Photographers and Cable Channels

Ryan C

This is in response to Dario Smith’s question as to what was the reason that made me give up photography, or more particularly “the last straw” or the main factor causing my decision to retire. here was actually not just one factor that determined my decision to retire. It was the culmination of several small factors that influenced my decision to give up being a photographer. One of these reasons can be best explained with a metaphor I call “photographers and cable channels“.

Imagine a photographer being much like a TV channel. This TV channel would have X amount of viewers, or fans/supporters, that would regularly tune in to see shows (or the photographs) from time to time. In the real world, most households would have about 25-50 TV channels. You can imagine that each TV channel will compete for viewers’ attention. People will start to be more selective on which TV channels they will tune in to, perhaps regularly tuning in to 4 or 5 of their favorite channels.

Now let’s say anyone can start having their own TV channel by simply purchasing a DSLR camera, a couple lenses, and lighting equipment. The barriers to starting a TV channel has greatly diminished, causing a huge influx of channels being added to the already packed lineup every week. From 50 channels, you now have anywhere from 500 to 2,000 TV channels to surf from. The already established channels will have their regular viewers. But what about the thousands of new channels that appeared out of nowhere? Any normal person would feel overwhelmed surfing through 1000s of TV channels just to find something good to watch. The TV channels that offer the best quality programming would have to increase their energy and effort just to compete for their viewers.

Competition is always encouraged and beneficial in a market economy. But in the case of photography, the over saturation of photographers is becoming a problem for those that make a living as photographers. Supply exceeds demand without a doubt. How long does it take for a potential client to find that one particular talented photographer that would make his/her company’s products shine and succeed? Think about how long it takes you to find a good show while surfing through 500+ tv channels. A client that do not have that much time to invest in searching for a good photographer will either A) settle for a decent one that the client finds within the first ten minutes, B) should buy a lotto ticket because they happen to know a friend who knows a very exceptional photographer with the right skills/talents that fits their needs, or C) Go to an agency. Clients choosing A is a slap to the face for those amazing photographers that should’ve gotten that gig and who are more capable of providing a much better service than their amateur counterparts. Then again, that’s just how a competitive market works. A successful photographer will learn to be his or her own marketing/PR firm, a salesman of his or her own accord,  in order to stay on top. For me, this is something that is more of an annoyance than a threat. I am a very competitive person, but this is something I do not want to have to deal with several years down the line. I am already aware of the trends of new photographers popping up in my Facebook newsfeed, or a quick search on Google or a modeling community website such as Model Mayhem.

I stick to my statement that “photographers are a dime a dozen” and that “there are more photographers than taxi drivers in the world.” (Not to offend my talented colleagues, “photographers” here refer to “all amateur and professional photographers”, but does not mean that “talent is a dime a dozen”. Talented photographers are a rare breed).

As talented as some people may say I am, I do feel like a dime, even amongst the other talented photographers. If you don’t agree with me, name me 4 names of taxi drivers you know (besides Robert De Niro from Taxi Driver). You probably can’t, but you can most likely name 6 or 10 professional and amateur photographers.

I could compete harder for viewers’ attention. But this is something I do not want to be a part of in the long run. I will eventually find a different medium for my art, or perhaps just shoot for fun. I definitely do not like being a number. We shall see. But for now, I’m tuning out.

Note: I do not discourage people from taking up photography at all! It is an amazing craft/hobby that allows a creative outlet for a person’s inner artist. Anyone who is interested in photography should definitely look into it! Nor do I intend to shut out up-and-coming photographers out there. It is a very ardous journey and I hope this blog entry will open your eyes as to what the current state of the photography services is like.

Feel free to email me any feedback or love/angry messages at

3 thoughts on “Photographers and Cable Channels

  1. As much as I hate to see you leave the field I completely understand. I followed your work even before I attempted to venture into photography. I feel bad as I am an amateur or in regards to your metaphor, a dime. The fact that people like me can cause those like yourself to lay down your arms is sickening and I am definitely come to a fork in the road after reading this. To pursue this, as I am gaining clout amongst my peers for my work or to leave it to the professionals. As I sit here, camera by my side, portfolio open, the text I just received from a local MUA who just set me up with my first paid gig that moment before had me clapping my heels, I can not smile. Take this for a metaphor. You are a Knight, well know across the land (excuse the renaissance-ness this is just how my gears are working right now, bear with me)and your sword (camera) is a factory of memorable triumphs over any that stood before it. I am a local artist who has found stark interest in the realm of swordsmanship. I look to your stories and techniques to better my own skills so that I may to be endowed with the same honor as you for my craft. All of a sudden our field is attacked by a swarm of people who just picked up swords and figured that they can take over our area with the idea of "all we have to do is jab and stab (point and shoot) with these swords(cameras) and the loot and recognition will roll in." 80-90% of the attacks have no skill, guidance, training, or have even conceptualized the techniques and talent it takes to properly wield their weapons. I pick up my sword knowing that even though the inception of my interest is a valiant as theirs, I have amazing influences (you) that help me push into battle and reign victory over those who don't have the passion for this art form or respect for its field. Are you telling me that this mob has annoyed/intimidated you to the point where you wont stand and fight against these ravagers with me; that you would rather lay your weapon down and allow what you worked so hard to create be diminished by someone who will more that likely lose interest once the expense of the their "hobbie" becomes too great?When I first decided to shoot I was hesitant, because of people like you (the established photographer). I've been an artist my whole life, and I can definitely recognize a bad piece of work. So when I put eye to my view finder I make sure that I employ everything I know as as a student of the craft, as a fan of yours, and as artist so that I will not be reviewed as a "weed" in this influx of seeds crowding the world of photography.You have your reasons, and I understand, but I am asking you to pick up your sword and march those like me who still have dignity and honor for your work into battle against the "phase" of I THINK I CAN photographersSincerely,Dario Smith

  2. I agree 100% with your sentiments here. Even in wedding photography, which is supposedly the most "lucrative" field in professional photography, the competition has gotten completely ridiculous, and is only going to get more intense as the years go by. About a year ago, I wrote a blog post actually *discouraging* people from pursuing photography professionally because of the reasons you stated, among many others. It turned out more inflammatory than I expected, with over several thousand hits from around the globe. Photography is a great field, but people need to know what they're getting into before jumping in with both feet.'ve enjoyed viewing your imagery over the past year or so since Kate Wang introduced me to your work. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Junshien

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