"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." —Arthur Ashe

Photography DiscussionWhat is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Photography related discussions with a slant towards learning and understanding the art and craft of photography
User avatar
St3v3M
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 2504
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:02 am
Reputation: 102
Location: 35,000 feet
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: Yes, feel free to edit my image
Contact:

What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby St3v3M » Sat Nov 18, 2017 3:54 am

What is the future of photography and professional photographers?
- be sure to click (more)

What do you think, and why? S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

User avatar
Charles Haacker
Mentoris Secundus
Mentoris Secundus
Posts: 1031
Joined: Mon May 01, 2017 7:20 pm
Reputation: 94
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
Social Media Opt-In: No
Editing option: No, please do not edit my images
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby Charles Haacker » Sat Nov 18, 2017 4:20 pm

Thanks, Steve, for the question and the link! I am in broad general agreement with all the answers. Professional photography is a very rapidly changing occupation. But my personal experience is that this is not new, or news. I came out of school in 1973 with a degree in commercial photography. Somewhere along the line I had managed to totally overlook the fact that there were no jobs in commercial photography in 1973. It struck me as almost funny that Lewis Lorton wrote,
... the public and the market is constantly devaluing the worth of photography as a skill set, witness all the organizations that are firing their in-house staff and buying from stock houses.

I nearly laughed because my first thought was, Really? There were organizations hiring in-house staff? In 1973 I discovered to my horror that all the big outfits that might once have hired me at least as a lab tech had long since downsized their in-house departments to zero, sold the equipment and laid off the staff, and then cleverly farmed out the work to their now-forced-to-freelance-former-staffers. For the corporations it was totally a win-win. They got the high quality pro services without having to pay things like benefits! Wow! Who knew?

But there I wuz, brand new degree clutched hopefully in hand, no job prospects. (Oh and BTW thanks to the school that drained my GI Bill + much of Daphne's income to sell me a degree they already knew was useless!) I found low-paying work in a camera store and hung out my shingle as a freelance. If I wanted to work as a pro I would simply have to be self-employed like it or not. In 1978 we found an established portrait and wedding studio for sale and, very foolishly as it turned out, went for broke, which ended 16 years later with us actually broke and the studio going to the bottom taking everything, all hope of retirements with it. (BTW, it wasn't lack of talent or work ethic; it was lack of business acumen.)

There is no doubt in my mind that digital plus the proliferation of more and more sophisticated cell cameras has forced a paradigm shift. I think it will be harder and harder, worse than in my day, for a working pro to earn all their money from photography alone. Since I've been out of the game since 1994 the impression I have is that virtually all photographers working now are self-employed, many part time and keeping their day jobs. The storefront studio like I had is now vanishingly rare. Every single outfit I competed with through the eighties is now shuttered, the owners retiring and their heirs uninterested.

The upside, though, is that I could if I chose start up a business right this minute with no location necessary and minimal gear. Rolando Gomez points out what I have felt about digital since I got into in in 2007: modern digital is leaps and bounds technologically ahead of how I learned photography. Mirrorless is the future. You no longer need lots of big lights. I have been doing volunteer work free for years using basically a mirrorless and nothing but the light available. I think I could charge for it if I wanted, but the greater question is, if I charged, would anyone pay it? I think sometimes that by doing free work for nonprofits I may be taking bread from the mouths of the children of working pros, but my counter to that is that the outfits I work for would never pay for photography. They would either do without or use a staffer with a cell phone. Most of them already do. "Good enough" is good enough.
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

User avatar
Duck
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 1870
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2014 6:31 am
Reputation: 151
Location: Shelton, CT
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: No, please do not edit my images
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby Duck » Sat Nov 18, 2017 7:51 pm

The hardest hit part of the photography business seems, to me, to be the consumer side, portraits specifically. I know a lot of portrait photographers that are struggling to keep their business afloat. The senior portrait market, that wasn't strong in my are to begin with, is now almost non existant for the pros. It's shifted over to the "friend with a camera" market. Even in commercial photography, I see way too many businesses settling for lower quality images just to keep their costs down. The office guy with the "fancy camera" has been doing it and it's fine by them. Try to convince them that they are actually throwing money out the window with that mentality and you get a lot of push back. I blame ignorance there. Business savvy is lacking in the small to medium sized businesses.
"If you didn't learn something new today, you wasted a day."
ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

User avatar
Steven G Webb
Mentoris Peritus
Mentoris Peritus
Posts: 199
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:12 am
Reputation: 9
Location: Saluda, SC
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: No, please do not edit my images
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby Steven G Webb » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:19 pm

Duck wrote:The hardest hit part of the photography business seems, to me, to be the consumer side, portraits specifically. I know a lot of portrait photographers that are struggling to keep their business afloat. The senior portrait market, that wasn't strong in my are to begin with, is now almost non existant for the pros. It's shifted over to the "friend with a camera" market. Even in commercial photography, I see way too many businesses settling for lower quality images just to keep their costs down. The office guy with the "fancy camera" has been doing it and it's fine by them. Try to convince them that they are actually throwing money out the window with that mentality and you get a lot of push back. I blame ignorance there. Business savvy is lacking in the small to medium sized businesses.


I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. For the better part of 9 years I worked horse shows and was busy and profitable though that market was on the same decline as the rest of retail consumer photography. Several more notable and more established show photographers felt the pinch before I did, they all had larger operations with more expensive overhead. My remaining lean kept me in the game longer. I don't feel it is the technology advance alone that killed us but it is a link and the chain. Our expenses climbed beyond reason, motel rates in some cities doubled inside three years and we had that period of expensive fuel. Our customers were also traveling so they felt that hit too. Photos being a luxury were among the items cut from budgets. And that's where the settling began, folks began settling for so-so pictures taken by friends and family. Maybe not as good, but considered free and that was enough to tip the scales.

It's the same song sung by Senior portraitists, wedding specialists and portrait photographers up and down the line. About the only genre that is not dominated by amateur photographers is commercial work. Not many want to do the mundane yet technically challenging work of tabletop product, food, and catalog work. With all that can be done artistically and technically to impact visual impact it is still a difficult sale. It's been so long since some people have seen a good photograph, they cannot (not the same as do not) appreciate one when they see it. Not only can they not see it, they don't understand what efforts go into making one. If a restaurant has been photographing their plated food with an iPhone for social media updates, it's real hard to get them to spend good money on a crafted photograph for a menu or wall art. We're all dying from "good enough is good enough, and cheap is good enough". Shallow depth-of-field is what it is, 3:1 lighting ratio is what it is, light direction and reflection is what it is no matter the intensity, no matter the camera sensitivity, no longer the shutter speed and regardless of mirror slap or not.
If you've never failed you've never tried.
Holly Ridge Photography
Facebook

User avatar
St3v3M
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 2504
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:02 am
Reputation: 102
Location: 35,000 feet
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: Yes, feel free to edit my image
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby St3v3M » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:49 am

Charles Haacker wrote:... There is no doubt in my mind that digital plus the proliferation of more and more sophisticated cell cameras has forced a paradigm shift. ...

If you had used them do you think you would have said the same thing about moving from a box camera to something else? S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

User avatar
St3v3M
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 2504
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:02 am
Reputation: 102
Location: 35,000 feet
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: Yes, feel free to edit my image
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby St3v3M » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:50 am

Duck wrote:... Business savvy is lacking in the small to medium sized businesses.

Education is key! S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

User avatar
St3v3M
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 2504
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:02 am
Reputation: 102
Location: 35,000 feet
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: Yes, feel free to edit my image
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby St3v3M » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:01 am

Steven G Webb wrote:... I don't feel it is the technology advance alone that killed us but it is a link and the chain. ...

Do you think the lesson here is adapt or die? S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

User avatar
Steven G Webb
Mentoris Peritus
Mentoris Peritus
Posts: 199
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:12 am
Reputation: 9
Location: Saluda, SC
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: No, please do not edit my images
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby Steven G Webb » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:32 am

St3v3M wrote:
Steven G Webb wrote:... I don't feel it is the technology advance alone that killed us but it is a link and the chain. ...

Do you think the lesson here is adapt or die? S-


"Adapt of die" is applicable almost universally. Photography has evolved almost from its beginning in a direction making it easier and more inviting to a wide audience. Sheet films were an advance to coating one's own glass sheets and reduced the knowledge necessary. Roll film was simpler than sheets, cartridges were simpler than rolls. And the 35 mm camera originally scoffed at for it's tiny negative and built-in meter soon became real competition to medium format cameras that had displaced the press view cameras. Instamatics and Polaroids were to medium format and 35 mm what cell phones are to DSLRs today. We used to say that the person holding the camera was the important determining element. That was before the advances in cell phone camera technology, the filters and photo processing software was available. I've seen the original captures and finished images from several contemporary professional photographers. What I witnessed was a metamorphosis from a dull, flat-light, under-exposed photograph into a directionally lit warm-toned image with a 3:1 lighting ratio, all in the processing. Could have been from any camera.

I don't know where we are headed. I just wish there was more money in the craft.

Q: What's the difference between a professional photographer and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza will feed a family of four.
If you've never failed you've never tried.
Holly Ridge Photography
Facebook

User avatar
Duck
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 1870
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2014 6:31 am
Reputation: 151
Location: Shelton, CT
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: No, please do not edit my images
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby Duck » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:48 am

St3v3M wrote:
Duck wrote:... Business savvy is lacking in the small to medium sized businesses.

Education is key! S-

That seems like the logical solution. The reality is whose responsibility is it to educate the small business person? Are they responsible for their own education in proper marketing techniques? Unfortunately the evidence weighs heavily against this being a reality. Most small to medium sized business owners juggle many hats and take on so many tasks that the time and energy to learn the finer points of marketing get pushed to the bottom of the list. Is it fair to their business? To their customers? No, but there is only so much a person can take on and some are better at seeing the big picture than others.

Is it up the the photographer? Now there is a daunting task. How do you reach so many mom and pop shops without making the education of the masses a full time job in itself? Do you incorporate it into your sales pitch when seeking out customers? The one thing you don't want to do is alienate a potential customer by making them feel like a failure so presentation is key. Have to sell it like a collaboration while gently guiding them.

Then there is the issue of economics. Smaller businesses have smaller budgets that feel like a larger strain on their cash flow. All the education won't mean anything if the money isn't there to get them to the next level of marketing and this often is the hamster wheel they end up finding themselves in; no money, hire cheap, get cheap results, value is diminished resulting in lower returns on investment which means no money forcing them to hire cheap and so on.

Hopefully if a balance can be achieved between the business owner and the photographer a wonderful working relation can blossom, but it takes work.
"If you didn't learn something new today, you wasted a day."
ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

User avatar
Steven G Webb
Mentoris Peritus
Mentoris Peritus
Posts: 199
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:12 am
Reputation: 9
Location: Saluda, SC
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: No, please do not edit my images
Contact:

Re: What is the future of photography and professional photographers?

Postby Steven G Webb » Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:35 pm

Here's another rabbit hole in the conversation: Unemployment. The economic climate, at least in the US, caused the loss of many manufacturing and skilled labor jobs. For a couple of generations we've tried to make professionals of our offspring encouraging college degrees with the promise of high-wage special careers that required no work. Lots of people who previously felt super special found they could not find jobs and lots of people not too proud to do jobs took on under-paying employment. And of course there were the frustrated housewives and single moms who felt the need to get out there and make a few extra bucks or to launch a home business that did not include pyramids, cosmetics cleaning agents or candles. What did they find? Cameras.

Now if the economy recovers and living-wage jobs become plentiful and more appealing to the professional photography scene as it currently plays, the supply of entrepreneurial professional photographers will shrink. When people no longer feel they must accept these artificially deflated wages, even for something that has turned into a simple and easy endeavor, folks will stop being competitors in the race to the bottom. What will remain is the physics and other natural laws involved in photography along with the recorded instruction on how to achieve certain results.

In an analogy of sorts, I read where before the Roman Empire fell the society was advanced enough to have running water and flushing toilets. It took a long, long time for those things to reappear. So long, in fact, that upon their (re)invention they were considered new. One day Rembrandt lighting will be replicated successfully with a camera device, light and reflector as if it had never before been done. While there is nothing new under the Sun, man's short memory and short lifespan makes for lots of forgetting and lots of rediscovery.
If you've never failed you've never tried.
Holly Ridge Photography
Facebook


Return to “Photography Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest