The future of professional photography

Started Apr 5, 2005 | Discussions thread
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cc_sea New Member • Posts: 6
The future of professional photography

Is it a good time or a bad time to become a professional photographer?

In other words, if a young person were choosing a career, would you (especially those of you who are currently making a living taking pictures) recommend photography? I'm particularly interested in what you think the trends might be.

Not to bias the discussion, here are a few of thoughts, pro and con.

  • CON. Digital capture and distribution are putting price pressure on commercial photography. You can see this with the changing structure of the stock photography market. The number of distributors of stock photography has increased (even Adobe is entering the market), and there is a trend toward low-cost royalty-free image licensing. This trend affects non-stock commercial photography indirectly by increasing the price premium for custom images versus stock. Over time, the price of many kinds of commercial images may fall. This is bad for photographers.

  • PRO. Compared to a lot of other professions, location still matters in photography. Unlike manufacturing or even engineering, you can't outsource a wedding or sporting event shoot to workers in a low-wage country. The work needs to happen where the event being photographed occurs.

  • CON. The previous argument doesn't apply at all to product photography. This can happen anywhere, including low-wage countries.

  • CON. Digital photography lowers the barrier to entry in the profession. It's easier than ever for a novice to hang up shingle and get started. It is easier for a novice to produce a commercially acceptable 16"x20" finished print using a digital workflow than using film and a traditional chemical process. (One reason is the immediate feedback. Exposure can be more experimental with digital imaging.) And I think we all expect the cost of high-res digital cameras, computers, storage media and network bandwidth to fall in price. Lower barrier to entry means many more photographers will be vying for the fixed pool of work in the future. Will photography become like acting and pro sports where a few celebrities make it and 99% of everyone else starves?

  • CON. Digital photography makes it easier for nonprofessionals to do perform some photographic tasks, reducing the need for dedicated photographic professionals. For example, real estate photography is often done today by real estate agents (who are too cheap to pay for the better results provided by professional photography). Sales of digital SLRs are expected to explode in the next 3-4 years. Professional photographers will be behind only a tiny fraction of the purchases.

What is the dpreview consensus on the whether photography will continue to be a reasonable place to make a living? I am especially interested in the opinions of working professionals.

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