There has been plenty of talk in recent years about photography dying as a profession. As the thinking goes, the ever-evolving smartphone is making it easier for amateurs to take pro-quality photographs with little knowledge of things like lighting and shadows. In reality though, professional photography is not dying; it is merely transitioning.
Photography is alive and well as a profession. But the emphasis these days is on commercial photography. Therein lies the big misunderstanding. We look at certain types of photography that seem to be in decline thanks to the smartphone. Yet we fail to see that commercial photography is still very much in demand.
Why the Myth Persists
There are not nearly as many photojournalists today as there were in the newspaper industry’s heyday. As newspapers and glossy magazines have shed subscribers, newsrooms have had to lay off employees. According to Pew research from 2013, photojournalists have been among the hardest hit by downsizing.
Reducing the number of photojournalists on staff make sense in light of all the other ways newsrooms can obtain photographs. For starters, there are entire catalogs of stock photos that news organizations can purchase rather cheaply. Stock photos do the job just fine when a particular story doesn’t require photographs specific to that particular event.
Beyond that, news organizations now openly solicit photographs from their audience members. Eager consumers are more than happy to send their photos on the promise of enjoying their five minutes of fame. After all, who wouldn’t love to see their amateur photo printed in the newspaper or displayed with an online news story?
Another casualty of the iPhone generation is wedding photography. The trend these days is to ask guests to take as many photos as they want and then submit them to the couple for the purposes of creating a more authentic photo album. Your average guest could take hundreds of pictures. At least one or two should turn out okay. Multiply that by a hundred guests and you have a fairly sizable photo album. More importantly, it didn’t cost a dime.
Commercial Photography Is Different
While it is true that photojournalism and wedding photography are both suffering these days, commercial photography is the exception to the rule. It is different. Not only are commercial photographers not struggling across the board, but most are also doing very well.
Their success lies in the very nature of what they do. Take Vargo Photography in Salt Lake City, Utah. The studio’s owner produces a full range of photographic content for commercial applications. One day he might be shooting food for a local restaurant. The next day’s photo shoot might involve taking shots of a speeding race car and its sponsor’s logo.
What makes commercial photography different is its intent. Commercial photographs are designed to sell things. To succeed as a photographer, you need to be adept at more than just the fundamentals of taking good pictures. You must also have a mind for marketing.
Amateur Shots Don’t Cut It
Every once in a while, an amateur shot works well for commercial purposes. But that’s not normally the case. Most of the time, amateur shots don’t cut it. They are not taken with the intent to sell something; they are taken haphazardly. As such, an amateur shot rarely tells the story marketers want told.
With the emphasis on digital marketing these days, commercial photography is more important than ever before. It is so important that it is breathing new life into an industry so many assume was dying. No, professional photography is not dying as a career. It is just shifting gears.