The global professional photography market, valued at $36.9 billion, was expected to decline in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of 2020, the sector faced significant challenges due to mandatory closures and social distancing measures brought on by the health crisis and 75% noting cancellations of almost all their bookings. Despite these setbacks, the market is predicted to gradually recover, with a forecasted growth at a CAGR of 5% through 2023, potentially reaching a market size of $41 billion. This recovery is driven by the increasing internet penetration, popularity of social networks, and the rising demand in emerging countries, particularly from the Asia Pacific region expected to be the fastest-growing market. However, the Italian market, pre-pandemic, showed a stable turnover and production. The competition from the ever-evolving smartphone cameras and the abundance of easily accessible photographs have posed significant challenges to professional photographers, who are now adapting their services to meet the rising e-commerce demand for quality visuals.

Trends in the Professional Photography Market of Italy

In recent years, Italy's professional photography market has been shaped by evolving demand driven by both traditional and modern factors. The market has remained fairly stable in terms of turnover, even seeing an increase, reaching values around €770 million. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the industry hard, with as many as 96 percent of professional photographers reporting a severe impact on their income. The crisis led a significant portion (nearly 20 percent) of photographers to consider leaving the profession due to economic difficulties. Demand in the professional photography market is diverse, encompassing clients like couples seeking wedding photography, companies requiring images for their websites and brochures, real estate professionals, and players in the tourism sector. Traditional demand drivers such as events and weddings, which average around 4.3 million events and tens of thousands of weddings annually, temporarily saw a downturn during the pandemic but are expected to bounce back post-COVID. An emerging and significant driver shaping the market is the exponential growth of e-commerce. As online presence becomes crucial, companies are investing in visual content to showcase their products, leading to a new demand for professional photographers with skills not just in photography but also in creativity, marketing, and communication. The market's structure is fragmented with a prevalence of local players.

The rise of smartphones with advanced camera features poses a considerable challenge, urging photographers to innovate and differentiate themselves. The number of enterprises in the "photographic activities" sector followed an upward trend, increasing by as much as 8.7 percent over a five-year period. Professional photography services are varied, ranging from commercial and advertising photography, which can cost between €450 and €850, to wedding photography with an average price range between €1200 and €2300. The portrait category, which includes photo albums, is available within a relatively affordable bracket of €70 to €200. Regulations such as GDPR have also influenced the market, imposing strict rules on data management and privacy, which photographers must navigate carefully. Consumer prices for photographic equipment have seen a general decline over the past decade, symptomatic of a market undergoing significant changes. In summary, the Italian professional photography market is marked by its resilience despite the pandemic's impact, with growth opportunities tied to a surge in e-commerce and a demand shift towards high-quality visual content. Professional photographers now face the dual challenge of adapting to a rapidly changing digital landscape and differentiating their offerings amidst increased competition from amateur photographers and advanced photography technology integrated into smartphones.

Profiles of Leading Market Players in the Professional Photography Industry

The professional photography market, exhibiting a rich tapestry of segments including news, art, and commissioned photography, presents a landscape of diverse players whose positioning is shaped by specialization, regional prominence, and adaptability to changing technological and market dynamics. While the report alludes to various categories of professional photographers, key market players range from international agencies to local artisans, each contributing to the rich fabric of the global and Italian photography markets.

  • Photographers-authors: These independent artists express their creativity through their lenses, often developing personal projects that may be showcased in galleries or curated collections. Their work often transcends commercial objectives, aiming to contribute to the broader conversation in the art world.
  • Press and News Agency Employees/Freelancers: These professionals are aligned with news media outlets and agencies. They are the foot soldiers in the field of photojournalism—capturing history in the making, documenting events as they unfold, and driving the visual narrative of current affairs.
  • Self-employed Entrepreneurs: The enterprising photographers under this category wear multiple hats, managing their creative output alongside the business aspects of marketing, client relationships, and financial planning. They frequently operate in niche segments, capitalizing on personal branding and specialized services.
  • Artisans: This group represents the classic picture of a professional photographer: knowledgeable in technique, rich in experience, and often offering bespoke services in portraiture, event coverage, or local reportage. Artisans may run a brick-and-mortar studio, providing personalized services to individuals and local businesses.
  • Employees of State or Local Authorities: Official photographers for governmental bodies play a key role in documenting state functions and producing imagery for official use. They often provide a window into the workings of the state, showing aspects of governance and civic events to the public. These protagonists in professional photography navigate a market subject to significant shifts in demand due to the proliferation of high-quality smartphone cameras and changing consumer attitudes towards images.

The positioning of these players is critical—some may find success by focusing on specialized or under-serviced niches, while others may leverage the surge in e-commerce to offer product and brand photography. Growth areas such as art photography beckon for those with a creative eye, and new technologies like mirrorless cameras are creating fresh opportunities within the sector. Each category of professional photographer contributes its verse to the ongoing narrative of a market adapting to digital disruption while clinging to the enduring value of a well-crafted image.

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Summary and extracts

1 Market Overview

1.1 Definition and presentation

Professional photographers are individuals who take photographs for the purpose of marketing them. The market for professional photographers is characterized by a wide variety of players on both the supply and demand sides. Indeed, professional photographers are distinguished by their legal status and the nature of their activity, but they generally operate in different market segments.

In particular, they can be distinguished as follows:

  • Photographers-authors
  • The employees/freelancers of the press and news agencies
  • The self-employed-entrepreneurs
  • The artisans
  • The employees of the state or local authorities

Likewise, there are many clients, which explains the diversity of activities of professional photographers who are rarely limited to one market segment. Major segments include corporate communications, direct sales to individuals, public clients, publishers, news agencies, galleries, and art dealers.

However, the market for professional photographers can be divided into three main categories:

  • News photography, for newspapers and magazines.
  • Art photography, for exhibitions and art galleries.
  • Commissioned photography, for commercial use (advertising, events, weddings, etc.).

The global professional photography market has grown in recent years, and is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 7.4 percent through 2026. Some of the main market drivers are the increasing penetration of smartphones and the growing interest in photography. Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing region due to the 'high purchasing potential of the population and increasing demand in emerging countries.

In Italy, the market is stationary, with a constant value but a decrease in volume, thus indicating a shift to quality. In addition, the average price of cameras increased by 8 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, a factor that did not favor the market. However, market players are favored by the sustained growth of the Web, digital tools, and the growth of e-commerce, which was worth about one-third of the entire market in 2018.

The national market is highly fragmented, with many players operating primarily at the local level. Professional photographers are facing new challenges due to the democratization of photography, but they are also focusing on new growth areas, such as art photography, and new technologies, such as mirrorless cameras, which have experienced strong double-digit growth in recent years.

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