Video and photography business model disruption has already started

Video and photography business model disruption.

After a post about boosting your SEO , this is the second post on a wider aspect of video and photography business and how I see the changes coming. Being a good photographer or cameraman is not enough anymore to survive the video and photography business. Where a good portfolio and few meeting should have you covered in the past; you need now to work on your SEO and follow a more larger competition. But the future will shows a lot of changes in the way clients will reach you for a an assignment as well. It’s called disruption because a new business model emerge on the photography and video market. Splitting your website in many sub-entities is part of the game.

According to the newcomer in photography business model in China; it looks like it’s now accepted to say that there is no money anymore for photographer covering events. So he can now let this part goes to flame with underpaid/in-experimented photographers and get the same price for client getting huge benefit out of it. I’m still waiting to see someone with an Iphone shooting same picture than my Sony FS7 footage…

Why is it important even for the overseas photography market?

It’s now working super well in China for some reasons I will explain below. But even if they can’t copy and paste this exact model, they are making so much money, that they can easily bring a offer oversea. Killing fragile business and asphyxiating the old players long enough to get market dominance later on. I always found that people look China as another world without understanding how it will be in front of their door the next year. Be aware that is just the beginning.

We have Uber for cars, and say hello to similar thing for event photography.

Based on similar business model where they take commission on client photography needs. When you need a photographer for you event, you just log to their website, pay online, and they will assign for you a team based on your request. They  publish and post-produce pictures, make them available very quickly and finally pay the photographer. They have an in-house team for marketing purposes only, and all photographers are not their staff, just as expendable. No taxes to pay, no equipment investment; quite a dream.
On the photographer side, you need to work at a minimum rate as you can’t sell yourself cheaper than that. And the trick (or the beauty of it): The website will take 60% of your quoted price. Yes, you read that well!

Crazy? Not so much if you look at the market in China. In another hand, you don’t need to look for client, and don’t need to process the pictures. Images taken during an event don’t really need a lot of post anyways. But still, few hours saved.

Why is it happening in China first?

If an existing service considered as expensive but can be done by almost anyone; there is a great chance that anyone will do it for cheaper!
You can see Uber took over taxi business as driving do not required so many skills. Most people got a car as well as few hours a day free to make a bit of money aside. Even not owning a car is not a problem, you can rent and share one or Uber can provide one for you. These sharing business models were never meant to provide full time well paid job. But some dreamers still consider it can be done compare to be a regular protected driver working for a registered company.

If you were to pay taxes, and all freebies that a regular employment job will gives you (health care, retirement,…) and pay back your car and gas, clearly, the sharing model will not work for you to take care of a family working business hours.
Soon more advertising like this in your subway, who cares? Really?

Why in the Photography and video business now?

Photography business look quite different at first but the technologies changed so fast in the last past years, that, taking a picture do not required so much skills anymore. Give 10 picture cameras to 10 kids, spread it at an event, gives them large memory card. Put all cameras high resolution in automatic mode and see the result at the end of the night. Out of the 20,000 pictures taken, I’m quite sure you will find enough to cover your event. Add a team to crop and clean few of these with the new Photoshop tools available now, and you are done.

Now, if you change kids with “aspiring photographers” you may just actually need 2 of them. The result will not be as hiring a pro with experience, but your audience just wants pictures of the night, not a studio photo session anyways.
My kit on the left, them on the right for the same e-sport event coverage in Shanghai
The quality expectation in China is so low and will ends on-line on a compressed Wechat post more than print that it will work for almost all events. And that’s a lot of pictures if we put all the events happening in China. This is the kind of video kit you will see more and more and people happy with the result!

Business model disruption in real life

I remember a video/photography assignment where for a German communication agency working for one very high luxury brand. They hired us for a 2 photographers assignment on an boutique opening. All went well but the next morning, as we where uploading the pictures for validation with Germany; an email came and asked us to stop. We figured out that a local Chinese marketing person took pictures all night with her Iphone and already uploaded her pictures directly to the all social media websites, jumping the queue and killing the need for us, it was in 2012…, of course, on the need to put the camera 50 cm away from the VIP to get the right frame..

We had a larger assignment in this one and it was just a little part of the project, but it shows that event pictures are not something people have great expectation, even an Iphone is enough.


Why photographers are still getting ready to get so low salary?

The platform is easy to use for clients as well for aspiring photographers; so anyone with a phone can fill the form and apply to get a job assignment. It’s mostly filled with Chinese locals as the salary is super low for an expat in need for retirement plan, health insurance and decent living condition in large cities.
The communication team also claim that few winners out of their thousand of photographers made quite some money to keep the dreamer for applying.
There are also honest photographers who prefer an everyday low pay job and the fact that you don’t need to look for client or post production is a relief for them.

What is the next part of photography market to fall?

After taking over the event business,  they are now investing in a very large photo studio to expand to product photography. I guess until next move for some other part of this lucrative photography market.

Again, the game is always the same to attract new blood; the photographer dream of getting big and large name on their portfolio without any need for looking for it. They may assign you to one of these large brand you are dreaming of, but will get paid so low, that it do not makes too much sense. You may dream of getting this client in your portfolio, but without a market, what are you going to do with this portfolio?

They may soon split their offer with more talented photographers out of these to get all part of the market cover. Out of these aspiring photographers and using ranking, it wills be easy to spot the right one and assign him bigger client (And of course, not bigger commission).
Make no mistakes, you will be expendable and with no option than accepting the price and schedule.

Let’s imaging you prefer working on time-lapse photography and keep events or product photography as backup. But if all the event market is gone, I can assure you that you will face new competition. High level professional getting out of clients and moving to something else  will start to deliver time-lapse on large scale. These little parts of your income will make your daily project choice a bit harder. You may become wondering if working for low is not so bad than not working at all.

Cloud sharing model for video business?

Well, it started already with some others players. They provide on-demand video team, from cameraman, sound tech and even video editor for any scale of project. Again, the absurd low rate they are offering let only very limited experienced desperate videographer accepting the job. On client side, price is almost identical that hiring an agency but they have insurance that the job will be complete.

I have actually worked a couple of time for them and always requested twice the salary they offered at first. The only time I got the job was more or less, either because all my competitors were booked, or because the client asked for quality insurance.
But video is a bit more complicated that doing a simple picture. You need to be in focus and not move too much compare to a photography project. Sound is important, and if an editing needs to be done, few rules on the composition need to be respected during recording. You can’t crop and rotate footage or erase someone that easily (yet). Do you think this will stop them?

My experience with this competition

Let’s talk again about personal experience. I was assigned to a video project for them to shot in Hangzhou.
Here is my frame grab after fighting for setting the room.
 It was a one man band request, Interview on the morning on video and corporate picture on the afternoon.

I did saw the footage done by the “aspiring videographer from UK” and clearly, we did not go to the same film school!
But did the project get approved? Yes. Client happy? I guess so…
So clearly, there is a need for poor quality team with average prices. As well as they did for photography; they cover now the low rated to slowly increase quality to get the full market covered.

This past example was in 2016 for a kind of university, and they are now working for one of the top marketing agency worldwide this year! I was pitched directly in Hong Kong and locally by them; for providing a 2-person crew at their office, and price was just 5 time higher on my direct contact; so I guess the only thing which didn’t change is their insane commission.
I got the project at the end, but was scary to think such agencies are looking for working this way too.

How to survive in the photography business with such disruption?

Be aware how you will be eaten in order to change your business before that. For sure, companies loves standards as going to a Starbucks and get the same taste from New-York to Shanghai. They also like cheap and easy process.
I don’t see any reason for this not to happen with so the access to high technology getting to everyone hands.
I guess car sharing business will soon also shift from low paid drivers to driverless cars and get rid of the human part; finally.

As for our movie business; a 2-person video crew will be reduced to one with all the automated function on a camera. And even to zero as we can see with v-blogger using tracking auto-focus and automatic sound with quite amazing result. With new AI improvement which is now able to create content out of a blurred footage or low light one. So, your skills should be somewhere else than that if you want to sell your service.


All names have been removed and changed from obvious reasons.
Choose what side you should be on. Either you are F1 pilot equivalent as photographer, either you rip off the market and able to buy your island in 3 years.