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Reality Check: Professional Photography Is Going Away

Posted By Talbert McMullin On August 23, 2012 @ 12:33 pm In Business of Photography | 129 Comments

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Okay, folks, it’s reality check time. Empty your minds of whatever you think photography has been in the past. It’s time to consider what the future will bring.

I have a friend, David, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday. David is, understandably, old school. He remembers the days when he would go into a closet to process his own film and prints. I asked him why on earth he went to all the trouble, to which he replied that there was some sort of magic seeing his images come to life. He had a certain amount of pride when he captured a moment in time, something no one else in his neighborhood knew how to do. David has vision issues at his advanced age, so he now uses a simple point-and-shoot digital camera. He and I have had many conversations about the future of photography.

My view? Professional photography is going away. That’s right, going away. I can’t say it is going to happen today, next week, next month, or even next year, but at some point in the future it will. Fact: The transition has begun. You cannot change it; you can only adapt. Before you wet your pants, please notice I did not say all photography is going away, only professional photography. Ignore or distort the facts at your own peril!

Technology is on the move at an ever-increasing pace. Values, tastes, perceptions, the way we communicate and the economy are all changing. Reality check: These are factors you cannot control, so get over it.

Technology Puts Better Photos in the Hands of Amateurs

In the old days, we loaded our cameras with film, took the shots, processed and printed the film. Suddenly, digital processors replaced film. Now we load our digital cameras with memory cards, take no heed of film expiration dates, forget the number of exposures on a roll, and have no need to worry about how many rolls we brought along with us on a certain day.

My little Panasonic point-and-shoot will take hundreds and hundreds of photos one after another on a single memory card, and it rivals the quality of my Nikon SLRs! That is an amateur photographer’s dream, but unfortunately it is not as beneficial for the pros. Suddenly, the playing field is level for everyone. Technology has not yet put pros out of business, but it is setting the stage — even our mobile phones have cameras!

Photography is a numbers game, in that only a certain number of your shots will be professional quality. The more shots you take, the more professional quality shots you will get. This means that any moron with a good camera can shoot and shoot and shoot, and eventually get a prizewinner. He may receive an honorable mention in a photo contest, or sell a photo for use in a brochure, then thinks he has the right to call himself a “professional photographer.”

With the advent of computer technology, the days of processing our film and prints are gone. Most photographers show their work online and rarely make prints. Any who still do so are a true exception. A multitude of websites and programs have been created that allow you to post and share photos with anyone. And anyone can edit (or over-edit) their work, online or offline, using software. Why bother with expensive prints?

Easier Photography Means Fewer Customers

Tastes, attitudes and values are changing as fast as technology. Photography has become a fun activity. Cheap digital cameras with good lenses and powerful zooms (and phones with high-powered cameras) take the worries out of casual photography. Unfortunately, such opportunities give many people the wrong perception of themselves and their abilities. Now they have the DIY attitude: “Why pay someone to do something that I can easily do myself and have fun doing at the same time?”

Right or wrong, the public perception of professional photography is that it’s unnecessary, a ripoff, or even fraud. To put it mildly, the average Joe thinks he can do as good a job as any professional, and that professional services are a waste of money. It’s an attitude that’s hard to change because you have no control over it. Then there is the economy, which has been taking a nosedive for the last few years. A lot of would-be photography customers simply cannot afford the services of a professional photographer. Now is not the time for professional photographers to take any financial gambles.

It’s Time to Take Action

In the face of this, I’m making a few changes. I’m cancelling SmugMug when my subscription expires, a quick savings right there. Also, I normally rebuild my website every two years with new templates and photos, but not anymore. Likewise I will not be upgrading my (expensive) computer programs like Photoshop, nor will I be upgrading my computer any time soon. I will not be investing in or updating any of my photo equipment. In short, I will be resourceful and work with what I already have.

Here’s my advice to you: Cut out all expenses that do not bring in money. Say you’re paying $150 a year for a special website to market your work, but it only brought in $100. It’s time to get out. Keep an open mind for changes in the world of photography. Don’t be a sucker for new technology — it will be obsolete before you know it.

Most importantly, ask yourself, “How can I differentiate myself in a crowded field? How easy would it be for another photographer to imitate me and cut into my profits? Is there a way to be unique and not be copied?” In answering these questions you must be realistic with yourself, and that’s not easy to do. Talk things over with a friend or spouse to get another point of view. You may not like the answer, but that input could save your goose.

Finally, take the money you save and stash it. Wait patiently until you are sure the time is right to gamble.

Don’t Wait to Be Left Behind

Are you starting to wonder, “What is the future of photography and the professional photographer?” The answer is unknown. There are so many possibilities. My 90-year-old friend David has seen photography’s past but does not pretend to know the future. All I know is the photography industry is changing quickly into something most of us do not understand. Some professionals will thrive, but the rest will be left behind. The number of successes will continue to shrink until the professional photographer becomes somewhat of an anomaly.

Right now, for me, I teach photography classes to individuals and groups who wish to learn the basics of old-school techniques and apply them to new technology. I will continue to shoot my digitals, my old Nikon SLRs, and my 4×5 with the realization that very little of my work will be sold. But that’s okay.

Photography is my passion and will always be.

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129 Comments (Open | Close)

129 Comments To "Reality Check: Professional Photography Is Going Away"

#1 Comment By Chris – Smudged Photo On August 23, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

What a depressing and miserable outlook.

This whole article seems to say that the one and only reason you used to be able to make a living as a photographer was that it was difficult and expensive for the amateur to do, not that they liked your photos or that your images were the ones that they liked the most, but merely the fact they had no tools to do it themselves.

Nothing about style or vision or ability to capture emotion or a moment, just that numbnuts Joe Public couldn't load a film or count exposures. I imagine this type of thing was written with the advent of film, then with the advent of digital. It's always the death of photography.

The only way to make a living is to show exceptional work that is better than people can get with their phones and point and shoots, show them the value of hiring a professional. Yes everyone can use their phone to snap a quick photo and apply an instagram filter to it.

If the only thing that set you apart was the fact that you could load a film camera up, then yes I imagine amateurs will be taking similar photos to you. If all that sets someone apart is that they know how to use a digital camera on manual then yes you'll struggle to make a living. It's about more than that now.

Yes digital has levelled the playing field but there's no substitute for experience and vision and everyone has their own which is what makes it so exciting. You're hired by people that match your vision and are excited by your photography, and not just people that are coming to you because you know how to process in a dark room. If people are getting as good shots on their phone as you are with an SLR then yes I agree it's time to hang up the camera.

#2 Comment By Michael Howard On August 23, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

" Are you starting to wonder, “What is the future of photography and the professional photographer?” The answer is unknown. "

Um...you just wrote an article saying it's going away! Is it unknown or is it going away? I happen to disagree with you. I feel photography is evolving and that new markets will open up if we create them digitally. It's not dying it's evolving.

#3 Comment By scott williams On August 23, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

What a pathetic joke of an article.

Professional photography was never about the camera, it's about how you see the world. If amateurs with a P&S can produce the same work you do than you probably never should have been a pro in the first place.

#4 Comment By Lori On August 23, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

I feel sorry for you. What a horribly defeatist attitude you have. Yes, it is true, that being a professional photographer is a struggle these days and we have to compete with the multitudes of amateurs with good quality SLR's more than we used to have to, but here's the thing. The field is not going away - it is CHANGING - and we as professionals in our field are responsible for staying on top of the changes rather than giving up and giving in so quickly as you seem to want to do. It is not easy. You seem to believe that a camera can do the work for an amateur, when that is simply not true.

Professional photographers have something that amateurs don't have - experience and training. I look at the images of friends who are aspiring amateurs and the difference I see between them and those of us who are professionals, is that they have no technique. They have no style. They use shallow depth of field and apply filters in Lightroom to make otherwise boring images interesting. They don't understand light or focus or how to compose images in camera.

The advantage we have of having learned on film, is that we had to learn to do all these things without the benefit of instant images. We had to spend time bracketing, composing, measuring light: all the technical knowledge we gained - something which the new group of Instagrammers will never have to do nor do they care to learn. They will never replace those of us with training and passion.

To be a successful professional photographer, you must continually grow, learn, expand your expertise and your vision - and push yourself. You seem unwilling to do the work that is required and for that reason, sir, I think perhaps you're right - it is time for you to retire.

#5 Comment By Picherthis On August 23, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

Being a professional photographer depends less on the quality of individual photographs and gear, and more on the heart and drive of the shooter. Once you achieve a certain quality level, it becomes about marketing and making smart choices, just like any other business. I think the author is wrong in saying that professional photography is going away, but correct in saying that being adaptive is the smartest way to succeed in a volatile industry. There will always be work for those willing to fight for it, but nothing comes easy.

#6 Comment By Peter Stean On August 23, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

Your premise is that technology makes photography easier and that spells the demise of 'professional photography' (which is a loaded term in itself).

You miss the fundamental point that makes a spectacular photograph stand out from a thousand holiday snaps - the photographer. It's never been about equipment, it's always been about the person taking the photograph...

#7 Comment By Brian Simmons On August 23, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

Everyone can cook, yet professional chefs and nice restaurants abound. Our family eats in most of the time, but there are times and special occasions where we are willing to spend the extra money for the experience of dining out and having nicer food that we typically prepare.

In the same way, even though digital photography has made it easier for the average person to take photographs, there will still be people that understand, desire, and will pay for the services of a professional photographer. Why? Because a professional is going to provide a better experience and result than they would get by taking the pictures themselves. That will never change. If anything, this process is only going to weed out the "bad" professional photographers. If an amateur can take as good or better pictures than the so called "professional" photographer, then that pro will not see a lot of business. But for those professionals that provide something special, their services will always be wanted and appreciated.

#8 Comment By Zack Arias On August 23, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

Yet another load of horse hockey on the BlackStar blog.

I agree with the first commenter. Vision doesn't come in the box with your camera. Skill. Talent. Experience. Tenacity. Vision. Style.

You think what a pro does for a living is all wrapped up in their gear and software? Are you kidding me?

You forgot to mention we should be building underground bunkers and learning how to farm the land and raise rabbits.

Cheers,
Zack

PS - Smugmug. I'm not even going to comment about that.

Black. Star. Sinking.

#9 Comment By Jay B. Wilson On August 23, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

I also disagree with this assessment. If anything, I believe putting more photography tools and social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, have increased the public's appreciation and interest in photography as an art form, and thus their willingness to pay for quality. When I put professional images up, either my own or linking to others, on Twitter and Facebook, the response is extremely positive. And because the amateur photographer base is widening, more people have an appreciation for how difficult this work is to accomplish - sure, they can take some pretty need photos on their iPhones, but those images aren't going to hold up when enlarged and printed.

And yes, printing is still popular - I sell printed, matted images at arts shows in the NYC area, and they're as popular as ever. And because Joe Public is taking a ton of pictures himself, its much easier to engage in dialogue with potential customers, sharing tips and tricks, which make them appreciate the work, and the photographer, even more.

And it really comes down to the photographer. You are your product. In the end, there have always been thousands, if not tens of thousands, of excellent photographers in this country, what sets them apart from another is a positive customer experience, from engagement, establishing rapport, building trust, and delivering work that blows a client away.

I don't see any of that in this post, so yes, if you're a professional with this negative outlook, you might as well pack it in.

#10 Comment By Todd On August 23, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

I do not agree with, well any of of this. Do you actually have any idea what a professional photographer does? They don't roll in with a camera, take a few shots and call it day. Shoots are longs, whether they are commercial,editorial or even weddings. Photography is hard damn work. You must have patience, vision, leadership, troubleshooting skills and a sense of humour(most important)

Yes camera technology is getting better but it always has been! Camera's continue to evolve every day,month, year. That doesn't mean companies don't see value in someone who can get exactly what they want.

There will ALWAYS be clients who see the value in a great photograph. bad economy or not.

You need to really look at what you wrote here and see how insane it actually sounds.

and for the last time TECHNOLOGY DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER. hard work does. plain and simple. I don't care how good your panasonic point and shoot camera is(probably not that great, come on seriously??) it's about talent, vision and hard work. plain and simple

#11 Comment By Jerry On August 23, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

I'm sorry but this article is nonsense. It's so negative towards the art.
What you've basically said is broadly speaking: people can now afford cameras that take decent quality images allowing them the opportunity to have some good shots to their name. You say technology allows them to mark a professionals take as unnecessary - they can do it themselves. I disagree.
I'm a 20 year old living in a small town in Ireland, I intend to develop much further as a photographer, to constantly learn and do new things where I can. I believe when you study the art, realise what makes a good picture, practice, practice and practice - over and over. You grow as a photographer and produce content that is of the highest quality that people will subsequently hire you for, to reproduce that same level of skill and knowledge on their project/jobs... That's why you become a professional. That's why that work will be there for professionals. It's not the camera that makes one stand out, it's the man/woman behind it.
Try for some positivity about the art form.

#12 Comment By Kevin On August 23, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

"All I know is the photography industry is changing quickly into something most of us do not understand. Some professionals will thrive, but the rest will be left behind."

Exactly. Adapt or die.

"Professional" photography isn't going anywhere. Nothing stays the same.

#13 Comment By GeekiFlyed On August 23, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

I don't think true, professional photography is going away. Technology is definitely causing a rapid change in the industry but I do believe it is completely for the better.

The biggest change I see is that the truly professional and truly outstanding photographers are having to push themselves harder to really hone their skills and develop a good niche. Gone are the days of being a lone, local photographer with no competition, having a nice studio, and charging $150 for an 8 x 10 print of a senior, baby, or family. And honestly, THANK GOD for this. Many of these "professionals" can't offer the same quality and customer experience as a young photographer with 4-5 years of experience working out of their house and doing natural light photography.

You can still make a great living (and sometimes get rich) from photography even in the current environment. You just have to work A LOT harder to earn the reputation.

#14 Comment By Michael On August 23, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

Couldn't disagree more. In fact we will need people who know what they are doing and have developed vision even more so. Tricks and gimmicks can't recreate great moments. No app can do that. It's like seeing professional music is dead. Changing, yes, but not gone. And I will be there as it changes working my vision and experience.

#15 Comment By Michael On August 23, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

By the way I get great shots on my iPhone, but that's because I'm a photographer. No one else I know posts photos like mine from their phones even tho we have the same technology.o

#16 Comment By Dana On August 23, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

Well....amateurs that suck won't be selling anything either; as the growth of fauxtographers continues to rise, there will be more and more dissatisfied customers and word of mouth spreads like wildfire. It's like anything else; you get what you pay for and if you don't research anything, good luck.

Some people want quality and will pay for it....some people don't and just want "cheap". That's been that way for a long time and will continue to be that way. The difference now is you have a lot more competition and you have to set yourself apart from that. If people follow all the same fads with what's popular in regard to lighting, poses, etc....and especially if they're just average or not very good at it (which is many), then yeah, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.

I highly doubt some clueless amateur with a couple lenses and nice new camera they got 2 months ago would be very effective in a studio or any situations that require off camera flash or balancing ambient and artificial light....they don't have the know-how or experience in how to do this. Most times they also don't have the proper gear for the job. Professionals are paid for their knowledge and experience, and ability to consistently come away with usable work.

#17 Comment By Benjamin Chase On August 23, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

I'm left wondering if this article was written in jest, because surely you must be aware that technical competency is like the kindergarten of professional photography.

Far more difficult is being able to consistently tell a story, even under less than ideal conditions.

Are things changing? Of course they are. I think chiming the death toll of professional photography based on the points you've presented here is very premature.

This is the time that is going to either force everyone in the field to be at the top of their game and effectively run their business, or pull out.

It's not the end of professional photography, not by far.

#18 Comment By Wesley Picotte Wilderness Landscapes On August 23, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

Agreed with Ben and Chris. Technology is a starting point, that's it. I love technology and embrace what it provides, but ultimately it's just a tool that maybe impact methodology. Old school, new school or in between, expression, emotion and story-telling set photographs apart.

#19 Comment By Justiss On August 23, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

Maybe it is more of an opportunity, a shift. All businesses have to be aware of trends within the market - in order to sell your work you must have a business mindset right? The shift is happening with books as well. My family are avid book readers. I couldn't imagine my life without my books. But my mom, a former children's librarian, downloaded all the Hunger Games to her iPad and has fallen in love with eBooks. What does that mean for brick and mortar resellers like B&N and Books a Mill?

There is an obvious shift, but I've seen this shift in the IT world before, it will bottle neck AGAIN and those who can rise to the top NOW will stay at the top when the sensationalism stops. Back in the early 2000's, anyone could go to MCSE bootcamp for $10k and get a cert. I worked in networks for Sylvan and worked next to a guy who had been a roofer. Spent $10k on a 2 week bootcamp and got a job making the equivilent of what I made with 10 years of experience and some college under my belt. It pissed me off, but that's what happened. I don't know where that guy is, but the industry actually made it harder for people to do that when the technology got better. So, while the technology has gotten better and easier to understand. Newbies & Amatuers still have to rely on fixed camera settings before they can fully grasp the technical attributes of creating an image. Something that can take YEARS to learn - even full time.

But being able to produce something that no one else can takes skill + talent + vision. Those are the ones who will set themselves apart and will have risen to the top.

You make sound financial sense and every business has to look into their own needs before spending money to upgrade on anything, that is a no brainer and if you aren't ALREADY doing it - then you should be now. I'm STILL using CS .1 and my iMac is 5 years old. It isn't ready to quit and I'm not ready to change.

I just read a great post today, [2] I think it sums up what photographers need to do in order to get better and better and set themselves apart.

#20 Comment By Denver Photographer On August 23, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

After digging to find your website/portfolio. I can see why you're worried. I also feel like an idiot for reading an article written by a guy lacking skill or talent.

#21 Comment By Robb Davidson On August 23, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

Ah, don't be bitter! Be excited! Here's the thing brother: This new wave of technology is intended for professionals to MOVE up a notch. It is to remove a step in photography that, yes, can create some joy out of processing and seeing the image but more importantly allowing more time to improve the craft. Instead of worrying about having enough time to mix chemicals, agitate, print, organize, store, display and all that other stuff with film...you can spend that time learning new lighting techniques that WILL set you apart from those beginners. I love that anyone can have a digital camera with good quality. It keeps me accountable when I am paid to deliver a better product. If this never happened, we would have plateaued in our art form, never wanting to push the limits.

I can understand that there are some losers that ruin it with their explanation that they call themselves "professionals" after shooting (and possibly ruining) a friends wedding, but you gotta think, that's just more ammo for you to fire with. This is what we call job security when you make this apparent to potential clients. The more negativity you portray and feel from things instead of looking at it as an opportunity is going to show to others, and I will say right off the bat they won't give you any sympathy for it. Don't waste time and energy on something that could be used to your advantage!

Hang tough!

#22 Comment By Scott Gant On August 23, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

I'm not sure you understand where we've come from and where we're heading. Professional photographers have always had to adapt with technology. I've been in the industry now for over 30 years and I've heard about the death of professional photography during that entire time. Instamatics, Poloroids, SX-70's, 1-Hour photomats...all the way to digital.

What millions upon millions of digital cameras in the hands of amateurs cannot do is automagically make them into photographers...no matter how many shots they take. If the best argument you can do is "any moron with a good camera can shoot and shoot and shoot, and eventually get a prizewinner", then we don't have much to fear. Bad light is bad light. Knowing how to get a great image, consistently, takes time and experience.

Another thing professionals have going for them is knowing how to light something. Knowing what to use and what not to use. The aesthetics of an image. And the ability to do this quickly, consistently and professionally. Photos are everywhere. We're hit with them all the time in advertising. In billboards. In posters. In ads...both web-based and print. Product shots. Fashion. Portraits. The list goes on and on and on where professionals are needed, and will continue to be needed.

Are you seriously suggesting that a CEO of a company will just get Joe on the loading docks to bring in his digital camera to shoot some photos for their annual report for instance? Is a company coming out with a new product just going to use someone's iPhone to take a product shot?

We've seen this gloom and doom before. We'll see it again. Why do we still? It's controversial. It gets people coming to this website. It generates page views. I can't fault Black Star for trying to make a buck, but it should all be taken with a grain of salt.

#23 Comment By Talbert McMullin On August 23, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

If you need another opinion, Denver, try contacting a horse-drawn buggy and carriage manufacturer and see how things are going. Offhand, I don't know of any but you can search Google and find out. If that does not work, you can drive down any street in your town and count the number of horse-drawn buggies you see.

#24 Comment By Michele On August 23, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

This is the most negative and untrue article I've ever read. Totally disagree.

#25 Comment By James On August 23, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

Hi: is this your website? [3] Seems to me you have a reason to feel sad

#26 Comment By Anthony Riordan On August 23, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

This is idiotic. Firstly, what's your fascination with horse-drawn buggies and what the hell has that to do with anything? Secondly, professional photography isn't just a product driven industry, it's also a service industry. People hire a wedding photographer or studio photographer because they need somebody with experience and knowledge who can make every shot count not "any moron with a good camera" who "can shoot and shoot and shoot, and eventually get a prizewinner". I think you're just a landscape photographer with a chip on his shoulder because you can't con people out of money with only average landscape photos. Just work harder.

#27 Comment By Frankie Calabro Che’Francois Photography On August 23, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

That's sheer nonsense to think pro photography is on its way out. Sure its easier to take a picture these days, but there is a massive difference between work that people like Zack Arias, Bambi Cantrell,Matt Granger and Jasin Boland from the UK put out over some Craigslist idiot with an ad that he'd shoot anything for a low price.
Whoever wrote this article isnt a pro, and obviously looking for attention.

#28 Comment By Troy Groberg On August 23, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

I have a new title for your post.

"Reality Check: Wannabe Professional Photography Is Going Away"

#29 Comment By E.P. Scott On August 23, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

No. Bad or poorly executed pro photography will go away.

#30 Comment By Zack Arias On August 23, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

@Talbert - Horse drawn buggy comparison? Are you kidding me? You seriously have a strange outlook on this industry.

Black Star -- Y'all need some fresh new blood writing for you. And no... I'm not applying for the position. I'd never want to be professionally associated with this blog. But you need fresh voices all the same. Maybe you could turn it around.

#31 Comment By Rob On August 23, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

Here's a reality check for you: If I run out and buy some Air Jordan's will I play as good as the great one? No. Same deal for photography. I can hop online and buy a D800 and a grip of lens but I'll never be great unless I'm willing to put in as much time shooting and learning as Jordan did training.

If you lose jobs to some punk with a shiny new dslr then it's your own fault. Professional photographers are not threatened by rookies, instead they're helped. Pro's with good work will stand out far above the flood of mediocre work that the newbies will bring to market. Furthermore if a client looks at amateurs work and then at yours and can't tell why spending more cash on the "Professional" would be worth it then maybe it's time you asked yourself why?

#32 Comment By Dvr man On August 23, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

Pro photography is not going away.it may require more skill and be more competitive but professional printing didn't go away with desktop publishing. The hardest part of photography in my mind is imagining the way the photo will look and getting the lighting composition etc all perfect. No camera even the Lytton will do that in the next 5 years.

#33 Comment By Aaron K On August 23, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

This article is ill thought out and wreaks of both defeatism and stagnation.

The premise of the first part is that if you put enough monkeys in a room with a typewriter that they'll eventually produce a masterpiece and therefore spell the end for literary word-smiths the world over. Seriously?

While its certainly true purely by the law of averages, that if you give an amateur a camera and let them take 10'000 shots, they will on average produce a couple of decent photos. However, that's where this blog post, falls flat on its face.

The fundamental difference between an amateur and a professional is consistency. The latter will be able to produce high quality photos time after time, due to their creative vision, technical proficiency, understanding of lighting and adaptability in different scenarios. An amateur will just see something they find interesting, raise the camera to their eye and push the button, with little if anything in the way of forethought as to composition, lighting, shutter speed or aperture. The resulting image in all likelihood will be representative of that lack of consideration.

Yes, cameras are getting better. Technology is moving forwards at an every increasing rate, but so what? Having a more technically advanced camera does not make you a better photographer and the author seems to be drawing parallels that defy logic. Considering the author has been taking photographs since 1970, I find this pretty astounding and a little bit sad. A camera is a tool, plain and simple. Certainly, some are more sophisticated that others but, without a human hand holding it, focusing it and pressing the shutter release, its redundant.

If very little of your work is being sold, ask yourself why? Is it because waves of amateurs with access to cheap digital cameras, flooding the market with photographs are to blame, or is it that your own images do not sufficiently stand out above the crowd because you have failed to continually push the limits of your photographic abilities and creativity? If anything, the mass of mediocre photographs put out there by amateurs should help professionals work stand out, if they are worth their salt.

To give you an example, I know a photographer in my home town who has been a professional for 35 years. While I don't like to talk smack about other's work, in my humble opinion, they are on the whole, heinous. They lack any flair, creativity or passion and its reflected in his work. There is no dynamic lighting and the lack of attention to detail in some cases is pretty damn shocking. I imagine for at least the last 30 years, he's been in a rut. He found a formula that at the time, worked for him. Since then he's been churning out the same images, time after time, using the same tried and tested lighting set-up from the 1980's. The guy is stagnant. He has not evolved. If you don't evolve, then invariably you become extinct. He still does TFP with models. If after 35 years as a professional you are still exchanging your time and expertise for free with inexperienced models to fill your day, then you're clearly doing something wrong.

Its during hard times and those of stiff competition, that businesses have to adapt in order to survive. A photography business is absolutely no exception. Certainly, look at your finances, be sensible with them and make cuts where it is both necessary and prudent to do so but, do not fall into the trap of stagnation and fail to reinvent yourself and your business. If your website hasn't been updated in months or years, who's going to come back to look at it? If you're churning out the same old work, who's going to come to you when the next guy is creating unique fresh looks that customers are looking for.

Its great that after all these years photography is still your passion. However, I find it a bit troubling that you are a teacher of photography and have such a seemingly negative mindset, laying blame at the feet of shutter-bug newcomers and your only solution is to tighten those purse strings and hope for the best. I've been into photography less than 3 years and to date have had my images printed in 4 national photography magazines and short listed in one POTY competition. Has that all come about through aimlessly clicking away on the shutter, or is it as a result of continually raising the bar on my work? I don't have the latest and greatest equipment, nor do I need it. What I have, does the job and the rest is down to me and my subject. I'm not a professional photographer, although I am hoping to become one, with quality and creativity at its heart. If my business were to slow and my images are lack lustre, I already know to check myself - not my gear.

#34 Comment By Patrick Downs (@PatDownsPhotos) On August 23, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

If, as one of the Huxleys said, that we could "put 100 monkeys in front of 100 typewriters for 100 years and they'll type Shakespeare," then with every home containing a PC with wordprocessing why can't most people even type a literate paragraph? Why, with every home containing multiple cameras, computers with Photoshop, and iPhones, are we not inundated with new photography as brilliant as Avedon's, Leibowitz's, or any of the Magnum greats? It's a rhetorical question.

The point being, of course, that it's not the tool that creates the art. It's the artist or artisan. I have one friend who is a master woodworker and with very typical tools creates absolutely stunning woodwork creations. He and I have another mutual friend who is a passionate amateur woodworker with EVERY tool imaginable but who lacks the time and discipline, in addition to training and experience, to create great wood art. See the difference? I know of doctors who own literally one of every Leica made, and can't take a good picture to save their lives.

I know a Pulitzer winner whose favorite camera is now his iPhone and who creates fine images ... because he is a real professional photographer. The tool is only a means. You cannot just pickup a camera and call yourself a photographer. Unfortunately it's like finding a needle in a haystack, getting to the good work buried amid a giant pile of... mediocrity. For some people, the great stuff will stand out even more starkly, and for others, well mediocre will become their new standard or reference.

#35 Comment By Mark On August 23, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

You're so disconnected from reality it's hard to know where to start. It's like you don't actually know what a professional photographer is and does.

#36 Comment By Bjarte Edvardsen On August 23, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

New technology can't replace a photographic voice.
New technology can't replace a true passion.
New technology can't replace thoughts put into a project.
New technology can't replace the ability to truly listen to customers.
New technology can't replace guts & problem solving.
New technology can't replace patience.
New technology can't replace a pair of trained eyes.
New technology can't replace the ability to edit a portfolio and make it better than you ever did.
New technology can't replace the hours spent of looking, looking and looking at photography, both your own and by others which truly inspire and surprise you.

---

Oh, and btw: [4]

#37 Comment By Talbert McMullin On August 23, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

Thank you for your comment, Frankie. I love you too!

#38 Comment By Daniel Ha On August 23, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

Can't wait to read your next post, something like "Reality Check: All Professions Are Going Away". Afterall technology and robots will replace us all and we'll all depend on handouts by smart bloggers like yourself who will never be obsolete thanks to your genius ideas.

Good way to get attention to your blog by the way, cause that's all this article in really good for.

#39 Comment By Worst Post Ever On August 23, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

Does anyone else ever notice how the only people who complain about how entire professions are "going away" are the ones who are failures at them?

LOL

#40 Comment By Levi On August 23, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

This just in - Coca-Cola is now hiring anyone with an iPhone 4 to shoot their new billboard campaigns, and television ads! It's exciting, because YOU could be next!

Or not. It ain't a dying profession. Some people are just dying professionals.

#41 Comment By Gordon M On August 23, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

Just like the time DaVinci gave up painting because more advanced paintbrushes were invented.

(That never happened)

#42 Comment By Paul Dymond On August 23, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

Wow, where do you start to reply to this? Yes the industry is changing, but the belief that equipment is the only thing that separates a professional from an amateur is so far wrong it's ludicrous.

Yes the industry is changing. Yes the over-supply of stock images has meant that prices in many areas are suffering free fall and many big publishers are looking for free or cheap alternatives.

But other areas of photography are totally dependant on professional photographers. Not just for their image quality but for their professionalism in all aspects of their business. Their ability to provide peace of mind that a job is going to be done to a high level every single time.

No you don't have to go to photo school to be a professional but you do have to know how to do a hell of a lot more than just push a button and hope that it works out.

Maybe the days of mediocre professionals with no people skills, questionable business skills and non-existent marketing skills is over but if it is then I won't be sorry to see it go at all!

#43 Comment By Talbert McMullin On August 23, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

Paul, thank you for your comment. However I never said that equipment is what separates pros from amateurs, although most of the comments come from readers who did not really "read" my article. I only said that technology is changing the situation and neither I nor does anyone know where it will wind up.

There is a saying, "Whatever it was that got you where you are today will not keep you there". Apparently most of those who "read" the article read some thing into it that are not there. And most of them will refuse to invent themselves, so they call names and offer nothing better.

All these who have made such nasty comments have proven my point. They refuse to reinvent themselves because they just don't know how.

#44 Comment By Paul Dymond On August 23, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

I'm not sure that reinvention is what's necessary though. For those who produce stellar work consistently and regularly, I would argue that that is what will be the saviour of professional photography.

Certainly the ability of amateur photographers to capture the occasional prize-winning shot (and then try and license that image) has impacted on some segments of the market (stock in particular) and perhaps lowered the perception of the art form in the eyes of some, but I think that will have little to no effect on those clients who have always appreciated quality of vision and the security of knowing that when they hire a professional photographer they will get a publishable product each and every time. More to the point if that professional has a clear vision and style of imagery the client will also know the type of image they will be getting.

That security in itself is what keeps the door open for many people. Knowing that we can create a beautiful image in those 95% of situations when the light isn't perfect, the subject isn't perfect and Murphy's Law is working over time. The pro will get the shot no matter how much brown stuff is hitting the fan. As long as pros continue to show that dedication I don't think there's any need to reinvent themselves at all.

#45 Comment By Rob Feiner On August 23, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

The story goes that Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer approached and asked if he would do a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, swiftly executed the work, and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather significant amount of money. The admirer was shocked: “How can you ask for so much? It took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”

The premise of this blog post is ludicrous. As others have said its not just about the tools it's the experience.

Do us all a favor and leave the profession. You don't seem to have the stomach for it because it's gotten "harder" to deal with the amateurs who think they're as good as pros. It'll will leave more paid work for the rest of us.

#46 Comment By Veronica Salazar On August 23, 2012 @ 11:58 pm

Wait a minute. So now the gear makes the photographer? Are you serious? Of course gear is evolving, but that doesn't mean that photography as a profession is dying. We have better and fater computers, but still we have writers. New and better engines make faster cars, but that doesn't mean that everybody can be a F1 driver. This article totally misses the point.

#47 Comment By Paul Donihue On August 24, 2012 @ 12:23 am

There are some areas of professional photography in which many professionals are suffering. Many pros and studios are shooting less seniors and making less with weddings. In those areas, I believe there is a dumbing down of pro photography. It won't go away, but in those venues many photographers will suffer and possibly leave the field.

There are venues however that this will not happen. There are photography venues which are very profitable and a pro photographer, if he is willing to be open, can be very successful. Many thousands of dollars are there to be made.

We are just finishing a Complete Business Development Turn-Key System for Professional Photographers of just such a venue. It has been very successful to us and to other pros.

"If you keep on doing what you have always done, you will keep on getting what you have always got." It is time to look for those other venues. Don't give up. Don't quit. Throw the box away of your thinking and start to see the tremendous opportunities.

These are great times for professional photography. You can count on it.

#48 Comment By Chris Hood On August 24, 2012 @ 12:35 am

I take this article as saying that the customer pool is shrinking. Not that pro photography is dying. Don't jump on the guy for that. I agree with his basic premise. "the average joe thinks he can do it himself." The person who thinks they can do it themselves were probably not your customer anyway. They never appreciated vision in the first place. I say this for the most part. There are those in that category who may have hired a professional on the past, but won't now because of technology. So be it, but as a pro, we will always have a place BECAUSE of our vision and knowledge and I don't think he disagrees with that. We as pros just have a smaller pond to fish from now and we will be better for it.

#49 Comment By Kevin Wynn On August 24, 2012 @ 12:49 am

"Photography is a numbers game, in that only a certain number of your shots will be professional quality. The more shots you take, the more professional quality shots you will get. This means that any moron with a good camera can shoot and shoot and shoot, and eventually get a prizewinner."

Really? Is that the essence of photography? Gear and equipment cannot tell you how to see and use light, what focal length to use, what angle to shoot from, how to compose, how to anticipate when a moment is about to happen and then the know how to execute.

Technology only lowers the bar to entry, but true skills and talent will always be in demand. Real pros don't need to be worried. The rest should be worried, like this author.

#50 Comment By T.Paul Kuchta On August 24, 2012 @ 1:18 am

The only thing that I have a problem with in this digital world of photography and art shows for photography is the question of these people using or should I say overusing Photoshop, how many photographs are real and untouched be it simple with light room or adding elements that are not there. I feel photoshop is a cheat and cheapens actual photography when you use it for more than touch ups because adding things that arent there you might as well be using paint brushes and canvas then you can be a professional artist not a professional photographer, photography is meant to catch a moment in time and tell a story to those that come after us but if you are using photoshop to make a photo into something that is in your head and not in front of your lens you are lying to not just the future but to yourself. Use your camera and talents of what your eye sees not what your computer aided talents can produce by mixing 2 or more pictures together or even adding in fake elements. I believe a true photographer can stand on his eye and not his computer to tell the story and that anyone that overly uses photoshop needs to make it known that they have done so and not try to pass it off as a "natural photo" I apologize, I ramble when I get upset and this has been my pet peeve since photoshop came out.

#51 Comment By Eric C On August 24, 2012 @ 1:53 am

"…neither I nor does anyone know where it will wind up."

"…My view? Professional photography is going away. That’s right, going away. "

So which is it? Is professional photography going away, or is the future unknown? Because if your view is that the future is uncertain, you've effectively backpedaled from your main thesis and title. I guess a blog post titled 'I don't know what will happen' doesn't get many views.

#52 Comment By Alan Howe On August 24, 2012 @ 6:25 am

Taken from an article on my website...

So can anyone take a landscape photograph these days? I'm sure they can, with the modern range of digital cameras at reasonably affordable prices and a vast array of editing software. Shouldn't be a problem.

So why are my photos different from something you could take?

Well, in some ways they're not. If you stood in the same place as I did at the same time I did then chances are you would get exactly the same photo. But would you want to be stood in the same place at the same time?

Most places I got to are all fairly accessible. Other places are a mile or so walk and can be rather strenuous with climbs over rocks or down steep cliffs. So would you like to tag along and hold the rope for me?

The timing is next. Surely that's a bit easier to manage?

I've been known to crawl out of my tent at 4 am to get to my chosen location in time for the dawn. Day after day, because I wasn't satisfied with the shot I got the previous day. Or climbing up a Tor in late afternoon in summer after a day at the 'normal' job to catch a mediocre sunset and climb down to arrive home after 11pm, knowing I'll be getting up for another dawn patrol in a few hours.
I'll pick you up at 3.30am and drop you home for 11pm. What do you mean you're not coming?

I've lost count of the number of times I've been up for a dawn shoot and it's just got light, or the sun has disappeared behind a bank of cloud to the west at sunset and it got dark. Frustrating, maybe, but when the sky lights up and I'm there to capture it for however brief it lasts it makes it all worthwhile.

Editing next. Surely with the latest editing suite you could take an ok image and turn it into something fantastic?

In all honesty, I wouldn't know. Sure, I use photoshop, but I have no real idea what I'm doing with it. I've been shown a few things like blending and cloning, and I know how to remove dust spots, but dodging and burning? Changing colours? Why would I want to do that? HDR? Not for me thanks. All I want to do is reproduce what the camera captured and my eyes saw at the time. I do my best to get it right in camera.

So that could possibly be where this all falls down, but it's just a small piece of the jigsaw.

So to get the same images as I do, find your location, get up at ridiculous o'clock in the morning to get there and hope the weather plays ball. And then keep doing it until you get the shot you want. Then do it again, and again, and again.

#53 Comment By Alex Ramsay On August 24, 2012 @ 6:46 am

I wouldn't argue with much of what you say; however I certainly don't agree that photography is a 'numbers game', as you put it. My clients employ me because they know that I deliver work to the standard they have a right to expect, on deadline and within budget, regardless of problems with weather, light etc. - those are my problems, not theirs. I shoot both film and digital (I have a major editorial client who insists on film) and like you, take pleasure in using both. For my own work I frequently shoot b/w film, but I then have it scanned and print digitally, using the huge range of fantastic papers that are available - and I would have no problems with using an iPhone, if that seemed to be the right tool for the job!

#54 Comment By Kevin On August 24, 2012 @ 8:19 am

This is the biggest load of bullcrap. Yes the advance of technology have increased the overall image quality and ease of use, which only pushed the average standard higher, mostly from the very bottom. The top end professional work is still only done by professionals who studied their craft and perfected it.

And professional photography is a numbers game?? REALLY? You think people who make their living by doing photography does it by taking lots of shot until they get what they need? I agree that total beginner could get lucky once a while and get a good shot but that doesn't affect professionals because you don't get clients by taking a whole day to get that one shot. Professionals go into the shoot with plans and ideas in their head, there are no LUCK or numbers game.

This sounds like it's written by someone who aren't really into the core of the photography industry. Because no one who actually get how the industry works would describe photography in such a degrading way.

I am sorry but I thought this website is about information and support for photographers. This is just bad because of how wrong the article is and it sounds like the writer actually think they know what they are talking about.

#55 Comment By Mark Mitchell On August 24, 2012 @ 10:00 am

You have no idea scope of skills needed to produce successful professional images.

#56 Comment By tommy peterson On August 24, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

interesting article but this dude is pessimistic. since i started in photography 14 years ago, i've seen advances in photography that in some respects are 100 times or more advanced than when i began. i have also seen people on a daily basis 'entering' the market. i've seen the quality of those who call themselves photographers drop dramatically but i've also seen the quality of professional photographers increase immensely. i've seen my sales increase every year as well. when i got married we paid 600$ (around the time when i first started in photography. now for the same photography i'd be charging 2-3 times that amount. $600 wouldn't get anyone anything from me now in regards to wedding photography. so while there are so many more people doing 'PROFESSIONAL' photography, i am busier than i have ever been as well as making more than i ever used to. i don't agree that it will ever go completely away. i actually thought about this yesterday. the only way it would go completely away is if there were something to completely replace it. for example many people don't have paintings commisioned of them anymore. but unless something completely does away with it it's not going anywhere. i mean who would ever dream 10 years ago charing thousands for senior portraits. now there are many who do. yes many people don't use photographers because of the nice cameras they can buy but no one can buy nice light in a camera or good posing in a camera or good interaction in a camera. there is the human element that will never be replaced. if this is true, i'll gladly find another job to support my family. but no i don't believe professional photography is going away anytime soon

#57 Comment By Brian On August 24, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

Professionals will always exist...just because "Uncle Bob" has the same camera as the pros doesn't mean he is going to deliver the goods.

#58 Comment By Talbert McMullin On August 24, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

@Chris Hood: Thank you for reading the article completely. You are correct. The article is NOT about technology, but when you mention technology, people seem to go ballistic and start drawing incorrect conclusions. The article is about the ECONOMICS of photography. I don't give a damn what format you use to work with nor do I give a damn about how good your work is or is not. I am saying technology is changing the world of photography and how you market yourself is becoming more important than how good a photographer you are.

Yes, the pool is shrinking? What are going to do to adapt to that? I keep seeing comments like, "work harder" and "raise the bar". That is twentieth century thinking and is what got you where you are today and it will not keep you there. Most of you better start working SMARTER. That is the 21st century way of working. So many do not have a clue.

#59 Comment By Aaron K On August 24, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

Talbert, technology has continually changed the world of photography since its inception. Its nothing new. By your logic, the introduction since 1972 of inexpensive Polaroid cameras, compact film cameras and compact digital cameras to the masses, should have meant that professional photography died out years ago. But it hasn't and professional photography is still going strong 40 years later. Why is that?

Photography has become more and more accessible. Virtually every home has one or more camera in various guises, whether it be a DSLR, compact or a camera phone. Despite these devices being in homes for decades, these same people still pay out good money for their kids school portraits taken by a professional. They'll also go to a studio to have a family portrait done, regardless if its printed out to hang on a wall or just uploaded onto Facebook.

They still hire photographers for weddings or christenings. Businesses hire professional photographers to do product photography or to market their company. Why is that? Why don't they all just get a camera and do all these things themselves? The answer is, they are aware that they don't know how to do it to a professional standard. They don't understand the basics of composition, or have any comprehension of lighting. They click away on their cameras and sit there reviewing them thinking "Hmmm, why don't my photos look like the ones in the magazines?"

"Technology Puts Better Photos in the Hands of Amateurs". No. Technology puts better CAMERAS in the hands of amateurs. A top of the line DSLR in the hands of an amateur is going to produce amateur photos, period. Regardless of the flawed "economic" model you are putting forward, one thing that technology cannot provide is talent/skill/ability, call it what you will. So how you can state that professional photography is going away is quite frankly absurd.

The reason why you have provoked so many negative responses to your article is because you have painted this doomsday scenario, laying the blame at the feet of amateurs with good cameras, when history contradicts your theory. Sure, there are people out there with a DIY mentality who think they are the World's best and that professionals are just ripping people off. There always have been people with that mentality and their lack of technical abilities alone are reflected in their work, without even touching upon artistic vision.

Working harder and raising the bar are not outdated concepts at all. By going that extra mile, by pushing the boundaries and paying attention to all the details, you provide the foundation for good photography. Certainly, you can work smarter but in today's world that usually goes hand in hand with newer technologies both hardware and software, that speed up old processes or bypass them all together. Ironically, your article advocates the opposite and just making do with what you already have.

As for marketing yourself, well that has always been important. If you have a budget looking website, then you're probably not going to instil much confidence in those looking at it. However, I disagree with it becoming more important than how good a photographer you are. At the end of the day, if you have a great looking website and land a client but produce totally crappy photographs for them, then you aren't getting paid. Simple. They'll go to someone who's work is consistently good and pay good money for that service.

So one has to ask, are the economics of photography really changing or are your perceptions based upon the fear of masses of amateurs with technologically advanced cameras encroaching on your business, unfounded? Both logic and history would dictate the latter.

#60 Comment By Mike On August 24, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

Professional photography is not about the technology or equipment. It's about the photographer. The photographer's vision and eye for composition will always be what separates the professional from the amateur. There are plenty of crappy amateur photographers using Professional level cameras and producing crap.

#61 Comment By Amie Long On August 25, 2012 @ 11:08 am

I agree with this whole article. I lived in an area where people would rather take photos themselves than pay a pro to take it on a professional level. And in an age where Professional Cameras are at the ease of buying them (without a business license or pro certificate) and any amateur can buy any kind of professional equipment they want. But the statement stands Clear If they dont get trained on how to use it properly then we as professional have nothing to worry about.

#62 Comment By Sandra On August 25, 2012 @ 11:59 am

After seeing some of your work - I can see your concern.

#63 Comment By Carol On August 25, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

OK so tech is changing everything -- so what? It always has done so; it always will. Frankly, I welcome the influx of the amateur photographers. It gives some sort of equity to photography. We shouldn't have to rely on only those who shoot "pure" film or only those who shoot and then "p'shop it" for anything we call art. Digital has freed us from these scripts and will allow anyone who truly *sees* to capture a spectacular image. The amateur photographer can certainly have as much passion and innate talent as the *professional* -- and that's what it's all about.

#64 Comment By Imke Cochran On August 26, 2012 @ 4:27 am

I fully agreed to what Mike just wrote. Being in Dubai since years, where money is not an issue for many, people often have the best gear and still no eye for beauty or composition. Besides that competition makes people try harder to be creative and unique.

#65 Comment By Ari On August 26, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

DIY isn't bad. DIY causes people to learn. I'm an amateur in my own eyes, and I get a few lucky shots as I'm learning the craft, but that luck can never replace the consistency and reliability of a true professional. The auto modes that most people shoot with can only go so far. Professional modes exist because no matter how far technology goes, it is only an extension of the human creative spirit. When you hire a professional, you're hiring a visionary, an artist, not the instrument.

Don't be afraid, pro photography is not going away, new doors are opening.

#66 Comment By Andre Friedmann On August 27, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

Mr. McMullin's understanding fails something the photographers Shere and Gunnarson call -- at their blog one125.net -- "The 1978 Test" .

Way, way back in 1978 the curator John Szarkowski beat Mr. McMullin to the punch in his exhibit, book, and essay titled "Mirrors and Windows":

"Portraits, wedding pictures, scenic views, product photographs, PR photos, architectural views, insurance-claim documents, and a score of similar vernacular functions that were once thought to require the special skills of a professional photographer are now increasingly being performed by naive amateurs with sophisticated cameras. Although for the most part these pictures are approximate and graceless, they answer adequately the simple problem of identifying a given face, setting, product, building, accident, or ritual handshake." John Szarkowski

#67 Comment By Scot Baston On August 27, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

Sorry, but this article is so bad it is almost funny..

please people, believe this tripe and leave the industry to those that care about it

#68 Comment By Paul Donihue On August 28, 2012 @ 1:58 am

Amen! Scott, this has gone on too far. Enough already.

#69 Comment By Rob On August 28, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

Wow. I have to say that you seem to be under the delusion that Photography as a profession is “special” or different and not subject to the same rules as everyone else.

First, in times of great change, hunkering down and sitting still gets you run over. See Kodak. You say this is not the time to take risks, I say these times require risks. More on this later.

Your assertion that cheap/easy technology is eliminating the need for professionals is something I have heard many times before. Desktop publishing and computer illustration were going to eliminate graphic design. Yet the BLS indicates that graphic design employs over 270K people and is growing ( [5]). Desktop publishing on the other hand is facing rapid decline ( [6]) because of the web which is fueling rapid growth in web development ( [7]). “Webmaster” is a job title that has gone from gold to dirt to gold so many times I have lost count but though out the 20+ years of web history the need for PROFESSIONAL developers has expanded despite the rapid move from expensive/hard to free/easy development tools.

I have spent the last 20 years of my life working in the intelligence field and I have heard many times that things like the web, google maps, and faster computers were going to make my job obsolete. After 9-11 it seemed like everyone thought they could be an intel analyst because they read open source “intelligence” and could “do just as good” as an expensive analyst. “Photography is a numbers game, in that only a certain number of your shots will be professional quality. The more shots you take, the more professional quality shots you will get. This means that any moron with a good camera can shoot and shoot and shoot, and eventually get a prizewinner. He may receive an honorable mention in a photo contest, or sell a photo for use in a brochure, then thinks he has the right to call himself a “professional photographer.” Substitute “analyst” for “photographer” and you have the prevailing opinion in the early 2000’s. Funny thing, I still have my job and I am in higher demand today than before. Turns out that when push comes to shove “spray and pray” doesn’t meet what REAL professionals want whether its analysis or photography. They want the right answer 90%+ of the time, not 1% of the time.

My first shoot with a real live “model” was a success mainly because it was her first shoot with a real live “photographer.” We both had very low expectations and we met them. I took a couple hundred pictures, liked about 10 and then proceeded to over process them all. But it was not luck. I stuck with shots I knew I could get - simple poses with simple backgrounds and gorgeous light provided by the overcast skies of Monterey California. I didn’t ask too much of my model, my equipment or me. 18 months later I did a complex shoot with an experienced model involving changing clothes, makeup, light and background with the added danger of shooting waist deep in 50 degree ocean surf at times. I took 250 pictures with over 100 “keepers” and 40 superb shots that I rotate in my portfolio to this day. The entire shoot lasted less than 2 hours. That’s what a professional does. A professional spends 2 hours to give a client 40 images to choose from instead of 4 hours (a week?) to get one or two. I have a reputation for making my models cold, wet and uncomfortable but I have no problem getting them to shoot with me because they know the results will make up for it. Having said that, you can only put your models under a snow melt water fall in a bikini for so long before they call it quits. A professional gets the shot BEOFRE she turns blue because a professional checks out the light a week before to know EXACTLY when it will peek through 200 foot redwoods and hit the water exactly right. As I have progressed as a photographer, I have found that the FEWER shots I take the higher the quality of those shots.

As for risks. Gordon Moore of Intel fame talked about betting the company on the microprocessor business ( [8]) when “everyone” knew that the money was in DRAM. Later he would bet on angering IBM when “everyone” knew that being IBMs partner/bitch was the path to riches. He was right both times. In times of change, those who take risks are the ones who do more than survive, they thrive. Intel used to have a project where they would try to identify places in a house to put microprocessors. This was how they were going to expand – create markets where none existed. Why are you not doing that as a photographer? Who needs images – professional images – who is not buying today? We get so hung up on weddings and babies and forget there is life in between. My son’s high school has about 500 seniors. That’s 500 senior photos. Say you bust your butt and get 25 at $400 each. That’s $10K. Follow up with those senior photo clients for “I got in to College” announcements and graduation announcements. Another $10K, and that is at the low end…..from one school…..in one year. Lots of people shoot weddings, but what about bridal showers? Bachelorette parties? Baby showers? How about reshooting “family” pics after a divorce?

Im sorry your glass is ¾ empty and getting lower. I intend to fill mine up instead of trying to keep I from spilling.

#70 Comment By RAphoto On August 29, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

If you are not a professional making a living at photography, be polite with your comments you may not know what you are talking about. Photography for professionals is changing very fast and many are going out of business. On an amateur level more power to the people who love and express themselves with this art form. But for those who have dedicated there lives, careers and future on the industry don't blame them for being upset with the dumming down of society on quality professional photograhy. Professionals understand light, composition, color and many other things that give clients who "get it" works of art to be cherished through time. This is not to be confused with fun captures that are not perfect but more a documentation of life. Which is equally important.

#71 Comment By J H Peterson On August 30, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

I've been a professional photographer for more than three decades. Ever since I got into the business, I've heard "photography is dead", or words to that effect. I'm not sure I believe this time is any different from the last, or last two dozen!
Though, if truth be told, like almost all creative professions, it has seldom an easy way to make a living. Since the early days, it's usually been a challenge, even more so in the last few years. Between a depressed economy, an evolving publishing industry (most of my work for more than a quarter century, advertising and editorial, has been in print) and new technologies that make it possible for most everybody to get a picture that's "good enough", it's been a "perfect storm" that could make one concede Talbert's point.
Yet I continue to work as a professional photographer, despite knowing my efforts will almost certainly be inadequately compensated (at least compared to doctors, lawyers, investment bankers...), especially in view of the amount of time, money and energy I put into this.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again, but expecting different results. I suppose I've been there a long time now, though I'm convinced I never do the same thing twice.
So, what keeps me going and leads me to believe that better days lie ahead?
Perhaps, it's because I'm stubborn. There's no way I'd still be doing this if I wasn't persistent. Hopefully, I have enough clients who appreciate that fact when a shot proves difficult; I just don't give up easily.
I'm also not a good adapter. That I don't quickly move to the next trend has likely has cost me tens of thousands of dollars, maybe more. I suppose I'm too much an "artist" to ever be "successful", but I also think I've been around enough to know what's in style this season may not be the next. And, I know enough about myself that I wouldn't have done the job to my satisfaction.
Which brings up another point that separates the true professionals from the pack, a sense of integrity. They go the extra distance to bring back "great" instead of "good enough", and everything that leaves their hands is good enough for them to sign. Sure, I could likely spend a tenth or less on my gear and get "almost as good" photos. Maybe my clients wouldn't notice, but I would!
No, my real motivation for continuing to do what I love is, despite having made nearly a million exposures, I haven't yet taken my best shot.

#72 Comment By Talbert McMullin On August 30, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

Mr. Peterson, if anyone can survive in this profession, it's you. You take a realistic view of both the market, your abilities, and yourself. How refreshing!

Pity so many others do not. I wish you the very best.

#73 Comment By John Copeland On August 31, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

This blog author is a very average landscape photographer that doesn't "create" but instead "captures" and therefore has reason for his dismal outlook..."capturing" has a lot more competition than "creating"

However many of the people that comment fail to see that much of what he says is true. Tools are important, and there is a lot that come bundled in every camera available today. Training is still important...but it is available for free on youtube for anyone that wants it....and as we do know...today everyone is a "photographer" and they can find instructions for doing just about every possible type of shot online.

The realization of "Vision" and "Story telling" used to require special technical skills and usually relatively expensive equipment. Art directors needed knowledgeable photographers to bring the "Vision" and "Story" to reality. Today the art directors, stylists, makeup artists and even models... can do 80% of anything that needs to be done photographically themselves....it might not be as well done as a skilled professional, but they can always "Instagram it" to give it a "Look". Today's cameras are so good, we "dumb them down" to make them look better.

True the "cream always rises to the top" and there will always be superstars and photographers in demand that do things really differently and creatively, but photography as a profession is like everything else today. It is "low fat" and the layer of cream will never be as thick as it once was. Is this so bad? For many it is, or will be, if they currently want to, or currently make their living as a photographer.

To survive you just have to be better, smarter, more creative and work harder.

#74 Comment By Rogelio Hernandez-Sanchez On September 11, 2012 @ 5:33 am

WOW... did the teacher of photography who wrote this article had a bad day at work or what?

A good photographer will always find people willing to pay good money for his/her work. That is the bottom line. This applies not only to beautiful artistic pictures of which a single shot might be worth thousands over thousands of dollars, but also to the more day to day photography like journalism or sports.

For the beautiful one off pictures like the Ansel Adams or Elliot Erwitts of the world, I can draw an simple analogy.

The pencil and the paper.

The pencil and paper or similar forms of them have been available to human kind for centuries. Yet, only a handful of creations using those materials can be considered art, unique, beautiful.

The Kodak camera came and went, and yet, not every picture taken with it was a great one, and yet many pictures taken with them were fantastic. It is not the camera... it is the eye behind that camera.

Does Instagram and such create a false sense of being an artist.... sure, of course, just like a Porsche can make a 60 year old fat man that he is Ayrton Senna. But assure you, that th 80,000 sticker price did not include the talent.

This for the artistic side of it, but for the daily stuff, like journalism, like paparazzi, like war zone photographers, there will always be a need for their work.

Or could we say that because "lawn mowers these days are cheap and easy to operate, no one will ever hire a landscaper anymore?" Or because cars are cheaper and easier and safer to drive, no one hires a taxi, a driver, etc?

Or because microwave food is cheap and easy, then no one will ever go to the restaurants any more?

See how ridiculous it gets?

The writer of the article forgot about something, our professionalism, our talent, our hard work that still gets rewarded, just as much as a bus driver gets remuneration for his trade, just as much as Mozart used to get favors from the king for his trade and talent.

It is as simple as that. No iPhone, no lumia, no Coolpix or PowerShot will ever take the place of a dedicated journalist that knows how to be on the right place at the right time, or of a talented artist that can draw an indelible image on a digital sensor using light, shape and the idea in his/her head.

#75 Comment By Troy Groberg On September 13, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

There is something that I learned early on studying photography in college: Cameras don't take photos, photographers do.

When a camera is able to judge content and composition as well as a good photographer you will be right. Until then, I'm still betting on good photographers.

#76 Comment By CzrArt On September 13, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

Technology does not matter.

What matters most is your approach, your creative, your style, your story. And all of these come from your within you, from your thinking, from your mind. Technology is just a tool used to manifest your approach/creative/style/story and nothing more.

For instance:

"See examples at A $150 vs. a $5,000 Camera. See what great shots can be made with an obsolete $200 Canon A620, and see what I shot back in 2001 with my first crappy Sony FD-88 floppy disc camera. See what I shot in 2008 on a pocket camera, or in 2003 on one of Canon's cheapest digital point-and-shoots at the time.

"See renowned pro Chase Jarvis' art book, The Best Camera, shot entirely on his iPhone. See the online eork shot exclusively on his iPhone.

"If you can shoot well, all you need is a disposable, toy camera or a camera phone to create great work. If you're not talented, it doesn't matter if you buy a Nikon D3X or Leica; your work will still be uninspired.

"It's always better to spend your time and money on learning art and photography, not by spending it on more cameras.

"Why is it that with over 60 years of improvements in cameras, lens sharpness and film grain, resolution and dynamic range that no one has been able to equal what Ansel Adams did back in the 1940s?"

Source: Your Camera Doesn't Matter by 2011 Ken Rockwell - [9]

Reality check?

The mistake is to think that technology can replace your approach/creative/style/story. In other words, that it can replace your thinking. To be a professional requires you to think, to think smartly, and a point-and-shoot Panasonic or an iPhone or a Canon Mark III... will not do that for you.

And that's where the line is drawn: To think or not to think. And For those that are creative thinkers, professional photography is here to stay.

#77 Comment By Rick On September 18, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

I think this guy is not far wrong. He doesn't sound beat up to me, but his assessments are pretty close to reality. I am a pro and I'm not giving up by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't hear this guy advocating that. I think his comments are valid and I see the evidence of what he is saying every day. I continue to innovate and make myself relevant but I think the guy is right in the sense that 90% of what we used to do as professionals has been totally marginalized or eliminated by amateur digital shooters. Rates have plummeted and while anyone can point to this guy or that gal that still commands top dollar, for the vast majority of us....business is slow, and budgets are low. We hit a home run, then spend two months trying to get another good job. It's up and down, cut expenses and then cut them again. It's a crappy economy and although I am grateful for the business I do have, it is so slow most of the time I continually have to invent new ways to stay afloat. All this while keeping up the "illusion" for other photographers that biz is good. As photographers, we are good at creating unreality from reality and with digital means, that has gotten very easy. Reality is, business sucks...but quit...no way....I love what I do! Give this guy a break. He's only telling it like it is. My two cents.

#78 Comment By Si Young On September 21, 2012 @ 4:33 am

..and just look at how quill pens have been replaced by word processors that can correct grammar and spelling. I mean, everyone has one of these now, I think professional storytelling through the medium of words is now dead as everyone can write a good story... But the thing is, we can't all write good stories or take good pictures can we...?

Si

#79 Comment By Si Young On September 21, 2012 @ 4:35 am

..in support of some of the original article, I agree that amateurs now have the ability to take better technical photos and more interesting processing can result in better pictures. I wonder if this makes the amateur more appreciative of what can be achieved and the difference between a good photographer and a poor one? The amount of photographers attending training courses seems to be on the up.

#80 Comment By Beatsy On September 24, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

May I draw a parallel with another hobby...?

Metal detectors have got better over the years in the same way that DSLRs and P&S cameras have.

Funny that the same 'experienced people' (aka pros) still make the most interesting and/or profitable finds!

#81 Comment By Jesselynn On September 28, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

Wow, I disagree wholeheartedly with this article. First of all, I disagree about the market shrinking. If anything, in the age of Facebook and tons of wedding blogs everywhere that make it easier for photographers to shine, I've found that the pool is bigger than ever! I am based in England currently, but I receive clients from the States, Asia, and the Middle East on a regular basis, many of which have found me through Facebook or word of mouth. Globalization has made it such that I am no longer shackled by my geographical location.

As for amateurs taking away business from me, I find that just as there are couples who are on a budget and would rather have Uncle Bob take their pictures for $50, there are also always couples who treasure quality work and want to ensure that their wedding day is captured by someone who is dependable and knows what they are doing. Most of the enquiries I receive start off with something like "I've seen the pictures on your website and I love the way you work with natural light." I can't work with backlight with my compact camera. Maybe I just haven't tinkered about with it too much, but my Canon DSLR in my and my clients' eyes yield significantly better results than a compact camera can. If a photographer claims that his DSLR and his compact camera are yielding the same results, I would ask him to read the manual for his DSLR and do more practice runs.

Just as there are many different types of photographers, there are many different types of clients. If your client base is people who are looking to save a quick buck or two by skimping on quality, then I would probably concede to you that they are being snatched up by the amateurs who are willing to cut a cheap deal for them.

Other than that, I thank social media for much of my success and am always on the lookout for the next big thing and how I can make it work for me, not against me. =)

#82 Comment By James On October 1, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

I agree, it is going away. You may be lucky enough to be in one of the small remaining pockets but it is going away. Digital has change the rules and misguided people believe that they are all as good as pro's because the camera manufacturers tell them so.

Every industry ends up eating itself. It's now the photography industries turn.

#83 Comment By Beatsy On October 12, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

It (the market) is not going away - dammit! It's simply evolving!

And the scope and number of 'pockets' is increasing exponentially too! Opportunities abound( for those who don't expect things to continue 'as they always were')...

If you can't turn a dollar in today's environment, then you're too long on technique and too short on hustle! Know what I mean?

#84 Comment By James On October 12, 2012 @ 11:05 pm

Anyone can take a picture now mate, it's over. Adapt or fade away as they say. The rules of the Jungle. Thats why I adapted and changed profession.

Richard Branson closed his record shops and got out at the right time. He saw Ipods on the horizon as people started to buy their music online.

Thats a sign of a good business man, get in and get out at the right time. Read the warning signs, it may not be happening to you yet but it will be once the last waterholes dry up.

Had the same conversation with a mate last year who said that he had plenty of work at his studio. He wouldn't accept it neither, he closed his studio a month ago. Should have got out quick like me. Not good flogging a dead donkey.

#85 Comment By Andre Friedmann On October 12, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

The photography business has always attracted to its ranks people who
1 quickly deploy a non-sustainable business model
2 grab for any dollars above zero
3 argue that any sale, at any price, is better than no sale
4 attempt to reinvent their business into another (more-sustainable) model
5 bail out when they tire or, maybe, retreat to a less-exposed position in an ancillary business.
I've seen this since *before* I ran into trouble in Indochina in 1954.

#86 Comment By Charles On October 13, 2012 @ 11:48 pm

Refer back to the great Italian violinist Nicolo Paganini. He went onstage to perform, but someone had given him the wrong violin: not his favorite. Still, he gave a great performance. When he came offstage he was asked how things went. He said "I have learned that the music is in me, not in my violin".
Same with photography.
No camera, no matter how expensive and with how many bells and whistles, can teach you how to use depth of field, or how to exploit light to your advantage. And there never will be a camera like that. Same with Photoshop or other editing software.
The image is in the photographer.

#87 Comment By bryan denver photographer On October 17, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

my thought is that there is so much crap photography out there that people are starting to realize the value of a pro

#88 Comment By James On October 17, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

Thats the big one Bryan. The client is the one who has to recognise the difference, I agree.

However, this type of client is disappearing fast. we see today very wealthy people accepting very poor photography.

#89 Comment By bryan -denver photographer On October 17, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

@james thats my point i believe that there will be a swing back

#90 Comment By Si Young On October 18, 2012 @ 5:49 am

I'm with you Bryan, I've just had my busiest summer for weddings.

#91 Comment By James On October 20, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

@Bryan. I hope so, everything goes around in circles. Most of the weddings I failed to get this year weren't because the client used another photographer but because they went without one period.

But when things pick up I will have been long gone from this business. I wont be looking back, It's still a shame though as I spent many years studying photography and trying to get a business of the ground.

When I announced my departure many of my photographer friends admitted that they were in a dire situation. It's the same for many business's at the moment not just photography.

Though I do believe that photography is suffering from a double whammy at the moment, technology replacing skill and knowledge and the recession.

#92 Comment By Rhonbo On November 8, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

Call it what you want but the ability of someone to make a good living at photography is getting harder and harder. To be a professional IMO means to make a living at it. You might be a great photographer but unless you very good at marketing yourself your unlikely to survive with photography as your sole source of income. Part time work is where most of us are at. Otherwise it is a hobbie that we enjoy, nothing wrong with either.

#93 Comment By Jbates On December 24, 2012 @ 6:06 am

I think we need to be a bit careful about demonising technology and equipment. There is a good reason why most of the world leading photographers are shooting through £2000+ lenses. On the flip side it's not the be all end all of photography and it mainly comes down to creative vision. It's a bit like cooking. We do it everyday but only a tiny proportion have invested the time to become great chefs. However the best chefs still need high quality equipment in order to consistently achieve great results.

I find it hard to believe that anyone who takes photography seriously is relying on a iPhone as a tool. I think claims like this are almost an inverted form of snobbery. It's like saying I've won a major prize and now I'm soooo damn good I can do this on a phone, look at me im reeeeal. I kind if hate that.

#94 Comment By Jbates On December 24, 2012 @ 6:39 am

Really interesting comments above. Personally I think it's nonsense to suggest that you don't need high end equipment. How the hell is a top wildlife photographer going to start shooting on an iPhone. He/she may have all the creative vision in the world but sadly that £5000+ lens is in the bag for a reason. Another example - low light. Without a big aperture and a high quality chip those shots are going to be nosier than a 747 on take off! I get slightly tired of successful photographers running around in public around telling everyone they could shoot just as well on a £50 camera before running back to their HD4. It's a kind of inverted snobbery aimed at making them look "cool". It's an ego driven statement that says i'm so good I don't even need good equipment. Total BS IMO...

I also believe that the vision required to become a great photographer is a very common trait in humans. Most of us are able to look at things from an artistic perspective. It's only those who invest the time AND money into getting this onto paper exactly as they want it who stand a chance of becoming successful.
So in a world where millions of people are taking creative shots on iPhones, surly the gap for pros is to invest in right gear to raise you above the competition and ensure consistently perfect results.

#95 Comment By Barry Sutton On December 26, 2012 @ 10:52 pm

Talbert,
No doubt this article exposed a deep sensitivity on the issue. One thing for certain: Technology has played a big part in changing the industry. That may be a broad statement, but look at the carnage. Everyone knows what happened to Kodak. But you are correct that technology lowered the barrier to entry. Photographers were always part artists part scientists. Once the technology took away the need for knowledge of chemistry and principles of light and camera mechanics, art directors adapted to their shrinking ad budgets by shooting things themselves, and so on, and so on. So, as more and more amateurs began adding to the pool of images worldwide, the aesthetic changed. Today's art directors a growing up on the amateur aesthetic and lack an appreciation of beautiful photography. More an more kids spilling out of art schools looking for work, stock brokers and insurance salesmen buying cameras and getting into graduation and wedding photography and the so the story goes. I have heard it called the commoditization of photography. Price is the only differentiating factor now. So, hard working, aspiring, inspired photographers out there, we are all part of the problem and the solution. There are clearly too many photographers (and I use that term loosely) to meet the commercial need. You can't deny the change as Talbert has correctly (boldly, depressingly) stated. All we can do is be dedicated to mastering our craft, promoting quality work by creating it first and look for ways to innovate. If success comes, enjoy it while it lasts. And as you have aptly reminded us, if you love photography do it with love. The times they are a changin.'

#96 Comment By Andre Friedmann On January 3, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

In the matter of equipment, the great Garry Winogrand conceded the use of an SLR, a telephoto lens, and Kodachrome film: he had a potential opportunity to license an art director, iirc, a color photograph of a sunset.

#97 Comment By Jbates On January 3, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

I still think their is plenty of money to be made from photography. The landscape across all creative media has changed and the professionals are having to adapt and become much more business minded. If I wanted to be a professional photographer in this world I'd position myself as a trend setter within a particular niech and ensure that I had a substantial digital following for my images and style. Brands and agencies lap that kind of stuff up. Be more than a guy who presses the button, use things like social to its advantages instead of blaming it for the demise of the old school.

#98 Comment By morgonzobean On January 9, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

...professional photography is currently upwardly trending at the same rate as all other upwardly trending professions and is projected to continue well through 2018 - i.e., indefinitely. Take your bitterness of others' pursuits of passion somewhere else.

#99 Comment By azdustdevil On January 14, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

Morgonzobean: Please post the sources of your claim. I would love to read it and so would everyone else.

#100 Comment By lionel taylor On January 30, 2013 @ 2:05 am

I couldn't agree more, I think most of the people who wrote back to you are missing the point, I know of a person who was given a job on a cruise-liner taking photo's of passengers, just setting her s l r on auto she has since left the job and is in the middle of setting herself up as a professional-photorapher.

#101 Comment By Ben On February 4, 2013 @ 2:22 am

Its not about the equipment, Pfft, Have'nt seen any box brownies around for a while. Of course its about the equipment, go and have a look at any discipline that requires a camera. Have a look at the lenses manufacturers put their elite coloured rings around.

#102 Comment By Tom McDermott On February 6, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

FOR NOW, the pro-studio is all but dead, due to the new national motto, "it'll do".. America is all about CHEAP, equalling mediocrity. The number of studios that have closed in the last 5 years is unbelieveable. I have been a pro since 1966,(weddings, schools, cruise liners, etc.) and have had a studio since 1981. It was ALWAYS changing, and always will. The term photograph means "a picture created with/by light". He who controls the way light affects a subject BEFORE pushing a button, and the interaction or lack-of, IS the photographer, and amateurs armed with the best camera gear will be photographers,,, but NEVER will they , or their pictures , be of Professional standards. As the pros disappear,and the void filled by Best Buy amateurs that charge money, a sad reality will come upon the world in 50 years when there is no real record of families, babies, graduates, weddings, and LARGE family groups that NO amateur can capture adequately to create family heirlooms that hang above the fireplaces.
May Kodak and the rest RIP........

#103 Comment By Talbert McMullin On February 7, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

"FOR NOW, the pro-studio is all but dead, due to the new national motto, "it'll do".. America is all about CHEAP, equalling mediocrity."

Interesting comment Tom at just the right time. Tuesday night, my wife and I went to the church to have our photos taken for the church directory. The lady who was doing the photography was holding in her hands the very latest Nikon DSLR. I asked her how long she had been a professional photographer.

"EIGHT MONTHS!", SHE SAID.

Wow! Eight months. I asked her if she had ever shot 4x5.

"WHAT'S 4X5?", she asked.

#104 Comment By Andre Friedmann On February 7, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

Photography's closing in on two centuries. If there's any one thing I've witnessed in my few decades of work, it's technology constantly reducing barriers to entry. Any commercial artist with a vision that can be fulfilled by anyone operating a late model tool is a commercial artist not long for a livelihood.

#105 Comment By Tom McDermott On February 7, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

Years ago, a close friend said,"If I had a pro-camera like yours, I could take pictures just as good as you". So, I had him stop by my studio, put him behind a film-loaded Mamiya RZ67, sat my son down on a posing stool, and told him to shoot away,,,AFTER I shut all the studio lights off.THAT'S when he learned that LIGHTS, and the knowledgeable use of them, makes the picture.PHOTO, in Greek/Latin, means LIGHT, not camera....PS:I still do some Seniors and kids, but for the fun of doing it on Green Screen. Yes, I still get paid.

#106 Comment By Ben On February 7, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

What a bunch of negative wingers - "the worlds changing and I dont like it, and everybody who doesnt travel the same road as me is an imposter".

The world has changed and we now have more choice than ever as photographers and clients, adapt or move on.

Exclusive access to equipment (by entry cost) doesnt guarantee the best operator. Give everybody a go and lets see who floats to the top. In the 21st century the people that recognise your product as being quality will pay for it and the people that couldnt care less or dont understand, well they will shop for price.

And its this group of people that you are all winging about, because in the past they had limited price choice - to a certain extent photographers had a trapped market - well now this group can aquire the service that they require based on price, its the way it is and its not going to change.

And from what I have seen locally coming from older pros, the line em up and shoot em down style photography, well times have changed, it time for you to learn some new tricks or move on. Because the new kids coming in have been exposed to a lot of imagery, and they are coming up with some fantastic stuff, maybe a little technically off at first, but by means of blogs and their sites you can see them growing as photographers.

#107 Comment By Andy Curran On February 26, 2013 @ 1:23 am

Professionals are still necessary for events like weddings and corporate functions, as well as portraits. I also know some professionals who have begun doing specialty work like panoramas and photo printing on special surfaces such as fabric and plexiglas.

#108 Comment By Nic Skerten On March 4, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

It's been said many times above but the quality of Point and Shoots reaching that of Pro cameras is a fallacy. They might be higher resolution but they use smaller sensors have much worse low light capability, etc, etc, etc.

More importantly - it isn't the camera that makes a photographer a pro - it's the photographer!

The concern I have - as a pro photographer - is the fact that a large proportion of the buying public can't tell the difference between a good photograph and a bad one. When you see the rubbish on Instagram, etc it makes you wonder! As a pro wedding photographer, I thank God that there are still couples out there that can tell the difference and buy on quality and not just on price.

#109 Comment By Tom E On March 8, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

One of the ways I sell wedding photography is to tell the bride and groom about the organization that is involved in the day and how the posed shots are structured. It helps highlight a great difference between an amature photographer and a professional.

As many people have said, Joe Blogs can't really tell the difference between auto shots and manual shots (Even though it is glaringly obvious to pros!)

I think the recession has forced the price of photography (particularly wedding photography) right down, with more companies and individuals shooting weddings and under cutting established full time professionals.

Unfortunately it's the way of the world now. Grin and bear it, reinvcent yourself for the billionth time or get another job!

#110 Comment By Tom McDermott On March 13, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

Please have the brains to recognize the difference between a "professional" photographer with years of training & experience, and a "winger". There has ALWAYS been those that shop by price alone, and it sure it something new. When I observe that this is the generation of "it'll do", it happens to be MY observation, thru the trained eyes of a 45 yr. pro. Just make an F16 fighter plane available to ALL who want one,,,, and it STILL doesn't make them trained pilots. These high quality, cheap cameras don't make better photographers, just higher resolution photos, where the low quality work is easier to see. Those that read & write these posts should visit a few preofeesional studios to see first-hand what really PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY really looks like, BEFORE making uneducated ststements,,, like the term "winger".

#111 Comment By Angelos Ballao On March 14, 2013 @ 3:59 am

HOOO SNAP, MAN. So much negative feedback on this article!

Anyways, now that's out of the way, I have to agree with what people said, "It's the photographer. Not the camera." To be honest, I really don't like it when someone judges two photographers on who's more better based on their equipment.

*Laughs*...I'm 16 years old as of right now. I've been called creative several times, but I managed to capture photos that no one in my school has ever did in my days! There are photographers who has equipment more than $1,000 in my school, but I have a basic entry-level DSLR, kit-lens, and one telephoto lens. That's all I really need to capture the same photos they did.

#112 Comment By Ollie Dale On April 1, 2013 @ 10:05 am

I'm really glad you've thrown in the towel, you're hanging up your gloves, you're closing the door on that chapter of your life, and all the other horrible cliches I can think of that relate to your own personal withdrawal from the Professional Photography world.

Losing someone like you from the professional realm is precisely the reason the rest of us are around, and the best part about making it through (and hopefully out the other side of) a nasty global economic depression. The competition has been thinned, the survivors are leaner and meaner, and the opportunities are far greater than they were with people like you still competing for clients in our world.

Happy trails! Enjoy retirement or working for the Bus company or whatever you choose to do now. I'd like to say we'll all miss you.

But we wont.

#113 Comment By Steve On April 13, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

I am a professional. I find it interesting that there are sooooo many professionals with such strong reactions to this. As professionals we know our field and are the best at it. I know what I know, I do what I do. The whole world can fall apart, does it matter? I am and will always be a professional. I have no need or interests to defend or promote my profession. Maybe some professionals on this site spewing out such passions are—still on the quest of becoming something they are currently aware they are not. Glad to be me and thanks Talbert for allowing us the privilege to post on your site.

#114 Comment By Rick On April 22, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

I'm not a pro photographer, but the truth is that most pro studios will be forced to close and far cheaper, far better quality digital cameras and video are the reason for this, as well as an unwillingness to afford a photographer. This article is 100% true. The same thing that has happened to video stores and new bookstores is going to wipe out photographers (overall) as well, unless the average American suddenly starts making a whole lot more money.

#115 Comment By James On April 27, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

As technology replaces skill it becomes very difficult for a qualified photographer to apply any ethics to his trade. He has been robbed of his craft.

#116 Comment By paul On May 6, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

This guy would have you believe that Bresson never made a picture but rather his leica did. Or that Keith Richards never played music, his guitar did. Or that Mario Andretti never won an auto race, his car did.

I am so tired of seeing articles like this. And I happen to see most of them on this site.

#117 Comment By Ken Cangi On May 18, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

Although I feel the author's frustration about an overall, diminished respect for our craft, and a pervasive attitude that we should work for peanuts or free, his comparisons to amateurs with digital point-and-shoots is off of the mark.

It is also naive to think that the over-saturation of good enough work by amateurs, willing to give it away for a photo credit, isn't putting a serious dent in the pro's ability to procure assignments at rates which will enable us to stay in business.

That said, I do see opportunities for pros to stay afloat in the new photography industry paradigm, as long as we are willing to think way beyond the traditional ways of doing business.

#118 Comment By DGh On May 26, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

The party is over. Photography from here on will be done by amateurs. When I say amateur I mean someone with no specific training in the field who believes that they can do just as well. I saw it when I used to go to art shows people would come into my booth just to tell me that they had never used a camera before but since getting a digital camera they cannot believe how good they are.

Photography is no longer seen as an art or even a skill anyone can do it so everyone will. As we go forward the quality will be hit and miss, because the people that will be doing the work will lack the basic understanding of composition or art. Let alone an understanding of lighting that was so critical in days of yore. It is too bad really photography will just become another thing that most people can do marginally and the medium that always had trouble being defined as an art will no longer have its status held in question.

It's sad really and as you said unstoppable let us hope though like it did in the novel "Bridge of Memory" photography will someday be rediscovered and the perfect blacks and detailed whites that made photography such a great medium will once again be cherished.

#119 Comment By Paul Donihue On May 29, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

"You are what you are because of what you think. You change what your are by changing what you think." If you believe that photography is totally doomed, then to you it will be. For me, I do not believe that is true. I am a small business solutions and development consultant as well as owner and main photographer of a growing studio in Ohio.

There are many areas of photography which an amateur just cannot touch or do the job. Sure, you will see them in seniors and wedding photography, but in many other photographic arenas, you will not see them.

Your job should be to stop whining and begin to look at other areas where you can make a huge impact. We have written a turn-key business development system for pro photogs and have another in the works for 2014. If you do the system, as shared, you will make a significant income and grow your business. I have seen 153 new clients in the last 37 days come into our business.

You could as well, and maybe you would not have a "woe is me," dooms-day view on life as a photographer.

#120 Comment By james On May 30, 2013 @ 10:07 am

Photography has become a job that you do if your no good at anything else. It's so easy you only need a bit of practice with the new cameras today.

It's a case of being a camera operator not a photographer.

#121 Comment By james On May 30, 2013 @ 10:07 am

Photography has become a job that you do if your no good at anything else. It's so easy you only need a bit of practice with the new cameras today.

It's a case of being a camera operator not a photographer.

#122 Comment By Paul Donihue On May 30, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

James, I could not disagree with you more. If that is how you look at professional photography, get out and leave it to us professionals that can make a difference.

#123 Comment By Alex On May 31, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

Everyone is missing the point here.

Of course there's going to be people willing to spend on good photography.

Of course there's going to be room for professional photographers to thrive.

HOWEVER...

Because of market saturation, the job has gotten a lot harder. You can't deny it.

If digital photography wasn't invented, would you STILL be a photographer today? I would venture to say that about 90% of you would say NO. Just think of how much less saturation there would be without the advent of digital photography.

That's how saturated the market is.

Someone made an analogy with being able to cook at home yet restaurants are still thriving...

Completely disagree. The restaurant industry is NOT thriving--it is an 80-100 hour a week job for not just you but your entire family, and most restaurants shut down in their first year.

Facts.

If no one in the world knew how to cook except for highly trained professionals, the restaurant industry would be a lot easier and profitable for the select few who went to school for it and honed their craft.

Like doctors and lawyers and such.

The restaurant business a tough, tough industry to venture into, and only the strong and smart survive--just like in photography. Good branding, marketing, and selling techniques will make you stand above the rest.

Don't believe the lie that "you get what you pay for" in photography.

It's not always true.

I've seen tons of cheap photographers make great work and make little to nothing while tons of expensive photographers do crappy work and make a fortune.

It just so happens that the successful ones have business degrees or are very business savvy and know how to sell while the cheap ones are artist-first-business-last people and are making "artist" money.

Might as well go be a poet or a painter.

But there is definitely hope.

You can make money in any industry--yes, some a little harder than others--BUT if you know how to SELL, you will succeed.

Not that selling is everything, but I would wager it's about 80-90% of your success.

Hair & Makeup artistry is saturated. Wedding planning is saturated. Wedding flowers are saturated. But how do they survive? THEY LEARN TO SELL! Aggressive marketing! Top-notch branding! Hone your craft, too, in the meantime, so you actually produce good work to fill the rest of the 10-20% of your success.

But all in all, in order to adapt and set yourself apart from the average joe schmo photographer, we must learn our business and we must learn to sell.

#124 Comment By Joseph Tompai On June 3, 2013 @ 12:04 am

Talbert,
I only read the first 6 replies. I can't believe how all of them missed the whole point of your article. These people are obviously not professionals making their living as photographers. Check your egos at the door boys and girls and smell the roses. 300 Chicago news photographers were just laid off. The reporters will be taking photos with their I-Phones.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the pro photographers stop buying all the gear and all those suppliers hit the wall! I am sure you guys with your phone cameras will be in great demand.
Maybe we will get so advanced that we will not need images. We can use the written word to describe the scene. That is cheaper.

#125 Comment By James. On June 3, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

Being good at business is knowing the best time to get in and just as importantly the best time to get out. Staying put with your head in the sand has destroyed many.

#126 Comment By Talbert McMullin On June 3, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

Joseph,
I'm not surprised. So many people read half of something and it becomes a half-truth...so popular in our world these days.

#127 Comment By Ben On June 5, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

So photography is just a business for you ... good to see you are leaving.

#128 Comment By C. T. On June 6, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

Talbert,

I've thoroughly enjoyed this article and following comments. Unlike most others here I'm nothing more than a casual hobbyist. For me this is a bit of looking in from the outside.

That said, I would have assumed it's somewhat common knowledge that professional photographers may not be soon extinct, but at least becoming a bit of an "anomaly".

In recent years haven't a large number of news and entertainment outlets laid off many thousands of photogs? What about the hundreds of locations of Olin Mills, Sears and others? Loads of people lost their jobs as photographers. How professional these people were or weren't is unimportant. They made a living as photographers and now they don't for the most part. The weak economy and changed attitudes have a played role.

Cheap, plentiful, capable digital gear is a game changer....The democratization of imaging technology isn't coming; It's here. So I agree that the future of professional photography is hard to predict. The only thing I see as certain is the market functioning more like the present than the past.

Some will thrive and many left behind? Of course. Seems obvious to me as well.

Well.... Clarity is usually at odds with consensus. I think this article is spot on.

#129 Comment By Luftweg On June 24, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

I see the article as at least partly very true. Certainly things like even iPhones are really making things weird for pro photography, if not just for aficionado photography. It is a definite thing that in the past few years respect for the PHOTOGRAPHER seems to have been diverted to an awe for the technology. Anytime that I or some others take a good picture, it seems the first thing I hear is 'wow, what CAMERA did you (they) use'...
What is happening, with the invading/superseding of the art with straight-out technology, is also happening in the other arts.
In music for example, there's getting to be almost no need to be able to keep a beat or a pitch anymore because drum machines and pitch-modulating devices can 'cover for it'... A much much less talented individual can now almost sound like a real musician. (the difference between the musician and the photographer is that the musician still largely 'takes the credit' for whatever the result is -- regardless of how much talent was put in)


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