Photographers have had a good run. From the first photograph ever captured in 1826 until today, we’ve all witnessed countless, amazing advances. Unfortunately the demise of professional photographers is almost complete.
Decade old tech kills professional photography
Ironically the death knell to the business of photographers turns out to be 10-year-old technology. This tech enables everyone to be a photographer, by making capturing a photograph as simple as pushing a button. In short the professional photographer is going the way of the buggy whip maker.
With today’s introduction of Kodak’s “Brownie” camera, Mr. Eastman is leveraging his transparent roll film, invented just a decade ago, and brings photography to the masses. His advertisements for this camera “You press the button – we’ll do the rest.” does not bode well for any commercial photographer and at a price of on dollar, soon everyone will be creating their own photographs.
Why the iPhone is just like the Brownie
That’s what a blog post in 1900 may have read like. Fast forward to today, replace the 10-year-old technology of transparent photographic film with digital image capture, and substitute Kodak’s “Brownie” with Apple’s iPhone. Even Steve Job’s slogan “the internet in your pocket” is a carbon copy of “a Kodak in your pocket”.
It’s true, iPhonography lets everyone carry a camera with them 24/7 flooding the world of social media with photos and video. Today’s trend is definitely away from the carefully crafted photograph, but it is going towards photographers. Heather Elder, a rep on the west coast said it best in a recent blog post “The bottom line is that relying solely on your imagery to speak for you has become dangerous.”
How to survive the final nail in the coffin
Since everyone can create a good image these days, (and if it’s not perfect, a quick Instagram filter can fix that) the focus is turning away from your imagery standing by itself and is shifting toward the photographers themselves in addition to their photographic ability. Heather goes on to say “Adding your voice to that imagery is equally as dangerous, but for everyone else, not you.”
In my experience, many of my clients tell me, that after they find my business through a Google search for a photographer; they look what Google has to say about my brand (i.e. me and my business in addition to my photography). Almost everyone comments that the presentation of my business online played a huge role in their decision to hire me. For more on this, see my earlier Strictly Business post when I wrote about why having a strong online brand is worth more than your skill set as a photographer.
Today our profession finds itself threatened by popular adoption of 10-year-old technology again to the point, where we have to adapt how we brand and market what we do. Being able to see the trends in your industry is essential to one’s survival – after all Mr. Strong was a buggy whip manufacturer who, after foreseeing the death of his business, partnered with the first producer of photographic dry plates: George Eastman.
[This article was first posted on Strictly Business the blog of the American Society of Media Photographers in March of 2015.]