Biz 101

The basics of the business of being a photographer

Going Out of Business

Until the 1990s, Olan Mills was the largest portrait studios in the world. At their peak, they had $900 millions in sales per year, and it was all build on a free 8” by 10” print. Competition had to come and Sears, Walmart, and Toys R'Us created their in-store photo studios. Cheap but… It wasn't Sears or Wallmart, nor Toys R'Us that ran the in-store portrait studios but a company called CPI Corp based in St Louis, Missouri.

The Death Knell of Point and Shoot

I was at a local camera dealer, the store was empty, no customer. I started talking with one of the sales guy. He showed me this little gadget that will be sounding the death knell (the ringing of a bell to announce a death) of the point and shoot cameras. It's a small add-on for an iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and I was told that it will also work with the Samsung Galaxy SIII. They do not have it in stock yet, but they have already placed a “large order.”

It's called a “snappgrip”


What's Wrong With Photographers?

Over the weekend, I was reading a local weekly newspaper with a wedding 2 page special. Contrarily to expectations, there was plenty of text but there were also big ads. One ad was a quarter page and four other ads. The five ads added up to a whole page, the text added up to the other page.

  • One ad for a photographer (top left)
  • One ad for a wedding music
  • Three ads for three catering companies


The Watermark Police

Watermarks! What for?

Watermarks! What for?

This cartoon is from which is right now in hiatus. It's funny but very true. Just use the healing brush in Photoshop CSrecent or Elements PSrecent and the watermark is removed. This works in 95+% of the time.

So what about the copyrights?

Facebook and Your Copyrights

Facebook is the world largest photo gallery. Nobody, nobody comes even close. Facebook has 150+ billion photos on line (yes, one hundred fifty Billions) and people are uploading about 250+ million photos everyday, according to Facebook initial public offering (IPO). Photography is big, very big business. It's so big now that many governments are putting in place “Orphan Works” legislation, aka “How can I appropriate somebody else's work without paying a dime.” The “Orphan Works” legislation, usually, goes along the line of:


How Canon did in 2012

Please note that I'm only highlighting Canon's Imaging division which represents 40% of the company.

  • As with all multi-national companies, the financial information changes according to the currencies. Canon, like Nikon and most other Japanese camera companies, keep their “official accounting books” in Japanese Yens. They also provide US Dollars conversion (which I will use). The unknown is how is the exchange rate calculated? Is it on a transaction basis, on a daily basis, on a weekly or monthly basis?
  • Usually, the exchange rates are averaged over the month but they can use any other method, like the last day of the month as long as they always use the same method.
  • They do not have to explain the details of how they calculate the exchange rates, they just have to state which exchange rate they used.

Demand for interchangeable-lens digital cameras continued to display strong growth across global markets while demand for compact digital cameras shrunk not only in developed countries, but also in China and some emerging nations.

Source: Canon financials for the year 2012


The State of the Photography Industry 2013

I was at a presentation in preparation for CES 2013. (What do they need to prepare?) It was a panel of men in the imaging distribution industry. We are talking the distributors, not the individual retailers nor the photographers. We are talking the big boys, the guys with the dollars. And yes, it's the guys, there were all men. They spoke percentages, they never mentioned units or dollars. I wrote down a few numbers. To confuse the matters a little more, the various distributors spoke “differently”. Some of the numbers are for the whole 2012 year, some of the numbers are for the first 9 month of the year 2012.

My comments are in the footnotes.

My 2012 Predictions

My predictions for 2012 are not a typo. I have been doing this since 2008 because I do not like being wrong and I procrastinate a lot. By the time I'm ready to write my predictions, it's well passed the spring, so I just have to procrastinate a few more months.

  • We survived! The most important is that we survived the end of world. Think about the alternative, what a bummer that would have been.
  • 2012 has been a very good year for the photo industry. It came following 2011 and before that 2010 (“duh!”).

Answer the "Bloody" Phone

In the last month, I've contacted 3 professional photographers. I have emailed all of them and I have left voice mails with two of them. Three weeks later, nothing. Either they have not replied to my emails. One said, “I am very busy right now but I will email you back in a couple of days.” The second photographer sent me an automated reply. “I very busy right now, email or call me back in 48 hours.” The last one never answered his phone or his email. How do they stay in business? How do they earn a living?

This is work, this is business. Many photographers complain about how people do not value photos anymore. Then they complain that there is no money in photography, that every Tom, Dick and Harry poses as a professional photographer…

When was the last time that you hired somebody that couldn't be bothered returning your calls, replying to your emails… You do not answer, next … There is always somebody else available…

If you run a business, this is a business. Businesses have:

Photography: The Latest Killer App

Facebook is the biggest photo gallery, by far. Nobody even comes close. Mark Zuckerberg understands that photography is the latest “killer app.” He just has to look at the numbers, 350+ million photos uploaded to Facebook every day and 150+ billion photos hosted on Facebook. In April 2012, Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook purchased Instagram for a billion dollars, and the acquisition (legal…) was finalized in September 2012. Now Instagram has announced new terms of service starting 16-Jan-2013:

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