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Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by El Cabong, Mar 31, 2010.
Seems to me it's more or less the same effect that blogs have on major news distribution sources. Personally when an event or photograph matters to me (like at a wedding or special event) I'm still going to hire a professional. Professionals basing their livelihood off of stock photography should have seen this coming a long time ago anyways.
Thoughts are that I've seen this happen for years now. Though I have no "formal" training I have trained under people who have and I have done a fair amount of work years ago that could have taken me somewhere. I choose not to for whatever reason but I did see this. The first time I saw someone get a digital camera and start shooting I realized that this was the dawn of a new era. This woman went on to doing jobs earning hundreds when I would have normally commanded thousands. There's no way to compete.
Mark my word, some of the work from pros makes me wonder WTF people consider "good" and some work from amateurs makes me wonder why they're not pursuing a career of sorts. There are some real amazing shots coming from people toting a consumer-grade camera like a D40 or it's Canon counterpart. I have great respect for the craft itself, I've since gotten over my idea that if you've never shot film you're a POS hack (I could be quoted saying that up until 2004ish). I believe, like I said, that some pros shouldn't be pros and some amateurs should be pros.
Either way, like it was mentioned, this is like what blogs are doing to news sites and the likes. If you're a pro losing money because of these people then you either need to find a way to get back in there or find another career. It sucks but it's reality.
I have often been asked why I am not either painting or photographing professionally, my response is and always will be ... I like to eat.
I think that overall it's a good thing. For example, sure there are a lot of crappy wedding photographers out there, but now more people can afford to hire wedding photographers. When most people get married, there is simply no way they can afford $3000 for a wedding photographer. If there's some hobbyist who's willing to do it for $300 for the fun of it, this is probably a great option for many people. People who can afford $3000 photographers will probably still pay for them. The key is to actively promote an understanding of what good photography is and is not. The fact of the matter is there are now many "professional" photographers who do not deserve the title, charge lots of money, and produce crap (we could all go on website hunts and find examples pretty easily). But I think bad, expensive photographers have probably always existed. In the internet age, I actually think it's easier for customers to distinguish between good and bad and make appropriate choices for events.
While it's frustrating for people who've dedicated their lives to photography to be undercut, I think in the long run technology that increases access to and availability of a service is a good thing. I remember in the 80s or early 90s when airlines announced that they were going to stop paying travel agents a percentage on booking tickets and would only pay a small flat fee, they basically wiped out most of the travel agent jobs. Travel agents who were good adapted, honed their skills and offered specialty services, others moved on to new careers, and the rest of us started booking tickets online. I don't think many people would advocate going back to the old way.
As with all analogies, this is a bad one. But overall, this is a great thing for photography: more people are producing it and interested in it, and more people are enjoying it.
My first thought is "So what?"
If "amateurs" are producing images of high enough quality that magazines and other publications are willing to pay them for them, then so be it. Rather than bitching about it, professional photographers need to alter their business model to find new ways of doing things that sets them apart from the advanced amateurs.
Also keep in mind that this does not affect all areas of the photography business equally. Commercial portrait and advertising photography is not generally a place where most amateurs can compete; same with pro sports photography.
Wedding and family portrait photography are two interesting areas at the moment. There certainly are "amateurs" doing these genres, but in my opinion, it shows in the quality of the work. But remember, the market dictates who will be successful; if people really cared about getting the absolute best product, they'd pay for it, and the amateurs would be out of luck. But that's just not the case anymore; our culture has become all about the bottom line.
For example, if I shoot a wedding for $1500 and Sam Hassas shoots a wedding for $3000, my shots are not going to be half as good as Sam's; but if the client is satisfied with what they're getting for $1500, then who am I to tell them otherwise. To be honest, if it were my wedding, I'd pay for Sam's work in a heartbeat over my own, but that's because I value quality more than strictly cost. But not everyone thinks like that, so if it's not your primary income source, there will always be a market for people who just want reasonable quality for a cheaper price. And from what I've seen, the top end wedding photographers would agree with me; they're simply not competing for this low end business.
This is the way every other industry in the world operates; don't want to pay $60k for a BMW M3? Buy a Toyota Camry for $30k. The BMW is by far the better car, but there will be a set of people for whom this is irrelevant (either by choice or by necessity).
So I really have to reiterate this point: "So what?" The fault doesn't lie with the amateur photographer. It lies with the customer who has become less willing to pay top dollar for top quality.
Errr.... on second thought.... ;-) I'm with you on most of your other points though.
My thoughts would be to deal with it. If amateurs are taking your money then you weren't selling a very good product to begin with. Most equipment nowadays, even the $200 point and shoots, is perfectly able to take great photos. All the camera needs is a person who has an eye and desire to take great photos.
I have a friend who is a pro. He does weddings to pay the bills (he now needs them less and less tho) and then model pics, videos (sports is the direction he's headed now) to go in the career direction he wants to go. His wedding schedule is booked out to next year sometime. His secret? Service, service, service on top of taking great pics. Service is where the professional can and will differentiate themselves from the part time amateur.
Perhaps Toyota was a bad example at the moment, but you get the point.
100% agree. Pros can provide benefits that amateurs simply cannot, even if the photography was on par (which it usually isn't). For instance, a guy like Tony Hoffer, who used to be a graphic designer, can provide albums that are miles better than anything I could ever dream of providing (and I don't do custom albums for this reason...for me its Aperture books all the way!)
There will always be a market for people who make it their business to take photographs, but that's not to say that there isn't a place for other people to skim a bit off the bottom (again, in areas that aren't typically serviced by the top pros). I don't feel guilty making $1000 for shooting an event, because I know I'm providing a reasonably good quality product that the client is happy with in the end. Could they get better results with a "pro" event photographer? Probably. Would it be worth the extra $500-1000? That's not for me to say.
Not a pro
I am certainly no pro, and it is pretty hard to sympathize with them.
With the advent of cheaper and better bodies and glass, and your run-of-the-mill amateur able to get a full off camera flash setup for dirt cheap, its going to keep saturating the market. This is a good thing though.
When the quality of the amateur service goes up, the quality of the professional service will go up to. The professionals that are not up to snuff with this new standard will be left behind to compete with the amateurs, while the props remain pro. Hooray for competition!
A high school classmate of mine got married earlier this month, and near as I can tell, her wedding photographer does everything with one camera and lens, that being a 5D+50/1.4. Good lighting, but just one lens? I would find that unacceptable if I was getting married and being photographed. It showed in the photos, which had too much similarity/too little variety, even as they were relatively well done in themselves. I checked the exif data and all of it listed only the 50/1.4.
If people can make good money doing that, there's still hope for those who really know what they're doing.
One thing I've found is that the mass public is very easily impressed. Most people aren't the best judges of what's considered good by the average photographer.
Shallow depth of field generally gets oohs and ahhs when I show my work to non-photographers; it's something that just cannot be accomplished with a P&S. It doesn't make a good photo in and of itself, but it does impress people.
Selective colour is something that non-photographers tend to love, though I absolutely hate it (but I'm guilty of having done it anyway). HDR is another one; I've tired of it, but people love it. In fact, the last photograph I sold (to a very large transportation company here in Canada) was a 5-shot HDR I took about 2 years ago. I had actually forgotten about it since I stopped doing so much cityscape HDR stuff, but it appealed to them. Go figure.
Selective color is the tackiest thing I can imagine doing to a photograph. I don't see the appeal
Yep. But the bride and her friends LOVED this:
It was the first and last time I did it, I swear!
Just a point, Im not directly replying to Edge100, so please don't take any offense. I just liked your comments best as a jumping off point for my own opinions.
I think we are polarizing the Pro/Amateur continuum into some Black and White thing. It just isn't that way AT ALL. The only thing a "Professional" denotes is that he/she makes a living with photography, not that he or she is a good photographer. Vice versa for amateurs. I think this is a huge thing that articles, such as the one posted, fail to mention. When they survey "Pros" are they hitting Chase Jarvis class Pros, or the mom and pop place that thought they could make some cash with a camera.
As for Pros offering services that Amateurs cannot ... completely wrong. There is nothing stopping you from taking some online classes or reading some books about graphic design. I was the Head Art Director for years at a toy company, so yeah I know graphic design, but I was also self-taught. If there is something you can do to enhance your product in the marketplace, then do so. I can assure you that any "advanced amateur" can pick up a design book just the same as you or any other Pro can. Otherwise, the amateurs will continue to take over, simply because it isn't about the money for them, it is about the images. Not to mention they usually can apply more time to learning something new.
Lastly, and Im going to be a little frank here so please excuse me, but with the directions the economy and creative marketplace has taken in the past decade it should be important to have something to fall back on. "Pros" should have seen the shift coming. Chase Jarvis, David Hobby, Scott Kelby, McNally ... they all saw it coming, and they EMBRACED it instead of whining. Now they are at the top of their game and actually TEACHING amateurs how to not only take better pictures, but actually how to break into the business. I was laid off as the art director of the company I mentioned, along with my entire creative staff (both locally, off-site, AND overseas). Now I am back in grad school completing my program in Psychotherapy. Do I WANT to sit in an office all day and listen to people? Yes, I do, sorta. But I would rather be out in the field shooting any day. As such, I hope there comes a day that I can support myself entirely with my camera. But no way in hell Im taking that chance in the long-run, art is just too much of a fickle mistress. For now, Im perfectly happy taking some of the money from the "Pros"
I knew we'd get into a discussion along these lines. First, I agree with you; the word "pro" does not mean "good", by any means.
In fact, what I'm saying is that there has been a gradual blurring of the lines in photography, between what is acceptable to clients (and hence can be sold) and what is not. Clearly, the vast majority of people are not going to be able to produce photos that anyone would pay for under any circumstance. But many people who do not earn their primary income in photography (myself included) can produce output that is good enough to appeal to at least some potential clients.
The people that are going to complain about this shift are those professionals (i.e. those that earned all or most of their income from photography) that were the previous bottom feeders. Those people, not the Chase Jarvis's, Scott Kelby's, and Joe McNally's of the world, are the ones that will find themselves run out of the business by people like me. My response to that is "too bad".
As for the design element or pros having additional knowledge, again I agree with you. I've spent this long acquiring photography skills (and I still have a LONG way to go), but if I wanted to, I could go and get design training. Nothing at all stopping me. Again, what I'm saying is that a lot of top pros do offer this service, while most amateurs do not. It's what accounts for some (but not most) of the difference in price between me and a top pro.
The moral of the story is that the top notch guys have nothing to worry about; it's the people who shoot weddings with a Rebel XTi and slow kit zooms who need to worry about advanced amateurs.
Well there are different things for different budgets. The prices my friend charges (complete package is over $12k) would have most likely priced him out of your classmates budget. There is nothing wrong with that, but we need to remember there is a low end market that many amateurs can serve just fine.
BTW, if you like pictures check out my friends wedding site above or his other site here. He's really good at what he does.
Just so you know, I wasn't pick on your comment. I was just going further into what is always an inevitable conversation in these types of threads. Just no getting around it.
Don't sell yourself short, nor anyone else. We tend to look at photography from a technical sort of angle, since that is the nature of this board. But at its heart, photography is art just like painting, sculpture, or watercolor. As such, you only need an receiving audience, not a technical one. I recently sold a print of some daffodils ... personally, the shot just isn't my favorite. The lighting is decent, colors nice, but no where near my best work (In fact, I shot it with a D40 and kit lens like 2 years ago when I was first learning lighting). However, I sold one ... and suddenly I had 13 other orders for the same print from people who had seen the framed image in the original buyer's home. 650.00 in sales. Shot is crap IMO ... but where there is an audience, there is money.
Amen. But remember they marketed themselves as teachers and the people flocked. There is no substitute for name recognition in a market like photography, especially at the high end.
Love that clip. But again ... audience. Obviously SOMEONE out there liked their work enough to pay and be happy with it. However, you're totally right, it is those people who need to look out. I look at it like a doctor. 90% of the illness that comes into a doctor's office is the routine run-of-the-mill stuff. It takes little medical knowledge to diagnose and treat. But I want a doctor who isn't so comfortable in their "art" that he misses something that falls into that 10% of nasty stuff. Same with photographers, innovate or die ... period.
Really, it's no different than all of the Americans who have been laid off from the car manufacturing sector because the Japanese and Koreans can do as good a job, but more cheaply. Or all of the IT professionals who are out of work because their jobs have been outsourced to India.
It's not just photography; most industries are under the most pressure they've ever been under to produce work at lower and lower cost. That's just the cost of globalization and industrialization. Since the barriers to enter photography have been smashed thanks to technology, supply is going to go up and prices are going to go down.
For many years, decades even the "standard" wedding lens was an 80mm Hasselblad. I would bet that in those days the quality was a far better than what we see today. There were also a lot a wedding shot with a Rollie twin lens that had just the single 80mm f/2.8 lens. What they did was move up cloe for the close shoots and fartther back for the wide ones.
Good reply, the broadening accessibility of photography should be considered a good thing. Industries change and photography is definitely no exception. Pros need to accept this and to adjust themselves to the changed markets. The two necessities are a good business sense and quality, the make up of the two will determine your position (or failure) in the market.
Reminds me when I was talking with my grandfather about photography one time. On the topic of zoom lenses his response was "you zoom with your feet" lol
I'm a big proponent of prime lenses; the gain in IQ, not to mention the increase in speed, is a huge benefit over zooms. And yes, I find that I can either move in or out to change viewing angle (i.e. zoom with my feet).
The only thing to keep in mind with this approach is that perspective is determined by distance to the subject, not focal length. What this means is this: if you're using a 24-70, and you find yourself too far from the subject, you have the option to either zoom in OR move closer. In the first instance, perspective does not change, because you haven't changed the camera to subject distance. In the second case, perspective does change; by moving closer, you exaggerate things that are closer to the lens (which is why you don't shoot portraits with a 24mm lens unless you're looking for a specific effect). With a prime, you obviously only have the ability to move closer, so perspective will change. Thus, "zooming with your feet" is not really equivalent to using a zoom lens, and if controlling perspective is important to you (such as it is in portrait photography), this could be an issue.
This is not an argument against primes; it is an argument for having the CORRECT primes (so that your need to move is reduced).
ironic how technological innovation is causing a stir in the photo world in relation to supplanting some working pros
quite similar to the advent of photography causing a stir in the world of portrait painters...
True. I'd bet you could find a newspaper article from the 1800s with the headline "Photographers keep portrait painters from feeding kids"
Before digital (and perhaps before 35mm), the financial barriers and incredibly steep learning curve kept most people from becoming photographers. Now that technology has caused the financial barrier to become essentially nonexistant and people can easily experiment and learn how to take good photos, it's not a surprise that the professional photography world is starting to crumble.
Your best bet is to be in an industry that can't be mechanized, automated, outsourced, or performed by amateurs. By day I'm an electrical engineer in a position that can't be outsourced. I figure the only way I'll be made obsolete is when computers becomes sentient, at which point fighting for my job will probably be the least of my worries