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In a perfect world, photography would be a good business. It is the most ubiquitous hobby in the world. Why would we want to cut ourselves off from the source of our greatest source of joy, our own creativity? For a start we would get away from the nasty stuff at the other end of the business spectrum – the endless advertising, the marketing. We would be able to enjoy the pleasure of our work on our terms – with or without the money to back it up.
Yet our society and our culture are obsessed with the bottom line. The world looks down on all businesses, and it’s the image of the entrepreneur that is most admired. We think every business is just as bad as every other business – even worse!
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But that’s just not the case. The good side of being a business is that the more you make money, the less you have to invest in marketing or promotions, because you earn it. If you make your own film for example, you don’t have to spend money on a marketing campaign to keep a good reputation. With a lot of the work in our industries, you don’t have to invest any money to get the work into people’s homes, and then send the people away again when they’re happy with it.
That’s not to say everyone who works in film should be a film producer. Yes, we want a better film economy, but we can find our way there without a major film industry. But most of our industries are already doing the right thing.
The main argument against the business model of the photographer is that the profits are not worth the time. But that argument is an excuse we often see from critics of business models. In the absence of other ways to make a living, some think that the photographer is the only one doing a decent job, and therefore the best thing for photography.
That’s nonsense. It’s not enough to say photographer/business is a bad business to make the same argument against someone who writes an article about photography for The Economist that says they make a good living.
There’s a difference between making good money as a photographer and making good money as a filmmaker. For film, you have to invest in film equipment to do this. It costs you and your equipment if you don’t have that. That’s true for photography.
I don’t just think you should invest wisely in your equipment and photography career. I think you should invest