‟They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ANDY WARHOL
2018 has already become one of the most turbulent years in my 13-year long career in wildlife photography. I’ve had to take a little ‘timeout’ to reflect and evaluate. Along with stuff going on outside of my photography world (that I’m not discussing here), I’ve also made some huge changes within.
Farewell Social Media
You may have read on my blog that I’ve decided to pull the plug on my social media accounts. I want to expand on that, just a little, from a business perspective. On reflection, I think social networks definitely work for some, but they’re certainly not a ‘cure all’ solution and there are other ways. Also, not all ‘social platforms’ are equal. LinkedIn, for example, generates actual tangible real-life connections, that I just do not find elsewhere (online).
Success with social media, from my point of view, all depends on your photography business model and whether you have a network that you engage with. I have one friend that uses Social Media purely for its ‘paid advertising’ reach and accepts the cost. I have another that said “Social what!?” Many more caught in a middling state of flux, not really sure whether it’s doing anything for them, apart from staving off boredom at home or in the hide.
Most of my ‘traffic’ flows from this blog and from Google searches directly. When I look at the analytics for the social platforms, the traffic flowing to my sites (the place where business happens) is almost non-existent – next to zero for Instagram and a few click-throughs from posted blogs on Twitter. OK, social media might be raising ‘brand awareness’ but that is an extremely difficult measure to quantify. It might be my negative slant, but it does feel rather like a big con. Like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” We’re told this is what we need to do to stay current, be relevant in a digital age, be successful, be popular, or whatever… But is it really?
Considering the amount of time and effort required to maintain an ‘adequate’ online presence across the many social platforms, the ROI is non-existent – for me anyway. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe, I just had tens of thousands of ghost account followers. Who knows?
Business aside, I guess, I’m really too much of a private person to constantly want to share ‘news’ about myself. It never felt comfortable. I like ‘old skool’ and I like to keep in touch face-to-face over a coffee or a pint, or via a thoughtful email – rather than the very shouty, trumpet-blowing ‘look at me’ medium. I digress.
Farewell Getty Images™. Thanks for the 25%!?
Something that has become very clear to me is that ‘the image’ has been aggressively devalued, since I entered in the industry as a pro in 2005. Why? Quite simply, there is a glut of imagery, a surplus of photography. It’s just supply and demand economics – whenever there is a surplus in supply, prices will inevitably fall, especially when there is so much free content. Hard copy publishing is worth less, the stock libraries are paying even less, if that’s possible!?
If I have a future in photography, it is not as a ‘stock photographer’. Especially one supplying the monopolising Getty Images. In the early years, it was a very useful revenue stream. Now…? Well, it’s laughable. Seriously, what is the point when you see statements values for less than £1.00!? No thanks. That’s just a slap in the face. It’s not worth the time it takes to complete a W8-BEN. So, going with the theme of change, I’ve terminated my Getty Images™ Contributor Agreement.
Oh no! I won’t be able to have the “I am a Getty Images Artist” logo on my correspondence… I shall weep. On the plus side, I can once again market my own work. Exclusive Agreements really are complete and total bollocks! My images are also represented by FLPA but it’s a non-exclusive agreement, so that’s fine.
Farewell Nikon. Thanks for the memories.
Eight years ago, I moved from Canon to Nikon. At the time, it seemed to me that Canon was failing to innovate or actually develop their cameras, beyond the ‘drip drip drip’ of incrementally increasing sensor sizes. It’s always the same with technology companies.
“When I worked for the Intel Corporation, I learned that most, if not all, tech companies have finished products ready for release, approximately 5-7 years down the line, sometimes even further. However, they can’t just release their latest innovations. They have to release countless models before, so they can reclaim their ROI – the expenditure laid out on R&D.”
At the same time, Nikon made a significant leap with their ISO performance and high-performance focussing with their D3 and D3s. Investing in Nikon kit made reasonable business sense, as most of my work is/was low-light crepuscular wildlife photography.
The focussing and metering systems vastly outperformed their Canon counterparts. With my commissions requiring more video, I swapped in the D3s and D3x for a D800e and D800, so that I could shoot 1080p HD video and have a huge high-quality image file. The NPS team have been awesome, with my kit (usually) turned around in less than 72-hours. They were always supportive with loan kit, when mine was in for service and dibs on newly released/announced gear.
The Nikon kit has been fantastic! I am very satisfied. The kit has paid for itself and then some. I would still highly recommend Nikon. Not just for the tech, but for the support that goes with it, especially if you’re a professional. Nevertheless, it is definitely time for me to change direction. So here I am now. My entire Nikon system was collected last week and I am currently without camera… Guess I’ll have to update my photography gear page.
Where to next?
When I look back at my work, my favourite shots (with the odd exception) are my Living Landscapes, where I have the subject really close or relatively close to the lens, but with a wider angle so the subject has context – a habitat and environment with which to frame it. To me, it speaks so much louder, conveying a far greater story, compared to a full-frame headshot that rarely says anything about the animal and nothing about where it is. So, what will be in the kit bag? Not a 600mm f/4, that’s for sure!