I have noticed something interesting. There is a fundamental difference between editorial photographers and commercial stock photographers. Commercial stock photographers are exactly that: commercial. They are the ones that spend the most time blogging and ranting. They have endless discussions on the economics of picture taking, from the cost of an image to the licensing prices, complaining ad nauseum about anything that might disrupt their forever menaced way of life. There is not one year that goes by without them complaining about a major threat to their trade.

They talk forever about ROI’s and RPI’s (Return Per Image), endlessly trying to apply the rules of owning a store to photography. One of the most amusing part is that most of them have no business education.

On the other side, you have editorial photographers who, when they blog, or meet each other, will talk endlessly about what they have just shot and what they are currently shooting. They will post or show their latest stories as proud parents and rarely will they talk about how much it has cost them to produced the shoot. Some, if not most, have a hard time being published. They work in an extremely challenged financial environment where day rates have not changed for more than 10 years and space rates are falling to ridiculous lows. But what matters to them most is the photography, not the dollars.

The same applies for agencies. If you go to a PACA or CEPIC meeting, conversations and panels are all about revenues and other Cost of Doing Business. No exhibits, no slideshows, no photographs, besides the one you see in catalogs lying on display tables. Photography as a commodity. Besides agency owners, no photographers attend these shows. I believe they are banned from these shows. And it is a little bit sad, because they are great images in these “photo banks”.

On the other hand, a visit to VISA is all about photography. Exhibits, slideshows, photographers with portfolios and more photos. People compare photos, talk about photos, look at photos, and speak photo. Of course there is business talk, but more of an instinct business talk. The gamble business talk : “I had a hunch this was a great story, so we send this guy to shoot it and it made 10 pages in Maris Patch magazine”.

Editorial photographers are not worried about Microstock because no one will ever go shoot a story on Iraq and sell it for one dollar a piece.

You can see the differences in community blog: While an historical group like bit.listproc.stockphoto has an extremely rich history of winning, complaining, ranting, crying and other boring “z’its the end of the world” post, Lightstalker, while not immune to potential photo martyrs, is much more alive in tips, suggestions, intelligent questions and answers about photography and not the “Business of”.

Of course you have ranting editorial photographers like EPUK in england and I am surprised they are not many, many more, considering the hard times they are going through. I think one answer I can offer is that editorial photographers are too busy shooting to spend hours on their computers giving others lessons in macro economy. If Getty’s stock goes up or down, it will not change their lives in the short term. They have entered this crazy world because they love photography and for no other reasons. They are passionate about their trade. They complain less and act more.

Editorial photographers are not worried about Microstock because no one will ever shoot a story on Angelina Jolie and sell it for one dollar a piece.

Commercial stock photographers and their agencies like to complain more and act less, preferring endless discussions about how to compete with Getty than actually competing with Getty. One of the current biggest threat to Getty is an agency hardly mentioned in the commercial world, Wireimage. Why is that ? because they spend less time ranting and more time on the front lines.

I would like to see a reunion of both, where great photography meets great economics, and when blogs are empty of complains and full of wonderful images.

Author: pmelcher

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