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The Future of Photojournalism by Matt Shonfeld


There has been an unceasing commentary on the decline of the picture making industry for pretty much as long as I can remember. ‘The good old days are behind us’ blah blah blah. I recognise that the introduction of the internet heralded a new era. Advertisers swiftly realised that they could reach a far wider audience by putting their brands front and center online rather than in print.

I have been around a ‘bit’ and have seen how rights managed image licensing, significantly affected the assignment business and now to a much lesser impact how royalty free and even micro stock has been a thorn in the side of rights managed images.

There have been annual staff culls at just about every editorial newspaper and magazine. Satisfactory photographers are producing satisfactory results for ridiculous rates! A precedent is being set photographers, and it’s going to damage, possibly beyond repair our industry and certainly your current and possibly future livelihood. If we are not careful photography will return to the wealthy hobbyist.

I appreciate clients have diminishing budgets, but I also note that many of these media organisations are reporting a rise in profits. How many of our clients are being asked to work for a fraction of what they were paid 5 years ago?  I have also noted that the majority of media organisations host significant quantities of advertising and/or sponsored content on their sites.  This is understandable, but with this new revenue stream why not share some of the profits with the content providers ?

I have had major magazine editors tell me that they essentially no longer need to license photography features, as they are given stories to publish every day ! This could be in conjunction with the promotion of a book, a show or purely to raise the profile of the image maker and the project. How incredibly depressing this is!  I know highly trained and skilled photographers who make less than minimum wage. There sincerely isn’t many industries where the producers earn less and less, year on year.  We have to stop that…

So photographers …please be considerate when you accept that loss leader job or give away that body of work you have sunk your personal resources on. You are affecting not only your future but potentially the future of all who work in the editorial photography industry.  If all agents and photographers unanimously worked to a set of ‘professional rules’ and got used to saying NO, then the buyers would have to accept that the value of photography is every bit as important as it was back in those ‘good old days’.

Matt Shonfeld
, Executive Director, Institute

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