During the last three years there's been needed belt tightening and then belt tightening as corporate theater. Sadly, photography has always been perceived to be the caviar on the buffet. Take the good stuff off the table and bring out the hot dogs... When times get tough fewer P.O.'s get written. Fewer photo intensive projects get done. Anything that costs money but doesn't move the water polo ball toward the goal in the short term is relegated to the "wish" list, not the "to do" list. And so it's been for three long years.
But disgruntled photographers began to talk about how the "market has permanently changed". They mistook a brutal downturn for whole scale evolution. There were/are endless predictions that dollar stock and the web would be the final nail in the coffin of professional photography. No one would ever assign again. Best case (deeply pessimistic) scenario? We'd all learn how to become videographers slugging it out over in that sandbox.
But business needs images. Business needs advertising. And advertising needs to constantly evolve to keep its audiences interested. Otherwise Mr. Whipple would still be squeezing the Charmin and Madge would still be soaking in Palmolive. We'd still see "the little purple pill" every evening on the news. Nope, the audience won't go to the same movie over and over again and they won't look at the same ads over and over again. So, new and different is part of the product specification for communications. And that means new ways of looking at things and that means new images and, by extension, brand new photography.
So now, three years after the big freeze there's pent up demand for photography of the same old subjects but imaged in a new way. A new style. Not radically new but new in the way that a Honda Accord gets a facelift every few model years. Nothing worse for an executive than using an old headshot in a speaker's promotion or event program only to have aged a bit. Likely he'll end up the recipient of many, "Have you been ill?" inquiries as the audience tries to reconcile his weathered and beaten current look with the headshot in the program they hold in their hands (someone remind me to tell the story of retouching gone wild and the cancer scare story....).
Here's what seems to happening right now in the business: Products are getting new product facelifts and need to be re-shot. Executive teams have been shuffled and need to be re-shot. New markets are opening and old markets are re-opening and companies are getting ready to put on fresh faces and go after the markets.
Many have discovered that photo fees from professionals are really such a tiny part of the budget that the different between $500 and $5,000 is still just a fraction of a percentage of the overall cost of production and ad placement. They are starting to understand the overall value proposition and would rather have proven "brands" (photographers) than taking chances on unproven generics. In short, the market is showing the same signs of life it has after every market correction.
I put a photo of this building in because in the last recession the common belief in Austin was that the game had profoundly changed and no one would ever be able to sell a condominium in the downtown area in the foreseeable future. Since then, this building and about 12 others have been built, are coming online and filling up briskly. As late as last year pessimists proclaimed that the buildings would either go partially filled or that developers would have to radically reduce their pricing. Now the buildings are nearly 100% sold. People are clammering for more space close in to downtown. It's the place to be. The general take in 2008 was that real estate would be dead for a decade. Now we need more.
The market is always more optimistic and pessimistic than the facts. There aren't stock photos of the new CEO, the new building, the new factory, the new product, the new fabric, the new airplane, your kids, your daughter's wedding, or any of a thousand other subjects. We will need to take them. We may take them with tiny digital cameras, we may take them with hulking behemoth cameras but we will take them. We may deliver them on the web. They may run on the web. But they will still add the same or more value to corporations, companies, mom&pop businesses and other communicators. We just need to charge accordingly, deliver accordingly and revive the working business model.
The sky may be falling but it may be the sky in some other market. As a profession we need to stop putting energy into a myth that's destructive to our markets and our psyches. The game was called on the count of "rain" for the past few years. The clouds are breaking up. Game on.