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Digital deniers are doomed to die, says new report on post-covid photography

The State of the Photography Industry Report 2022
(Image credit: Zenfolio / Format )

If you want to make money and grow your business a photographer post-Covid, it’s absolutely essential to have a digital presence now more than ever - reveals new research from Zenfolio and Format, responsible for creating the State of the Photography Industry in 2022 Report.

The survey and research data has yielded some pretty interesting results, suggesting that the number one way photographers made money during Covid was by selling prints, stock imagery, Lightroom presets and digital downloads online.

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Almost all businesses, big and small, were impacted in some way during the global Covid-19 pandemic, with few facing a potential standstill of business and revenue altogether. While we will hopefully never have to face this type of business halt ever again, many of us are still struggling with the cost of living crisis, and could do with discovering new and alternative ways to make money from photography.

Photography website building platforms, Zenfolio (opens in new tab) and  Format (opens in new tab) have partnered up to gather survey and research data surrounding the structure and success of the post-pandemic photographic industry in 2022. The companies surveyed 3400 photographers around the globe to understand how they were affected by the pandemic, and what they did to stay afloat during lockdown. 

According to data from the free-to-download State of the Photography Industry Report (opens in new tab), 43.6% of photographers reported that their total earnings and revenue was reduced by a significant amount (over 40% of usual earnings) during Covid. Revenue from booked photoshoots comprised 59.5% of revenue generated by photographers during this time, with digital downloads actually beating out in-person photography sales in 2021.

(Image credit: Zenfolio / Format )
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Zenfolio and Format suggest that being prepared is critical if you want to maintain a consistent cash flow as a photographer, and part of being prepared is having the right tools at your disposal to keep you profitable. When in-person shooting and close-contact became almost impossible, how did photographers make money?

According to the industry report, these are the top ways that photographers were able to make money during the pandemic through new ways of selling:

(Image credit: Zenfolio / Format )
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Selling your prints online will allow you to have an open business that operates 24/7, 7 days a week, without the need for you to physically be present. Online sales also allow you to reach audiences worldwide as well as local clients, it’s worth considering that potential customers will usually look at your portfolio first, and it may be a good idea to prioritise SEO settings so they can find you easily.

An alternative to selling prints is the ability to offer digital downloads of your photos at a set price, allowing  a customer permission to download your photos, and then print them at a local print shop. This option will save you time, energy, and money without the hassle of packing and printing the order yourself.

Other methods such as selling stock imagery, creating paid photography tutorial courses, selling Photoshop actions/ Lightroom presets, and offering editing and retouch services were all popular alternatives to in-person shoots that photographers discovered during the two years of pandemic pause. 

Despite the social distancing measures introduced during the covid-19 pandemic, not every in-person photography sales opportunity was axed. The Industry Report found that some photographers traveled to events where there were fewer restrictions, some sold locally and safely in small boutiques, and some simply sold their work and services to friends and family. 

(Image credit: Zenfolio / Format )
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Looking specifically at the US, photographers in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Kansas reported business was as usual (and in some cases, busier than normal). Whereas photographers in areas like Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina, and New Jersey reported business feeling much slower than expected.  

The Zenfolio/Format research discovered the ways in which photographers were still able to make money from in-person photo shoots during Covid, as well as some new ideas that you may not have considered. A home studio shoot was one of the top ways photographers managed safe practice, though not every style of photographer would be able to benefit from this idea, such as landscape and wildlife shooters, for example.

Respondents to the research survey concluded that 55% of photographers had changed the way that they conducted in-person photoshoots due to Covid, introducing measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing. And while 55% is still over half of those surveyed, it assures that 45% of respondents actually didn’t have to change the way they safely conducted photoshoots at all.

Some examples of measures that were taken by photographers to continue shooting while restrictions were in place, involved moving the shoot outdoors in a well-lit and ventilated area, while using a longer focal length lens to keep a safe distance away from the client and/or subject.

Aside from the useful stats on how photographers were able to manage their shoots and clients during lockdown, and discover new ways to generate online sales, Zenfolio and Format have comprised a list of ways to calculate photography pricing during Covid and times of hardship, as well as the latest business trends in photography that you should probably know about. 

These trends include:
• more outdoor and nature photography,
• raw realism,
• dreamy aesthetics,
• smaller weddings/more intimate moments,
• less travel, and
• more video. 

Visit Zenfolio's informative article (opens in new tab) based on the research, where they go into much greater detail about these trends and offer tips for pricing your services in a post-pandemic industry. 

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Beth Nicholls
Beth Nicholls

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.