The Future of Photography – Commentary

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A few days ago I wrote a post that painted a picture of what portrait photography might look like in some not too distant future. I told the story of Debra, an inspired entrepreneur who launches a very successful pro photo business with advanced consumer equipment and software, savvy social media marketing, and great people skills. The overwhelming response seemed to look at the article as a “dark” future. One person accused it as being just another tired foreboding warning about how technology was going to change everything.

The truth is, nothing in that post suggested it was a warning. I find it fascinating that except for one comment, no one looked at is as a positive. No one saw it as a bright future. The fact that you could process 1500+ raw images in a matter of minutes. The fact that you could book three more gigs, automatically, within just hours of posting images from your last session. The fact that your camera could make it brain-dead simple to create a nice, buttery bokeh with little effort. The fact that technology would make it easy to populate an entire home with fresh new images, in a matter of seconds. All of these things sound great to me. They sound pretty friggin’ cool if I may be so blunt.

So my question is this: why do so many of you think this is a bad thing?

9 thoughts on “The Future of Photography – Commentary

  1. honestly mr Dawson I think people look at it as a bad thing because it implies that anyone will be able to do it – that he bar will be set SO unbearably low that every soccer mom and college drop out will grab that camera and see those images on craigs list and further kill teh profit margin..
    I personally don’t agree.. because to me its more about effort than availability- i know tons of people with pro level equipment who turn out point and shoot images simply because they don’t want to invest the time to break down and master that equipment. and in my opinion that will always be the case. People will always want to hire a professional to do what they don’t have the time or desire to learn themselves. Sure there will be a few who learn enough that they don’t but don’t all professions have this percentage? mechanics – dog trainers – other visual artists in mediums like painting. The goal is to separate your self and get the tools they don’t want to get.. I think the people who are most afraid – don’t want to spend the time getting new tools…

  2. I thought it was very, very humorous (in a good way), but I don’t see the future as any sort of threat. I definitely see it (as Raquita did) as an opportunity to show what personal and artistic vision can do to distinguish the greats from the not-so-greats or people who currently get by because their cameras have great resolution. Hey, there are a LOT of brides out there every weekend who aren’t educated about photography – even the not-so-greats will still probably always get some business.

    Surely the proliferation of cameras with more and more intuitive “auto” features and easier advanced work-slow options will lead to more and more people BEING educated that just because they can afford to buy the camera we use, they can’t replicate the experience. That will be a win for those in the community who are willing to stick things out while the proverbial sky is falling, not expect to charge tons and tons of money and make an honest living out of getting to make art every week.

    This is, of course, written by someone who started their business on Craig’s List and now makes a comfortable full-time living shooting weddings and portraits – so take what I write with that caveat 🙂

  3. Ron, I believe I’m the guilty party who [incorrectly] characterized your post as a tired warning. I did so in the context of having read and heard many other cautionary tales of how technology would eventually put us all out of business. I mistakenly assumed that was your tone and thus responded like I did. I apologize.

    I too look forward to a future where my camera is more capable, where I can shoot images at ISO 100,000 with no grain, and have it do HDR for me in camera. That said, I also think the promises of technology are often a lie. Though my camera is hundreds of times more powerful than what Cartier-Bresson shot with, my pictures are not even in the same league of what his were. Technology has not equalized our creative capacity.

    Technology also promises to reduce our work load, but its failed to deliver on that promise too. Computers and robots were supposed to do all our work for us 20 years ago. Instead we find ourselves spending longer and longer hours in front of them. That’s not to say that they haven’t allowed us to do some wonderful things, but we cannot look to future technology to solve our current problems or frustrations.

    I look forward to continuing our conversation soon.

  4. @david – here’s point David where I totally see eye to eye with you on. 🙂 Technology in many ways has made life MORE busy. In this microwave, microblogging, high speed, get your news in an instant society, we are actually busier than the days of that bygone era when Wally and the Beave would come home and hang out with mom. You are right, in spite of having having faster and more powerful everything, we still do way more than our grandparents.

    Looking forward to a very engaging conversation on FSB with you. 🙂

  5. Mr Dawson I am a professional shooter and I was a film person for 28 years. I have been digital for 7-years now. The thing that excited me 35 years ago was the smells and the image transformation when you put that piece of kodak paper in the developer and watched it develop and the things that excite me today are just the same but just in a different medium and as a business owner I embrace the future of photography with the same excitment that got me into photography 35 years ago. You were right on. I see the visual impact of photography becoming even more the norm of our lives from digital framing to how we communicate on a daily basis with our social networks. ( Allready Happining) The theory of photography will never change just the medium that we capture and view our art will. Thx again for the insight it made me re-think photography and again looking forward to the next 35 years in the business

  6. Its a very informative article and one that many social commentaries in the photography business are picking up on. However, in agreement with Ron as to the micro-this & that society, I view the last ten years in tech as tools. You can’t buy an eye, purchase feel, nor personality.

    I view all the great advances as tools, that help with the hard work, not replace it. Bad photography has a way of being weeded out. Those that don’t put time into it usually don’t last long.

    Great site Ron, thanks for contributing your unique view point to the community.

  7. No No NO! You just dont get it – D wont get another $1000, or another $500 or even another $250! She’ll either be doing it for free or get $25 in todays prices! If she can do it so can every kid on her block. $1000? Are you mad?!

    Doesnt anybody here understand fundamental economics? Oversupply + no barriers to entry + low startup costs + decline in standards + no skill or training required + no appreciation or desire to pay for anything = low price + low margin.

    You may wish otherwise but that’s it in a nutshell. Don’t witter on about how quality will save the day and professionals will always offer a better image, the fact is it won’t – people just don’t care, they WON’T see the difference in quality and WON’T want to pay for it. Ever again. Twenty years of throwing pearls before swine has convinced me of this fact and I’m glad I’m out.

    1. Hmmm. All the same arguments that people said when Polaroid insta cameras came out. When digital cameras came out. When programs like iMovie and Movie Maker came out. Every time technology allows more “common folk” to take better photos or video, there are those who go proclaim exactly what you’re saying.

      As far as your “fundamental economics” point, do you understand fundamental marketing? Where are you marketing your services. Why can some restaurants sell a $30 hamburger when there’s McDonald’s 5 min away? Why do people continue to pay $4 for a frappacino at Starbucks when they can get a frozen coffee drink for $0.89 at QuickTrip? Why is there always a line at Whole Foods, despite there’s a Kroger across the street? It’s about branding, quality and getting your message in front of the right audience.

      And despite the fact that you can take photos and even shoot a feature film on a phone, somehow there are still photographers and videographers getting fees commiserate with their skills. Yes, you do have to adapt. Yes, you do have to think smarter about where and how you market. But it really is a waste of time and energy trying to fight it.

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