Rampant Herd Instinct Disease Sickens Photo Industry

Ever since digital replaced film as the photographers’ tool of choice there’s been a rapid rise in reported cases of Photographer’s Herd Instinct Disease (PHID).

Like other herd behaviors (buffalo grazing, people drinking Kool-Aid® etc.) the symptoms of PHID include feeling the need to hang out with the rest of the herd, thinking the same thoughts and doing the same things.

PHID is viral and highly contagious, and affects primarily wedding and portrait photographers. Although often transmitted through direct photographer-to-photographer contact, recent studies suggest that software vendors, album makers, print labs, and other industry players also spread the infection.

“Behaviors that have been bred into our species for generations are helping spread PHID,” one anonymous source told us. “Looking for the lowest price, the least effort, the biggest discount. Wanting to hang out with the crowd, when all that does is help spread the disease.”

Virologist Dr. Seymour P Payne told us that the main symptom of PHID is doing what other photographers in their herd do. “I call it what it is–copying.” he says, “Sufferers prefer to call it ‘emulating’.”

Other symptoms include:

  • Failure to realize that copying makes it impossible to charge a premium
  • Lack of the confidence to charge a premium
  • Reluctance to spend time marketing and selling
  • Brain fog caused by long nights editing images
  • Listless appetite for product sales
  • Sleep deprivation due to excessive time on social media Websites

Once photographers contract the disease they tend to align themselves with a herd, rather than acting independently. Dr. Payne stresses that there are various competing herds, just as there are in politics. But instead of red states and blue states, or left wing and right wing—we find antagonistic herds such as: Shoot and Share, MWACs, Clickin’ Moms, Momarazzies, and of course a large group known informally as “Old School Shooters,” who have a deep knowledge of film.

Dr. Payne believes that as artists, and creators of beautiful things, photographers should be independent thinkers. “But many PHID sufferers spend an extraordinary amount of time looking at other photographer’s work online, especially in Facebook groups where there’s a natural inclination to want to be liked. Photographers attending large group events and trade shows are also highly susceptible.”

A recovering photographer who wouldn’t be identified claimed PHID has caused a rapid decline in photographic art, product quality, and differentiation between studios. “My iron levels are down too,” he said, “but I’m taking supplements for that.”

“Just a few years ago “shoot and share” was something we told drug addicts not to do with their needles. Now industry leaders are encouraging people to do exactly that, and spreading PHID in the process.”

“I started feeling really bad just uploading all my files to the cloud and letting my clients pick through them. Yes it was easy, but sometimes pride counts for something, you know?”

“And besides, when the only thing that made me different was my price, it was really hard to make a decent living.”

Pushed for details about life as a herd animal, our source said, “Well it isn’t fantastic. You spend all day looking at the next guy’s ass (okay, not always a bad thing), and grazing on pastures that were green once, but have now been trodden on and grazed over by the whole darned herd.”

Dr. Payne sympathizes. “Herd animals tend to keep their heads down,” he says. “Once a gnu, always a gnu, know what I mean? That’s OK, but if they looked around maybe they’d say, ‘Hey, I could be a giraffe, or an elephant.”’

“In my next life I want to come back a Lion … We can all dream.”