“Remember that you are unique, just like everyone else.”

Those words, told to me by a wonderful teacher I had many years ago, reverberated in my head today as I was looking at the daily image culls from some of the major news agencies.

Talk to almost anyone in the photojournalism industry and they will tell you, with much gnashing of teeth and beating of breast, that the state of the photography industry now is terrible. The loss of staff jobs left and right. The proliferation of cameras of every type. The explosion of stock images. Plummeting sales of print media. The need for quantity over quality in social media. Lowering consumer standards (this one is key), On and on.

Yes, these facts are true. Arguably the photojournalism industry has been affected more so than any other. And yet....

This blog post is a brief pontification of why these “realities” truly are opportunities just waiting for us.

There is an economic model that tries to explain why with increasing competition there is actually less and less consumer choice. The 80/20 model. 80% of the profits are made by 20% of the product line. Suppliers of any given product strive to reach greater numbers of consumers by moving increasingly to the center of a given product line thereby maximizing profit from the most “popular” products. What happens to the products on the fringe of that 80/20 system? Slowly they are dropped because they are deemed unprofitable.

This was illustrated perfectly to me today by these four images by three of the biggest News content providers in the industry. Reuters, AP, and AFP. They are from one of the Pictures-of-the-day products (as posted on their RSS Feeds) for November 27, 2012.

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"Hole" -AFP Mahmud Hams
Student seen through a hole in chalkboard in a Palestinian School damages by rocket fire.
Photo by Mahmud Hams for AFP

"Hole" -AP Adel Hana
Student seen through a hole in chalkboard in a Palestinian School damages by rocket fire.
Photo by Adel Hana for AP

"Stairs" -Reuters Andrew Biraj
Stairs in a Bangladeshi garment factory that was destroyed by fire.
Photo by Andrew Biraj for Reuters

"Stairs" -AFP Stringer
Stairs in a Bangladeshi garment factory that was destroyed by fire.
AFP Photo credited to STR

Good images to be sure. I cannot say that I would have passed up the hole through the chalkboard shot.

As a photographer I both loathe and love the opportunity to be ‘toured’ around a news actuality. To be part of the gaggle of clickers all vying for “that shot” hoping that my take will be the one that gets used.

The challenge, as illustrated here, is to bring a unique perspective to a story. As a photojournalist, as an editor, as well as a consumer of media.

By producing and consuming professionally executed images and stories that may not be in the center of that 80/20 model we create demand and in turn drive supply.

That 80% that is slowly losing images to see and stories to read are a growing market. This is where I feel there is more opportunity now than ever for photographers to provide products for that unfulfilled demand.

Click lines are great but I encourage you to step away and tell the story from your own unique perspective. It may not be where the big bucks are (for now) but the view is great as there is no one in your way and the demand is, well, 80% unfulfilled.

I look forward to seeing you out there.

Julian Ray

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