Like chameleons, we photographers change with our environment to survive and thrive. It’s inspiring to see the way we have risen to new and ever-evolving challenges in the industry. Yet, photographers are being taken advantage of now more than ever.
The photography industry constantly shifts as technology continuously advances. Photographers have shown resilience, creativity, and brilliance in adapting to changes in our industry. And yet our needs to feed our families and earn a livable wage have been neglected.
We are tired of being undervalued. We are tired of being treated like we’re disposable. We are tired of being lied to, often by our so-called industry partners.
Below is a not-so-brief glimpse at what we have had to endure over the past few decades.
The Shift from Film to Digital
From the birth of photography in the 1840s, images were recorded on film. The process felt like magic, but it was science—fairly complex science involving light, chemicals, and chemical reactions. Cameras advanced over the years, but the process remained basically the same until the 1990s.
That’s when digital technology emerged, forever changing the photography industry. Digital photography is faster and more convenient. It produces better quality images that don’t require the use of sometimes toxic chemicals.
But for some photographers, the transition from film to digital wasn’t easy.
Digital photography requires different skills. As a result, it can feel less creative, artistic, and meticulous. Unfortunately, it also makes the industry more accessible, which means more competition—and sometimes, less respect for the profession.
Ultimately, many photographers adjusted to and even embraced the change. But new technology means new ways for photographers to get shortchanged and exploited.
Let’s look at seven ways photographers are getting screwed over and what we can do about it.
Stock sites started as a good option for photographers to earn extra income in the digital world. Today, they’ve become yet another place where photographers cannot make a solid living. Sure, big companies like Shutterstock are flush in cash. But the photographers who provide their content certainly aren’t.
Every stock photo platform has its process. In general, the outlets sell the photos and collect most of the revenue. A photographer who submits their images does get a small percentage of the sale. On Shutterstock, for example, photographers can earn between 15 and 40 percent of the selling price. Shutterstock pockets the other 60 to 85 percent. You must sell 25,000 or more photos through the site before you get the “privilege” of earning 40 percent of the selling price for your images.