Is Photography a Commodity?
A million new photographs are created every week – and quite possibly, that many every day in the world. Digital cameras are everywhere and in more devices than just DSLR’s. The world is filled with images from people and sources in print and social media sites that inundate your senses. With so many images vying for for attention or to be sold, how does anyone get their images noticed enough to make a living at photography? It seems that there are so many great photographs taken by pros and amateurs alike that photography has become a commodity.
It is a very noisy world out there in terms of the availability of images. I mean, how many images of the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen have you seen? On any given evening at the summit of Clingmon’s Dome you will find 60-70 photographers waiting to shoot the sunset in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Let’s do the math: if there are 70 pro/amateur photographers and 7 days in a week the potential exists for 490 images of sunsets from the same spot. Extrapolate that out for the time the summit is accessible each year (average of 300 days) and you get 21,000 potential images to compete against. Now, to be clear, that vast majority of those are only shooting for their own use – to show friends and family – but if only 10% of the images are by pros selling their work that still leaves 2,100 images available from the same summit view each year. Does that turn all of those images into a commodity? Does that create a lot of noise for consumers to pick through? The answer is no – those sunset images are not a commodity and yes – they do create a lot of noise that consumers must pick through. So, the question becomes – HOW DO I RISE ABOVE THE NOISE?
First, let me say that to rise above the noise you must first have the technical, composition and post production skills to create interesting images. That in essence is a given. Before you can rise above the noise – you need to develop the skills to play in the big leagues. Build your skills till you get comfortable with what you are shooting so your images are salable. An amateur will sell a random image, an artist will sell repeatedly. Once you have reached a level of skill that you are getting consistent keepers in your collection you are ready to begin rising above the noise. It is no secret that people are more comfortable with people they recognize and the same is true about spending money on something like an image – they want to buy from someone who they feel like they know. The means of rising above the noise if you want to sell images is getting people to be aware of you in positive ways. Getting visibility is the means of rising above the noise of a sea of images all swimming around your images. Visibility is not just about your images, but about yourself as well.
Building visibility about yourself comes via a wide variety of paths which lead to the same destination – your name and image being in the public eye. Building visibility begins locally, then to the state/regional level as you work towards garnering visibility at a national level. So the question becomes – HOW DO I GET VISIBILITY ?
Getting visibility is by and large an investment in your time and not money. You have to commit to activities which get your photography recognized in some form or fashion. Enter your work in photography contests, state fair competitions and other local venues where you have the chance for your work to receive awards. Those awards become the starting point for you to generate public recognition of yourself as a photographer.