7 minute read:
What Future For Photography?…
…Oh to have a crystal ball. Nobody really knows for sure, what the future holds.
Here’s my realistic view on things. For photography itself, I would describe the future in many ways; vastly varied, fast moving, without value, online, challenging, disposable, instantaneous, free, expensive, specialized, increasingly techy and typically falsely enhanced (you might say ‘photo-shopped’).
There is an old saying that goes along the lines of ‘the camera never lies’…however, we live in an age now whereby you can never trust a picture at face value. You may have read in one of my other blog posts, I said,’we are living in a golden age of photography, right now’. This is true.
I think with the advancements digital technology, and computer enhancements have brought to photography, there has probably never before been a time in the history of photography when there has been so much rapid change.
However, this has also brought about a situation where it has never before been more difficult to make a living from being a photographer.
There are many reasons for this…here are three of them as I see it.
1. Clever (& Cheap) Equipment
First and foremost is the technological advancements in cameras. Also, the convenience that this has yielded in terms of phone cameras.
There is an abundance of cheap cameras on the market that do it for you (largely). The vast majority of cameras, will, with little input from their user beyond the push of a single button, more often than not produce a good image. When I refer to cameras here, I am referring to entry level DSLR’s, higher end smart phone cameras etc.
Did you notice I say a ‘good image’…and not necessarily a good photograph, let alone a great photograph? Most modern digital camera’s, even the entry level cheaper equipment, can in their auto-point-and-shoot modes produce a decent quality, correctly exposed image in the majority of circumstances. Now there are many limitations and caveats to that statement, but for the majority of people, most of the images produced will be ‘adequate’.
This is testimony to the clever people who design these cameras, and to the fact that many people can’t readily discern a good photograph from a poor one, critically speaking. Also, in our instantaneous world of thoughtless smartphone snapping and uploading to twitfacetube etc, there is little consideration for the quality of a photograph, let alone any planning or forethought…mostly it is mindless reactionary, impulsive, opportunistic photo-drivel (and that’s being kind!).
Cameras are everywhere. Most people now have a phone with a built in camera, and the cameras in phones have improved greatly over recent years. It has become ‘second nature’, to capture everyday images using phone cameras. Whilst phone cameras have improved, its worth pointing out just in case you are in any doubt, there really is no comparison between a proper high quality camera and the camera built into your phone… The one built into your phone wins hands down for convenience, but that’s about it.
Creating a photograph, is different from capturing an image.
To capture a good photograph, you need some luck and or some photographic skill.
To create a great photograph, you need some photographic skill…and some luck!…Yes, there is always a little element of luck, but the better you are at photography, the less you depend upon it.
This explosion of clever, techy, cheap, easy to use camera equipment has brought us to a place where there is an inevitable de-skilling of the art of photography.
If you look at all the popular social media platforms, you will see gzillions of smartphone snaps to bear this out….but not many good photographs, unless you seek them out at more dedicated sites. Despite what I said earlier about the internet being saturated with ‘photo-drivel’, I think ‘Pinterest’ is a good platform where you can seek out examples of photography that are simply brilliant (being aware of course, the fact that 99.9% of them are altered / enhanced though!).
Because of this mass availability of cheap and clever camera equipment, this has led to another scenario…..
2. Everyone’s a Photographer
Because this cheap camera equipment will in the main, do the job for you (with all the caveats), there are now more ‘Photographers’ than ever before….or are there?
Everyone does their own ‘photography’ because they fancy themselves as being a ‘photographer’…. There’s always the guy in the office who’s ‘good with a camera’, or Aunt Jean who ‘likes to take pictures’, or the guy in the golf club who ‘does all our photography’…etc. etc. etc.
Well, there are definitely more people now than ever calling themselves photographers, but as I’ve stated elsewhere in my blog, capturing one or two lucky decent pictures with your point n shoot or your phone, doesn’t make you a photographer any more than making a nice beans on toast transforms you into a Michelin star Chef.
3. Demand is Disappearing
Finally, whilst demand for professional photography has always been relatively low, due to points 1 and 2 above there is now less demand than ever. But there’s worse news…this demand as low as it is right now, will continue to diminish as equipment gets better and cheaper.
But will all equipment continue to become cheaper?
Whilst there has been a huge resurgence in camera sales, particularly entry level DSLR’s etc and the more pocket-able mirrorless cameras, which has been in part fueled by the online smartphone photographic frenzy, more recently however, camera sales have fallen.
It follows therefore, that popular camera manufactures will continue to cut the cost and the price, of their volume entry level products, that fuel interest and therefore sales in the rest of their ranges. So the likelihood is that the cheap end of the market will become cheaper (but not by much…..read on), however all of the professional grade equipment including small, medium and large format kit, will become more expensive as sales drop.
Another contributing reason for this apart from the basic fundamentals of volume and manufacturing costs, is that there is far less scope than there used to be to for the manufacturers to reduce their manufacturing costs.
All of the big companies who manufacture camera and optical equipment in any significant volume, i.e. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji etc… are already producing many of their goods in low cost economies like China, India, Malaysia, South America etc etc. All of the other remaining camera companies whom you may (rightly or wrongly) think of as ‘top-end’, will certainly be sourcing many of their component parts from their supply base situated in low cost economies….So where else can they go?
Further bad news for the manufacturers and ultimately of course the consumers going forward, is that these so-called low cost economies are fast maturing and becoming increasingly more costly.
In addition, more and more now, governments appear to be heading the direction of in-sourcing the provision of goods and services (in this case manufacturing), due to political pressures i.e. to create employment, to retain control, avoid duties & levvies, avoid trade barriers etc etc (….and I’m not even going to mention The UK’s exit from the EU).
So, how else can the makers significantly take cost out of their products, whilst maintaining their quality, in order to pass on a price reduction to the Customer?
So, What Future For Photography?
So, now that I’ve cheered you up with that lot of doom and gloom (especially if youre a budding photographer!), is there any good news? (I imagine you may ask)….What does the future hold?
In terms of our technical equipment, I suspect things are going to become even more ‘techy’. I think we will soon see the end of the road for DSLR’s despite new models being pushed upon us all the time, in favour of a smaller, simpler (less mechanical – cheaper to make) equivalents based upon the mirrorless format.
As for photography itself, the future is bright I reckon, as we are all ‘photographers’….arn’t we?…For professional photographers however, it’s not so easy.
It seems likely to me that much of the fairly standard, dare I say run-of-the-mill type photographic work that forms the ‘bread n butter’ income for many professional photographers, may end up becoming a thing of the past. Yes there will always be exceptions, but I am talking most of the people most of the time here.
Assignments like wedding photography and family portrait photography etc will be largely covered by ‘people with their own cameras’ – (PWOC’s). Even more commercial work will be undertaken by PWOC’s. As photography is everywhere now, it has little value in the eyes of very many people.
‘Specialize…and be creative’
So, for the future, which is fast becoming the present, that leaves the more specialist end of the market to the Professional Photographers…. and that’s the way it should be in many respects.
Ultimately, the remaining business to be had in this highly competitive marketplace will be demanded by high-end Customers, requiring specialist assignments both in commercial and private commissions, where a combination of specialist knowledge, experience, capability and equipment is needed to successfully execute the required results. This great image of a climber being photographed was not taken by us I hasten to add…I’m happy to leave work involving such risk to others!
Successful professional photographers will be those who can satisfy specialist demand and also continue to diversify creatively, to provide fresh new ways of presenting their art to the Customer.
Also, many successful photographers in the past have been those who can combine other skills, passions and knowledge bases with their photographic capability…this will remain a key to success and will always be advantageous. Not forgetting of course, that specialist photographers can always generalize, but generalist photographers cannot always specialize.
Finally, it should not need saying, but the need for excellence in Customer service in addition to the final product, is more important than ever.
So what will that mean?….fewer Photographers? Well, as for PWOC’s they will become almost everyone, if they’re not already. The market however, will determine how many true Professional Photographers are needed.
There are however, still many individuals and businesses out there who, thankfully, are able to recognize quality amongst mediocrity, and subsequently demand the best to reflect themselves and their brand in every aspect of their life, including photography….and this will always be the case, but it’s a limited market.
What do you think the future holds for photography?… What type of photography do you practice?…. Are you a Pro and do you have a view on this?…Let me know your thoughts on this using the form below.
Thanks for reading my blog….‘Photography Lesson 4’ along with other blog posts, are in the oven…watch this space.
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