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Photographer of 2015: A Business Model

After my previous post Photographer of 2015: The Business Landscape, Art and Chuck both raised salient and encouraging points about the success of the iPhone Apps store and distributed content generation.

Art’s defined success as “a 30-minute show produced by 11 people in Des Moines for $800,000 [that] can be supported by an audience of 100,000 paying $1 a month. This is but one of several possible business models for the photographer of 2015. Here are a few ideas to get you started. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how tomorrow’s photographers will make a living.

Grab A Slice Of the Changing Media Landscape
Advertising money follows eyeballs. The rapid decline in newspaper readership, advertising and profitability is well established at this point. What is less well documented is the rise of streaming video services like Hulu, which stream network and cable television shows for free. Shows can be accessed on a computer or flash-enabled mobile handset and watched whenever the viewer desires. This places the computer, and eventually, mobile devices as the key interface between consumers and information, entertainment and culture.

This puts content creators, like photographers, in an interesting position. A savvy photographer using established web analytics can track “session duration” and “conversion rates” to quantitatively track the effectiveness of their photos and translating this into hard dollars for their clients. While it is nearly impossible track these statistics with print campaigns, it is relatively easy for web-based advertising. This gives photographers solid metrics to justify their creative fees to clients.

Go Niche
The quirky, yet insightful, technology blogger Bob Cringely recently highlighted a site making a tidy $400,000 per year selling e-books on parrot care and training. What niche uses of photography could be commoditized and scaled as effectively as parrotsecrets.com?

Content is (still) king
As Art highlights, the costs to create, cast, produce and distribute a 30-minute TV show, documentary or Webisode are rapidly decreasing. A motivated collective of artists can find an audience provided their content is engaging, entertaining and informative. Experiments like Radiohead’s “pay what you want” pricing model for their album In Rainbows and iTunes store show that many consumers are willing to pay a modest sum for quality content. (Note: Even though many users paid nothing to download In Rainbows, these pre-release sales were still more profitable than sales from their previous album.)

By drawing from other disciplines, (music, independent cinematography, web-savvy marketing) and staying abreast of technological changes, photographers will have several viable business models to choose from. In the coming weeks, I’ll look at the technologies most likely to impact the photographers of 2015 and highlight resources to help you get a jump on the competition.


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