Whether it’s the final try of a tough rugby game or a happy couple’s special day, professional photographers play a vital role in capturing those special moments. However, the start of the new decade has been rocky, to say the least, and many industries have faced challenges – the photography industry included.
We wanted to find out how different photography niches have been impacted in 2020 and what the future has in store for the industry. Using Google Trends and social media data, we did some digging to see how the industry has fared. We also teamed up with three professional photographers to get their expert insights.
Annapurna Mellor is a travel and documentary photographer from the UK. She loves to shoot all sorts of stories but has a particular fascination for the people and cultures of India and the subcontinent. Mellor became a travel photographer through her passion for travel and has a desire to capture the world around her.
Robin Goodlad is a professional food photographer based in Dorset and has been shooting professionally for 20 years. Food photography is at the forefront of what he does, alongside wedding photography, to create the perfect balance of work that he enjoys. Goodlad has always had a deep passion for food and when he appeared on BBC Masterchef, he realised that he enjoyed photographing and styling food as much as he enjoyed cooking it.
Glenn and Lauren, founders of Through the Woods We Ran, are a husband and wife wedding photography duo based in Bristol. They’ve shot weddings for eight years (half in Australia, half once they made the move to the UK in 2016) and they love it. Glenn stumbled into the wedding world and was inspired by photographers who were shooting in a non-traditional way. Lauren got pulled into it to take some bonus images, but she loved it just as much, so they both took it on full-time.
If you’re looking to transform your hobby into a full-time career, there are all sorts of ways that you can go about it. There’s always the educational route, as there are plenty of universities and colleges that offer photography courses that will give you a thorough understanding of the industry.
A degree could set you back an eye-watering £32,000, however, there are a variety of other courses out there that generally sit in the price range of around £350 for a diploma to £450 for a professional diploma. However, the beauty of photography is that courses are optional and it’s possible to choose the self-taught route and become a pro through trial and error.
I am a self-taught photographer and began my career as a travel photographer by travelling solo through Asia for a year after I graduated from university. My photos were picked up by the Getty Images talent team, which is when I first started to think about pursuing photography as a career. I am currently studying part-time for a Masters in Documentary Photography at University of the Arts London, to develop my skills as a photographer and allow me to diversify into teaching workshops and working for different types of clients in the future.
The beauty of photography is that you can build your portfolio as your qualification – it shows someone that you are capable and competent. Your photos will speak for themselves. I went down the self-taught route, but also attended some workshops in areas that were of interest (and I still do as you never stop learning) and utilised the numerous online resources available today.
Glenn: I started through self-taught or self-initiated learning. Back when I started learning photography about ten years ago, there wasn’t much online education around, just a few forums that were based on traditional, posed photography. I did one workshop and would definitely recommend anyone to go along to any in-person workshops around the world (once they’re running again), because you can get so much more out of it than just what the speakers are talking about.
From fashion to wildlife and everything in between, photography has many facets that you can specialise in. To find out which niche is most popular, we looked at the most used hashtags from Instagram.
According to our research, travel photography is the most used Instagram hashtag with over 133.5 million tags. Food and portrait photography came second and third on the list with 65.6 million and 47.6 million hashtags. Clearly, people are taking to the social media app to seek inspiration for their next holiday destination or where to grab dinner when everything starts to open back up.
It’s not just Instagram that people are searching on though. According to Ahrefs (a search engine optimisation tool), portrait, wedding and landscape photography are the most searched for sectors of photography. This proves it’s important to diversify where you target your potential audience, to turn searches into sales.
Speaking of sales, our experts reveal where they drum up most of their business, as it takes more than just a stunning Instagram profile to bring the money in. Word of mouth, SEO (search engine optimisation) and networking all play an important role.
My business comes from a variety of sources, sometimes Instagram, often word of mouth and clients seeing my work in other publications or me reaching out to them via email.
Work comes to me through many different routes, primarily word of mouth as there is nothing as good as a recommendation, but also increasingly from Instagram too. It’s a great way of getting specifically targeted images to the right audiences. I have also built my business on approaching companies, suppliers and restaurants that I felt would be great to work with.
We get a third of our enquiries from Google (probably Google Ads because we put zero effort into SEO), a third from Instagram and the remaining third from word of mouth, past clients, other vendors and wedding blogs.
If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and going professional in photography, it’s important to know if it’ll bring home the bacon.
Well, the average photographer salary is £42,212, which is higher than the average household income in the UK of £29,600. But which facet of photography is the most lucrative? Our research revealed that wedding photographers have the highest average daily rate, earning £600 for a full day.
This is followed by landscape and travel photography, both raking in £250 a day. On the other end of the scale, portrait and family photography earned the least with an average of £150 per day – although, it’s not bad for a day’s work! Of course, money isn’t everything and as the old saying goes, “if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life”, so following your passion is key.
Knowing when potential clients are on the hunt for a photographer can help you to plan your marketing strategy to boost business. We looked at Google Trends data from the past five years to discover when people are searching for certain types of photographer.
It turns out January is the most popular month to be searching for a wedding photographer – probably as a result of all those romantic Christmas engagements. Unsurprisingly, August sees peaks of people on the lookout for travel photographers, whereas September is most popular for food and family photographers.
However, 2020 has thrown a massive spanner in the works, throwing trends out the window and causing many people to cancel weddings, games, and shoots. Photographers have had to adjust and adapt to new ways of working to survive. Our experts reveal how they’ve been impacted by the pandemic and how they’re overcoming it.
Travel has been severely affected by the pandemic, and therefore my work as a travel photographer has been hugely impacted. I believe that people are always going to want to travel, and when the pandemic ends that desire will only be stronger, so I am positive about the future of the industry in the long-term, but there is a long way to go before we see a sense of normality returning. As a result, I am thinking of how I can expand my work and skills and diversify into other areas of photography and visual media.
The online trade increased massively, and I was able to provide plenty of product photography. 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.
Covid-19 decimated our 2020 (like nearly everyone else) and we lost about 85% of our income for the year. It’s also impacted our 2021 income a huge amount because all the weddings that have been postponed from this year to next. However, before Covid-19, we never offered smaller wedding packages, but once weddings were allowed again in August, we started providing smaller coverage. We’ll probably carry those smaller package offers into the off-season and off-peak dates moving forward.
With socially distant photoshoots becoming the norm and camera technology and equipment, like a full-frame DSLR, constantly improving, the way in which photographers run their businesses has changed. So, what does the future of photography look like? Our experts reveal what they think photography will look like after 2020.
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. 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.
Access to higher resolution mobile phones has meant that people have a camera with them all the time. But I also believe that camera phones will never provide the quality that is really required, and that mobiles aren't necessarily the future, despite the marketing hype of one device doing everything. I would like to think that despite mobile phones, cameras will begin to have a resurgence as people demand better quality. Ultimately, the joy of having a ‘proper’ camera in your hands and following the processes is what makes photography so enjoyable.
We don’t see it changing too much from where it is today, at least not for our market anyway. Couples we know want documentary-style images of all the stuff going on throughout the day. The biggest changes moving forward are probably going to be photographers diversifying their income (personally we always thought wedding photography was one area that there would always be a constant need, so diversification wasn’t really necessary - we never really thought about pandemics though). The other change is that gear is getting better and better, with mirrorless cameras taking the world by storm, and we’re looking forward to seeing how that progresses.
All Google Trends search term data was collected on the 02.10.2020 and dates back 5 years to 10.04.2015.
Ahrefs search volume and Instagram hashtag data were collected on the 23.10.2020.
Average day rates were collected from Bidvine on the 20.10.2020.
Average photography salary and average national salary were collected from Adzuna and Jobted on the 20.10.2020.
Diploma figures were collected from the Institute of Photography on 20.10.2020.
The images used in this study are not the work of the photographers interviewed.