The famed bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banksHe is oft quoted as answering, “Because that’s where the money is“. Simple enough, but profound enough that in the medical industry it’s known as “Sutton’s Law”. It states that when diagnosing, one should first consider the obvious. Easy enough, but many photographers simply don’t think to follow this simple bank robber’s mantra. Here are some suggestions from us as to where Mr. Sutton would look for money today if he was a photographer, rather than a bank robber.

With so many photographers looking for clients and jobs there is simply no more “low hanging fruit” out there. You know, jobs that are just sitting there waiting to be picked off. Not gonna happen. Photographers (and their agents) in their search for income sources all too frequently stay concentrated on the traditional sources of clients with budgets. They look for the “same old” in the same old places. They often fail to read the Wall Street Journal, Barrons and similar reliable sources of business news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently at record highs, in fact it hit a new high just today.  Many businesses simply can’t claim (with a straight face) that money for advertising and promotion is not available. While companies are generally not hiring employees at anywhere near the rates that their reported profits would seem to suggest, they are also not just putting their money into mattresses. They are smart enough to put their money into advertising and promotion.

While there is plenty of bad news in the photo world, photographers are actually optimistic for the coming year, as shown by Photoshelter’s recent photographer’s survey. It says 73% of the photographers responding think the coming year will be better than last year. More telling is that 98% (that’s like everyone) say that they are pursuing secondary areas beyond their primary niche.  The fact is that there are now more platforms, venues and places for the use of professional photography than ever before.  The industries, businesses and sectors which are now thriving, and those that are predicted by the business pundits to boom over the next few years, deserve your attention. Otherwise join the 27% that walk around in a circle and repeating the mantra “woe is me, woe is me”.  Better to expand your view and join the 73% that see a brighter future.

Below is a list derived from a compilation of articles and references appearing in over a dozen business publications, newspapers and general circulation magazines.  The industries/sectors are listed in no particular order and each was referenced by at least two mainstream publications.

Internet publishing and broadcasting (up 33% since 2001), generic pharmaceuticals, elder care, retirement planning services, Hispanic foods and condiments, large general merchandise stores which sell basic foods and necessities at low prices, employment services, for profit colleges and technical schools, sales and installation of “green” building materials including solar panels, video gaming and business consultation services of all kinds.

As stated, these are not low hanging fruit, but rather opportunities if you look close and sometimes out of the box. As example:
Carnival Cruises has taken yet another PR hit (if you’ve been hiding under a rock the last few months, do a Google search for Carnival Cruise disasters), yet over the last few decades the cruise industry has built and put into service several hundred ships with capacities ranging up to 5,000 passengers per ship. Cruising is now a 40 billion dollar industry in the US alone. About 13 million Americans took a cruise in 2012 and the industry directly supports 320,000 jobs in just the United States. We know photographers that are in the “optimist” column because of the cruise lines they have as clients.

Almost every cruise ship features a casino, which segues to another industry, the gaming industry (Ed’s personal favorite).  Today there are 450 casinos in the U.S. alone. (Add to that figure over 100 horse racing tracks). The several hundred cruise ships, race tracks and casinos share some common traits which ought be of interest to all photographers looking for clients and new fertile fields.

Casinos, race tracks and cruise ships all contain restaurants, fast food outlets, retail stores of every description and price point, related leisure/recreational facilities (golf, skiing, spas) and rooms for guests.  Casinos and cruise ships are constantly remodeling and are heavily competing with their rivals for every dollar.  This means frequent renovations and makeovers to restaurants, room decors and ambiance. These businesses must relentlessly promote, stay “fresh” or be eaten by their competition.

What does this mean to you? Simply that stock photography cannot be employed to illustrate the unique features of a given casino, hotel, race track or cruise ship.

There are thousands of guest rooms and common areas that require wall art or photography. These industries simply cannot advertise or promote themselves without current imagery regardless of platform.

These are just two industries and sectors as an example. You ought to make the effort to research these and others to add more of them to your current client list. According to the numbers, the money is there. Good luck…seriously, good luck.