If one had committed a murder long ago but no longer practiced that heinous act, one would still be considered a murderer; right? Years ago, and for several decades, I practiced commercial photography very successfully, earning a comfortable living and getting published prolifically. I’m not retired, but I don’t proactively shoot anymore. But I am a commercial photographer. And, yes, I’m American (father born in London, though).

Photography is both idiosyncratic and unique, as evidenced by its history of business practices. Moreover, I cannot point to any other industry (nor can you) as essential to international commerce (art notwithstanding), comprised of only about 120,000 working-pro shooters (sellers) on one side of the marketplace and complemented by just as few publishers (buyers) on the other side, that does $14 billion in annually recurring revenue.

To put a finer perspective on that fact, there are only about 17,000 publicly-traded corporations worldwide, listed on stock exchanges. And by “publishers” I specifically exclude the consumer market comprised of freelancers, shopkeepers, bloggers, and startups who have a need to fill up their Websites with cheap pictures. I also exclude 70% of the customers served by the incumbent stock photo vendors: companies with fewer than 20 employees. These are all buyers who had either no need for photography or the wherewithal to pay for it before the advent of the Internet and its coevolution with the World Wide Web.

I’ve written a more detailed explanation and evaluation of both the history and future of Commercial Photo in Fixing Photography.



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ARTREPRENEUR, PHOTOGRAPHER, CLARINETIST, MOTORCYCLIST Fate follows the path of least resistance. Success follows the path of maximum persistence.

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