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Realist vs. Impressionist Business Models

Realist vs. Impressionist Business Models
A couple weeks ago (http://jaykinghorn.com/?p=231), I suggested the use of the terms Realist and Impressionist photographer to define approaches to, and uses of, photography. A realist photographer is primarily concerned with capturing their vision as completely as possible in-camera, while an impressionist photographer uses the camera’s capture as a starting point to be adjusted, composited, manipulated as needed to reach their final vision.
As we turn the calendar to 2010, many photographers are wondering how they can survive and even thrive in the new business landscape. While the greatest pains from the recession are, reportedly, receding, many photographers I’ve spoken with recently are having difficulty staying afloat. Budgets are lean, magazines are folding and newspapers are laying off photographers, flooding regional freelance markets with savvy, well-connected staff photographers.
This sea change of the market certainly smarts, and, as I’ve spoken with struggling photographers, I noticed that the realist vs. impressionist definitions also apply to business models.
Realist photographers most commonly serve editorial (newspapers, magazines, etc), or documentary (event, portrait, annual report) marketplaces. Impressionist photographers today serve more of an advertising market (advertisements, billboards, etc.). While realist images were once used extensively in advertising, the current trend I see in advertising is a move toward illustration (either hand-drawn, composited or CGI). This may be an aesthetic decision on the part of art directors, but it may also be a reaction to the flood of excellent stock photography on the market. That is, to stand out, advertisers are looking for something new. This trend isn’t limited to photography. Look at TV commercials, movie trailers and graphic design. An unmanipulated image is the exception, not the norm.
In this respect, impressionist photographers have a wider marketplace within which to sell their photos, and are paid for the compositing, retouching and image design work they perform in addition to their creative fees for photography. Being able to sell both editing and creative skills also shields impressionist photographers from amateurs encroaching on their market. The technical complexity, skill level and vision required to produce an elaborate composite image for an advertisement provides a barrier to entry that a simple head shot for a corporate Web site does not.
There is a great need for passionate, talented photographers in both realist and impressionist disciplines. What is most important, from a business perspective, is that you make a conscious decision on which markets you’re targeting and what your finished product will be. In doing this, it makes it easier to structure your pricing models, select equipment appropriate for your types of assignments and refine the appropriate post-processing skills necessary to give your clients exactly what they’re looking for.

A couple weeks ago, I suggested the use of the terms Realist and Impressionist photographer to define approaches to, and uses of, photography. A realist photographer is primarily concerned with capturing their vision as completely as possible in-camera, while an impressionist photographer uses the camera’s capture as a starting point to be adjusted, composited, manipulated as needed to reach their final vision.

As we turn the calendar to 2010, many photographers are wondering how they can survive and even thrive in the new business landscape. While the greatest pains from the recession are, reportedly, receding, many photographers I’ve spoken with recently are having difficulty staying afloat. Budgets are lean, magazines are folding and newspapers are laying off photographers, flooding regional freelance markets with savvy, well-connected staff photographers.

This sea change of the market certainly smarts, and, as I’ve spoken with struggling photographers, I noticed that the realist vs. impressionist definitions also apply to business models.

Realist photographers most commonly serve editorial (newspapers, magazines, etc), or documentary (event, portrait, annual report) marketplaces. Impressionist photographers today serve more of an advertising market (advertisements, billboards, etc.). While realist images were once used extensively in advertising, the current trend I see in advertising is a move toward illustration (either hand-drawn, composited or CGI). This may be an aesthetic decision on the part of art directors, but it may also be a reaction to the flood of excellent stock photography on the market. That is, to stand out, advertisers are looking for something new. This trend isn’t limited to photography. Look at TV commercials, movie trailers and graphic design. An unmanipulated image is the exception, not the norm.

In this respect, impressionist photographers have a wider marketplace within which to sell their photos, and are paid for the compositing, retouching and image design work they perform in addition to their creative fees for photography. Being able to sell both editing and creative skills also shields impressionist photographers from amateurs encroaching on their market. The technical complexity, skill level and vision required to produce an elaborate composite image for an advertisement provides a barrier to entry that a simple head shot for a corporate Web site does not.

There is a great need for passionate, talented photographers in both realist and impressionist disciplines. What is most important, from a business perspective, is that you make a conscious decision on which markets you’re targeting and what your finished product will be. In doing this, it makes it easier to structure your pricing models, select equipment appropriate for your types of assignments and refine the appropriate post-processing skills necessary to give your clients exactly what they’re looking for.

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