Home Forums Let’s Talk Photography The state of the industry in the digital age

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  • #6527
    octophoto
    Member

    Hello! Long time reader, first time poster.

    I’m a student/photographer and I’m writing a research paper for my class about the affects of the digital age on the photography industry. It would seem to me that while everyone thinks the place of the Internet as well as technological advances in the field are really cool, and convenient, there are some drawbacks.

    I’d like to get your sincere input, from your own experience, about what the pros and/or cons of digital photography are. Also, how do you feel the industry can be improved in a time where DSLRs are relatively affordable, and the Internet provides a platform for unprofessional behavior? Do you think education should be a priority for someone going into the industry? Etc.

    I know that’s kind of broad and slap dash, but I just need more sources for my paper in sort of an interview structure.

    Also, if you do decide to give your input, please feel free to give me your credentials and/or direct me to your website so I can properly cite you.

    Thank you in advanced.

    #6543
    fstopper89
    Member

    I’ve been in the business of photography for a relatively short time. I recognize that I’m not an expert. That comes with lots of time and experience, AND pushing yourself beyond your limitations, which I am constantly trying to do. But, I know I have gotten to a point where I can and do produce consistent, high-quality work, take careful considerations into the “business” side of it, and charge appropriately for what my time and expertise are really worth.

    The digital age, including inexpensive cameras, free software, and free web hosting (including Facebook pages or blog sites) has made it possible for a person to buy a camera with no prior knowledge or education, and hardly any overhead investment, to start what they may call a business and get quick, far-reaching exposure. In the film days, a person would not make the investments in equipment or in time if they had little to no ability to run a photography business and the ability to produce work that really would sell. People would see that a person obviously didn’t know how to take a photo, and that person would not succeed.

    The levels of ability of photographers today range from someone picking up a cell phone and posting blurry photos and charging people for it, to several thousand dollar, multiple shooter, highly-accredited, world-renowned master photographers who upgrade their equipment as soon as the newest camera or computer is released. Then there are the thousands of us who fall right in between. Smaller-business photographers who have taken classes, invested in quality equipment when our profits have allowed, and have the goal in mind to produce the best work we can and make our clients happy. Photography for me right now is very part-time, though busier at certain times of the year. I care very much about presenting myself professionally via my websites and public contact. I will never settle for producing mediocre work for a quick buck. My goal is to improve every time I shoot. I may never become a master photographer but I’m ok with that! I take as much constructive criticism I can.

    I have an art background that goes all the way back to my childhood. I was ALWAYS creating. I picked up disposable cameras around age 8 and loved taking pictures of sunsets and my pets. I once thought it would be really cool to be a photographer. I got involved in 4-H and took some photography workshops. I was NOT a good photographer then but I had a little dream. I was fortunate to be given opportunities that helped further this. I went to college for 3 years (did not get a degree, didn’t have the money at the time to continue) and took several courses in photography, digital art, other art, and a business class. Boy was it a surprise how much I thought I knew about photography before college! I didn’t know what an aperture was or what ISO meant. I was just a girl with a camera, like 98% of the population. After college I knew quite a bit. Then I bought a used Canon Rebel with some kit lenses and a handbook. I thought I was a photographer then. Then the best opportunity came to me. I sold a pair of shorts on craigslist. A woman emailed me with interest, and at the signature of her email, said “— — Photography” with her website. A little spark came as I looked at her website. I loved her work. She ended up buying the shorts and when I met her I told her I saw she was a photographer and I also loved photography. She added me on Facebook. Several months later she and her family came into the place I worked and she recognized me. She said “Hey, we have been talking about possibly hiring an assistant. I think you’d be good. Why don’t you come over for a meeting next week?” They gave me a little interview and hired me on! I thought I was a photographer before that. Boy was I wrong. I mostly did all her editing, no shooting, but we got along so great, she was like a big sister to me. She taught me more about shooting. Over the course of working for her I learned more than I’d ever known including all the business aspects of it. I was devastated when she announced her husband took the job in California. I literally bawled at home. She had talked about getting me co-shooting that summer and even wanted to eventually make me a business partner. In a way, the good that came from that was that it allowed me to develop my OWN business, but I will NEVER discredit how Michelle is the one who made me get to the point I am now. It would have taken me years on my own to learn everything working for her taught me!

    I am NOT a perfect photographer. But I have my education and job experience to fall back on. Education, experience, and the proper tools/equipment are everything! When I see these hundreds of “overnight photographers” it truly frustrates me, especially seeing that people pay for that. It devalues the hard work, time, and money people like me have put into it.

    My credentials: College classes in photography, art, digital software, and business. A year of job experience working for an established professional photographer. Being hired on as a second shooter for a highly-accredited photography studio and nailing it with my best friend who works for that studio.

    Here is my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roxanne_elise_photography/

    #7787
    Egglington
    Member

    To me, the digital age has taken what was a highly valued craft, and turned it into a circus. There is a lot of good work out there, and a lot of bad work, but there is one thing both the good and bad have in common – they all look the same and match styles and images already out there. I think we live in a very challenging time whereby it is impossible not to be coerced into doing what is acceptable in photography. In some ways I envy the “faux togs”, they have something a lot of professionals don’t have – they are not scared to experiment, try new things and potentially fail. In a way as professionals I think we can sometimes feel shackled to the camera and fight more for the approval from our peers then staying true to our own visions and childhood wonderment. Personally, I don’t think the digital camera format is the threat, but rather it is the influence of social media forcing photographers into conformity.

    #7826
    Brownie
    Member

    I highly doubt  most ‘world-renowned master photographers’ change equipment as often as you imply they do.  Photographers of that caliber still are highly devoted to shooting film, now where they go from there is open, (scanning for inkjet prints, old school c-prints, dye transfer, etc etc) I personally think digital photography has made us (along with several other factors) so rabid for new equipment. I highly doubt if Garry Winogrand was alive he would upgrade Leicas every year.  I shot with a digital canon rebel for four years, and I understood that camera tremendously well and I used it for everything  and it still can produce nice photographs, but when I upgraded, I wanted to go for something that was full-frame, and would be fairly accurate to a film camera.  Which is funny, on account of the technology hasn’t advanced enough for digital to overtake film in quality, at least an affordable one.

    At university, all of the photography classes (except for digital, of course) are analog.  Education should be priority number one. I cannot stress how important knowing the technical aspects, conceptual design aspects, and being knowledgeable about the world or photography in the areas that they are interested in.

    It truly boggles my mind when students at other colleges have no influences outside of the department. It’s ignorant to not look at the greats that have come before you. You have to figure out what made these photographers so great…was it the lighting? maybe. Was it the composition? Sure, yeah. Was it all of these elements with a strong conceptual idea that the viewer can relate to? Bingoo.
    Where digital photography shines is in news photography. being able to almost instantly access the images on the card completely trumps developing negatives and cropping those down. Anything that needs to be fast or is time sensitive is effected greatly by digital photography. Also in shooting sporting events, I hardly doubt there’s a photographer out there that carries at least 10 rolls of film for the game. I think that is a true convenience of digital.

    I just realized how old this message was…so I guess I’ll stop writing…

    #7830
    kbee
    Member

    I’m not a pro, I don’t get paid for it. I’m an enthusiast. I’ve been taking digital photographs for about 10 years, creating galleries and displaying them as a hobby. I got my first DSLR 7 years ago, and my first Canon EOS 60D 2 years ago. My background is in media and graphic design, with some college education behind it. I have no formal training in photography.

    Pros and/or cons of digital photography: I feel the digital aspect has made it extremely easy for people, like me for example, to get into the photography scene. With the low cost of decent equipment and the empowerment of fast and easy media sharing through sites like Facebook, Flickr and such, just about anybody with an interest in the field can give it a shot without the relatively prohibitive costs of yesterday, such as film, development and equipment. This is undoubtedly a positive side to the digital age of photography.

    In a way, however, the ease at which casual enthusiasts can get started in photography has, in my opinion, somewhat cheapened the experience. You have the MWAC (mom with a camera) phenomenon, and I’ve witnessed it myself in my circle of friends and family. I have no less than three family members/friends who own brand new SLRs who have not used them, and have no clue on how to use them, yet they wave them around as if dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars onto a camera makes them the family photographer.

    So hence, you have a market that’s become saturated with people from all walks of life. From enthusiasts to fauxtographers to genuinely talented professionals. Keeping in mind this is a profession that doesn’t require accreditation or education; it is not like going through law school and passing the bar exam. By it’s very artistic nature, it is open to all individuals with a passion and those who (should) have a talent for it. Sadly, in the latter, that no longer seems to be the case for many.

    When running a ‘business’ is as easy as setting up a Facebook page, or a shop on Etsy, people can and do find some niche to settle into as a way to make money. And the more they’re competitive, the better. (Or so they believe.) The quality of goods may not be up to a professional par, but in an age where people want it fast and easy and cheap, professional and quality sometimes isn’t the focus.

    Also, how do you feel the industry can be improved in a time where DSLRs are relatively affordable, and the Internet provides a platform for unprofessional behavior?: I feel the best way to at least preserve the integrity of the professionals in photography is to maintain a personal level of responsibility for the quality of work. Continue to learn and grow, challenge oneself and accept criticism along with praise.

    Maintain a professional attitude and rapport with clients. It shocks me to see photographers using grossly inappropriate language when dealing with clients or critics, or to see them neglecting their clients by failing to deliver on goods or services. The latter I see quite a lot, with clients posting regular Facebook wall updates asking when their prints would be ready, or when the photographer will return their call.

    Educating clients on the true value of good photography. By all means, don’t hit them over the hit and preach about the evils of cheap photography, but be proactive in detailing how priceless a treasured memory is in the years to come, and the insurance a client pays to make sure that memory is preserved with all the skill, respect and humility it deserves is truly a small price to pay.

    Do you think education should be a priority for someone going into the industry?: I wouldn’t go so far as to say yes, all photographers should have formal education and be accredited nationally before being able to practice their art. After all, many incredibly talented photographers did not get a formal education.

    I do, however, think that a photographer of any caliber – enthusiast or professional – should take it upon themselves to learn as much as they can, however they can. This digital age has hurt photography in some aspects, and yet, it is full of information just waiting to be accessed. Nobody has the excuse that they “didn’t know” or “couldn’t find it” these days. If a person has a passion for photography, I would hope that passion extends to bettering oneself and diving deep into learning from others. Whether that be from online tutorials, formal classes or learning under the  guidance of a professional, there are ways to educate oneself.

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