by Gray Graham
This has been a topic of conversation for awhile in photography circles so I thought I would share my thoughts on the subject. Before I do that though I thought I would give you a short background on the photography industry.
In the past, photography was very much a closed door industry. The only way to make it was to be in the right circles. It was pretty expensive because of the cost of film and processing equipment. It was a field of people that were very smart and had money to spare.
Let's move forward to the 70's where film became cheaper, cameras became cheaper and easier to use, and you begin to see a photography explosion as many more people enter the field. Many people have fond memories of Kodak and Polaroid cameras. It was now very easy for everyone to have family pictures of everyday moments.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the consumer digital DSLR. No longer do you have to worry about film or processing cost. Now for under $1000 anyone could get a DSLR and with a little practice you could take jaw dropping pictures that were magazine quality. Add photo editing skills of programs like Photoshop and now you have people with the same tools that the pros used. A new industry is born and many people bought a 30D or D200 and started photo studios across the world.
Fast forward again to today, and we are now have a world where many people have a quality camera on the smartphone in their pocket. There are now many consumer level programs that anyone can use to make their pictures look great with no learning curve. There is no longer a need to hire a photographer at all for most occasions. Professional photography is indeed dying as we once knew it.
Photographers have always been a special lot. Spend any time talking to anyone that calls themselves a photographer and you will see how special they are. Most think that unless you have $50,000 worth of equipment, you are not allowed to call yourself a photographer or even take pictures. Ask a simple question like, what type of camera or lens should I buy, and you will be treated as if you have asked the dumbest question ever.
See this is a major part of the photography culture, the belief that a photographer is special and unique. Most of the old timers were treated like clueless apprentices when they began in the field. They had to earn the privilege of learning from someone else generally the hardest way possible. Nothing was made easy for them. Believe it or not there are still photography schools that have everyone start on a Pentax K1000 and film in 2013 the digital age.
Needless to say not many people are still willing to play this tune. What many of these individuals forget is that everyone that has a camera is a photographer. It does not matter what kind of camera a person has as long as it is able to take a picture.
Sure some cameras are better than others and many people's images will look better, but they are all photographers. There are many people out there making great images with smartphones and many people taking many bad pictures with a professional DSLR.
Photography will probably never die anymore than any art will die. There will still be occasions and professions that will pay a person to record the event. We just don't know what the technology will be at the time.
And let's finish by being clear on one thing. A professional photographer is someone that gets paid for photography. It does not matter what equipment they use or how long they have been doing it, as long as they earn a paycheck then they are a professional photographer. Many photographers would do well to learn and understand this especially if they want to actually earn money and not just spend time bragging about how great they are in online photography communities.