Yesterday I posted Part One, The End Of Portrait Photography. Today we continue examining why the end of portrait photography is near. Just for fun I asked my twenty year old daughter today how she would describe a professional photograph. Her answer: “What does that even mean?” That is my point. We have done a lousy job in explaining what the term professional photography is.

Is a professional photography a picture that is taken with professional equipment, or by a professional person (with the 10,000 hours), or by a professional studio or company, or by professional software? She had a quizzical look on her face and now – so do I!

The term professional photographer has become in fact a little fuzzy.

But let’s look at the facts.

Does the quality of the portrait image really matter anymore? Does your new client care if it is technically perfect? Or is this scenario more likely: they want it, they want it fast, and cheap or better FREE. All it has to be is GOOD ENOUGH. Here is why. Your new buyer just doesn’t care. For them digital content it is disposable content. It has lost its value.

They don’t sit with printed black and white photos on their laps for hours like my mother reminiscing about the good old days. They don’t know the quality difference because there is an app to fix that. Your current buyers don’t use photography to recreate a certain type of feeling that my generation remembers. It doesn’t exist, that’s why. They care about on whether or not it is cool, does get a point across fast, is interesting, or exciting. Perhaps they care if it makes their mom happy but other than that – if you are a portrait photographer you need to re-examine your business model.

As computer sales have stagnated but smart phones and tablets continue to explode that for certain types of photography especially portrait photography a new and very gloom area has arrived. If 20-year old Gina can take pictures with her smart phone, manipulate, and post them online and skater Alex can film a video and post it online why in the world would they pay you?

You will not be able to tell a 23-year old iPhone 5 user who grew up on this highly filtered, overexposed, and manipulating technology that the images they take are  not exciting. They love it. And their peers tell them sometimes with thousands of likes that they agree. You cannot argue with that. And frankly some of the work I see that comes from amateurs blows my mind. A lot of it is actually really good and it feels current.

The perfection of good portrait photography is reserved for your more established clientele and they too, are pushing the posed images to the back of the piano and adding their special occasion gifts namely digital rapidly changing frames to the forefront.

What should you do if you have a nagging suspicion that this is you?

You need to rethink your genre and business model. If what I believe is true (and I am pretty certain it is) you have to adjust your business to the changes. Either you have to brand yourself for a particular generation and assist in the preservation of an area, or you move into one of the areas of photography where you can still prove the value.

Can and should you add retouching and image preservation like client and Photography Business Intensive graduate Walter Psotka in Canada? Should you add Wordpress site development like Michael as an add on service?

The rule of thumb in business is simple. If you used to make a lot of money with it but now you are not anymore – something needs to be adjusted. If you love it and after the start-up phase (three years roughly) it is not breaking even or loving you back – it needs to be adjusted.

Blaming progress is pointless. Once consumer behavior changes it is done and it will not revert. So add on additional services or market more specific to a particular type of generation or customer type. Market the business portrait only to business people. Market dating images to singles. Market family portraits to Baby Boomers. Create more specialized and more targeted campaigns to a particular group. Find out where your potential customers hang out in that group and offer them ONLY what is interesting to them. The CEO of a company who wants to hire you for a business portrait doesn’t need to see happy babies crawling on the ice bear fur! A character actor doesn’t need to see a three generational portrait image. Segment and target. Be specific and matter again to your clients.

Let me know if you find these ideas helpful for your portrait business.

Your coach


P.S. You did sign up for the bootcamp yes?

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