Mirrorless Cameras Cut Into Canon, Nikon

Mirrorless cameras take a bite out of Canon and Nikon markets - by Samsung

Figures from Bloomberg indicate that Sony, Panasonic and Samsung may be scoring market share gains from Canon and Nikon with their mirrorless camera models. The trend is most obvious in Japan where Canon and Nikon’s combined share of that market has fallen an eye-popping 35%.

The losses for Canon and Nikon have been a boom for Sony, as their market share has doubled.  Panasonic and Samsung also scored gains, but not as significant.

Mirrorless cameras have a smaller physical frame and lower weight, while keeping the larger sensor sizes and interchangeable lenses.  The big chips behind good glass are getting results comparable to larger DSLRs at closer to half the weight of their bigger DSLR cousins.

If you’re tempted to dismiss the trend as one confined to Japan, keep in mind that the smart phone and tablet trend also started there before spreading to more distant shores.

No surprise that rumors have surfaced that Canon is coming out with mirrorless models in 2012, it’s not much of a stretch to think Nikon is engaged in similar efforts.

It’s my opinion that Panasonic and Olympus stumbled with the 4/3 sensor format.  I just don’t see professionals investing in that format when full size and APS-C sensors are superior and proven technologies.  For consumer cams, it’s less of an issue because the average buyer doesn’t really understand the difference in chip sizes.

As the trend in SLRs moves to mirrorless, expect Canon and Nikon to claw back some of the market share lost to Sony.  But I don’t expect to see any significant growth from Panasonic or Olympus until they abandon 4/3.

How 9/11 Changed Photography

Photo of WTC site
9/11 transformed photographers into potential spies - By Andrea Booher

I remember exactly what I was doing and who told me about the planes hitting the towers.  I’d be willing to bet most of us remember what we were doing on that day 10 years ago.  Ironically, I was at a place where cameras weren’t allowed, so no one will get to see my shots of that day.

For photographers 9/11 changed the perception rather than the reality.  All of a sudden, someone taking pictures was suspicious behavior.  Security guards felt empowered to claim the sidewalks in front of their building, as if any public space was suddenly a terrorist target and photos were aiding the enemy.  We were no longer merely hobbyists or professionals pursuing our craft, we were potential spies.

Restrictions on photography started getting crazy as authorities at every level decided they had an obligation to do something to make themselves feel safer, even if that was something as useless as hassling photographers.  The world was paranoid on a massive scale and we were conveniently visible.

I was with a pool of photographers outside a court room one time shortly after the attack when one of several people complained to the police we were taking photos of the building.  The police, who knew us, patiently explained we were photographers and it was alright.  Not good enough for one older gentleman who continued to insist he should “check them out.”  Even though we were together in a group and all had press passes to work in that area.  Finally, the media rep from the city arrived and asked us to move out of the lobby to an area under the stairs, so we didn’t disturb people.  We were regulated to the status of trolls under the bridge, which I guess is better than spies.

Fortunately, in the last 10 years sanity has largely returned, although the sight of a camera still throws some low-level people with the IQ of a grapefruit into a security awareness tizzy.  It still can be problematic shooting at train stations and airports and the days of being able to camp at the end of the runway to shoot pictures of incoming planes are over in many places.  Some security guards are still trying to claim the sidewalk, but by and large, there are fewer people lunging at camera lenses.

Still, every so often I still hear a cop or security guard remind me that “everything changed after 9/11”.

Remember your legal rights as a photographer.

Do you have a post-9/11 photography paranoia story to share?  Had your camera equipment confiscated or had the police try to make you delete pictures?  Share it in the comments section.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Statue of Paparazzi - photo DMY
Paparazzi in Bratslava

I meet a lot of people who want to be professional photographers, though I’m not always certain what they see when looking at the profession from the outside.  Maybe they’re looking at the price they’re paying for a portrait sitting and thinking if they could do 10 a day, how much money they would be making!  Wooo!  Without insurance, overhead, taxes, and license fees any business looks easy.

Among the people who make it, there are some common characteristics.

Driven To Perfection

The people I know who made it as professional photographers are people who would have been out working on the technical aspects of photography, even if they weren’t getting paid for it.  They just can’t leave it alone.

The photographers who make it aren’t satisfied shooting portraits, they want to shoot the greatest portraits ever taken.  They care about getting the shot, but they want to get THE shot that captures the moment.

They’re Not In It For The Money

Many photographers are constantly on the verge of divorce trying to sneak new equipment past their spouses.  It’s an obsession they occasionally get paid for.  Most are making a fraction of what they could pull down at a regular day job.

A select few eventually get to the point they’re making a lot of money and among the top earners is a strata of photographers who have gotten rich off their craft.

According to Salary.com the average income for a photographer in the U.S. is $53,705, which is right around the average income in the country.  That figure can vary widely, depending on the city you reside.  Photographers in L.A. and New York have significantly higher average salaries than other cities.

They’re Adaptable

For a long time after digital sensors were rivaling and even surpassing film quality, there was still a certain subset of photographers who insisted that film was the only pure form of the art.  Some schools still insist students learn film processing, even though it’s getting harder to even find the chemicals for processing.

Show me someone teaching film and I’ll show you someone who made their money in the 70’s and 80’s.

I don’t want to say film is dead, but it’s definitely sitting by itself in the corner of a nursing home.  If you want to make money in the business, you have to adapt to the current reality, whatever that may be.

Myths About The Photography Buisness

Photography studio
The most profitable areas of photography are not always the most obvious - photo by Thor

The question I get more than any other is about what it takes to make it in the photography business.  The answer sounds flip, but it’s not meant to be.  To make it in photography, all you have to do get paid for taking pictures.

To make money in the business, the skill that will be most useful is finding new customers.  That brings us to our first myth about the business.

Taking Good Pictures Will Get You Business

Taking bad pictures will cost you business, but it takes more than being a good photographer to stay solvent.  The most underrated skills in photography are marketing and business savvy.  Knowing how to find new customers, price your product, and understanding contracts.

Almost anyone can learn to take good pictures, not everyone can learn how to market that skill.

The Best Money Is In Traditional Markets

Not always true.  Sometimes specialty markets pay the best and provide the most regular business.  High speed photography, industrial photography, infrared, and other areas of specialty imaging can provide a better long-term income.

It’s not the sexy side of the business.  Industrial photography jobs are frequently in places that are dirty and occasionally dangerous.  You won’t get any prizes, and your work won’t show up on anyone’s mantel, but you’ll make a living.

You Can Shoot A Wedding Without A Spare Body

Doing so borders on the irresponsible.  Twice I’ve lost pictures once-in-a-lifetime pictures: Once was a card failure when I grabbed my camera heading out the door, but not my bag with a spare cards.  Now I keep them taped to my camera strap.  The other was the day I noticed a smudge on my sensor when out in the field on a space shuttle launch.  It was a long hike from the parking lot and I didn’t want to haul a bunch of extra gear, like a spare body.

You Can Teach Yourself The Business

A few people have managed, through years of practice and a relentless dedication to learning.  Most of the time you’re going to need to take at least a few training classes.  I recommend classes on lighting and portraiture first.