Recently, while visiting my favorite terestrian cantina, George's Camera, I sensed that our own Obi-Wan Kenobi, and real life mentor, Walter O. Koenig, was having a "state of the industry" conversation with Peter Francis, one of the gurus of gear at George's. The Force has a funny way of directing your attention to matters that impact the way of life of all photographers.
I won't regurgitate the exact conversation, instead, I will tackle some of the themes in each "Episode" and provide my commentary. These are my opinions and you will have to seek out Walter and Peter for theirs - consider it part of your hero's journey ;)
In this Episode I will cover the following "concern": Everyone with a camera thinks they're a photographer.
Conception: That this is not a good thing and that it hurts the industry and "true" professionals who's livelihood depends on photography.
Here's the truth as it is relayed to me through The Force: everyone that owns a camera IS a photographer! Of course they are!! It just depends on what your definition of a photographer is.
Technology has narrowed the learning curve so much that one could literally walk into a camera store, purchase a $3000 camera and lens, put up a website, and create a brand called "I'm-a-pro-photography.com" and get work. So of course everyone with a camera thinks they're a photographer.
Is it bad? No, it's not. In fact, I think it's a great thing. Now, before you send Boba Fett after me consider this; 1. Just because these people call themselves photographers does not mean they are professional photographers, and 2. It also does not mean they are technically adept and Jedi Masters of the camera and all things "phorce" (see what I did there?) related.
For example, many of these folks are not devoted to full-time photography. Many hold a full or part-time job and are at the very early stages of their photography journey. Second, they are years away from achieving the technical expertise for every scenario of photographic work (although I would argue that technology has also narrowed the time gap). Lighting and composition competency cannot be advanced by technology compared to gear and social competency. So what's my point?
My point is that true professionals will recognize that the influx of photographers into the industry is no different today as it has been in years past. True photographers, and more importantly, talented photographers, are able to transcend the competition and have their work and expertise stand out from the crowd.
How so? Well, ask any professional photographer that actually has clients and they will tell you it's through business competency. Your talent will get you half way there, but your business skills will get you through the door, and to the bank.
Another reason why the influx is great for photography... The industry can sustain itself through continued sales and competition by the manufacturers. Imagine that products were not moving off the shelves (which many are not now), the manufacturers would have no reason to expand their lines or improve on their technical instruments. Today's poor sales are not a result of less spending, in fact, the money is still being spent, just elsewhere.
Also, can anyone say Lynda.com, ScottKelby.com, or any other photographic instruction site out there? They would be out of business if the industry was regulated to only "professional" photographers.
Additionally, look at Apple for example. Did you know they are working on a DSLR style camera? Well, they are. Look at their patent submissions recently and you will see that they want a piece of this pie. Apple recognized that people wanted to share images quickly and that software was the new king, not hardware, and that is why the iPhone is the most popular sharing gadget used today by enthusiast and serious photographers alike, no matter what or how you label them. This will likely change with future generation cameras that are now integrating App-like architecture into their software. We simply need to agree that competition is good for all of us.
Which leads me to the outer regions of Onderon. Where do you suppose that many if these wet behind the ears photogs are competing? Exactly - in the wedding and family portraiture sector (not that there's anything wrong with this choice of subject matter). By the four moons!, you say... John, you are right. I know!
You don't have to be a master of The Force to recognize the fierce competition in wedding and portrait photography. Is that bad? I'm not even sure if that is even the right word. Haven't we already realized that most people prefer to work with photographers they already know? In fact, let me save you tuition money in marketing 101 for anything you set out to do - it's all about who you know, and this is spot-on for photographers just crossing into the rift.
Episode I ends with the realization and acceptance that finding work as a pro and non-pro in photography is not easy. It never has been and never will be. Clients know someone that knows someone and so on and so on, and the more people you know within your circles that enjoy your work are more likely to hire you if they don't have an uncle Bob in the family that has an expensive camera and calls himself a photographer... so even then, you may not get the gig anyway. Patience, timing... and marketing, my young Padawans.
So before we wish the would-be claimers be turned into bantha-fodder, let's step back a moment and take a deep breath... it's so easy to take a turn to the Dark Side...
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