Is Photography Dying?

the business Jul 07, 2022

It's a scary question to consider... especially for those of us who are, or aspire to be, professional photographers. Given the recent shifts in social media and the high demand for "video content," many photographers like myself have been grappling with this question.

For many of us, our livelihoods partially and/or fully depend on this craft, and we've spent a lot of money and time investing both in gear and our own skills. But ever since the head of Instagram shared that it's no longer a photo sharing app many photographers have been uneasy.

I totally get it. Social media, particularly Instagram, really changed the photography game. Everyone has a camera now. Everyone is a "content creator." Every company needs a constant stream of new creative assets. Many of your (and my) photography clients pay for imagery that they will primarily only use as social media content or digital ads to be viewed on a smartphone.

Having things "change" significantly (again) can be worrisome. But don't let it freak you out. Don't get caught up with the "Doom and Gloomers" who say photography is dying. Because here's the thing:

1) Change is Guaranteed

Just like how the smartphone and Instagram changed the photography game so many years back, now TikTok is changing the social media game. Yes, there is more of an emphasis on video content now (more on how we photographers can use this to our advantage in point 4) but guess what: there will be a new platform someday that disrupts that one, and then another after that.

When you're a professional creative, pretty much the only thing that's guaranteed is CHANGE, and a lot of change. Better get used to it. There's good news though...

2) Photography has a lot of value beyond just social media

Just because social media content is more focussed on video content, that does not mean brand clients don't still need imagery. We live in an increasingly digital world–  brands need photos for marketing materials, email blasts, web banners, digital ads, product pages, etc. And honestly, they'll still need them for social media too.

So keep creating beautiful photos. Keep learning, honing your skills and improving so you can better serve these clients, and they'll keep hiring you. Trust me, photography is not going away anytime soon.

3) No one is forcing you to become a videographer

I've heard this sentiment from a number of photographers: "I feel like I'm being forced to become a videographer." I understand the feeling, but no one is forcing you to do anything.

I'm sure more and more of your clients are asking, "Do you do video too?" You don't have to say yes, but you don't have to say no. If you're noticing video is becoming a more regular ask from your clients, you have two options: a) learn how to do more video work or b) hire a videographer for the project. If you aren't interested in learning videography, you can always find another creative in your area to collaborate with. They'll be excited to have a new project, and you're able to fulfill your client's needs without having to do much more work. By offering more services to your clients you will offer more value and your clients will love it and pay you well for it, even if you aren't the person doing all the work. This is how you start to position yourself more as a "creative agency" vs. a one-person show (but that's for another blog post).

4) Adaptability is an essential for every photographer

Just like in point 1, change is guaranteed– so you have to learn to adapt if you want to make it in the long term as a professional photographer. There's just no way around it.

As far as social media and video content is concerned, keep posting photos and sharing your work... but don't sleep on this short-form video trend either. You don't have to become a videographer either– honestly, simple videos recorded on a smartphone tend to perform better both on TikTok and Instagram Reels anyway. My very easy advice is to grab one of these smartphone tripods, and keep it in your camera bag. Pull it out on every shoot and film behind-the-scenes while you work. Then use a free video editing app like VN or CapCut, include just 4-7 seconds of the BTS footage followed by a final image or two from the shoot (shorter the video, the better). Upload it to TikTok and Instagram with some trending music and you're done.

People LOVE seeing behind the scenes, and doing this gives you potential to connect with a whole new audience. Potential clients love to see it too!


The bottom line:

Photography had a lot of value before Instagram ever existed, and it will continue to have value even after Instagram is old hat.

But don't be a cynical old fart about short form video's popularity. Take it as an opportunity to connect with a new audience and show people your process. The creative world and industry is always shifting and changing. Yes those changes can be uncomfortable at times, but you don't always have to fight it. You cannot learn and grow by staying in your comfort zone, so embrace the changes and view them as new opportunities. 

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