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Breaking Down Photography Insights from 2020 to Project Trends for 2021

British electronics retailer Currys has published a comprehensive breakdown of insights it collected on the state of photography in 2020 using various statistical methods and sought input from three experts to forecast the troubled photography industry going forward.

In its full report here, Currys investigates the challenges the photography industry faced in the last year and attempts to forecast what the market might do in the next couple of years. The information was presented to three experts: travel photographer Annapurna Mellor, food and wedding photographer Robin Goodlad, and wedding photographers Glenn and Lauren of Through The Woods We Ran. As Currys is based in the United Kingdom, its numbers and statistics are specific to the region. Still, the information provided should be useful regardless of your country.

It goes without saying that the photography industry has struggled in 2020 thanks to the proliferation of COVID-19 coronavirus. Currys puts the general sentiment into numbers: about 96% of photographers saw a decrease in bookings over the past year. The global photographic services market is expected to decline from $36.9 billion in 2019 to $36.1 billion at the conclusion of 2020. Though only a decrease of about $800 million, the data likely takes into consideration stock photography which very likely saw a boom this past year, though stock photography’s success very rarely translates to meaningful growth for individual photographers.

The sectors hit the hardest by a loss of income are newborn baby, family, and wedding photography. Wedding photography though seems poised for a boom in 2021, as many of the weddings that were postponed have been moved forward a year. Travel photography has also seen a hit, as expected, but its recovery is very likely less predictable than for wedding shooters.

A method that some photographers have used to weather tough times has been finding profitable niches and leveraging them. Currys looked into what the most in-demand niches were and when they were showing the highest interest based on income statistics, search engine volume, and Instagram popularity.

Based on Google Trends data, January is the most popular month that people search for a wedding photographer. Likewise, the report cites that portrait photography interest spiked in December. Sports, family, and food photography saw upticks in interest in September, while landscape and animal/wildlife photography interest saw increases in October. Travel peaked in August, and fashion photography trended up in February.

This data might be helpful for photographers looking to strategically place their marketing going into 2021.

If you are looking to adjust your niche to better adapt to the market’s needs, Currys’ pointed to a few specific niches that have done well. Currys determined that the average photographer salary is £42,212 (~$56,382), which is higher than the average household income in the UK of £29,600 (~$39,536). The organization’s research revealed that wedding photographers have the highest average daily rate, earning £600 (~$800) for a full day.

So while wedding photography took a major hit in 2020, its likely rebound in 2021 and 2022 makes it a prime target for photographers who want to expand their businesses.

Wedding photography was followed by landscape, food, and travel photography, all ranking above an average of £400 (~$535) per day. On the other end of the scale, portrait, animal, and family photography earned the least with an average of £150 (~$200) per day. This information may be helpful in determining how to adjust your photography business going into 2021 to maximize your business. Even though $200 a day would be pretty great if it were consistent, the contract-based nature of the photography industry means it’s very unlikely for someone to be working five days a week. As a result, choosing to work in niches that have a higher daily average payout would result in a far more stable business strategy.

“The online trade increased massively, and I was able to provide plenty of product photography,” Goodlad says. “This was alongside writing and photographing recipes, which I was able to carry out alone in my home studio. This work has been my salvation this year and I think diversification is the key to survival.”

“In travel, there was a huge shift a few years ago towards ‘inspirational’ imagery, the type of thing you see very often on social media – influencers posing in front of views and the same images of the same places again and again,” Mellor says with regards to travel photography. “But I have noticed that clients have got bored of this kind of repetitive photography and have been looking for more authentic images that capture the true essence of the places we travel to. Travel is always about the people you meet; the stories and cultures of a place and I hope that travel storytelling continues to move in this direction after the pandemic.”

The report is full of some interesting information and worth perusing. You can read it in its entirety here.

Image credits: Header images by Alif Ngoylung, Colette Allen, and Mae Mu.

Officials Warn Against ‘Instagram Hikers’ Venturing to Plane Crash Site

A popular COVID lockdown photo location in Higher Shelf Stones, England has become dangerous for “Instagram Hikers” as winter approaches. Volunteer mountain rescue teams have advised against visiting after being called out multiple times to assist ill-prepared visitors.

The crash site is known as the Peak District Air Accident and involved a Boeing RB-29A 44-61999 of the 16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron of the United States Air Force, which crash-landed due to fog at Higher Shelf Stones on November 3, 1948. All thirty-three members of the crew died in the crash.

According to The Guardian, the location has become a popular Instagram photo site during COVID-19 lockdown, where hikers reportedly flocked to the location to take photos of the debris.

However, as winter approaches, the landscape has become increasingly dangerous and the nearby Glossop mountain rescue team has begun urging visitors to be prepared for poor weather and difficult terrain.

Two Callouts Sunday 15/11/20

The first callout of the day came in at 15.15, reports of a female with a lower leg…

Posted by Glossop Mountain Rescue Team on Monday, November 16, 2020

While the volunteer rescue team has been called out multiple times to assist injured hikers, they also have wasted hours looking for visitors who had long since reached safety before the team arrived.

Glossop Mountain Rescue Team issue plea after second search for walkers who were already at home.

Glossop Mountain…

Posted by Glossop Mountain Rescue Team on Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Guardian reports that in one such case, the team searched for hours in the area for a hiker they had been alerted to as injured, and when they could not find the missing party became increasingly worried. However, later that night they were made aware of the hiker’s safety at home, some distance away.

“This has happened twice in recent weeks,” said Patch Haley, the rescue team lead, to The Guardian. “We’re always glad to hear that people are safe, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep us informed. If people do make their own way down after they call emergency services for assistance, it’s vital they let us know via 101. My fear is that with higher volumes of walkers visiting the area during lockdown, more of these false alarms will leave our rescue team overstretched, and at risk of struggling to reach those who are genuinely in need of urgent assistance.”

(via The Guardian)

UK Passport Photo Checker Shows Bias Against Dark-Skinned Women

According to an investigation by the BBC, women with darker skin are more than twice as likely to fail the automated United Kingdom passport rules than fair-skinned men when submitted online through the nation’s automated government checker.

The United Kingdom offers an online service to submit your own images for use on passports, which would theoretically allow a person to get their passports more quickly. If you follow a set of guidelines, a person could also avoid paying to have a photo taken of them if they have the means to photograph themselves at home. Those guidelines include having a neutral expression, keeping a closed mouth, and looking directly at the camera. If a photo is submitted that does not meet all of the criteria, it is rejected as being “poor quality.”

According to the BBC, a student named Elaine Owusu found that the automatic online portal rejected her image for having an “open mouth,” which if you see the image yourself was clearly not the case. Owusu did manage to eventually get the photo approved after challenging the verdict, but she had to write a note arguing that her mouth was indeed closed.

Though she did win, she wasn’t happy about it. “I shouldn’t have to celebrate overriding a system that wasn’t built for me,” she told the BBC.

To determine if there was a systemic problem, the BBC fed more than 1,000 photographs of politicians (based on the Gender Shades study) into the system to see if there were any patterns. They found that dark-skinned men were told that the image was of poor quality 15% of the time when compared to 9% of the time for light-skinned men. For women, it was worse: 22% of the time dark-skinned women’s images were rejected while women with light skin were told their images were of poor quality 14% of the time.

Computers are only biased when the information they are given is biased. In 2019, The New York Times published a detailed article explaining the history of racial bias built into the basics of photography, and that issue continues to show itself in newer technologies like the UK’s automatic photo checker.

“The accuracy of face detection systems partly depends on the diversity of the data they were trained on,” David Leslie of the Alan Turing Institute wrote in response to the BBC investigation. “The labels we use to classify racial, ethnic and gender groups reflect cultural norms, and could lead to racism and prejudice being built into automated systems.”

When a system like this doesn’t work for everyone, the designer of the software would normally be asked to explain. Unfortunately, the government declined to name the external company that provided the automated checker.

As a result, a solution to the problem uncovered by this investigation – where the system in place fails for a disproportionate number of dark-skinned people – is not immediately apparent.

(Via BBC)