Photographer Michael Albany from Philadelphia sent me an article called unnovation. He asked me what I thought of it and if it applied to the photography business.

Oh well…

I forgot PhotoBizCoach

Sometimes this industry feels as if it is a heavy big glob of glue. One that is just sitting unnovatively around waiting for something to happen. So yes, it is a great word for me to use. Photography business professionals been bombarded by one bad piece of news after another. The fees are in the toilet, photography pros who have been shooting for decades are becoming massage therapists (no joke) and on LinkedIn someone put himself through 7 years of college to finally graduate with his photography degree after investing $120,000 in it only to be evicted this month (again!) A Time Magazine cover brought the photographer $3 – another remarkable image sale brought to you by Getty Images through their industry destroying subscription model. What the heck where we thinking back then when we slept with the devil himself? Getty Images thought they were innovative, and they were. They did change the industry by bringing the standards to such a low level that in all honesty the end user can not differentiate between a good enough and a great image. And how in the world can we explain it to our clients if we ourselves can’t see it?

What is so unnovative about our industry?

For starters technology has made it so easy for everyone including grandmothers to whip out their smart phones and take decent pictures. Technology allows to share in an instant. Studies now show that people who use social media suffer less from depression – if I read all the nice things my friends say about me on Facebook I do feel better. That means sharing feels like a natural extension of who we are. It is our right to snap away and to show the world what we think and how we feel through our words, pictures, and clips. If I do interesting things you like me and others think I am awesome, too. It’s become pretty predictable.

The downside of this is that the sheer mass of images available and floating around in space, and the millions of photos going up on Facebook every day are impossible to control. Think about it for a moment. How can anyone control or police the billions of images that are produced and posted every day throughout all social media? Of course Instagram, Facebook, and now LinkedIn want to protect themselves and own a piece of the action. After all the monetization scheme through social media is ridiculously low. It is very expensive to put the technology in place, put in the time and energy and for what? So other people LIKE you?

Can you tell, that I know this because I struggle with it, too. You dear reader are no different than those you cry about who use your images for free. You, too think that you are entitled to free information! What is the difference?

We need new ideas and new licensing models and new value propositions. And we need them urgently. Marissa Mayer from Yahoo (owners of Flickr and now Tumblr) put her foot in her mouth (again) when she said there are really no more professional photographers. A comment, that in all fairness was taken of context and not quite what she meant.  She had to clarify her statement after a firestorm broke out. One of my readers suggested to send someone to her office for her next official portrait with a simple point and shot and no lights, another quipped – how about sending an iPhonographer? At least we get some innovative insider jokes out of it.

We need to get back to innovation and feeling good about our industry. Seriously, I fight the honest fight here against falling into photographic depression but this week really got to me. Even when you put your best stuff out there, you got a huge following, user involvement, and people genuinely like what you do – the issues are still the same. You guys like all the other guys don’t want to invest a dollar of your money into learning new skills either. Just like the rest of the world.

Perhaps changing unnovation into innovation needs to start within our own industry. If we don’t do what we want others to do how can we possibly expect a different outcome than the one we have? It is energetically simply not possible.

Whatever it may be – do something and do it now.



  1. Yes. Thanks for expressing that. If you are doing things that allow the viewer to think, "I've got a camera. I could do that!" Even if they're wrong, you've already lost the battle. Since I first heard that expression, I've always tried to disallow that thought by something in my photo. It could be loghting, subject, viewpoint, post processing. Always find something to set you apart from any old guy with a camera.

  2. Norm Levin says:

    Same thing happened with the introduction of word processing and design software. Instantly everyone was a newsletter editor. All sorts of crappy "journalism" was foisted on unsuspecting readers. Gradually, real pros came to the rescue. But by then the bar was lowered.

    Will a similar adoption-acceptance-rejection curve trace digital photography's impact and value? Remains to be seen although I think we're still in the early stages of this "revolution". Although many people claimed they could write and design a page, their lack of understanding of the BASICS of prose or composition eventually did them in. Having survived that battle for a long while running a marketing communications shop, I'm hopeful that the market - the Getty's of the world - will eventually realize that quantity isn't quality. It's up to us pros in whatever field we are in to keep innovating, growing and marketing our product to inch the bar back where the difference is clearly noticeable.

    My strategy has me pushing the event photography and portrait market in my little corner of the world. I've experienced increasing recognition that there's still an appreciation for art in an otherwise glutted image pool. Downward price pressure, however, remains a constant for those who read menus from right to left.

  3. Ed Fox says:

    The genie has been let out of the bottle.

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