In the New Media World, Photographers Who Embrace Change Will Succeed

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

— Thomas Edison

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the media industry is having a difficult time at present, even without the global recession. The digital revolution, while opening up exciting new channels of communication, is also rendering some of our pre-existing business models obsolete and forcing the redefinition of others.

Working in the business, it’s easy to get despondent about all this — because change is hard. But once you move beyond denial to acceptance, it can also be energizing. We are entering an era in which the photographer and art director can explore many more creative opportunities and visual solutions, no longer limited to just print or television.

Not all of our explorations will end in success. Like Edison, we may fail 10,000 times for every victory. But there is a thrill in the challenge.

The Video Opportunity

As an art director, I can certainly envision photographers utilizing their skills across a number of emerging sectors to broaden their commercial base and fill the voids left by declines elsewhere.

For example, it was predicted at the recent Online News Association conference in San Francisco that by 2012, 95 percent of all online content will be video. Even if that figure proves optimistic, that is certainly the direction we are heading. And that presents opportunities for photographers.

A photographer assigned to produce a portrait for a magazine, for example, could easily produce a short sound-bite video of the portrait subject to accompany the story online. Using a camera like the video-enabled Canon 5D, there would be no need to bring additional equipment.

Taking advantage of this access gives the photographer an inside track as the market for online video continues to grow.

Annotated Portraits — and Other Ideas

But the opportunities go beyond video. Consider a recent portrait by photographer Jonathan Worth of science fiction writer and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow.

Jonathan’s portrait was annotated by Doctorow to allow the viewer to explore the writer’s study — combining the image with words to identify the books on Doctorow’s shelves and the personal objects on his desk.

When Jonathan showed this portrait to me, I began to wonder how this approach might be integrated into one of my company’s online magazines. I am continuing to explore this possibility through discussions with editors.

That conversation may lead nowhere, but it is the dialogue itself that will ensure the media’s long-term survival — and the success of photojournalists and others.

Find those 10,000 ways that don’t work, and we’ll ultimately find the ones that do.

9 Responses to “In the New Media World, Photographers Who Embrace Change Will Succeed”

  1. So when Chinese Photographer Lu Guang was falsed photogrphs, so he can win the 2009 prize of W Eugene Smith prix? Embrace or lie? Lie will be sucessed.

  2. Great Post thanks Wayne and Blackstar. I've updated to "Giving things away" trial with the another step, plus two more commission updates to follow." Thanks for the support.


  3. The point is right, but these changes, those related to technology, are usually the most bleeding ones, too many casualties will be left on the ground. The price of being up to date is giving an advantage only to those countries that can still run for the competition. We are all talking about a new environmentally frinedly attitude, but then we waste resources, and in the present era, money is a resource.
    But then again, this is just my humble opinion.

  4. > Digital is rendering business models OBSOLETE.
    > Photographers could BROADEN commercial base,
    > FILL voids left by declines.
    > By 2012, 95% of online content WILL be video!
    > A photographer COULD produce a sound-bite
    > to accompany a story/portrait online.
    > We COULD add ANNOTATIONS too. (Cool!)
    > I've NO IDEA how to make this work
    > but it's good to TALK about it;
    > It's THE TALKING that counts.
    > As old incumbents in the media GRAPPLE
    > with change they CAN'T understand
    > they WILL make 10,000 mistakes
    > while they WAIT for the next batch of new kids
    > straight outta college
    > with the single obvious answer that works.

    Nothing new in photographers routinely grab-capturing other media, meta data and annotations for use on-line, or recording some over the phone afterwards, as commentary for slideshows, etc.

    Old media was words and pictures, moving & still, spoken & written, sound & vision, in lots of formats. New media is too. Difference is, new media is much, much, much, much, much, CHEAPER & quicker to produce, distribute or broadcast. And that's destroying old media. But it won't ever catch all the falling revenues of the old whore. So there's far less money to pay for photography, or any kind of media capture, and it is all far more ephemeral and barely glanced at in milliseconds now anyway. It has less value.

    The digital revolution doesn't mean you just move over from analogue and everything will be ok. DIGITAL DESTROYS VALUE. Nothing will be ok. Nothing will ever be the same again. There WILL be less money for press photographers and photo journalists, so there will be fewer of them, adapt as they may. They'll become as uncommon as veal calves for vellum did, after the printing press popularized paper. Photo fees will be micropayments, at best, mark our words. What you'll become paid for is YOUR TIME, if you can CREATE content.

    -- NPD
    [all opinions here are those of someone else entirely who has nothing to do with the magazine, and we don't know where he lives, nor have ever heard of him. They're not necessarily those of the publication or publisher... though I have to say, it did LOOK like him at the keyboard tonight...]

  5. The above is a testimonal to why you have to focus on your area of interest - know it - no generalization images need apply - Business will still hunger after focused quality subject mater. J

  6. "DIGITAL DESTROYS VALUE", NewPhotoDigest(October 16th, 2009 at 4:54 pm)

    we all know that Change is Inevitable, just like when some colonizers came into a land where some natives would embrace their culture due to its modernity and power. these changes will destroy the traditions and values til its gone.

  7. intersting, i never thought of including a video along with any of my portrait sessions, but i'm sure that wouldn't be too hard to do. I dont have a camera with video, but soon I'll have a d300s so I should be able to do it with that.

  8. An update and review to my Copyleft experiment:


  9. This is very true, video and stills go hand in hand, now more than ever.
    Now you only need one tool to produce both. This was the prediction from my days in College in 97. now I live it as a commercial artist. There are HD video units out there producing high res stills, and SLRs that produce HD video. Although not perfect by any means but getting closer everyday.
    You only have to look at micro stock sites such as to see what is hot in terms of sales. They will tell you their video collections have picked up and are generating sales like crazy. The industry dictates what it needs and so you need to keep with the times. As an artist, you still have to use your creativity and vision and don't be afraid to embrace the technology available to all of us and create. Digital is not all bad. that said, old school techniques are good to know and fun to explore. I still use my polaroids and Hasselblads to keep ideas fresh and fruitful. Communication has always changed form, check out the iphone it rocks!!! You either want to keep making money commercially or you don't. 🙂 I DO.

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