Pro photographer, blogger and MBA Laurence Kim explains why photographers are at the bottom end of the food chain with essentially "no leverage".
Photo credit: Viki Secrets
Hi, for pro photographer & blogger Laurence Kim the American Dream is the reasonable wish of living a middle class or better lifestyle. Something like owning a house, a car, being able to start a family and sending your kids to university.
Is it possible to achieve that as a professional photographer?
Laurence Kim tries to answer this in his fantastic and mind-opening post The Photography Business & The American Dream. Warning, he is quite pessimistic realistic about it.
The key is leverage
In short, the key to wealth is leverage. Leverage means getting out more from something than you invest, multiplied by a reasonable factor. MBAs know that quite well ;)
There are a lot of professions and jobs that have leverage in some form, photography is unfortunately none of them. On top of that it is a profession with an almost zero barrier to enter, which is bad for any business (in Austria it is artificially limited by being a licensed trade, but there are workarounds to that, for example press photography and marketing are free trades etc.). The need for professionalists is also declining because everybody has a decent camera. In the end there is a lot of competition, resulting in massive price dumping and the like. Technological advance and affordability of great gear for low prices do the rest. Good for consumers, but again bad for business.
Photographers are at the end of the wealth-creating food chain
Only models are below ;) Yes, it is true, unless you are one out of a million or so! Same applies for a number of creative jobs such as actors, singers, moderators, writers, and also fashion designers.
Because it is so important to grasp the concept of leverage, here is a recap of worthwhile professions with leverage:
Investors make wealth by taking risks and using leverage such as taking a credit to make a bigger investment, they would otherwise not be able to afford.
Professionalists make wealth by high income and entrepreneurship, often entry into the profession is extremely selective, tedious and expensive (such as becoming a lawyer or doctor) and requires a high degree of education and prior investment.
The Corporate Employee
Employees make wealth by selling their time and experience, getting gradually promoted and adding more and more value to the company over time (leverage).
The Public Employee
Public officials make wealth by higher than average wages, job security, and other benefits. Otherwise the career is similar to that of the corporate employee. Becoming a politician or a police officer as Lawrence states could be harder than getting into Harvard University! Level of entry is sometimes extremely high, or at least you need to belong to that elite and have the right acquaintances.
And what about Bloggers?
In principle we face a similar problem, the one of the creative and freelance industry. On the other hand, there is some leverage on the Web. It is relatively inexpensive to publish and host content in relation to the potential audience you can reach, which is the entire world. I love the write once, share unlimited principle of the Web. This is our leverage.
I am also hoping and seeing the Web becoming the number one medium in many countries, perhaps soon replacing television and traditional newspapers altogether. On the other hand there is also extreme competition and the yet unsolved problem of monetizing content by other means than advertising.
In fact, after two years of experience, I am not that optimistic that I will ever be able to make a living out of blogging or photography or modeling or advertising. But at the moment it is my passion and I am enjoying the freedom and creativity it offers.