Ah, the source of our freelance pain revealed.....

The last wooden slats in the Paris Metro.

I hear a lot of people talk about how digital is changing everything.  The premise being that a lot of newbies have flooded into the market and they are actively stealing the work from seasoned pros.  I've been nosing around. Free people aren't stealing our work. I've been meeting with clients and friends in the ad and corporate worlds. They aren't hiring cheaper photographers. They're just not hiring anyone.

Here's supporting evidence. Sales tax revenues in Texas (a state LEAST affected by the depression) has seen double digit declines in the sales tax rate since last March. April 2010 and March 2010 are the first two months since then that have ONLY shown single digit declines in sales tax revenue. Which means spending is still dropping. Only when sales tax rev heads to positive growth will we see any of the peripheral (discretionary spending) markets recover.

Now I see why it feels like a I've been baling a boat with a thimble. The leak is bigger than I thought. But none of this means that cheaper camera dudes are stealing our work. Just ain't none to steal.  But it doesn't mean that photography will never be profitable again!

Hold on. We'll make it.


Greg said...

Kirk... I'm with ya.

I just recently entered the freelance market and as of late I've been making some really great progress... but it's not because I'm cheaper than the other guy. I'm going to chalk these small success up to going out and shooting unique personal work, going out and shooting when other people won't, and spending a significant amount of time networking and getting my images in front of the people... the right people.

Anyway, I'm having a hard time viewing things in a negative light. I see this as my opportunity to set myself apart from the masses and demonstrate the quality of work that I can produce. Then, when things do turn around, I will hopefully be able to turn all of these small successes into something more. And having to work a little harder at this point is fine. I'm new, I'm willing, I don't have any "remember when..." stories.

I can understand that all these changes might be hard for someone that had gone and engaged the autopilot. But you shouldn't be mad that this happened... you should be excited that generating new business now means you get to go out and be as creative as you want and shoot whatever you like. Next you just need to find the people that matter and put your work in front of their eyes.

There is a reason it's call work.

kirk tuck said...

Absolutely. The people who are making it get up every day and call and show and shoot and share. And bill for it. More than ever, it's a numbers game. Play the numbers and you've got a better chance of winning. When everyone goes back to work we all go back to work.

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Nice post, Kirk. As I opened the moribund studio today, I felt optimistic, because I was opening the studio, I had survived another day, I wasn't a greeter at WalMart, and I actually had some proposals sent out, and they were getting good responses. I may have had to stretch in 2010, but that's what ibuprofen is for, those little aches. I would try and patent the "Quadropod", but ... http://frame-notes.blogspot.com/2010/02/big-quadropod.html

Well, as Mr. Natural says: Keep Trukin ...

Bill Beebe said...

I am a recreational rider. I ride Trek just like Lance Armstrong. Just because I ride Trek does not make me like Lance Armstrong, nor will I be able to ride in the next Tour de France and compete with Lance and all the other world-class riders.

I am a recreational photographer. I shoot with Olympus just like Kirk Tuck. Just because I shoot with Olympus does not make me like Kirk Tuck, nor will I ever be able to compete with Kirk or any other highly competent and seasoned photographer. When I shoot, it's average work-a-day photography to support my regular job and to help non-profit groups like the Cancer Society's Relay for Life or the Florida Science Olympiad. For them my work is good enough. When I hear another photographer complain that people like me are 'stealing business from them', I'm listening to a photographer who has neither the business sense nor the talent to effectively compete in the market they should be in, and is using my activity as an excuse for his failings.

Robert said...

competitoin raises the bar, period. Its like those moveis where the top contender tries so hard to oust the underdog, when he should have been trying harder to be the best that he can be. We all know how that ends. As far as Bill being as good as Lance, or Kirk thats up to Bill, and no one else. Of course it won't be tomorrow.

Ab said...

There are some industries that are guarded but regulations and qualifications... unfortunately the creative fields will probably, and should probably never get those kinds of protections.

As a designer i have people telling me how their daughter is good at art and has some suggestions, or that they will have their brother do the logo design... people who have no qualification and own paint shop, or some other entry level program.

I found out about an agency in Chicago that employs 500 designers in manila to churn out design 10hrs a day, 6 days a week for 12,000 pesos a month (about $260) and as one designer i know that worked there described it as a combination of the call center model with graphic design to maximize profits. I had known about these places but just assumed it was an outsourced thing.

However, that doesnt mean i no longer earn a living... or even that my industry is on the way out like the manufacturing sectors.

Some people will always find the cloud to sit under, some will always walk towards the silver lining.

I suggest to every business owner to engage the rest of the world. If you are a photographer, open studios in places like manila, Kuala Lumpur, hire photographers, train them and run businesses in far off places. They will have modest returns, but they will have returns. You will build a name and a brand that can be leveraged at any time... well, what i am saying is think BIGGER not smaller. We can all think ourselves into oblivion, when we should be saying what has never been done, what can i do?

Creativity is our industry, and in difficult times and with difficult challenges, we must be creative.


David Ingram said...

Some adjustments are going to be extremely difficult for photographers in certain industries.

The newspaper biz is shrinking dramatically and I'm worried what/who is going to support next generation of photojournalists. I don't think blogs like Huffington Post or Daily Beast will get the job done.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mines father owned a pizza shop in a small east coast town. He was established and successful. Then Pizza Hut moved in. Instead of complaining, he got aggressive, raised his prices, marketed towards Pizza Huts weaknesses (he used local ingredients & everything was handmade) and preached customer service. In 3 years Pizza Hut closed their store.

Last fall that Pizza place closed. The economy simply took it's toll on their customers.

kirk tuck said...

I won't be throwing in the towel any time soon. I'm having too much fun playing with the cameras and making nice photos. Just have to change who I'm selling them to.

Don said...

I love the smell of optimism in the morning.

Without a positive, open attitude, nothing can change. Not for ones self, or anyone else.

Good post.

tokyobling said...

No business ever dies out, it just changes form. The question is whether the old hands can change course or if the new course will be set by younger whippersnappers. People will always need photos and there will always be some people who take better photos than others.

Besides (commenting on a comment above) I know some excellent designers in Manilla.