In today’s world an overwhelming stream of images and social media, what is the value of a picture?
Other questions I’ve been curious about：
- Are pictures valuable?
- If so, why are they valuable?
- Which pictures are valuable, and which pictures aren’t valuable?
- Who gets to dictate whether a picture is valuable or not?
- How can we assign “value” to a picture?
- Is the “value” of a picture quantified through monetary value, or something else?
- Can you objectively say whether a picture is “valuable” or not?
In this essay, I’ll try to tackle (some) of these topics, and share my two cents and opinion.
We need Pictures to thrive as a society
First of all, I think Pictures are important. Very important.
Pictures are the lifeblood of us, as visual artists.
For example, when I look at a great picture, I’m in a raptured state of awe. Great pictures excite me, motivate me, to learn and explore more of the world, and to also produce more of my own pictures.
Great pictures motivate me to make more art… which empowers me.
How many glasses of pictures should you drink a day?
The problem, there are TOO MANY images on the internet now. We have a filter problem…imagine having a massive river of images rushing at you, and somehow you’re trying to swallow all of that water. Of course, you’re gonna drown to death, or perhaps your stomach will explode from all the water and images.
To prevent this, you can either sip the water (stream of images) with a straw, drinking only as much as you can stomach or want… to satisfy your thirst.
And what is the point of drinking water? Not to die. And by not dying, we can live, thrive, build, create, and make stuff.
For me as an artist, I satisfy my VISUAL THIRST by drinking inspiration from other photographers and artists. But when I’ve had enough to slake/satisfy my thirst, I stop drinking. Then I go out, and make pictures of my own.
Pictures and economics
In an economical sense, pictures are valuable in proportion to the ability to sell stuff.
For example, a product shoot for Porsche can be very valuable, if the pictures you make helps them sell more cars, and make more profits.
If you take an attractive picture of someone for their dating profile picture, and it helps them find the love of their life, that picture is very valuable.
If you make pictures that inspire awe and wonder in your viewer, and you can sell those pictures for a lot of money, the pictures are “valuable” in an economic/monetary sense.
How do you define “value”?
So, for me I don’t see the “value” of Pictures in their monetary worth. I’m more interested in the aesthetic, artistic, or soul-uplifting value of a picture.
For example, I value pictures which encourage me, empower me, excite me or uplift me.
What do pictures mean to you?
You must figure out what a picture means to you.
Who are you? What do you take pictures for? For yourself? For others? Are you trying to make money from your photography? Do you want more fame, followers, or influence? Or something else?
Photography genres that allow money-making:
There are many ways to make money from pictures, some being：
- Commercial photography (photographing products to sell for money)
- Portrait photography (headshots for actors or CEOs)
- Wedding photography (a good field, because people aren’t gonna stop getting married)
- Selling fine art prints (limited edition, and of aesthetically pleasing things)
- Pictures as advertisements
Non-traditional says to make money from pictures:
Other indirect way from making money from pictures：
- Education: Inspiring people with your pictures, then teaching workshops, or classes, to teach students how they can make better pictures.
- Travel experiences：Giving people the chance to explore, travel, and go on an adventure… and picture-taking as a way of memory and experience-formation. The idea that if you don’t take a picture of it, you don’t have “proof” that it happened. Remember the online meme, “Pics or it didn’t happen.”
- Picture creation: Industries like camera or phone companies, that sell you the tools to MAKE pictures. We buy new cameras, to make “better” pictures, in terms of sharpness, color tones, or the aesthetic “look” of images.
- Picture apps: VSCO, Instagram, which sell you the tools of filters, to edit and process your pictures, to make your pictures “look better”.
- Social media, picture sharing platforms: Platforms that allow you to share and publish and display pictures, like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, VSCO, Snapchat, etc.
To make money from pictures, you can monetize with the following strategies：
- Advertisements： For example, putting ads next to the pictures that your users upload to your platform.
- Direct payment for Picture Making Service： Client pays you “X” amount of money for your services for a certain period of time, number of pictures, or event. In essence, you take pictures, you get money.
- Direct Monetization on Pictures: Selling prints, portfolios, or other art pieces for money.
- Education: EMPOWERING your students to make better pictures, and therefore feel more empowered and artistic. This is how I make money.
- “Image-building”: An individual or company paying you money to make them look legitimate, professional, attractive, sexy, etc.
A picture is worth what you can sell it for
In traditional economic theory, something is worth what you can sell it for.
For example, if you list an art portfolio for $1,000 and you sell 1 of it, that art portfolio is worth (at least) $1,000.
Photography service prices
Practical tip：Just set your price for your photographic services, and don’t compare yourself to others or the “market prices.” Become a category of your own.
My personal rule：
When in doubt, charge 25% more for your services.
Why? It’s our human bias to undervalue ourselves for our labor. We mistakenly think our labor is free, so any profit from your photography is pure profit.
But this is wrong. Making pictures takes up and consumes your most valuable resource：time. You can’t “earn” or “add” more time to your life.
Also, making pictures consumes our attention and energy, our other two most valuable assets. Two things, once we lose, we cannot gain back.
And there is also the “opportunity cost”— the time necessary for you to make these pictures, you could have done something else like personal leisure activities, or other profit-increasing ventures.
Sorry I’m getting off topic, as always. Let me finish before this essay gets even more confusing.
To distill my thoughts on pictures, these are my personal takeaways：
- Pictures are valuable in an economic (monetary) sense, if you can sell your pictures for money, sell your picture-making services, or sell picture-making education services.
- Pictures for art to empower yourself is more important and “valuable” than pictures that serve an economic purpose. For example, a beautiful fine art picture which uplifts your soul and spirits is worth more than a picture of a McDonald’s advertisement.
- Pictures are vastly abundant online, so there are more good pictures in the world. Just because there are a lot of good pictures doesn’t mean that pictures are less valuable in general. Photography and pictures don’t follow the traditional “supply and demand” economic theory.
Share your own photography economic theories on ERIC KIM FORUM.
NEVER STOP HUSTLING,
If you want to make a living (or a killing) from photography, download:
PHOTOGRAPHY ECONOMICS 101
PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS 101
- Chapter 1. How to Make a Photography Blog
- Chapter 2. How to Price Yourself
- Chapter 3. How to Find Your Market
- Chapter 4. Why Teach Workshops?
- Chapter 5. How to Build Trust
- Chapter 6. How to Market Yourself
- Chapter 7: Why Should Someone Attend Your Workshop?
KEYS TO SUCCESS
- THRIVE OR DIE.
- Impatience is a Virtue
- Create Your Own Category
- HOW TO DREAM BIG.
- Will Not or Cannot?
- Why Not?
- How to Think BIG
- How to Stay Ahead of the Curve
- How to Invest in Yourself
- The Two Camera Rule
- MEANINGFUL DIFFERENTIATION
- Advice For College Students
- How to Thrive in Uncertain Times
- CANNIBALIZE YOURSELF.
- DO AND GROW RICH
- Does Fear of Punishment Hold You Back?
- HOW TO GET MORE FOLLOWERS
- How to Innovate
- How to Build Your Own Empire
- YOU ARE ENTITLED TO HARD WORK.
- PICK YOURSELF.
- OWN YOUR PLATFORM
- 10 KEYS TO SUCCESS
Table of Contents
Learn how to make a living from your passion:
- Preface. BRAVE NEW WORLD OF PHOTOGRAPHY
- Chapter 1. How to Create Value
- Chapter 2. ZEN CAPITALISM
- Chapter 3. Scarcity
- Chapter 4. How to Brand Yourself
- Chapter 5. How to Build a True Following
- Chapter 6. The Blueprint to Success in Photography
- Chapter 7. HOW TO BE BOLD
- Chapter 8. How to Sell Out
- Chapter 9. GO AGAINST THE GRAIN
- Chapter 10. EXTREME ABUNDANCE
- Chapter 11. Photography Experience Economy
- Chapter 12. Why You Should Make Money for Your Photography
- Chapter 13. How to Become a Famous Photographer
Photography Business 101
How to Make Money with Photography
- How to Charge More Money in Your Photography
- Why You Should Not Pursue Photography as Career
- Can Photography Make You Rich?
- How I Earn $200,000+ a Year From Photography
- How to earn $10,000 a month as a photographer
- Why you must be an expensive photographer
Photography Marketing 101
- Why You Should Do Photography Work For Free
- How I Became an Internet Famous Photographer
- Photography Blogging Ideas
- Why You Should Promote Your Own Name
- How to Build a Following
- How to Stand Out as a Photographer.
- HOW TO GO VIRAL AS A PHOTOGRAPHER.
- How to Master Marketing
- How to Sell Yourself
How to Hustle.
- Entrepreneurial Advice to My 18 Year Old Self
- How to Become Insanely Productive.
- 5 Lessons From Hesiod on Hustling
- It is Better to Beg For Forgiveness Than Ask For Permission
- The Free Way to Become Rich
- JUST DO IT.
- 7 Steps: How to Make a Living From Your Passion
- How to Do What You Love for a Living
- How to Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
- How to Fail Big
- How to Invest in Yourself
- How to Be Bold in Photography and Life
- Mission: Cover Your Rent and Food
- 1,000 True Fans
- The “10x Principle”: The Only Difference Between “Success” and “Failure”
- Make More Value Not Money
- We Live in a Photo Utopia
How to be a Full-time Photographer
- How to Make a Living From Photography
- The 3 Principles of Making Money With Photography
- Advice for Aspiring Full-Time Photographers
- Don’t Go Into Debt For Your Photography
- How to Brand Yourself as a Photographer
- Trust: The Most Important Thing You Need to Succeed as a Photographer
- How to become rich from photography blogging
- How to Make a Living with Blogging
- 50 Blogging Tips For Beginners
- How to Start Your Own Photography Blog
- A Photographer’s Guide to SEO, Blogging, and Social Media
How to Teach Photography
- How to Become a Photography Teacher
- How to Teach a Street Photography Class
- Why I Teach Street Photography Workshops
- Why I Deleted My Instagram
- The Social Media Blackbook for Photographers
- Why Do You Need More Likes or Followers?
- Instagram is Going to Be the Next Facebook
- Don’t Trust “Free” Photography Social Networks
How to Save Money
Unleash your creative potential:
- April 10-11th, 2021: BOSTON / Discover Your Unique Voice in Photography Workshop [Register Intent Here]
- May 1-2nd, 2021: CHICAGO / Street Photography Composition Masterclass [Register Intent Here]
- May 22-22nd, 2021: NEW YORK CITY / STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS by ERIC KIM [Register Intent Here]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.