Will photography become a 'dead horse'?

Started Apr 12, 2012 | Discussions thread
Veteran MemberPosts: 3,675
Re: Will photography become a 'dead horse'?
In reply to Antal I Kozma, Apr 13, 2012

Antal I Kozma wrote:

Fearless_Photog wrote:

I feel like anyone who would present this idea must have a pretty rudimentary understanding of still photography. If you think about the broad range of subjects photography covers, and what is required to produce various types of images, you won't come to this conclusion.

Although I agree with the above quote I do have my reservation for photography, still that is, in general.

The digital age itself has already put a big dent into photography as a business from which many skilled photographers made a decent living for quite a few decades. It is simply not what it used to be as a business. The onslaught of highly automated digital cameras made tens of millions of extra "photographers" that one way or the other compete for the same slice of the pie. They seriously interfere with the bread and butter business of photographers who studied for years to enter into a profession.

It sounds like you feel entitled to the "bread and butter" of the old reality, which can be taken as offensive. You are no more entitled, nor are those "who studied for years" than are the newcomers. Photographers who make this complaint apparently don't know something that other business people have known for all those decades: You have to benefit from or erect some sort of "barrier" around your business model to keep someone else from outright copying you and thus commoditizing you. For a long time photographers were extremely lazy in that they relied on the cost of equipment/processing to keep out less well heeled entrants and also on guarded personal relationships. The latter is still a tool for some, but the former is no longer really a concern. Basically, photographers who failed to create some barrier and/or unique appeal for their service have been commoditized. Furthermore, it has been discovered that our clients apparently never had any real taste to begin with, because many of them (and I'm afraid it's a majority) cannot tell that which is technically incompetent from that which is mediocre from that which is superior. That means that as an "old" photographer you failed to educate your clients on what is good and why they should want it. Perhaps you did not personally, but you are arguing on behalf of those who failed in this way... I studied photography "for years" as you said as a student in the mid 90s, and I was thus lucky to be in an age group that learned film very seriously and yet also got into digital as it was still nascent and grew with it. I don't romanticize the film process like some do. Yep, it was fun and rewarding and glad I did it, but frankly I'm glad I don't have to deal with the mess of maintaining darkroom access. With exception of true b&w prints, there is little that digital cannot do better at this point--I say this with regard to stills; for cinema I think there are some applications where film is still superior. Photography was never a "profession" in the sense that your entitlement argument implies, because it was never licensed.

Anyway, as long as we have PR folks and "art directors" who never look at anything larger than large thumbnails and thus cannot tell that their $100 photographer is not even capable of focusing their equipment or preventing unwanted blur (not to mention awful lighting, cheap optics and other technical flaws) then standards for media will continue to fall.

On the other hand: The golden lining is that the very best photography is now better than it ever has been. So you can lament the passing of the old "elite," but the new elite shoots just as well if not better, even if this new elite is smaller in terms of bank account. Is the combined old/new elite shrinking as a percentage? Yes, I would definitely agree with you there; the market is flooded with incompetent amateurs marketing themselves as "professional photographers." But since you are not entitled and are making bad business arguments, you clearly don't deserve the "bread and butter" they are stealing from you any more than they do. There is no license in this "profession," so they are as "professional" as you are relative to that which they steal from you.

I can see that in the future digital video will further decrease the percentage of still life photography. Simply, sheer cheapness and commercialism will choose one of those thousands of frames that a video camera recorded as opposed to composing, setting up and skillfully executing a few dozen images during a day of shooting session.

Again, the real problem here from a business standpoint is not the flood of low cost new entrants. It is the lowering of standards on part of the buyer . A buyer with standards would clearly appreciate that video and photo have completely different approaches and produce different results when taken as a still.

Best to all still photographers and a whisper quiet hello to the video camp, all in all they are the future, as bright as it will be.

Yes, photographers should have some video skills and vice versa. But again, if the buyer has standards they would only accept a well produced video that has a larger production footprint and cost than an equally acceptable stills photographer, who can even in a "heavy" stills production get away with far less powerful lighting and rigging. So lament all you want about cheap newcomers, but the real problem is that the art buyers are tasteless and prefer low price to quality. The old reality tended to dissuade them from the very worst quality in many cases, but that is over. It is a more of a free market now.

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David Hill
San Francisco & San Jose, CA | Austin, TX
Wedding Photographer and Apparent Gearhead

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