Selling cameras in the UK and a changing market for photography

Cameras, a seriously shrinking market?

What’s this got to do with me as a pro photographer?

Although there’s an underlaying recession here in the UK, I was surprised to see just how much the UK camera market has shrunk  between 2006 and 2011.

Champagne glasses and strawberries

Not what’s on offer at UK camera sellers

Figures in a new report suggest a 29% decline in sales over the period, with similar declines in camcorders.  At the same time we’re seeing a big increase in people using camera phones for both stills and video.

Film is not dead yet, with some 8% still using it – declines in this area are likely to continue as decreasing supplies and places to process film make it more difficult for general use.

As with all such market reports (even if you spend the small fortune required to buy the full versions) there are an awful lot of numbers tied together to make sense of.

Looking at the ‘what people do with pictures’ numbers, I was pleased to see that over 40% of people still print out images.

  • 78% save on a computer
  • 53% send by email
  • 50% upload to social networks
  • 42% print at home
  • 36% burn them onto CD or DVD
  • 35% just leave them on the device

I’m not sure how I should factor data like this into my own business plans – my own impression is that photography is now more ubiquitous and people are using it in a wider range of ways.

How does this change the perceived value of photos, when people just email them to friends or post them on social networking sites?

One area of professional photography where this is having a big impact is stock photography. From a business POV, this is an area I don’t work in, but I know that returns have plummeted and many people who once made a tidy living from it are having to look elsewhere.

I do license some images for 3rd party use (particularly our local Leicester photos) and have noticed a downward pressure on prices – although people asking for my work in royalty free (RF) packages will get a polite but firm No.

It just so happens that Alamy have published a white paper [PDF] based on recent discussions about the future of stock imagery.

One comment that tied in with some of the findings in the Mintel report was that:

The stock photography industry has felt the impact of dramatic changes in technology, culture and economics. Digital photography has transformed the way images are created, stored and distributed. The internet is a global shop front that makes it easy to access and share images, but is also difficult to control and regulate. Image sharing is a pervasive online activity, made popular by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Pinterest. The result is a generation of young people for whom image sharing is second nature and image rights are an alien concept. These so-called “freenagers” consider almost anything online – images, music, video, games, text – to be freely available and theirs to share.

Working as a pro photographer?

Once again I’m reminded that my business profits are tied to things that will happen in the future, and I ignore changes in the market at my peril.

I don’t do wedding work, but I know that photographers are facing increasing levels of disbelief when clients are told that they don’t ‘own’ the images taken of their wedding.

For smaller business clients I’m adopting simpler licensing and pricing models – it’s easier to explain and enforce.

I’ve had new clients that have complained about other photographers trying to extract more money from them in licensing. It’s a balancing act between earning a decent return from my work and alienating clients – particularly the smaller companies that make up much of my client base.

So, read the reports and see what might be coming soon to your photo business…

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  • Keith Cooper

    Thanks Bob – I’ve always had a feeling that the ‘educate the clients’ approach is inclined to suffer from a lack of appreciation of the ‘real world’ and how things are changing.

    I guess that many of my photography business articles here are written in the hope that a better understanding of business is what many of us as photographers really need ;-)

  • http://www.nicolephotography.co.uk Bob

    Interesting & thought provoking. I have just read an article in the BIPP magazine on a very similar topic. Seems we as photographers are being put under pressure from all avenues, with no apparent short / medium term resolution. A school of thought is to stick together and educate the users of photography ~ but as an individual trying to make a living how does one do this?? The major representatives of major photographic bodies face a declining membership and a decline funding. New-comers in to the profession are numerous and some are willing to work for lower fees or just a credit. Users of photography want the lowest cost or free use of imagery. I understand we living through a major ression and work in a competative market – and time can not be turned back – I am left with the feeling that its up to photographers to chart their own course.