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Social Networks Rule the Photo Market

Social networks are one of the reasons for the growing demand for professional photography. Social networks allow anyone to create their public image in a virtual reality. Anastiasia Evstratova has been studying the mechanisms of demand on the photo market, as well as the functions of photography for photographers and their clients

The photo market deals with a unique product, but works according to set patterns. Photographers who work with non-professional modelsoften only see their job only as a way to earn money. And their clients reproduce clichéd poses during the photo sessions. As a result, there is almost no place for creativity in the professional photo market. These are some of the conclusions made by Anastiasia Evstratova, Head of the Group of Monitoring at the People Speak Company, in her master’s thesis prepared at the HSE Faculty of Sociology. Detailed results of this research have been published in the Economic Sociology journal.

The study pays special attention to the role of social networks in the forming of demand in the photo market. The analysis showed that social networks have their own celebrities who set fashion trends for photographic clients.

Appropriating the elements of reality

Photography has become very popular in modern society. Evstratova says that this has been largely promoted by the development of mass tourism over the last few decades. While for a professional artist it is important to capture something that others don’t notice, a moment reflecting our age , for ordinary travelers a photo is a way to appropriate the elements of reality. And it is not necessarily reality from other countries and continents. A photo as a souvenir from a fancy restaurant or a snapwith a celebrity is also an example of this kind of this type of appropriation, the author says.

Despite the fact that photography has become widely available to the public, the demand for professional photo services is growing. Professional photo footage of a graduation ceremony or a wedding has long since become usual. But clients go to photo studios not only to shootan important life event.

More and more people are working on their public image. A modern person tends to turn their life into an aesthetic project, Evstratova believes. But whatlies behind a person‘s willingness to make their reality look better, and whatdo professional photographers think about it?

In order to answer these questions, the study included more than ten interviews with professional photographers working in the Moscow market, and people who have used professional photography services over the last three years.

Popular styles

What styles do photographers’ clients want to try? Anastasia Evstratova developed a typology of styles offered by photo studios today. They are gothic or medieval; doll; aggressive; sweet or romantic; natural; and glamorous.

Figure. Distribution of styles in photos.

StyleNumber of photos (N=201)% from the total number of photos
Sweet (romantic) 5326,3

One might assume that clients willing to make reality look better would be attracted to unusual images, beyond everyday patterns. But this is not true. A Natural image, which means a lack of special costume, make-up or hairdo, turned out to be the most popular. Natural photos are usually made against a background of nature or the city.

To be a star in a social network

Ideally, post-processed photos go directly to social networks. Who are the target audience of the photographers’ clients? Friends, relatives, ex-classmates, colleagues are the people who a social network user works for, trying to make a positive impression. ‘In our study we also found out that social network users often try to attract the attention not of specific people, but the audience as a whole, which means they seek popularity’, Evstratova says and emphasizes that some social network users are willing to leave their friends behind in the race to increase their number of subscribers and gain prominence among the audience.

Clichés rule

The photo market works according to the logic of the art market. A photo is a unique product, Evstratova says. But the research showed that today there is not much place for art in the photo market. What is important for clients is to get a high-quality post-processed picture as a result.

Photographers, in their turn, don’t view their clients as at models. Clichés are reproduced both by photographers and clients. Photo studios offer a traditional set of styles, and clients follow them. ‘Of course, in some cases the tastes and wishes of a client and a photographer coincide, and they start making a really creative product, departing from market stereotypes. Only in this case are the market and art are coming closer’, Evstratova believes.

Price has nothing to do with quality

How do clients choose a photo studio or a photographer? The study showed that photographers’ participation in professional arts exhibitions usually doesn’t give them an advantage.

Social networks’ influence on the photo market is worthy of further research, Evstratova believes. Her analysis showed that in terms of professional self-representation, social networks play a more important role than fashion magazines and society pages. Probably, the social networks have their own ‘celebrities’ who set trends, and they are not necessarily well-known people from television or magazines, the author assumes. ‘People follow network celebrities. For example, there are some photographers who shoot very explicit erotic pictures. They post a photo, attach a song, and get tens of thousands of reposts’, Evstratova said.

The study of people’s preferences in this sphere could lead to conclusions about contemporary young people’s values. In addition to that, the author believes that the analysis of opinions among social network leaders has real interest in terms of advertising photo studios’ services.


Author: Marina Selina, October 25, 2013