More on Free by Chris Anderson and the Economics of photography

More thoughts on Chris Anderson’s book ‘Free’

In relation to photographic practice and getting it to pay the bills so you can concentrate on it more

“Free is not a magic bulllet. Giving away what you do will not make you rich by itself. You have to think creatively about how you convert the reputation and attention you get from free into cash.Every person and every project will require a different answer to that challenge, and sometimes it won’t work at all.” pg 233

“Free does tend to level the playing field between professionals and amateurs. As more people create content for nonmonetary reasons, the competition for those doing it for money grows.” pg234

Chris then uses journalists as an example and specifically newspapers by saying that; “professional journalists who are seeing their jobs evaporate are typically those whose employers failed to find a new role in a world of abundant information. By and large, that means newspapers, which are an industry that will probably have to reinvent itself as dramatically as music labels.” pg 234-235,

Now if we think about photographers who work as photojournalists being fired (eg the Chicago Sun-Times Newspaper) we as photographers have to find new ways of working that allow us to create a revenue stream that allows us to make a living doing what we want. I have been thinking about this for some time and am now beginning to be able formulate a strategy that photographers who specialise in documentary photography projects could use as a business model. It is going to be interesting it will involve the use of Free and it will embrace the idea of building a Brand that is quite Specialised as the internet allows that to be more easily promoted to a audience who is interested in your topic or subject. The only thing I am not sure about is how it gets monetised at this stage.This is something that I am working on and I will be using my next stages of my photographic career to explore these ideas.

“When one product or service becomes free, value migrates to the next higher layer, Go there.” pg 243 Now how can I use this nugget of information, in working out how to sustain my practice as a photographer, one who earns their money though their photography. Photographs by their nature people want to share yet people do not want to value them by paying to view them, clients do not value the work of photographers by paying them, as they are busy forcing down their costs because their own business models are broken so they are trying to extract money by reducing costs which in a digital economy may ultimately default to zero. We need to find a way of cross funding our working practices.

This is something that I am thinking about at the moment. The economics of photography and particularly Documentary photography is something that interests me, as I move more into this area of photography. Why do I want to get photography to pay? is it because I want to be doing it far more than I am at the moment, I am teaching to many hours in the week and not spending enough time of my own making images, which is the motivator that makes me get out of bed in the mornings. I love making images, that mean something to me and hopefully to the people that see my images. I want to make more of them, this means freeing my time up to be able to do so.To do this I feel that it means that I have to turn my photography back into my primary income generator, for me teaching while I have learnt a lot from it and have enjoyed it immensely as it has enriched my life should not be my primary focus, making images has always been that for me.

Anderson, C. (2009) Free: how today’s smartest businesses proffered by giving something for nothing. London; Random House.

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