Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where have all the jobs gone?

A continuing argument I have with older more seasoned shooters is the argument that the photo market hasn't changed, and that young photographers just need to call art directors more and show our books around if we want to be hired.

Well, I have news, the market for new photographers hasn't just changed, it has dried up and blown away.

As a photographer who graduated one year ago from the Art Center, I can say that for everyone I know that has graduated in the last year times have been more then tough.

I try and shoot a test every week, or more if I can. I shoot just to keep myself from the feeling that I am about to go under, about to not be able to make it.

I do every type of marketing that comes my way, but it still isn't getting me notcied by more then a handful of people. (Shout out to my peeps at the LA Weekly and OC Weekly! You rock my world and i love ya!)Link

Since graduation I have done many small jobs, multiple gallery shows, some work for the wonderful people at the weeklies, background acting in the movies (Iron Man II is going to be so good!), I even have been retouching images for as low as $10 an image; and still i am not making enough. That is a problem.

The photographers aren’t hiring new assistants, that is just plain true. Instead illegal internships are being offered everywhere I look. The jobs that used to go to journeymen photographers are being offered as TFP. Art directors are not calling in our books, and they aren’t answering their phones. Magazines are closing, or streamlining. Agencies want to have free tests for their new faces divisions. Clothing designers want free or $500 lookbooks with all usage rights. Brides expect to have the entire wedding shot for $500 or LESS.

From what I can see there are two places in the photography market right now, scrapping the barrel bottom and already established top. What this economy has done is it has eliminated the middle ground of photographers, and those are the ones most likely to try out new assistants, and their jobs are the ones most likely to go to new shooters.

As those jobs dry up the photographers who did the steady middle clients are dropping their prices, making it even harder for the “newbies” to find a niche.

I have had four editors look at my book this year. All hired me. But with cold calling, email promos and physical mailing I am just not getting through. It is easy to blame the new photographers for not busting their asses enough to get the jobs, but the fact is the jobs aren’t there to get.

I have one final example, a friend of mine won one of the top photography awards for students two years ago. He has teched for several top photographers, he is an incredible portrait, still life and architectural photographer. He works his ass off doing scouting and assisting, and right now he is living with his parents because the jobs aren’t there.


  1. Yeah, that sucks. If it makes you feel better, it's as hard for freelance models (and petite ones, at that :)). You just have to remember - there's always light at the end of the tunnel, this recession or whatever it is that affects our niche/market will eventually end. Meanwhile, we just have to survive...

  2. I have to completely disagree with you. I am coming in to the game without a degree in photography. I'm in one of the most over-saturated markets (NYC) in one of the most challenging times in photography in one of the most competitive fields (fashion) yet I'm still making headway every single day. If you think it is tough in LA, imagine NY right now...

    For example: this week I was hired by an agency to do model comps, hired by a seasoned photographer to assist him on a fashion editorial, and I picked up to do two portrait sessions that paid my rent, phone and transit pass for the month. Oh... and I am retouching shots I did from a wedding where I made a $6,500 profit.

    I'm not telling you this to brag. I'm merely pointing out that your thinking is what is making life so damned hard. I look around the landscape of photographers who have been doing this longer than me (I've only shot a cumulative time of 2.3 years) and have an actual degree in photography and I see where they make simple mistakes. I see a lot of talent but their business sense sucks.

    For starters: complaining about the market just shows potential clients that you don't have what it takes. It also let's them see that they can get you to retouch photos for $10 rather than pay a real working rate. And complaining about every detail or request from every job in tweets and public forums is a great sign that someone is looking at problems more than they are looking at opportunities.

    The truth is: personality goes a LONG way. No one will hire you if you seem boring, stuffy, cheap or hard to work with. People will hire you if they see that you can provide energy, you know what you are doing, you are fun, you're valuable and you are willing to be yourself (well... the fun self). In the end, you need to have style both artistically and personally.

    But to prove my point: I am taking a trip to LA in October where I will prove that people can make money in the city.

    PS: Awards don't do anything; they're as valuable as a college degree. Your work and effort and drive and smarts is what will help you succeed in life.