This year, ground-breaking technologies and trends have the potential to shift the way photographers and freelance professionals work. As a group that predominantly works for themselves, evolving and adapting to these advancements is critical to enable them to deliver the best work possible, grow business and achieve their lifestyle goals. Here is a list of three emerging trends in the photography and creative freelance industry to watch in 2020.
AI and Machine Learning for Automatic Tagging and Finding Your Photos
While your photography skills and experience—your ability to make a moment an artistic masterpiece—is what sets you apart from other photographers, if you aren’t able to deliver that beautiful content to your clients in some format, you can’t succeed. And, you may need to reference those photos long after you’ve finished the job.
Because of the massive numbers of photos you can take with digital formats, creatives have loaded an enormous amount of data onto numerous cloud applications—many without a proper strategy or organization. One client might use Google Drive, while another uses Dropbox. A partner uses iCloud, another uses Synology, and maybe you use Drobo, or all of the above. Finding the right file, especially one that you delivered to a particular client can be difficult.
[Related Reading: Adobe Announces Substantial Updates To The Lightroom Ecosystem]
Today, digital asset management services (DAMs) are being enhanced to include artificial intelligence (AI) for automatic tagging along with the Cloud to gather, catalog and analyze files and photos by aggregating them from numerous cloud storage accounts, such as Box, Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, Adobe Creative Cloud, OneDrive and others, into one safe, searchable repository. Because cloud technology is involved, these services add an additional layer of duplication and protection, so you have a good, reliable backup of your files. Some of these services even connect to NAS/DAS drives, so you can have both offline and online assurance.
AI systems analyze each file stored to create extensive, searchable metadata for each file. AI can discover a file’s content and location (GPS), perform optical character recognition (OCR) on PDFs and other files and create metadata tags for photographic images and graphics. That means you can search by the content of each photo. For instance, you can search for skiing photos that include skis, snow, mountains, lifts, etc. This automated analysis helps photographers and creatives find their files with or without a file name, regardless of where they stored them or in which account they are contained.
Another factor that can change a photographer’s business is what’s called the Access Economy. As has been widely reported, newer generations are more interested in experiences rather than ownership of things. While that concept is usually used to describe gifts for the holidays or special occasions, this new way of thinking can impact the photography industry as well, in turn helping your business.
Before today, you would purchase outright all of the equipment that you needed for your business—camera body, lenses, accessories, etc. A year or two later, with advances in technology, your gear becomes out of date. For those who have regular DSLR cameras, if you are interested in the new, mirrorless technology, you would have to purchase at least a new camera body.
Today, companies are springing up that help accelerate access to the equipment you need without you having to own the equipment. It’s not even a rental model; you aren’t renting equipment. You subscribe to a service, and then you pick the equipment you need for the job. Do you want the latest mirrorless tech, plus a couple of special light sets? Have it delivered to you. Use the equipment for as long as you want. When you are done, you return it. Do you need something entirely different for the next job, like a telephoto lens? Have that shipped to you. You can always access the equipment you need for the job you want and keep it for as long as you need it.
The system also works for equipment you own that you don’t use very often. You can give ownership to the community and earn money for putting it in the collective resource pool.
As a small business or an individual photographer, you are part of what’s called the Freedom Economy – the movement of 54 million (and growing) creative, self-reliant women and men who are freelancers, photographers, artists and contract workers who’ve “declared independence from the traditional corporate world.”
One problem with this model is that in the past, individual services covered only a portion of a freelancer’s needs. For example, task management was handled by Basecamp; invoicing by Square; payments by PayPal; and accounting by QuickBooks. This may have left you to cobble together a bunch of different services to get everything done for your business.
Today, some companies offer the entire gamut of services, tailored specifically to the needs of freelancers, photographers and creatives, giving them more freedom to work the way they want and from where they want. These tools manage both clients and projects, with workflows, status reports and deadline alerts. They streamline payments, giving photographers numerous options for getting paid with checks, credit cards, even bitcoin, and track and close out invoices. The platforms are even mobile friendly, enhancing your ability to close out projects minutes after you finish a shoot. Some are even offering financing so you can access capital to invest in your business.
As we begin to see digital asset management tools coupled with AI, along with developing Access and Freedom economies, it is safe to say we should prepare for major innovation and change in the photography and creative service industries in 2020. What trends do you see coming this year?