Monday, March 3, 2008
Your Studio And The New Economy
Pursuing a solid licensing strategy for now and the future will enable you to weather the storms of today's photo business reality
The landscape of the photography industry is changing rapidly. With fees for our services and other business issues, our work is becoming more akin to a commodities market. Effectively making money in a world that's offering more and more different venues for photography requires a new way to look at our business. The effective management of usage rights is paramount to making a great living as technology growth and innovation spur radical changes in the uses of our images.
We're All Going To Die
I'm not much for pessimism. When I hear anyone decrying the decline of the photography industry, it always makes me cringe. The industry as a whole isn't in decline at all. As many markets are, it's shifting and adjusting to a new way of doing business. Photographers are as relevant as they ever were, but the way we approach our business model must be adapted. The traditional avenues of making money are being augmented by new opportunities that require us to be much more savvy about the usage rights of our photography. That's a task about which most of us wish we were more diligent. Sadly, we're not, probably because it's a pain, and it doesn't involve shooting pictures, drinking cocktails or any glamour whatsoever.
Another hurdle to effective usage-rights management is the fact that usage rights haven't really been considered for the context of the Internet. This isn't an oversight; it's a form of denial. Usage of our work on the Internet doesn't yield the kind of payday that even a small print advertising campaign does. The fact that the Internet is beginning to grab more advertising dollars than traditional print advertising has us all checking our shorts and praying for news that online advertising is a failure and print will have a huge resurgence. It's not going to happen. But that doesn't mean there isn't money to be made.
It's A Commodity
Photography is a tangible commodity that's exchanged back and forth for money. I don't mean to demean your work or mine by referring to it in such base terms, but to make money, you have to understand what it is you're selling. As a commercial photographer, you're offering your creative abilities for a fee. The end result of your creative brilliance has a value independent of your labor. Your images, no matter what form they're in, are a valuable commodity. Maintaining and controlling the rights of your created commodity is a foundation of making money in the new economy.
The “new economy” is the best way I can think of to describe the galactic expansion of the online universe—a venue that our work will begin to occupy more and more in the coming years. It's also a way to describe new ways of thinking about how our work can be used. As the needs for photography change from the traditional usages established over the last five decades, it's incumbent upon us to sort out how to make our services relevant. Preemptively thinking about how to make money in this changing world will save us from getting caught with our economic pants down.
Start thinking in terms of the sum of many parts. Offering usage licenses for specific purposes on the Internet will open new, albeit smaller revenue streams in addition to your regular gigs. Also, offering short-term licenses, say for a month or two, will bring in a few bucks here and there. You need to be open-minded to new ways to distribute the rights to your work.
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