the future of professional photography

easy button

This past weekend was the Worldwide Photo Walk and it was a great deal of fun (David Ziser has a really nice wrap up on the Cincinnati Walk here). I had an opportunity to speak with a number of other photographers in attendance and would like to thank everyone that took the time to say “hello”. I shot some candid video during the event that I’ll get posted here in a few days. While walking along we discussed a number of photo career topics like obtaining clients, valuing work and technical advances.

As I speak more and more with developing photographers with an eye on creating income from photography, two things leave me particularly impressed:

1. The speed at which new photographers are able to advance their technical skills with digital photography
2. An evolving, more business-like approach to earning even a bit of extra income from photography

We all understand that digital photography has made the technical learning curve more accessible. I sometimes find myself envious of the beginning amateur these days, thinking about all of the fun digital tools that are now at everyone’s disposal. This website lets me share learning experiences with photographers of all levels and it’s been fun to watch each other’s “flash bulbs” of knowledge going off.

But I do also miss the old ways: lighting every shot to maximum effect, color-correcting banks of lights and lenses, correcting perspective with the swings and tilts of a view camera and communicating with the E-6 technician at the photo lab. Computers and software have now capably replaced a portion of what once separated my skills from the amateur. That’s simply evolution, it happens in every industry and this one will continue to evolve, also (speaking of evolution, have you seen the new 15 megapixel Canon 50d with 18-200mm lens ?! They’re already taking online pre-orders for the 50d at Shop Calumet Photographic – It’s Where the Pros Go).

In less than a year into a digital photography foray, dedicated, focused (pardon the pun) hobbyists are becoming quite capable of producing technically excellent photographs. Continued dedication and the many available online learning tools can elevate skills much further. This has opened up a new world of opportunity for those photographers hoping to turn their hobby into a career. A few years ago this seemed to be fostering a bit of a “gold rush” mentality, where everyone with a camera seemed to be calling themselves a professional, thinking creativity alone might guarantee a living in photography. I wondered at the time if that mentality would continue and just where it would head. Many of those photographers searching for the photo business “easy button” have since gone on to other things.

This past weekend I received some good indications of just where things may be headed for my (our) chosen profession. While speaking to a number of part-time and aspiring professionals I was extremely pleased with the various approaches to the business I heard. There was intelligent talk on preserving the value of photography and the value of business planning. This was noticeably different than what I seemed to be hearing just a few years ago.

As a matter of fact, each aspiring or part-time professional I spoke to would be an interesting study on starting a business, each with educated perspectives to share. How cool is that? What makes it even cooler were the “thank you’s” I received for sharing information deemed helpful. If my photographic mission were to end tomorrow I’d feel fulfilled.

And, thankfully, among all of the intelligent conversation and questions, not one person had centered their business plan on finding the “easy button”.