Since the advent of the Internet and cameras in everyone’s phones and electronic devices, the number of photos in existence has absolutely exploded (in a recent presentation by Yahoo!, it was claimed that as many as 880 BILLION photos will be taken in 2014 if we continue on the current trend).

Of course, they’re not all great photos. But lots of people get started taking photos with their crappy phone cameras (or whatever they have), decide they like taking photos, purchase better camera equipment (which has become quite accessible both in terms of price and supply), and put up their website or storefront and start trying to sell prints, photo books, and/or photography services.

In economics terms, it’s quite clear that supply is exceeding demand for photography products and services. Or is it?

While it’s true that there are are more photographers out in the world trying to sell products and services to an audience of non-photographers that isn’t growing as fast, photography–as a subject of interest–has exploded right along with the explosion of photos and picture-taking devices.

Camera equipment sales are up (e.g., Canon Celebrates The Production Of 250 Million Digital Cameras) and the sale of photography “How-To” books (based on my observation of their proliferation at bookstores) is up.

What this means to me is that the audience for photography is shifting from non-photographer consumers to photographers as the consumers. Not only are photographers interested in doing photography themselves, but they’re more likely to be interested in the photography being done by other photographers.

So how does this audience shift affect the person trying to sell photography products and services?

I believe it’s photography as a service that gets impacted the most. There are millions of people with professional or semi-professional camera equipment (which has become quite affordable to many people) out in the world trying to make a buck with their equipment (as a sideline or to help pay for the equipment itself) who offer their services at low rates because it’s not their primary income-earning occupation. This adversely impacts the professional photographers trying to make a living as a full-time photographer. (This is an old story now and I’m not going to get into it any more than this.)

However, photographers trying to sell prints and books still have an audience, though it may be shifting over to an audience composed more of photographers than in the past. Photographers like to look at prints and photo books from photographers they admire because they inspire them to take better photos.

Of course, there’s the question of whether people more generally are buying fewer prints and books due to photos being so freely available on the Internet, where photographers can see them and (as photographers) be inspired by them. That’s a separate (though not unimportant) issue.

The new opportunity that has surfaced for photographers is selling their expertise and know-how to up and coming photographers who want to know more about the practice of photography and how to make better photos. This expertise and know-how can be transmitted via how-to books and ebooks, photography workshops, and/or tutoring or portfolio reviews.

Not all photographers are interested in ‘transmitting’ what they know to other less experienced photographers. Some experienced photographers just want to keep taking photos and selling their photos or photo services and making a living (photographers tend to be visual ‘observers’, of course, who may not feel comfortable interacting with strangers or with putting their knowledge into words).

The purpose of this post is to observe what’s happening (at least from my vantage point) versus making any recommendations to anyone. Sometimes just making a few observations can help people know what they need to do on an individual basis.

More observations to come…

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