The print media is awash in a frantic daze over its own impending damage and the effortless success of its eclectic, carefree, crowdsourced rivals. This week Stephanie Clifford writes in the New York Times about the shrinking path for opportunities for professional photographers. Also this week, Seth Godin explores ways in which photographers can come to terms with their declining livelihoods by becoming entrepreneurs and bringing together tribes of paying fans for their work.

With a more helpful online interface, customers will be able to navigate the choices and find the best photographer for their needs. Not only would this boost business, photographers will be more able than ever to give their customers photos they'll love. Copyright Sanjee Singla 2010.

The consensus among the photographers I know is that things are, indeed, getting tougher. Fewer paying gigs are available from the professional media, and supply curve shifts at the low-end of photographic quality is depressing prices for casual customers. In retrospect, photography would have remained a more successful profession were photographers not so charitable as to reduce collective prices at every turn. In an increasingly commoditized marketplace, photographers will only survive by differentiating.

There is a specific opportunity for photographers to use entrepreneurship to provide more diverse and accomplished work than ever before. I believe a way to do that is for elite photographers to:

  1. Create a service platform run by photographers for photographers.
  2. Analyze professionals’ work on the basis of:
    1. Quality level
    2. Shooting style
    3. Experience
    4. Service level
    5. Availability/Scheduling
    6. Pricing
  3. Charge a commission per gig arranged to keep the site running.
  4. Suggest photographers for a customer based on the customer’s preferences, price point, and availability requirements.
  5. Encourage photographers to share non-commissioned work (for credit) for the benefit their network of clientèle.
  6. Reap a higher percentage of their work’s true value by going through such a cooperative.

In today’s photography market, choices are unclear. Evidence shows customers in uncertainty end up going cheap, expensive, or avoiding the decision altogether. Elective customers provide business the industry can scarcely afford to lose.

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