My friend Eric found an article online this week that pretty much sums up what is wrong with photography in the 21st century!
It explains how camera phones are replacing real cameras. (There was a photo in the Chicago Sun Times last week of Robert Plant shot from the sound board with an iPhone!! They should have just drawn a stick figure!)
It explains how pricing has gone down over the last 10 years or so:
The first big slide occurred in the early 2000s when newly created agencies like iStockphoto and Shutterstock sought to profit from the surging supply of images facilitated by digital technology. They aimed to reach beyond a narrow group of relatively high paying professional picture buyers to the legions of independent designers and’ dabblers’, who perhaps needed imagery but couldn’t afford (or were no longer willing) to pay top dollar for it. Dubbed micropayment sites, these agencies recognised that by using online distribution and drastically slashing image licenses (to a fraction of what they had been), they could expand the market for photography – a move that benefited the owners of those companies a lot more than it did the creators of the images they distributed, many of whom earn just a few cents from each sale.
Note the part about it not benefiting photographers! Couldn’t have been more true. As sales go up (quantity) prices go down, to the point where an individual image licensing fee is laughable.
The next great point:
Every news event is now recorded not just by professional photographers and journalists but by an army of amateur by-standers who have the ability to share their ‘creations’ almost instantaneously – and for free. Bastion of journalism the BBC already regularly makes use of crowd sourced journalism – or user generated content (UGC) to use the technical jargon. So while one can hardly expect to be remunerated for publishing an image on Facebook, it is slightly worrying that unpaid crowd sourced imagery is also appearing in the mainstream media who generate revenue from the content they provide. With so much free imagery available, the temptation is often too strong for editors to resist. After all, why pay for something you can get for free.
Hence: The Sun Times has fired their entire photo staff and is relying on writers cell phones for photos!
Then, the real problem:
The current paradigm relies on calculating rates based on a matrix of factors including the relative size of an image on the printed page, the position of the picture (inside or cover), the print run of the publication, the geographical distribution area and related languages. Yet with an ever increasing number of eyeballs on screens and not paper, and with so much value being derived from advertising online the predominantly paper based approach to calculating rates seems out of synch with the realities and trends in media today. Of course online usage is usually remunerated but it almost always tends to be treated as an add on. If a magazine buys a license to use your work in their print edition they might, or might not, pay a little extra for using the same picture online, even though the online usage might double (or more) the number of people seeing your image. Given the way things are going, I’m starting to wonder if it shouldn’t be the other way round. The principle value calculation should be based on electronic and online usage and the print usage should be the add on.