Is Photography Dead as a Profession?

This is not just happening in photo world, but in the recording industry and in the low budget independent film market and I presume any other industry that adopted pro-sumer equipment in a professional environment.

The whole situation really needs a new paradigm for deconstruction. Everyone looks at this as oh, the pro is loosing jobs to some dope who just bought a digital camera last week. And while there is no question that is happening, I think the problem lies a little deeper. Its not that the pro is “losing jobs” I think its more to the effect that the job market is becoming far more structured to cater to the guy with a week old digital camera and no experience. People WANT to hire that guy and they DO NOT want to hire the pro. We used to live in a world where if you wanted to hire a photographer, you had to go to this pool of professional photographers and that is definitely changing.

I think its a simple matter of the jobs becoming subtly more specific. “Photographer” is somewhat of a meaningless thing to say anymore and we have a long way to go until things get redefined.

Everybody complains about the incompetents, but don’t overlook there are also more also more really good photographers in the market than ever before.

Thanks to the instant feedback of digital and easy access to information on the internet a new photographer can learn in months what used to take years. Anyone with decent visual talent and work ethic can be doing professional grade photography within a few  months while the actual number of assignments is falling even as the number of photographers grows. My friends who do magazine work are scrambling for a shrinking number of jobs even as new photographers enter the market every day.

Is Photography Still a Viable Profession?

Wedding photography at least continues to be a pretty good market, though increasingly competitive thanks to the $800 neo-wedding photographer industry popping up on the internet and on places like Craig’s list.  I do believe individually after shooting a few of these the low budget weddings the low buck photographer will rethink their pricing, especially when it becomes apparent to them that the job isn’t easy or glamorous  at all (Hell on equipment as well). However, there are more neo-wedding photographers cranking out websites ever day.

There will always be a separation between the weekend warrior with a closet full of camera gear and the true professional who will invest in top of the line equipment, back-ups and all things business including silly things like insurance. I am still confident that the best and most innovative will survive, but I expect it to be a small number in a very tough and rarified market.

*Article originally published 2004 in Pro Photographer California.

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