Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Glass is Half.....(what's your answer?)

Business is good? Business is bad? What's your answer?

There is a lot to look at these days, and to come up with an answer. Just as Chicago delivers its chosen son to become President, and one of its premier photographers to become official White House Photographer, both papers are joined in the pit of bankruptcy.

Life Magazine has, as Daryl Lang so rightly points out, devastated the value of a wide swatch of photographic imagery. I can hear the mantra now "heck, Life Magazine published the best images of the 20th Century, and if they are free for me to use, why should I pay for others?" (And, as someone who has been published in that magazine - one caution - I registered the work with the Copyright Office, so I await the infringers mis-step.)

a lack of money will eventually doom
C-Registry as the roadkill of the
Web 2.0 era.
Speaking of Copyrights, the C-Registry continues to hawk it's mea culpa to anyone who will listen. The problem is, they just were not transparent about the process, nor are they about their future intentions once they reach a critical mass, and they have been given many opportunities to dispel these concerns, and the silence is deafening. I predict that, just as with Digital Railroad, who promised they would never get into stock licensing, so too, debt and a lack of money will eventually doom C-Registry as the roadkill of the Web 2.0 era.

April 15th is just around the corner. Yes, friends, the tax man cometh. How many of you are sitting down right now and realizing that 50% of your profits are going to the government, and realizing that you didn't save anything to pay Uncle Sam, and are now wondering where you're going to come up with the money you owe?
(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

To comment on another piece by PDN's Lang, it was written about the demise of Studio Photography magazine (that I will miss from my mailbox) that "The industry is shifting away from a business-to-business segment and more toward business-to-consumer, spokesperson Kathy Scott said in an e-mail." Hogwash I say. While B2C, in the form of weddings, senior portraits, family portraits, and so on, will remain steady and consistent, B2B continues, from this independent photographers' standpoint, to be a growth area. The higher likelihood is that their titles were not seeing the ad revenue necessary to sustain it, in print form. Photographers are getting their information from broader sources, much of it online. Previously, the print platforms were the gatekeepers of insights and knowledge, and now, as a critical mass (AC Nielsen reports Sixty-four percent of Americans age 12 or older have used the Internet in the past year...Almost half of these Internet users (31 percent of all US residents age 12 or over) report going online everyday) is achieved, sources for trusted and thorough knowledge are available to the masses with a few mouse clicks.

Two weeks ago, against the advice of my investment advisor, I took I bet out on a banking stock that was at $1, and now I have tripled that investment - because I was in a cash position to make (and, yes, possibly lose) that investment. If that investment (bet) had tanked, I would have been just fine, so it was as safe a bet as I felt I could make, with a significant potential upside.

Despite concerns in Q4 of 2008, we have staffing levels that we have not had to diminish, so as the calls are coming in for work, we have the post production capacity and logistical support to prepare estimates and collect on invoices.

It has been suggested that this blog is about hits and traffic, and as anyone who actually reads this knows, thats never been the case. The purpose for this blog is to give insights and analysis on the business of photography. Sometimes instructional, sometimes informative, and, yes, often critical. When we see bad moves by players in the industry, we call them out on it. Whether it was Xerox, PDN, Getty, Icon, Nat Geo, USPW, ASMP, AP, PACA, Conde Nast, DRR, Microsoft, or any of the other players regular readers have come to know more about. When these players try to slip a mickey to photographers, we try to be the antidote.

When the economy is down, as the saying goes, cash is king. The time to buy is in a depressed market - if you can. When you have no ulterior motive, the people standing around trying to figure out what your motives are for doing the right thing often would benefit from a bit of self-examination. As Ice Cube says (here), "check yo self before you wreck yo self."

Friends, the glass is what you make it out to be. From my perspective, the future is bright, and, for some, as they say, it is darkest before the dawn. For others, it's always darkest before it's pitch black. Go figure.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


gene x hwang / orange photography said...

Hey John, thanks again for a great post. I agree with you that things are what you make them. I'm not sure if it's the lessons we learned from SB2 that I've applied to our studio, but we're actually seeming to be busier than ever and our January was better than the previous year. We're bringing on new staff as well and things are busy. We do a combination of B2C and B2B but B2B is a big portion. While budgets may be tighter, there is still a need for our skills!

Don Bohr said...


While I'm not a professional photographer I check your blog almost daily and enjoy everything I read.

Regarding this post: I'd like to thank you. Optimism is a rare thing these days and I'm happy to see you and others expressing it.

The days are dark but we will get through them.

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to be optimistic (you don't explain why you are) and another to be boastful (plenty of that on your blog).

Check yo self before you express yo self!

Christopher Zumwalt said...

A few years ago I stopped freelancing for newspapers after doing my taxes. Upkeep of my camera equipment & gas for my car alone was more than what I was being paid. The turning point for me was the realization that I had to pay income tax on the money I had lost!

Between jobs as a staff photographer, kept telling my self that I could deal with it. at the time I felt the need to keep my by line in publications outweighed the expense.

However after sending a check to Uncle Sam for 30% of the money I did not make I called up my newspaper clients and told them “sorry have to cancel my upcoming assignments, have bills to pay and accepted a job as a draftsman”

Anonymous said...

Anonymous........what is your deal?

Maybe you should be our spokesperson seeing that you have plentiful free advise and such a hip way to communicate it to us folks.

I'll breathlessly await your next written gems of advice.

AdvRdr said...

Anonymous spewed ...

One of the the positive aspects of this blog is that John allows all viewpoints to be expressed and debated.

Your sophomoric nauseant is a disappointment.


Anonymous........what is your deal?

Maybe you should be our spokesperson seeing that you have plentiful free advise and such a hip way to communicate it to us folks.

I'll breathlessly await your next written gems of advice.

NeilS said...

Glass half empty or half full? Heck, years ago I decided it was half way to the next round.

As for photography business, I'm really busy right now, I've done some decent jobs in the last few weeks and getting calls for more.

Some businesses I know are really hurting and others are busier than they've been in a long time.

Also seeing "sold" signs on local homes for sale. Maybe Canada is a little better off than some countries, but its still nice to see.

You know my name said...

so how come these one-name wonders are all of a sudden the poster children for PDN? How does a thirty-something photographer who has never experienced really tough conditions get off on setting the tone for the industry. I know the answer to my question. They can sell more products for their sponsors. Seems to me that there is more money in having wanna-be and junior level photographers "look-up" to the one-name wonders than actually going out and shooting for clients.

The one-name wonders are looked as a jokes by the heavy hitters and guess what, they are very good business who are better off as pitchman than photographers.

Anonymous said...

So I take it your a glass is half empty kinda fella :)

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Unibet said...

According to me , the glass is half empty...

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