One of the most vocal groups of folks we've seen, when it comes to resisting the changing market dynamics brought about by digital technologies and the internet, is not the music or movie industries... but photographers. We've seen photographers compare microstock photo sites to pollution and drug dealing
in terms of the "harm" that they can do. We've seen photographers complain that amateurs are destroying the market
. Certainly, not all professional photographers are like this -- and we've heard from plenty who are doing cool and unique business models
as well. Rob Hyndman
pointed us to an interesting story at Slate, that discusses a few professional photographers who have found massive success (much more than they had before) by helping those nasty amateurs become much better in the craft of photography
At first glance, David Hobby looks like just another casualty of the decline of print media: A longtime staff photographer for the Baltimore Sun, he was one of many employees who accepted a buyout in 2008 as part of broad staff reductions at the distressed newspaper.
Yet last month he embarked on a sold-out, cross-country tour that will visit 29 cities. Approximately $1 million in tickets have been sold for the privilege of hearing Hobby and famed magazine photographer Joe McNally speak about their craft. Hobby's blog, Strobist, on which he teaches amateurs the lighting techniques used by professionals, welcomed 2 million unique visitors last year.
Those two photographers totally have the right attitude. Rather than looking at the changing market and crying about how they can't make money the way they used to, they both see these changes as an opportunity, which is allowing them to do quite well, from the sound of things. The attitude that McNally has is really perfect:
McNally doesn't see anything demeaning in sharing his insights with thousands of amateurs; rather, he says he's come to enjoy teaching. "If you encounter passion, you have to counter it with your own passion," he says. "Even if, at the end of the day, you feel they're not going to go out the next day and climb the Empire State Building."
That sentiment is alien to the old guard in the professional photography world, where, Hobby says, "there's a lot of information-hoarding, and [a sense that] if I teach this person how to do this, he'll become my competition." Once the dust settles from all the change he's helped bring about, Hobby thinks there will still be legitimate careers for professional photographers. "You'll have fewer rock stars, and a much larger middle class," he says, a group of photographers who will find ways to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.
Those two paragraphs could certainly apply to almost all of the various industries we talk about here. You can fight change, or you can realize how change often opens up a much larger market, and you can take the same passion you have directly into that new market.