’ve seen a lot of changes and I’ve also worked many genres of photography — some successfully, others not so much.
The thing this business has taught me is that unless you are hugely successful at your genre of choice — most are not — you have to become versed in multiple kinds of photography. Especially if you planned on making a living in this business.
When I first started getting paid, competition wasn’t top of mind. I just felt lucky to get jobs as I wasn’t really planning on making a living in photography. But my business kept building. It finally hit a tipping point when I decided in 2011 to stop freelancing and go off on my own.
My business boomed from 2011 until 2014, then something changed. Cheaper DSLRs and improvements to cell phone cameras brought about competition from two unlikely sources. First, I witnessed moms and dads with cameras from Best Buy (and their kit lenses), deeming themselves “professionals.” Second was the rise of social media.
For those who make a living at this, we know these “professionals” well and the kind of work they produce. The problem was the perception of value from a professional photographer was somehow now less than before. A “friend” or relative with a “nice camera” became “good enough.” Factoring in the growth of social media giants like Instagram and Facebook — littered with bad camera phone images — photography was accessible to everyone. To make matters more challenging, the level of what was considered “good photography” collapsed.
I had to shift gears or I was going to go out of business. I had to diversify or die.
A new genre
In 2014 I discovered real estate photography. I got into real estate photography for a variety of reasons. First, there wasn’t near the same level of competition. Second, it’s not the sexy stuff — fashion, portraits, etc. — that actually make money. I learned that making money in photography is in mundane, boring and repetitive businesses, like product photography and real estate.
I chose real estate because Realtors are also an excellent lead source for people photography. Realtors need portraits and they have families who need to be photographed. My real estate business exploded and I received countless referrals from my real estate clients, too!
Fast forward to today
It’s 2020, six years after I got into the business and I can see things changing for me again. Others have discovered real estate photography. Competition is entering the marketplace and once again, I have to diversify my offerings. I’ve embraced new technologies and have moved into 360-degree tours and real estate videos.
Once again, my business is back in growth mode. For how long, I’m not sure. What I do know, is if I’m going to survive for the future, I must diversify!