By the time Matt Eich entered photojournalism school in 2004, the magazine and newspaper business was already declining. But Mr. Eich had been shooting photographs since he was a child, and when he married and had a baby during college, he stuck with photography as a career. "I had to hit the ground running and try to make enough money to keep a roof over our heads," he said.
Since graduation in 2008, Mr. Eich, 23, has gotten magazine assignments here and there, but "industrywide, the sentiment now, at least among my peers, is that this is not a sustainable thing," he said. He has been supplementing magazine work with advertising and art projects, in a pastiche of ways to earn a living. "There was a path, and there isn't anymore."
For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path
By Stephanie Clifford, NYT, published: March 29, 2010
Then there is D. Sharon Pruitt, a 40-year-old mother of six who lives on Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Ms. Pruitt's husband is in the military, and their frequent moves meant a full-time job was not practical. But after a vacation to Hawaii in 2006, Ms. Pruitt uploaded some photos — taken with a $99 Kodak digital camera — to the site Flickr.
Since then, through her Flickr photos, she has received a contract with the stock-photography company Getty Images that gives her a monthly income when publishers or advertisers license the images. The checks are sometimes enough to take the family out to dinner, sometimes almost enough for a mortgage payment. "At the moment, it's just great to have extra money," she said.
Mr. Eich and Ms. Pruitt illustrate the huge shake-up in photography during the last decade. Amateurs, happy to accept small checks for snapshots of children and sunsets, have increasing opportunities to make money on photos but are underpricing professional photographers and leaving them with limited career options. Professionals are also being hurt because magazines and newspapers are cutting pages or shutting altogether.
Magazines' editorial pages tend to rise or fall depending on how many ad pages they have. In 2000, the magazines measured by Publishers Information Bureau, a trade group, had 286,932 ad pages. In 2009, there were 169,218 — a decline of 41 percent. That means less physical space in which to print photographs.
"Pages are at a premium, and there's more competition to get anything into a magazine now, and the bar is just higher for excellent work," said Bill Shapiro, the editor of Life.com, who ran the print revival of Life before Time Inc. shut it in 2007. And that is for the publications that survived — 428 magazines closed in 2009 alone, according to the publication database MediaFinder.com, including ones that regularly assigned original photography, like Gourmet, Portfolio and National Geographic Adventure.