Has digital photography made commercial photographers poor?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by rashedahmed, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. I was thinking it last few days. Digital photography made a lot of photographers who might never thought of being one. Now competition is fears. So, working cheaper is the new trend now. Though surviving in a long run will be a challenge.
    The rich clients become more benifited from digital as they can buy cheaper services. In short, made commercial photographers poor.
  2. Rashad, I don't shoot for money. There is a variety of reasons why I do shoot, besides being a hobbyist. My first camera, given to me when I was about 10, was an Ansco, a rather primitive film camera. I purchased my first SLR when I was 18 - an Agfaflex. Approximately 5 years later, because its shutter needed repair and there were no parts available, I bought a Canon AE1, which I still own. I acquired my first digital camera, a Lumix "bridge" camera with a Leica lens, in 2003, when I was 56. My first DSLR was bought in 2005, a Canon T1i, and I got my current camera, a Canon 60D, approximately 4 years ago.

    I apologize if this seems wordy, but I felt I needed to demonstrate that I have as much experience shooting film as shooting digital, perhaps more so. Your conclusion, that "[Digital] made commercial photographers poor" simply doesn't follow. Some commercial photographers who still shoot film have become poorer because there are better film photographers. Others have become poorer because of competition in general. That's how a free market operates.
  3. There may be more competition and more newbies working cheap looking to break into the game. Face it, pro photographers no longer have the market cornered, what does it take to start up? A camera, a lens or two or three, some lighting gear even if just a speedlight, a computer with editing software and the ability to take a photo and some reasonable skill.

    Joe the plumber has no clue the difference between a $9000 camera and lens from a $595 camera and lens. They look at the price, the guy shooting weekends as a side gig shooting for $400 or $50/hour vs the Wedding Pro who is charging $2,000 to $30,000. Sure photographers know, but consumers not so much. An educated consumer who can afford a pro will get a pro.

    There are always going to be those who can not afford a pro and who will never pay more than $500 for a photographer.
    And there will always be those who will look for quality. and will pay for it. Maybe some more work in explaining this in Bride magazines. But you will always have those looking for a deal on the cheap. They won't really know what they missed, and they may just have the cheap photographer is good enough approach. There are those out there that want the best and are willing to pay for it.

    As far as working cheaper, there is a point of diminishing returns. Someone who is willing to work for an extremely low wage is not going to be able to survive and will move on to something more profitable for their time and effort. Few of those will ever stay long enough to hone their art to be truly talented and last.

    So the Professional needs to shine in quality of the product and the service and educate the consumer as to why you are worth your price. The successful pro needs to really sell themselves. It takes work and is a full-time job to become successful. It may take more than just a pretty website to create momentum.

    Competition from people working cheap has become the norm in the times we live in, it happens with painters, drywall guys, car mechanics, electricians, plumbers, handymen, barbers, roofers, Taxi drivers...

    If you want a guaranteed cornered market, become a doctor or lawyer where people actually have to go to school and get a license. To make it as a pro photographer, you are going to have to hustle and make your mark.
  4. Steve Soderbergh just shot an entire Hollywood movie, "Unsane", on an iPhone 7. Talk about low budget. Excellent movie though. That's where the money's at now IMO.

    Forget making a living shooting still photography unless you like shooting weddings.
  5. No, its the stock photo agencies that have lowered the standards of quality and creativity.
  6. A medium does not make a photographer. It takes talent, creativity, an eye, and some business sense if you're going commercial. Some digital photographers who may call themselves photographers are no more photographers than were Mom and Pop when they took out their Instamatics and shot pics of the kids at Disneyland. "I am a photographer" doesn't make someone a photographer. Neither does a digital or, for that matter a film, camera.
    michaellinder and Jochen like this.
  7. Other people's family pictures are the best street photography.
  8. I have no data nor proof to prove it either way but I don't think digital photography made the commercial photographers poor. However if it's the truth then it's actually a good thing.
  9. No, it isn't "new" at all. I was old enough to look at the struggling professional scene in the late 80s and met a fair share of stranded elsewhere ex wannabe pro photographers. So basicallly: "Digital" does and did not matter. Sure, it was more expensive to make mistakes AKA "learn" on film. But how does that matter for the self exploiting wannabe? In doubt you overshot jobs paying one roll with 2 additional rolls, trying to build your reputation and getting a foot into some door. Wannabe photo journalists outstarving each other seemed common in my hometown. Even photographer journeymen seeking employment usually made no fortunes since 80% of them were pushed into different jobs after their apprenticeship.
  10. AJG


    Working pros never had it easy, but digital has made it harder for some. A lot of professional work that used to exist for photographers who just had a modicum of skill and equipment can now be done by lots of people with a DSLR and a kit lens since the screen on the camera tells the user immediately if they got something useable. What economists call "barriers to entry" are much lower than they were in the days of slow film and much more expensive (relatively) film cameras, so it isn't surprising that clients expect lower prices or that someone already working for them can do photography also. It is ironic that on the one hand demand for images has never been higher, but on the other, the number of images available for cheap prices or free has never been greater.
  11. Things were way different when I set off to RIT in the early '70s. Today an image usually has a short shelf life and the value of images in general is next to nothing. True quality isn't highly valued, save for a few areas. Back in my first job in product development, we'd hire a pro for a day or more to set up and do product shots for our ads and brochures. It would cost $1-2 k for each shoot. Today some quick dSLR or even phone shots get the job done and everybody's happy. Heck, they bitch if it takes more than an hour to do it. Some months ago I needed a pro for some product shots that needed a hand model and more sophisticated lighting. Couldn't even find somebody local to do it.
  12. Go to any local college and look at what first year students are producing, for product placement, In Color.!
    Not only has it devalued "photography" it has devalued "printing".
    ALL things are like that. Turn the clock back to 1960, any idea how hard it was to drive a big diesel truck...paint a house...get 8k miles out of an oil change...watch a movie at home...if you were a pilot for Pan-Am, TWA (who..???) United or others, you were almost a F'ing Idol, like an astronaut. Pilots are a dime a dozen now. etc etc etc
  13. Why should I when I can be perfectly happy and productive living in the present? All it requires is living in the present and not being overwhelmed and stifled by nostalgia. I’m out there shooting today, not yesterday.
    michaellinder likes this.
  14. Every picture you have is from the past.
    Every posting of a picture is an exercise in nostalgia......
    michaellinder and wogears like this.
  15. Because those that do not study history are doomed to.......never mind. :)
  16. Oh please. You didn't just suggest studying history. You suggested that turning the clock back would teach us how photography has been devalued, which is bunk.
  17. Sweet Dreams fred. :)
  18. I guess what the OP describes is not so much attributed to digital, but rather to a longer and older process of photography becoming much more a mass product. As it happens, digital accelerated that process further, but the writing was already on the wall before that: cheap, easy-to-use SLRs in the second half of the 80s gave a lot more people access to good quality equipment that was roughly as capable as what many pros were shooting, at a very accessible price. Adding automatic and semi-automatic modes, so that understanding of exposure was no longer strictly necessary, and adding AF which further reduced the need for the user to understand what (s)he is doing.....
    This process already started well before digital became affordable. Internet made the quantity of images shot just more visible, and further accelerated this popularisation of photography.

    Now, to suggest that any of this automatically means that whatever is being done today is of lesser value is a rather short-sighted opinion.
    The fact that capturing an image has become easier over time doesn't mean the skills of the person holding such camera no longer counts for anything. And there is not a single argument why today there wouldn't be talented, skilled photographers left. The fact that the overall volumes of photos being made is bigger today doesn't mean in that larger pool, there are no quality works left - quite the opposite: in a bigger pond, there is at least as much or more fish. It may require a bit more effort to catch that fish, but it's still worth the effort.
    In fact, nowadays more people get exposed to photography, which potentially gives a bigger likelihood for the talented to give it a try. There is a big positive there, since it's more likely that talent is discovered.

    Suggestions that images today are of lesser value or lesser quality: opinions. Not facts. The World Press Photos still show very relevant work, just like before. There are still very talented and skilled portrait photographers, wedding photographers etc. Why would their images have less value?
    Sure, if you prefer prints, Instagram is a big mental step to overcome in your mind. That doesn't mean there is no good work available there, it just means you've not yet adapted to where the rest of world has been moving. Which might be fine (do whatever you like), but the idea that in the past things were hence better is again just an opinion, and far from fact.
  19. The OP seems to think digital capture makes everyone an expert. That might work for events, but the skill is in the setup and execution, not the medium. I'm not a commercial photographer, but I appreciate the attention to detail in photography of models and products. It is far easier to achieve consistency of color and exposure with digital, with far less processing before the hard work of finishing begins. The new "normal" seems to be medium format with 100 MP, which yields 4x the practical resolution of MF film and is not limited to ISO 400 for high quality results.
    michaellinder likes this.
  20. Of course photographers are making less money nowadays. But they're getting more likes!

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