I was once gainfully employed in a dying industry -- book publishing. After several months of escalating mutual hatred between myself and my employer, they gave up trying to build a paper trail on me and offered me 6 months salary if I would just LEAVE. Having a recent track record of several years making between 10-15 grand a year on a dozen odd weekends without even really trying that hard, I took their kind offer went freelance in 2006. This, by my reckoning, was precisely one year before I and every other pro in the market was devoured by the beast that goes by many names: "Timmy's Mom." "Lisa's Dad." "Billy's uncle."
Yes, the youth sports photo market deserted me right when I needed it most. Photography is unique in this way as far as I know. Every week, people go out and buy a Rebel kit on Saturday, *maybe* read part of the manual while on the crapper on Sunday, and then start handing out business cards on Monday. Since these people have "day jobs" they have no concept of what the price of the services they plan to offer are worth ("Is $50.00 for a wedding too much?") and drive their local market down by working for hobby prices. Nobody invests in a set of tools and then starts doing auto repair or carpentry or plumbing for cheap or free. But this happens in photograph ALL THE TIME.
As much as this is a kick in the gut to people like me who have honed their craft for over three decades, I can't whine about it. I could hope for amateurs to respect the craft, learn something about the business they are pushing in on, and at least charge a fair price. And, while yer at it, let's have peace in the middle east and the *WORLD SERIES CHAMPION CHICAGO CUBS.*
If you still get the job asking a fair price, then congratulations, you've beaten me in the marketplace fair and square. But it you are giving your work away or charging hobby rates, you are hurting somebody, whether or not you even know who he or she may be.
The reality as I have found it to be in recent years is that photography skills are secondary (distantly) to marketing skills. Which is precisely why I get my butt kicked every year. I suck at marketing and always will. I don't have the personality for it. The thought of "developing my brand" makes me nauseous.
But I love the work and can't walk away. I make far too much money at photography to just leave on the table, but not enough to live on. So, I do my one-off jobs and service my contracts for part of my income, and clean toilets and mow grass for the rest and for insurance. That's my choice and I am not crying over it. Damn sure nobody else is.