Are Photographers Recession Proof?

With all of the astounding job losses and layoffs happening globally right now, I was thinking about professional photographers and how this recession is affecting them. I’m sure that there are some professional photographers who are feeling the pinch (or bite) of this economic downswing, but to what extent?

Thankfully (in this case) a good majority of professionals in the photography industry are self-employed. The entrepreneurial photographer is usually able to adapt in any economy; let’s face it, they have to. The self-employed folk aren’t receiving bailouts like the incompetent CEO’s of those companies that are the so-called “foundation of our economy.” The self-employed photographer is actually responsible for their business, adapting and rolling with the punches so to speak. So, upon doing a little research I have found that the wedding photography business is thriving (at least here in Vancouver it is). Wedding photographers are still able to maintain their price increases, and still remain to have their services sold out throughout the busy wedding season. In fact, some of them are so in-demand that they are even booking for the following year. Additionally, wedding photo album suppliers (the nice high-end stuff!) are doing more business than ever. This would lead me to believe that photographers are in fact impervious to recession… or are they?

Of course, not all photographic professions are impervious, there are many who are being affected. Editorial and journalistic photographers are, for the most part, secure in their line of work, but there is a trend for larger ad agencies to look to stock photo agencies for their work nowadays due to the cost savings rather than hiring a photographer for a specific shoot. There are many who dabble in the stock photo business, but the true professionals should be seeing an actual increase in their stock photo revenues as a result of this particular trend. It’s somewhat of an anti-recession in the world of microstock! While print publishers are going out of business or switching to a web-only strategy, professional microstock photographers should be thriving.

How about fine art photographers? There has been much debate over this, and probably even more-so once we launch our coming edition of the PhotographyBB Online Magazine. I am well aware of the starving artist factor, and the one in a million success rate for fine art photographers, however, it would seem that these stats are unrelated to the current state of the economy – unless that $3 million photo is now only worth $2.5 million?

The bottom line is that almost every single possible industry in the world will still need photography in some form, be it product photography, brochures, billboards, etc… The fashion world is certainly not going to give u on photographers. People will still be getting married, having beautiful children, graduating, and all of the other great moments we like to have captured by a photographer.Perhaps photographers are susceptible to the recession, but the smart and business-savvy entrepreneurial photographers are going to be just fine in the long haul.

If you are a professional photographer (either self-employed or not) who earns their main living from photography, I would love to hear your comments and perspectives. Please feel free to comment below!

About the author

Dave Seeram is the Editor of PhotographyBB Magazine, photographer, Canucks fan, Lostie,  fanboy, Dad, blogger, entrepreneur, and part-time superhero. Dave is the owner of this blog, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the PhotographyBB Magazine and CLARITY: PHOTOGRAPHY BEYOND THE CAMERA
5 Responses
  1. I had a double whammy this year, I relocated (not by choice I was dragged) and the “recession” I’ve not seen much of a drop at all in business. I really thought starting over was going to hurt! It was a slow start but we are doing very well! I’m blessed!

  2. Along this line Dave, everyday you hear about how the newspaper business is a dying industry. Journalistic photographers may be an indangered species.

  3. Good article Dave. I have to agree with much of what you wrote, except for your statement “Editorial and journalistic photographers are, for the most part, secure in their line of work…” I think those types of photographers are hurting the most. I would know, as I was one of them. The first 17 years of my now 19 year photography career was mainly based in the editorial/journalism field, and mostly self-employed over the course of my career. Editorial day rates stopped increasing years ago, publications have been using less and less freelance work, and newspapers (and magazines) have hiring freezes, cutbacks, or have even completely folded.

    I saw what was happening in the editorial world and decided to leave it a few years ago to pursue fine art landscape photography full-time (an even harder field to succeed in). I now make my living selling at fine art festivals in the Southwest. I know first hand many photographers on the art show circuit are hurting due to the economy. As for myself I have been more fortunate, having my best year ever last year and a great start to this year. I attribute a lot of my success to my constant marketing and the fact I have been in business self-employed for most of my 19 year career – nothing beats experience. As with any business, one has to adapt to the times and turn disadvantages into advantages.

    Matt Suess

  4. This year was a very strange year. We had clients who would pay the money for their photo shoot but it would come every other month or so. I’m in the wedding industry so we know a bride will still get married even if their is an economy drop. I know this sounds snooty but we kept our prices firm so we wouldn’t get hurt in the future of giving a “deal” to another bride and not to others. We had to wait it out for weddings but made up for in in family, senior and baby pictures. I noticed 2010 is much better and hopefully for everyone else. We are looking into other states to see if that helps. I’m from Dallas.

  5. Very good article, thanks for taking time to write it.
    I have to say, I love it when a person says they’re blessed and doing well financially.
    My opinion is, it tends to suggest the rest of us aren’t blessed if our financial outlook is bleak or just plane sucks. It sounds as if God is playing favorites… just a thought.
    Glad he’s blessing you though-

    Nothing new for me, it’s always been difficult, every few years having to re-establish myself as I try to adjust to the specific environment and economy, mostly my own.
    I’ve had to move a lot, at risk of sounding like I’m giving excuses; because I just know someone is out there waiting to pounce on my post- trying to have two kids home over Christmas vacation is only one example of how a stay at home dad, who works from home trying to market myself, and have time to photograph new products, food or go to a location at a certain time of day to get that dramatic lighting and toting along two kids isn’t easy and hasn’t been for the past ten years.

    I know we all have our crosses to hold, so no one is going to feel sorry for this, stay at home dad- I guess mothers are expected to deal with this and it’s ok, but for a guy whose wife makes in excess of 115K /yr. We still struggle in Orange County.

    I don’t have a line of credit with a bank, no one to loan me money for equipment other than the crooks at the Credit Card companies.
    Not much money for marketing, I have a hell of a presence on the web. I don’t know how this compares to the rest of you but I get an average of 1000 hits per month. My web site inquires are less than 1% per month.

    I hope something big happens for me in 2010. I’ve tried pretty much everything I can think of to gain new leads, its very slooow.

    Orange County, CA.

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