Where Is The Photography Industry Headed In 2015 And Beyond?

2014.2015Today, I’m here to answer one of the most-asked questions I’m hearing from the photography industry right now.  And that question is:

“Where is the photography industry heading in 2015 and over the next few years?”

A great question, as we all know the industry has change so much over the last 10 years, and continues to change on almost a weekly basis.   So, I’d like to take a moment to answer that question, at least from my point of view.

Based on my years in the professional photography business and in coaching and consulting and communicating with professional photographers around the world, the following is where I see photography headed in 2015 and beyond.

1. The perceived value of portrait and wedding photography will, as a general rule, continue to decrease as it becomes easier and easier to create average, sellable photography with less and less expensive equipment readily available.   HOWEVER, I still firmly believe that there will ALWAYS be a great market out there of people who are looking for high-quality photography, and who are willing to invest good amounts of money for it.   The key will continue to be the marketing abilities of photographers.  Quite simply, in 2015 and beyond, it will be the best photographic MARKETER who wins.

 2. More and more people will continue to enter the ranks of semi professional portrait and wedding photographers as the barrier to entry continues to decrease.   We’ve all seen this happening for years.   As DSLRs get less and less expensive, and with better features and resolutions, more people have decided to become semi-professional photographers as a way to scratch a creative itch, while also bringing in some extra money.   This will only increase over the next 5 years or so.   However, again, referring back to #1, it’s going to be the photographers who market themselves well who will survive.   Easily 90% of these semi-professionals will not be making much money, if any from photography.   Nothing against semi-pros, they have a place in the industry, and that’s how most of us started out, but it will be hard for them to make a big dent in the local photography industry working only part time.

3. Only the best marketers and sellers of photographic services will prosper, as it becomes more difficult to differentiate one photographer from another.  Okay, I already gave this one away earlier – both in #1 and #2, but I have to state it again as one of the keys.   The fact this keeps being repeated should be a key as to how vital this point is!

4. In wedding photography, the best emotional storytellers with the greatest marketing and selling skills will be the ones who grow and prosper.   Don’t underestimate this one if you photograph any weddings!  More than ever, it’s the photographer who not only tells the best “stories” with their photography, but the one who tells the best emotional stories in their marketing and selling who will get the clients.   With so many people professing to be photographers out there, it will be your ability to build an emotional bond with your prospective clients that will put you way over your competition.  Brides are looking for an emotional story-telling photographer.   As important as your photography is, your ability to speak to brides on an emotional level, and express your desire and ability to tell their story through emotional photography, will be the key to your success in 2015 and beyond.

5. In portrait photography, wall portraits as home decor will be the most lucrative area to work in while the majority of photographers scrape, scratch, and fight for the low-priced photo market.   This is not a major change at all.  This is how it’s been for decades, and it WILL continue to be this way moving forward.  Your ability to make a great living from photography lies in wall portraits.  Period.   That’s where the true profits are, and where they will continue to be in 2015.   If you want to virtually guarantee your success in photography, become a master of creating and selling WALL PORTRAITS.

6. Those photographers who refuse to present their photographs to their clients in person, and choose instead to post their images online for their clients, will slowly but surely burn themselves out working many many hours for little or no remuneration.   A great deal of debate has been drummed up around this single revelation.   I understand how much we WANT to just be able to put our images up online, and have them “sell themselves.”   I also understand that most photographers (incorrectly) believe they HAVE to do this in order to get clients.   However, the fact is, trying to sell your photography with any means other than IN PERSON, and preferably by projection, is photo-career suicide.  I can’t stress this enough.   Next to your marketing, your sales process is the single biggest key that determines your success in 2015 and the years to come.

7. As PT Barnum once said, “You can’t catch a whale by using a minnow as bait.” For photographers, this means that, if you want to work with the best clients who value your photography, and will be willing to pay good prices for it, you’re going to need to create a huge demand for your limited supply and then control the volume of work you do with the price. The temptation for many photographers in 2015 will be to DECREASE their prices to compete with the lower priced photographers popping up everywhere.   You do NOT want to fall victim to this way of thinking.   The key is not how LOW your prices are, it’s how good your marketing is, and your ability to reach the people in your area who value what you do, and who are willing to pay you well for it.

8. As the great photographer and business person (and my mentor) Donald Jack taught me many years ago, “In order to be successful you must be willing to send some people away.” This will hold true even more so in the coming years. Not everyone with a pulse is a good prospect for you to end up working with. You’re going to need to learn the questions to ask a prospect so you can discover whether or not she will make a good client of yours.   The reason for this is, if you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up being nothing.  You’ll burn out, and go out of business.   We can’t allow ourselves to get caught spending a lot of time photographing clients who, statistically, are not going to spend enough money with us to be really worth the time.   That sounds cruel, but it’s not.  We must think as business people and remember the 80/20 rule:  80% of our profits most likely come from 20% of our work.  That’s the key.   Know where the big profits are in your business, and focus your marketing and selling on getting more of those types of clients in 2015.

Those are my key points on where the industry is headed in 2015.   I hope that helps!

Charles J. Lewis
M. Photog., Cr.

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5 Responses to Where Is The Photography Industry Headed In 2015 And Beyond?

  1. January 12, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Charles! Differentiation and the ability to excel at marketing and selling will continue to be the keys to success. I always appreciate your words of wisdom and experience!

  2. January 12, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    The mystery is long gone out of photography: the smelly chemicals that magically bring a picture to life, the bright light of small flash and how to control it, etc., etc. all gone forever with the emergence of digital and the iPhone and unprecedented advances in the technology of photography. Plus most photographers aren’t aware of 4K and the revolutionary change it presents on the horizon. I agree with most of your points, though they are about two years old which means if your readers weren’t aware of this situation before now, their professional direction is toward another career other than photography. The world isn’t changing for photographers. It HAS changed and precious few are doing anything to incorporate this new world into their own. Adapt, re-invent, succeed. You don’t and you won’t. So what’s special about your work as a photographer? If you don’t know, you should have long ago. Your tomorrow depends on yesterday and if you missed yesterday’s bus to reality, catch it today. ‘Just a thought …

  3. January 12, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Brilliant stuff …….



  4. January 12, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    I have seen the downtrend in the crowded wedding photography business coming for some years. For us, it was too much advertizing and service chasing after too little return for a lot of work. Last year we decided to pull the plug and have entered the landscape/ nature photography business. So far it has not been bad and we are much more comfortable pursuing photography our way. It’s a 180 degree turnaround for sure, but this is the field that we started in.

  5. Cheryl
    January 12, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    I have been fascinated with the information you provide. I worked with a business coach last year as I am in the start up phase of building my business. The things we see other photographers doing makes us doubt that we are doing the right thing, yet many complain they aren’t making much money. You are giving the exact same advice that he gave. He had 4 studios making more in a month than most can make in a year. I need to really get the marketing concepts down pat and hopefully I will see the dollars come in.

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