Photography Crunch

Photographers have perhaps always complained about hard times – and they have often been harder for the best photographers, as for example a reading of Edward Weston‘s Daybooks will show. But the widely published news about rates at The Sun which I read on the Press Gazette site last week led to complaints that these were below 1993 prices. The rates for photos in The Times are even lower, with a minimum rate of £54 and a postcard size image (11-25 square inches) earning £90.

Of course back in the 90s I can remember complaining that the fee one magazine was offering for a story and pictures was actually less than they had paid me for a similar feature fifteen years earlier. And those ‘Fleet Street’ rates above are of course considerably higher than anyone can expect from the regional and local press, where conversations often end with the mention of any payment at all, and fees are generally minimal.

In one of the comments to the Press Gazette feature, Roger Maynard takes things back further still, suggesting that lineage rates, also cut, are “not much higher than the sort of lineage paid back in the sixties...”

It makes me wonder what future there is if any for the press as we know it – on wood pulp or on line. There just don’t seem to be enough peanuts going round at the moment to sustain anything really worth publishing.

Personally I’m happier to publish my work in different ways, even ones that don’t produce any direct income but which do allow me to write what I want to say and publish the pictures I want to publish – if for various reasons not always exactly how I would like. So I’ll write stories for Indymedia or NowPublic and of course here on >Re:PHOTO and My London Diary.  The audiences may be smaller, but they are certainly, dear reader, much more select, intelligent and interested.

Of course you reading this are one of a growing number who know that various blogs and web sites – including but certainly not exclusively those from the commercial media – are increasingly how we keep in touch with what is happening.  While too much of the press is at least metaphorically down in the gutter looking up the skirts of celebs – thanks to the BJP I learnt a new word for this type of photographer this week, “crotchdog.” Much to my surprise, despite the snow paralysis of the UK this week’s issue arrived on my doormat at the usual time so congratulations to them on this.

Suburban snow in Staines

But almost all other areas of photography are also feeling the pinch – even advertising and fashion. Commercial galleries around the world are hitting hard times – and according to Bloomberg, prices of some of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seacapes currently on show the the Gagosian gallery have been reduced from $450,000 to $360,000!

According to a news item this week’s BJP (like the link above this may need a subscriber login, but in this case you can read the original press release at CIPA), one area still looking healthy is sales of digital SLRs. The  Camera and Imaging Products Association forecast a 6% increase in worldwide DSLR sales over 2008, to more than 10 million. Not only a staggering number of cameras, but even more mind-boggling the number of pictures these will produce – and what will happen to them?

What will happen in the UK at least to the prices for DSLRs is that they will rise. I’ve left thinking about buying a Nikon D700 rather too long. A few weeks ago I could have bought one for just over £1400. This week the cheapest I could find was £1625, an increase of £200. This week’s price is likely to look cheap in a few months time.

However, anything dealing in any way with financial advice coming from me should carry a prominent health warning. I ignored the professional advice a few years ago to take my savings out of unit trusts, signed up for a fixed price deal on gas when prices went sky-high last summer and more.

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