Which graphic design gig has more demand?

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The camera is Alexander's constant companion. No matter whether he goes for a walk with his children or goes to a rugby match with friends on the weekend: photography is his great passion. “I can communicate with photography in a very special way,” says the political scientist. For six years now, Alexander has made his pictures available to a platform that sells the photos for him. Depending on the size, use and customer, he gets between 9 cents and 180 euros per picture sold. Images are also sold to larger agencies such as pictures alliance from dpa or Getty Images via the platform. “Of course I don't make a lot of money that way. It's more of a figurehead for my work, ”says Alexander, who would like to make a full-time living from photography.

supply and demand

The photo industry is a highly competitive market. In recent years, the availability of fast Internet access and high quality camera equipment has meant that more and more people have access to this technology. In this way they can generate very high quality images and put them online. The amount of photographic content available today has also pushed prices down. As in almost every industry, supply and demand are reflected in the pricing of the end product. This is also noticeable in some of the industry-specific platforms within the photo industry. This “Uberization” of photography (based on the virtual taxi service Uber) is a business model of the so-called gig economy: Small orders are given to independent self-employed or marginally employed people at short notice.

Photographic platforms allow photographers to upload images for royalty-free sale, respond to photo shoot requests, access booking services, or network in a variety of ways. The most established platforms are active in stock photography, where photographers post images that are sold royalty-free at a price set by the platform. In the past five years, numerous new platforms have emerged to provide photographers with jobs. On others, photographers can apply for jobs that have already been advertised and undercut each other in the competition process. In addition, other opportunities for participation are offered, such as exhibiting a portfolio, selling existing pictures, renting photographic equipment or networking with others. The platform business models are as diverse as the photographer's experience with them.

Some of the platforms for photography are Snappr, Scoopshot, EyeEm, and Flytographer. But there are also very large non-photography-specific platforms such as Airtasker that have photo categories. Here the average daily rate for a photographer is between $ 70 and $ 220. On most of these websites, the prices for the services offered are below what many would have considered reasonable industry prices a few years ago. The platforms usually have a customer rating system to assess the quality of the work of photographers.

A 2020 interview study by the University of Brisbane confirms the problem. In contrast to traditional business models, photographers report that digital platforms limit their ability to build good, long-term customer relationships. They said platforms are pushing prices, which has a negative impact on their livelihoods. Your creative abilities would be devalued and photography would be perceived less and less as a professional service. The respondents also fear for their creative reputation.

The control exercised by the platforms over the price of the photographic work, the perceived quality of the product and service, and the photographer's ability to build, develop and maintain customer relationships have been viewed by photographers of all genres as being detrimental to the sustainability of their work viewed. The fact that the platforms stand as a kind of third person between the two parties would create an additional power imbalance.

The study also describes how the new forms of work lead to a clouded mood between colleagues. Those who avoided or resisted platform work viewed those who used platforms critically. Some respondents characterized these colleagues as amateurs responsible for undermining professional standards.

Platforms now function as employment agencies in many areas of the economy: industrial and graphic design, engineering, programming, administration, marketing and customer care, scientific research, logistics, housework or accounting. The list can be extended as required. The working conditions and services of the gig economy are very diverse: The spectrum ranges from people who work occasionally or part-time to companies of various sizes that use platforms as an additional or only form of collaboration. A direct consequence of this new work organization is that there are almost no permanent positions. As a result, the platform workers lack the employee rights that are linked to permanent employment in many countries, such as minimum wages, working time regulations and protection against dismissal, and in many cases also collective agreements. Employees are entitled to regular wage payments, vacation, parental leave, overtime compensation and protection against accidents at work. Other guidelines regulate health and safety in the workplace. Employees can also make use of codetermination and participation rights more easily.

Regulate new employment relationships

At the end of November, the German Bundestag also dealt with these questions. The Left Party demanded, among other things, a draft law that clarifies that employees of the platform economy are basically employees of the platform operators. A reversal of the burden of proof in the status determination procedure of the pension insurance should also be determined, so that the platform operators have to refute the fact that dependent employment exists.

Veronika Mirschel from the department for self-employed in ver.di, who was heard as an expert in the Bundestag, emphasized to M the need to regulate these new employment relationships. Collective agreements on working and performance conditions for the solo self-employed could be an important means of improving the working conditions of the solo self-employed on the platforms. In essence, however, it was a matter of finding mechanisms by which the shift in power in platform-mediated work could be countered through legal regulations, said Mirschel.

Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) also calls for “certain contractual practices” by platform operators to be prevented. In their contractual terms and conditions, the operators should not be able to prohibit the employees on the platform from communicating with one another or from organizing themselves in a union.