As a photographer, the idea of market saturation can become overwhelming. A flip through Instagram yields millions of hobbyists with thousands of followers looking at shots gilded with #ShotOnIphone. It is this constant exposure to others’ photography that can become overwhelming and belittling to us. Even harder, this rise in image makers has led to the devaluation of photography as a field by many companies.
So, how is it that photographers are continually expected to work for minimal income, if not, for free? A look through news pages will yield many articles discussing the layoffs of staff photographers at major newspapers and magazines. A look through ads of individuals seeking photographic work will often quote budgets of under $100, sometimes dropping below the $50 mark. To add insult to injury, it is becoming more common for companies to repost and offer "exposure" to “pay” for your work. This idea may be wonderful to a hobbyist wanting their work published or shared. However, in the professional world, “exposure” doesn’t pay the bills.
This idea of trading exposure for work is increasingly difficult to navigate, since it is necessary to run a successful business. However, exposure will not cover the immense costs of maintaining the equipment and space needed to operate at a professional level.
One can hope that much of this devaluation is rooted in a misunderstanding of the cost to create images. So, what I hope to offer is a basic idea of the cost of equipment to pull off most professional shoots.
Strobe x3---------$600 each
Light stands------$150 each
Sd Cards-------$30 each
Adobe Suite---$50 per month
Altogether, the total to pull off a basic photo shoot and edit it is $11,828. This discounts the fact that many photographers require multiple camera bodies, many of which cost a minimum of $3,300 each. In the case of commercial work, the cost of a medium format camera can total to well over $50k. This also doesn’t include gas, food, studio costs, model costs, etc. When itemized, you begin to understand the true cost of creating a high-quality photograph. This analysis should begin to show why the devaluation of photographic work can be so enraging to many photographers.
This anger is heightened by the constant move to penny stock, and other sources of cheap photography for companies to use on a commercial scale.
Ultimately, photography will continue to become more and more important in modern society. With this, one can only hope to see an increase in appreciation and value for the work professionals create.