James Bareham, founding creative partner of The New Cruelty, recently announced his retirement as a professional photographer. It didn't last.
My Career as a Photographer is Over. What a Relief.
Last week I received a request from a designer to shoot a library of product and portrait images for a cool new brand of gin. This content would be used on their website and all types of printed collateral. As the brand was a startup (and they’d provide the bar location), the designer wondered whether I could shoot the 22+ images within one day and retouch them for a total budget of $500-$1000 all in. And maybe some gin?
This kind of request is by no means unusual. In fact it’s pretty much the norm these days. And it’s not at all surprising.
Earlier in the week, I had a long chat with a sales rep from twenty20.com. I’d signed up because I’ve been researching options for good, natural ‘real world’ stock on behalf of one of my clients. I would describe Twenty20 as the Spotify of stock imagery; an all-you-can-eat buffet for a fixed monthly amount.
Twenty20’s model is simple: sign up for one of their monthly payment plans and receive a set number of royalty-free images per month for usage terms that cover ‘unlimited digital use and up to 250K print runs. There are no limitations on duration or location of use.’
Twenty20 offers a very impressive service: curated collections of ‘real world’ imagery for a fixed monthly sum. No wonder their clients like it; Google, Uber, Microsoft, Equinox, have all signed up apparently. And they're not alone in offering good quality royalty free stock for an all inclusive price; new stock agencies are cropping up all the time. It’s a great business model, and it also explains why I regularly get requests to shoot for next to nothing.
So today seems like as good a day as any to officially announce what some of my friends already know: I have decided to retire from my career as a professional photographer.
My photographic career as it was is over. And it is a HUGE relief.
This doesn't mean that I am no longer going to shoot photographs; it simply means that I am not going to shoot them for any new paying clients — or in the case of the gin company, non-paying clients.
At this point I have no desire to rant against the photographic industry’s inexorable decline; I'll save that for later. The truth is that is fundamentally broken (as is the wider creative industry at large), but it’s not up to me to fix it. I've had an amazing run. I've worked for wonderful clients and had incredible experiences. I want to go out on a high and on my terms. Looking forward, I'd rather help and advise the younger generation of creatives as they strive to rebuild this industry and make something better. And I truly believe they can.
But that’s for another day. For now, I'm simply going to take what skills I have as a photographer and add them to my creative quiver — along with writing, designing, illustration and karaoke singing. And so equipped, I will stride out into this brave new digital world and see what bright and shiny new things I can build.
In the words of Douglas Adams, ‘So long, and thanks for all the fish.’