Professional photographers struggle to make a living. The microstock and stock photography earnings per photographer are in steady decline. Yet, paradoxically, a photography market segment with the least earning potential, the vanity segment, is thriving, driven by relentless photographers’ strive to create and pursuit for recognition. What attributes are characteristic of the photography vanity market?
- Photographer’s profit is not one of them
- Neither is producing images to satisfy market’s demand, there is none
- Motivation: self-expression, recognition hunger, attention solicitation
- Quests for low-probability rewards, like winning photo contests
- Self-financed by photographer
- Quantization of approval
- Attention economy
In the famous Klondike Gold Rush of the 19th century, the gold prospectors lost personal savings (and often their lives as well) in pursuit of improbable chances only to have enriched suppliers of infrastructure. This historical analogy helps to understand the photography vanity market, where the money goes:
- Purchases of expansive photo gear, Leica brand is popular among vanity photographers
- Participation in paid photo contests
- Paying to get photos published or exhibited: online, in printed editions, in galleries and exhibitions
- To get recognition of peers in GuruShots or 500px networks
- Training, workshops, masterclasses. Street photography is a good example of vanity genre with thousands entities offering training classes for photography field with zero earning potential.
- Photo management infrastructure: image processing and workflow tools, storage, portfolio management, hosting.
- Photo sharing economy: Unsplash, Pixabay…
The report estimates the size of photography vanity economy at about $1.2 Billion in 2019 and growing at about 7% annually in the next few years. The report says that the photography vanity market is an irrational, lucrative, high margin, and recession-proof segment, born to satisfy two basic urges – creativity and need for recognition, a fruitful ground for new business models, peer networks, analytics for approval quantification, social media platforms and VC investments in new startups.