Is photography a dying profession?

Progress always comes with some downsides. For example, online banking and investing forced traditional banks and investment firms in downsizing their workforce; in the newspaper industry, print journalism is declining rapidly, with traditional publishers cutting staff by leaps and bounds.

So, what is happening to the photography profession?

Today we have fantastic technology capable of producing increasingly sharper iPhone and point-and-shoot camera images; amateurs are capturing newsworthy events and sending them to news organisations; friends are being enlisted as wedding photographers and videographers. Most of them are not using a DSLR camera with a 70-200mm lens. They’re mainly using their phones. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

And what if a photo does not turn out well? That’s okay because that amateur photographer has taken 10 of the same shot, and one is bound to be good.

At first glance, and without much more thought, it would appear that the profession of photography is under attack, and, just like it has happened so much before, it will be a victim of progress. Here are some realities of this “progress:”

  • News organisations openly solicit amateurs to submit their photos and videos of events and reduce their photojournalist staff proportionately. According to the Pew Research Center, photojournalists are the hardest hit by newsroom staff reductions.
  • Some professional photographers are in such tough competition that they are lowering their prices to not being able to make a living in the profession.

Some believe Professional Photography is under siege; they don’t think it can survive the onslaught and rise to new heights but is that the case?

Ten years ago or so, if someone had said professional photography would die due to ultra-affordable cameras and powerful smartphone cameras, professional photographers would have roared out with laughter so loud it would have been heard in camera shops and studios around the globe. But here we are where everyone with an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy something-or-other can take great quality pictures.

Couple this with the fact that cheap yet powerful DSLR and Mirrorless camera kits sold at big-box retailers all seem to come with a Facebook page entitled {insert name here} photography, and you can begin to see why some think the role of the professional photographer may be against the ropes. Join us after the break as we explore this a little further.

An article that was published late last year on Medium Business caught our eye. The piece is entitled “The End of Professional Photography?” The article centres around the fact that all things in the technology world start strong with early adopters going on to make vast sums of money, followed by the masses who buy the same technology as they want a piece of the pie, which then leads to the early adopters offering to teach the newbies everything they know for a chunk of change, and then the industry dies due to overcrowding. The author likens the world of professional photography to desktop publishing and web development, both of which suffered this fate. He says that once people begin to offer services that will help teach others, it’s game over. Do you smell that? That smelly smell? I say that’s utter rubbish.

“You can hardly scroll through Facebook or watch a video on YouTube without seeing someone offer their special photography course at an all-time low price; oh, and hurry now because the first 100 will get some free presets! Oh, boy!”

In our honest opinion, professional photography is far from dead. Instead, we believe professional photography is thriving. Never before have we seen a collective group of people be so excited about the industry they’re working in. Never before have we seen professional photographers be so enthusiastic about all of the lovely new things that can be achieved with new cameras and new lens technology.

Professional Photography is evolving for sure, but it’s not dying. Not by a long shot. Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?

Does the lack of clients or a noticeable decline in sales fill your head with doubt? 

Is photography dying as a profession before our eyes? Are there days when you wonder why you bother to continue the struggle for success from your photographs?

When we look around and see so many professional photographers struggling to make even a bare living, it can be hard to believe otherwise, right? For example, have you visited any online photography forums lately?

If not, you might want to check out some of the ongoing (and often heated) discussions about the photography business. Guaranteed, you’ll find a hot thread in there somewhere that talks about “photography dying as a business”.

If you lie awake at night scared about how much the photography business will have changed by the time you get out of bed tomorrow, or you’re afraid that clients won’t pay you as much as they used to because they’ve been trained to expect low prices for photographs, this article is for you.

The question, of course, is, do you honestly believe photography is dying as a viable business? 

Is a Failed Photography Business Past Saving?

Is photography a dying profession?

Frankly, it makes me sad when I see so many photographers subscribe to the idea that the photography business is dying. I see more than several visitors here each day who searched Google for something like, how can I save my failing photography business?

Given that their business appears to have already failed, the question seems redundant, and I’m left wondering what, if anything, they tried to do to avert disaster before reaching the point of no return.

I wish I could ask them this one simple question: “How badly did they want their business to succeed, and how committed were they to preventing failure at all costs?” Even more upsetting is that too many of these failed professional photographers are highly talented individuals.

They have excellent camera skills and can produce beautiful images, but they lack the necessary marketing and business skills to make a difference. It doesn’t seem fair, but then fairness isn’t part of the game of business. Of course, everyone deserves a second chance, and they can always start over. With that in mind, I believe the answer to the question, “can a failed photography business be saved?” is a resounding “yes!”

But, it depends on which camp you’re in

Having read through masses of comments, rants, flame-wars, and other dynamic responses on various forum and group threads on this subject, two distinctly different factions are revealed.

They could be broadly described as this:

  • “We’re all gonna die… the industry’s already dead!”
  • “Let’s just get on with it – no one has to die today…”

This is such a polarising issue, and yet a razor-thin fence divides these two camps—so thin that no one even thinks about sitting on it. 

Is There Any Salvation?

Here’s the thing about professional photographers… they’re creative professionals who excel at several things:

  • They understand the importance of telling a story with their images
  • They understand composition, angle, and distance
  • They have an eye for design, patterns, visual consistency, and white balance
  • They “get” colour and colour correction, lighting, and shadows
  • And they have embraced technology and all of the creativity that it allows

Amateurs can capture 100 photos of the same event. And professional photographers can, too, with digital technology. This is what many are calling the “democratization” of photography. The difference is the amateurs will post/send bunches of them without much discrimination; the professional will be selective and edit until he has told the story creatively and compellingly.

Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

The Role of the Photographer

Perhaps the most significant change in photography, like it or not, is the photographer’s essential role. In the past, photography used to be an artistic passion with little time to worry about marketing, criticism, social reach and connecting directly with your audience. Yes, photographers always had to be skilled at marketing their work to potential clients and advertising agencies. Still, something has changed dramatically in the wake of the social media tsunami. Gone are the days where a photographer was simply one piece of a creative team who operated the camera. In contrast, the creative director and advertising agency worked hard to nail the end client’s artistic vision.

More and more often, photographers are hired for their vision, for the camera operation, for their social reach and audience, and for their ability to manage a massive team like a circus master. It’s becoming increasingly complex for a photographer to say, “I just want to create photos”, without juggling all the other responsibilities that were often passed onto other creative professionals. It seems more now than ever, for one to be a successful photographer, they will need their own massive social media reach.

This could be necessary in the commercial world, where media buyers want to cater to a rebuilt channel (the photographer’s audience). It could mean that a wedding photographer needs a considerable following to be seen over the increased number of professional photographers in their local market. Whatever field of photography you are pursuing, there is no doubt that the name of the game has changed, and the stakes are much higher than ever. The big question that we need to ask ourselves is: “is this change any different than the changes photographers’ faced 30 years ago?”

The Technical Skill Set of a Photographer

Are photographers becoming less technically sound in the field of photography? This is the question that I find myself asking more and more often. There is no doubt that in the golden age of photography, the technical skills photographers had to master were enormous, from loading film to understanding precisely how aperture, shutter, and film speed worked together to form exposure, to developing film, getting flash photography without seeing the image, perfecting manual focus, and knowing which film stock to shoot on. Heaven forbid we even move into the darkroom or start considering multiple compositing frames of film together pre-Photoshop! From the earliest stages, photography was always a very technical art form, even for those who wanted not to be very technical.

Digital photography has changed all of that. Yes, of course, you can still be as technical as you want to be. Nevertheless, from my anecdotal experiences being deep in the industry for 15-plus years now, I feel like more photographers are less versed in the actual mechanics of photography than ever. More and more images are created solely in post-production, as in, the photo straight out of the camera isn’t that great, to begin with at all. I’m a massive fan of post-production and using all the tools that Photoshop has to offer. Still, it feels like we’ve gotten to a point where the scales between photographer and digital artist have tipped, causing most of the imagery we see to be more digital art than actual photography. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here.

Will Technology Adversely Affect the Gear We Use?

Is photography a dying profession?

The final thing to think about in all of this involves the gear, so many of us love and cherish. In all creative fields, as technology evolves, the tools we use to create our art changes. Significantly few people are still building businesses around the darkroom. Radio waves have replaced sync cables. LED lights all but replace hot incandescent lights. Mirrors in our DSLRs seem to be on the way out, and I’m sure our camera’s shutter is the next element to fall to the wayside. And while all of this is happening to our physical tools of the trade, the technology processing our images is getting better and better.

Every quarter, we read articles about how Canon, Nikon, and even Sony are selling fewer and fewer DSLR cameras. Some might argue this is because mirrorless cameras are eating into the ancient technology of single-lens reflex cameras, but I think something bigger is even happening. I guess camera sales, in general, are at risk as more and more of the general population moves over to cell phone cameras.

Of course, it will be a long time before cell phone cameras can completely replace the professional cameras we use daily, but can these camera and lens manufacturers sustain a business when so many customers are “happy enough” with their cell phones? Could Nikon or Fujifilm stop making the cameras we have grown to love? What about the flash world? Could Profoto and Broncolor become the next Dynalite or Vivitar?

As I mentioned in the video above, could we see a day when software like Photoshop or Luminar allows us to create the lighting we desire directly in post-production? At what point would the needle that straddles photographer versus digital artist completely move to the side of the digital artist? Could technology kill photography in the most accurate form of the word?

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Perhaps the most significant silver lining in all of this is that more people can enjoy the world of photography today than in the past. More people can make money and build careers out of photography than ever before. The imagery posted online and printed through traditional advertising avenues are better and more innovative than ever before. It’s crazy to look at the top-rated photographs in the community and think how many of those images would not have been created if we all had to stick to the traditional photography rules. 

Rules are always meant to be broken, and innovation waves constantly disrupt the status quo generation after generation. Maybe there is room to hold traditional photography virtues in one hand while embracing the new and innovative creativeness in the other.

What do you think? Do photographers today need a massive following to get hired for the same jobs photographers before we were engaged? Is the technical art of “getting it right in camera” a fading skill set, and if so, does it even matter? Are photography companies that produce traditional cameras, lenses, and lighting equipment facing new challenges as portable phones and software create amazing images more effortless and more accessible?

Take this same thinking line, apply it to professional photography and change the parameters just a little. You can show someone how to use a camera, you can teach them about the rule of thirds, and sure, they will take nice, technically sound pictures. Still, it takes a true creative, a professional photographer with a vision to create an image, to capture emotions, and to be able to tell a story with a single photo. The ability to convey a story or message with an idea cannot be taught; it comes from within, which is why professional photography will never die. Anyone with any camera can take a picture, but not just anyone can create an image that makes people stop, think, and feel. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

Bottom Line

Instead of thinking that professional photography is dead, stay true to yourself, know your worth, keep the creative juices flowing, market yourself correctly, sell your images. Your business will thrive, even with all the wannabes around offering shoots for crazy low prices. Professional photography isn’t dying on a global scale like the article on Medium Business suggests. If you give up the fight, it may hunger for you, but believe me, keep on fighting the good war, and professional photography will do right by you.