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October 10, 2008

Opinion: The financial markets and photographers

It is no secret that there is a global financial crisis out there. How bad really things are, one cannot really know when trapped in the moment, but there's plenty of bearish signs and trends.

So how is this affecting photographers? We draw your attention to two busy discussions in the dpreview forums, one in the anything-goes Open Talk forum, and another among Dx00 Nikonites.

As you can see by reading through or perusing these threads, there is a wide variety of opinion, from "this shall pass", to "bump in the road" to "sky is falling".

We will leave the big picture discussion to Bloomberg News and the other experts and "experts". As far as photography and camera gear, we look at these areas of impact:

  1. personal impact
  2. if you have clients for your photographic business, their business situation may indirectly affect yours, unless you have a diversified portfolio of "bear market" clients
  3. the manufacturers themselves

Item #1 is the one we all have more control of, but at the same time, it's not fun. Absence of any dramatic personal financial changes, one could perhaps go in a more conservative or defensive mode by downsizing their future purchasing and think of equipment and photographer synergies for those working in groups. For example, instead of buying a new Canon "L", or a Zeiss lens, one could get a high-end Sigma, Tamron or Tokina lens for a lot less.

Item #2 is more tricky. Flexibility is the keyword. In this environment people tend to get more fiscally conservative, but that does not mean they are not spending money. Think of this as a multi-level escalator. Instead of someone getting a brand new BMW, they may get a new Honda Civic, instead of a new car, they may get a used car. Instead of getting a $5,000 Rolex watch, they may get a $200 Seiko. Instead of a $200 Seiko, they may get a $35 Timex. Instead of a $35 Timex, they may get a $5 generic. Now replace the watch analogy with any aspect of your business. Instead of a $5000 painting, they decide to get one of your $200 prints. And speaking of which, here is a tip when selling or showcasing your photography: Always have something for sale under $10. Some people may want to buy something and may be art or photography enthusiasts but they can't afford "regular" prints or prices. By getting low priced items, they become part of a mini viral campaign for your work.

Item #3 is harder to guestimate right now because product cycles are usually mapped out ahead of time, and things are already be in motion. The economic situation may accelerate the downfall of another top-ten camera manufacturer, or perhaps push two companies together. Perhaps this may help slow down the megapixel wars or the six-month re-release cycles of the shiny silver compacts. Do we really need ten different Olympus FE-models when their functionality can be represented by three or four different models?

The trend has already been for lowering prices, and that actually may not be a bad thing, since high-tech gear is one of the very few things that keeps dropping in price. Forget Prada and Rolex Christmas presents, instead think Canon A590 IS and Canon SD1100 IS which are going for $125 and $170 respectively.

For more on this topic, be sure to check a new multi-part series at Pro Photo Life.

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