Photography: The Harsh Truth

September 10, 2013 5:00 pm

As little as ten years ago, photography was an art form practised only by those who were qualified or by those who fancied themselves artists within a photographic realm. Nowadays, photography is part of almost everyone’s life. With universally used websites such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, every photo is made public and can be changed, manipulated, de-coloured, recoloured, reshaped and have just about anything else you can think of done to it.

On top of this, the image of the lone photographer waiting patiently for his moment to snap a picture of something spectacular is almost extinct. What is the reason for this? There are those who will blame websites such as Instagram but in all honesty the concept of those websites is amazing and the blame cannot really lie there. So where does it lie? The answer is smart phones. People don’t need expensive, impressive looking cameras anymore because their smartphones have inbuilt cameras that are often just as good as a normal camera. Furthermore, some mobile phones are actually marketed on the quality of their camera.

Watch this video about the Sony Xperia Z1 mobile phone and see how they focus almost entirely on the camera in the phone and suggest that it is as good, and powerful, as an actual camera.

So what will happen to photography? Essentially, anyone who wants to be a photographer can now do so as more or less everyone owns a smart phone. We all have the ability to take incredible photographs and share them with the world and this means that those who do it as a profession may find it harder to stand out in a much larger crowd to one that they used to enjoy.

With a bit of luck this will maybe just mean that the standard of photography will go up in the professional sector (as we have seen with some nature programmes on television) but unfortunately it also means that the photography market will be highly saturated and making a name for yourself will become next to impossible.

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  • ChrisRobinson

    Speaking as an ex-press photographer, I have to say that the technological advances that have been made in photography are pretty damn marvellous. What I would have given to have available at my fingertips our new, pushbutton, digital world back in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a world away from the laborious dark room nightmares when we had to ‘do it in the dark’; get the temperatures of the developing agent, stop baths, and fixing solutions just right. Then there was the waiting for them to dry and hope nobody opened the drying cabinet door which would suck up every bit of dust and stick them to your negatives. Then (yawn) the printing process bathed in the dimness of the safelight and, again, getting the developer, stop bath, and fixer right with a twenty minute bath at the end (the prints not the photographer), then DRYING the prints (another twenty minutes) and that was the easier black and white photos – colour was another ordeal.
    And it was this that, I suppose, separated THE PHOTOGRAPHER from the rank amateur, I guess, because you had to learn all these skills AND have access to the equipment – developing tanks, film spirals, running water, enlarger, developing trays, the dark room itself – oh, and the camera! As a student photographer, I lived in a one room bedsit and PERMANENTLY blacked out the windows as I converted my living space into my own darkroom. I would have killed for today’s technology and, yes, now everyone can, potentially, be a photographer. Technology, like the social media democratising journalism, has done the same for photography. I say POTENTIALLY, because, in the final analysis, you have to have the ‘eye’ for a good photo, for composition, for light and shade, for image juxtaposition, for your picture to tell a thousand words, and that, my friends, is something this touch button world does not supply.

    • Gary Hallow

      Thumbs up to the last sentence – to succeed in this industry you do need that all-empowering “eye”. I am also an ex photography student and whilst I wish I had today’s technology 15 years ago, I do agree (as a failed photographer essentially) that it is now much more difficult to stand out and that often the photographs that make it big on the news etc. are taken by accident/amateurs and not the professionals!

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