Over the past ten years, the average cost a day pass at Disneyland increased by 80%, from $75 to $135. Despite this increase, park visits have continued to climb, rising from 14 million in 2008 to an all-time high of 18 million in 2017. While this level of growth is impressive in terms of percentages, it’s less dramatic than the shift that has taken place within LA’s professional photo industry.
In the past decade, the average cost of a still photo permit in Los Angeles has increased by a staggering 87.4% from $353 to $662. Moreover, like Disneyland, this price increase has little effect on popularity, with total permits increasing from 1,925 to 3,033 in the last ten years (feature film permits, which totaled 1,639 in 2017, rose by only 14% over the same period).
While Disney can point to their acquisition of Marvel, Star Wars, and the cultural phenomenon known as “Frozen” for their theme park’s recent popularity, how can we explain the frenzy for still photography in LA? After digging through a decade of FilmLA permit data, interviewing a handful of LA-based location agents, and spending way too much time on social media, we were able to identify four major factors contributing to this trend:
- Instagram’s Influence — Increasing competition amongst Instagram content creators is driving up demand and prices for permit-required photo locations.
- Increased Pace of Brand Publishing — Traditional brands, faced with increased competition on new media outlets, have ramped up the quantity and quality of their lifestyle content.
- Relative Affordability — Despite rapidly rising prices, still photography permits still costs 87% less than the average motion-permit. Combined with lower crew, equipment and location costs – photography remains a solid bargain for content creators.
- Better Tech and More Locations — Pretty much most of us have smart phones with gorgeous cameras; so taking a photo isn't necessarily as difficult as it was a decade ago. What differentiates good photos from great ones are the aesthetics - which is where locations come in. Here at Giggster, we've seen tremendous growth in our collection of photoshoot venue rentals in LA over the past few years.
Rent a location for your next film or photo shoot project on Giggster – A better way to book locations.
1. The Instagram Effect
Every day, 100 million new posts are uploaded onto Instagram by a global community of over 1 billion people. Within the endless sea of memes, selfies, and pet videos— exist a small sliver of people that have been able to generate income from the platform by promoting branded content and driving traffic to external websites.
New media stars like 21-year-old Lele Pons have skyrocketed to fame by producing attention-grabbing content tailor-fitted to the viral channels of Instagram, Youtube, and Vine (RIP). TIME magazine included Pons on their list of ’30 Most Influential People on the Internet’ and Forbes ranked her 8th on their list of top influencers of 2017.
For upper-echelon Instagram influencers like Pons, Huda Kattan, and Zack King, who each boast over 20 million followers, social popularity translates into serious income potential. According to HopperHQ, each earns around $30,000 per sponsored post. This big earning potential, as well as the constant pressure to create increasingly trend-worthy content, has motivated influencers like Pons to increase production values and begin investing cash into better cameras, bigger crews, as well as more interesting filming locations.
This year’s Drake/Shiggy inspired In Your Feelings Challenge saw numerous celebrities latch onto the viral trend as a way to promote their feed. Ciara and Odell Beckham’s cell phone videos generated and 11 million and 3.7 million views respectively, which for both, represented a significant bump in engagement compared to their average posts.
However, the undisputed winner of the challenge was Will Smith, whose video, despite being edited to look improvised, was a multi-camera production that required permitting and permission for access to the iconic location on top of the Prague bridge (Smith subsequently released a mini-documentary about the making of the Instagram post). Thanks to his investment in a cool location Will Smith was able to “win” the In Your Feelings challenge and attract 19 million views on his post, the most of any celebrity, and the current record for views on his personal feed.
This ‘stunt’ exemplifies the Instagram-era of content, where celebrities like Smith can step away from the confines of corporate promotion and produce content that simply promotes ‘Will Smith.’ While it’s not as affordable as Prague, securing a cool location in Los Angeles is not that difficult —as mentioned at the beginning of the article, the average cost of a still photo permit in 2018 was $662, and the cost of booking a location typically runs in the range of $500 — $3000 per day. For new-media stars like Lele Pons, as well as the thousands of other LA-based celebrities who earn their living through Instagram, a small investment in locations for film and photo shoots makes sense.
2. 300 Posts a Month… and Counting
The rise of online branding and the decline of traditional print media is well documented. A 2017 PwC report estimates that by 2021 the internet ad market size will increase from $86 billion today to over $116 billion, which will make it almost ten times larger than the market for consumer magazines which PwC estimated will continue to stagnate around $16 billion.
Addictive social networks like Instagram and Facebook play a significant role in this trend. According to the report by Common Sense Media, teen girls in the United States (a traditionally important demographic for print magazines) now spend an average of 10.5 hours per week on social media, with Instagram being by far the most popular service.
Not only has this shift away from print media, helped fuel the rise of internet-only stars like Lele Pons, it has also has placed tremendous pressure on brands to adapt their content style and schedule. Instead of preparing ads and editorial content based monthly delivery, brands are expected to deliver new content by-the-hour. Rihanna’s makeup line Fenty, posts on Instagram around five times per day. Luxury fashion house Gucci goes even further, typically posting over 200 times per month. In addition to increasing the pace of publishing, the endlessly improving feed of content from influencers, celebrities, photographers, and models has also forced brands to update the way they display their products.
Ten years ago it was acceptable to simply share imagery from a runway show. Today, brands like Gucci, Marc Jacobs, H&M and Michael Kors now go to elaborate lengths, and considerable expense to frame their collections around complementary real-world locations.
Adrian Ramos, a successful LA-based location agent who has worked for Image Locations and Giggster.com, was one of several people I talked to about this trend. “Having worked in this industry for almost seven years, I would definitely say that brands are doing more still work now than ever,” said Ramos.
3. A Bargain for Content Creators
LA’s warm weather and diverse supply of interesting places have always made it a popular destination for media makers, however, in recent years the higher cost-of-shooting and out-of-state tax credits have slowed the growth of the city’s on-location motion shoots.
While the price of permitting a photoshoot has risen as well, it’s still an awesome bargain — costing 87% less than the average motion permit. From the perspective of industry-insiders like Ramos, this pricing variance has helped shaped the current landscape of the city’s location industry. “There are several major location agencies in LA that specifically cater to still photo shoots,” said Ramos “From my experience, homeowners almost always prefer photo bookings. Even though they could get paid more for a big movie or commercial shoot, photo shoots are less of a hassle and generally lower risk.”
As long as permit prices remain reasonable, and Instagram stays popular, it’s fair to expect that professional photo productions in Los Angeles will continue its current trajectory of 10% annual growth. With this boom comes significant opportunities, not only for the permitting offices of FilmLA but also for tens of thousands of LA residents who can earn additional income by renting out their homes or businesses. Permitted photoshoots generated over $15 million in extra income for LA-property owners in 2017.
4. Better Tech and More Locations
In talking with numerous location agents and scouts, the demand from this new market segment has exploded in recent years. While digital content creators don’t spend as much as traditional fashion brands (typically spending under $2,000 per photoshoot) the size of the community, and the frequency of their bookings, has played an essential role in accelerating the growth of photo locations industry.
So even if you don’t own a Malibu mansion or a giant downtown warehouse you can still get a slice of the pie. While big brands love splurging on fancy locations, most Instagram stars (who are typically using their own money) rarely spend more than $1,000 for a shoot. If you own a moderately interesting home in LA — chances are people will want to shoot in it. To get started, you can either reach out to a traditional location agency for representation or list your property on newer platforms like Giggster that serve as a marketplace between content-creating renters and property-owning hosts.
For many brands, a photographer will find a single piece of furniture or wall panel, and that’s the only thing they end up using in the entire house. So it's not even about the entire property, but a cool backdrop that most photoshoots are based around. Platforms like Giggster have taken it a step further by creating online catalogs and market places supplemented by a staff of customer and client representatives as well.