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The Slow Death of Freelance Photography


As regular freelancers ourselves, we’ve likely suffered many of the same fears as a lot of our readers. Despite there being an ever increasing amount of outlets that need material, technology has allowed it to be far more easily and cheaply created, driving down the fees that professional creatives are able to charge. Although most of the time you’ll find that just because your friend’s cousin has a copy of Photoshop doesn’t mean what he’ll turn out is any good, the fact that he’s there can alter the whole industry. So while it’s interesting, it’s not very pleasant to read Stephanie Clifford‘s piece about struggling shooters in her piece for the NY Times‘, “For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path.” Clifford talks about the big bite taken out of that particular freelance market, to the accessibility of good digital cameras, magazines folding and advertisers cutting back, and stock companies branching out to get more material and paying creators less because of it. Like we said, it won’t be a pleasant read, since you can find corollaries in almost any creative profession ($99 logos, anyone?) but it’s worth the reality check. Here’s a bit we found interesting:

In 2005, Getty Images licensed 1.4 million preshot commercial photos. Last year, it licensed 22 million — and “all of the growth was through our user-generated business,” [CEO of Getty, Jonathan Klein] said.

That is because amateurs are largely happy to be paid anything for their photos. “People that don’t have to make a living from photography and do it as a hobby don’t feel the need to charge a reasonable rate,” [photographer Matt Eich] said.

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