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Thread: Is the Professional Photographer becoming extinct

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    The Commander
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    Is the Professional Photographer becoming extinct

    As someone close to retirement and planning to make some pocket money as a part time photog moving into retirement - it has been in the back of my mind the question of is there still a role for a pro photographer. Everyone has a camera at hand these days and albeit the web, FB, instagram, snapchat and the like are filled with phone photos I still see a future in photography as an income earner (Well IMHO anyways).

    In the search for the holy grail with the answer I came across a session by Tony Northrup on this very subject. An interesting session to watch and although it appears, statistically to show a decline in some genre of photography, there is area's of photography that still hold up hope.

    Aaron Nace of PHLearn is of the opinion that to survive in todays world you must develop serious editing skills and apply them to manipulate the images to that of the appetite of the market - on this I strongly agree. So then I ask myself, you do not have artistic skills so how do you fit the mold. In another recorded session by a photog who I cannot remember was this very topic also and it is of his believe that the art of photography and editing can be learned without the basis of artistic skills as photography within itself is a leaned skill and not gifted. I am on the fence with this one and will let you know in about 6 yrs time if this is the case :-)

    For those interested - here is the link to Tony's session on his assessment - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQQDysiedRA

    SO - What is the thoughts among the AP group of photographers - I have followed a couple of journeys of some photogs who started on AP as enthusiasts and moved on to career photogs. I am sure there are others on here working as a FT photog that see the real direction the photographer market is taking.

    All comments on this subject are most welcome :-)
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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    I think globalisation has made the role of the professional photographer change. Go back 20 years and most department stores had a marketing department that did their catalogues, they often had a small studio, local models and did their own catalogue shoots. Now they buy in the clothes from China, India etc and the catalogue shots come with them.

    Car yards would employ photographers to shoot the glossy brochures, now the manufacturer supplies it *overseas model shown.

    However, there are some photos that cannot be shot overseas. Weddings, people, etc. You have to be on the ground, in front of the client to take their photo. They cannot contract it out to someone overseas. So there is a market for professional photographers, you just have to know what it is.

    Your own post also hints at the issues facing professional photographers. You hope to make some pocket money as you move into retirement. So you decide to start shooting weddings. There are only so many weddings in Australia each year and in fact the number of weddings annually has been declining each year. Yet, there are a lot more photographers, who think they can make some pocket money, shooting these ever decreasing number of weddings. Perhaps if gay marriage had been successfully dealt with by our politicians, the wedding market would once again have boomed. If nothing else, it would have well and truly boosted that economy sector.

    So, in summary, my thoughts are that professional photography is still a great career.. for some. Though they have to fight for the limited $'s with all the semi-professionals out there, in a tighter and smaller marketplace.
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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Ahh, the march of time takes its toll - First, the bird; then the dance; now the ProTogs?!!

    The Dodo. - Where is it now?

    The Go-go. (Hey, remember the 60s? - Yeah? Well you weren't there!)

    And now.... for the man (usually) of extinction... Enter EXIT the...
    Go-Pro
    Last edited by ameerat42; 28-01-2017 at 10:01am. Reason: Ixf ypto
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    I think it's hard to impossible to make a living from say Landscape or Macro imagery alone. You would need to be doing portraiture and maybe weddings or sports (if you can get a press card) to get the equivalent of a full-time wage from it.

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    The Commander
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    Yea, I hear you Rick.

    My comments maybe lack some clarity :-) Pocket money was probably a bad choice of words. In reality I need a retirement job to ensure my super lasts me and having worked in IT for the last 24 yrs, the only other skill I have is photography and close to turning 60 once I leave my current role there is no IT opportunities at my age "We are called the un-employable" :-(. So my plan is to attempt to move into photography, its something I love and not wanting to make a million my goal would be to earn a top up living salary to my pension.
    Not sure weddings would be the top pick for myself and was more planning maybe a small home studio and on site portrait shoots including equine photography (equine portrait) that I already do a small amount of.

    I certainly do not want to be one of these $600 for the whole wedding photographers either being it impacts the pro's out there trying to make a living. My idea is to try and find the gap between the bottom of the market and the top of the market with an aim to earn 20-30K a yr to keep my life comfortable in retirement and allow me to maintain my gear.

    - - - Updated - - -

    LOL - from what I can tell there is a real market growing for photographers offering arial photography with the likes of quads. I.E. Realestate rural property overviews, high look down group wedding shots etc.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I agree Alex,
    I have a colleague whose partner started out doing family photos at home when their first bud was born. Then friends admiring her photos asked to have theirs done and then she was taking bookings on weekends to do paid work. To cut a long story short she is now working full time as a child, baby photog and making better money. Her comments are there is a real gap in the market to be filled (speaking Qld) as she is constantly booked out 3 - 6 months in advance, or at least that was the case 12 - 18 months ago.

    Asking around it is not un-common to have to book well in advance for the baby bump photo's, baby photos and the like. She does nice photos, certainly shots a client would be happy with but nor are teh photo blow away in comparison to the many other photogs in this space.

    So, this all sounds bright and encouraging, however, it is an income earner like any other job and probably still earning the average wage at the end of the day. I expect there is many more hrs put in per week than the average job though.

    Training, photog walks etc also seem to be a big market but I struggle to see that being sustainable and is very much driven by the economic climate I think. Trey Ratcliff is a good example of a success story and I have followed his career for yrs, he is probably one of the most diversified photography into all areas of photography.

    I struggle with the question of this post when there are still many success stories but so many statements to the negative of a photography career.
    Last edited by mikew09; 28-01-2017 at 6:12pm.

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    Member formerly known as : Lplates Glenda's Avatar
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    I guess if you are good enough at the genre you choose and give the clients what they want you will be successful. I have a few friends who do paid work, one full time the other two only part time. The full time one used to do lots of weddings, proms etc but nowadays his main work is corporate. As he said every stay at home Mum with a DSLR gets into wedding/baby photography nowadays. One of them gets really good money for real estate photography and does some weddings, but the one who gets the biggest bucks does some amazing creative composites and does book covers. She takes all the photographs - which look quite ordinary on their own but what she creates out of them is amazing.

    I just finished reading a book The Shot by Gary Ramage who is a photojournalist based in Canberra. He also does lots of conflict photography, going where the wars are and takes some very powerful images /www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTfDexnqtwk. He was a soldier and got into photography sort of by accident but has certainly become a big success. He's employed by News Ltd and said in the book that nowadays papers are employing less and less photographers putting lots of pressure on the remaining ones who need to get all over the place to get 'the shot'.
    Glenda



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    The Commander
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    Thanx Glenda, that is interesting. According to Tony Northrup's accessment and he has had a varied career. Photojournalism is becoming one of the most dangerous roles as like you say, most the work in in heavy conflict scenerio's.
    I remember about 6 yrs ago I followed a protest tht was getting a bit out of hand in Brisbane and there were two photographers there working it hard - watching one of them I noticed as soon as it appeared he had what he wanted he was uploading them to some device and I assume was already on their way to a news corp.

    I think I have already mentioned this but Aaron Nace of PHLearn, pretty much said that "if you dont learn and adapt to composite photo editing you wont survive" or someting like that.

    You raised one good point - The photographer needs to be good at his work and be able to deliver to the clients needs - I suspect there are maybe hundreds of photogs doing it hard but is it due to not quite being up to speed for the genre they work too.
    I know we have all seen professionally done photo's that are for want of a better work "ordinary" maybe the time for them is coming to an end.

  8. #8
    I like my computer more than my camera farmmax's Avatar
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    I suspect it is no different to most other jobs. Whether you succeed will depend more on your business and people skills, than your photography skills.

    I also think post processing skills are essential, unless you plan making enough money to pay someone to do it for you It is PP skills which will help set your images apart. Whilst every mum seems to have a dslr now, how many of them have to editing skills to take their photos one step further? They all know how to do the instagram one click filters, but if they can do that, someone else can find it and also do it. You are already playing with editing skills which are taking you down a path that people may not be able to reproduce. That is what you want. If they want their photos to look like yours, they'll have to come and get them from you.

    So many photographers have lost their jobs at the newspapers. I know several this has happened to. The problem is, many people love giving their photos to the papers for free. Why would a paper pay a photographer when they have offers of free photos daily? I do not offer the media any photos for free. I don't want to be responsible for putting a photographer out of work

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    The Commander
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    Good comments farmmax. Beleive it or not there used to be a living as an equine photographer shooting key events for the large equine community here in Australia. There is still some engagements like the Qld Royal (EKKA), Syd Royal etc but a couple of big gigs hardly pay the bills. Its the same story, someone has a DSLR and offers to take photos for resale offering to attend the event at no charge - rarely do they deliver but hey, they got expensive gear so they must be great photos right?.
    About 2 yrs ago I was offered a gig shooting for one of the horse associations for thier main events and I agreed to a fair payment for each day to cover my costs and then photos at a price aligned with the normal cost base.

    The reason I was engaged was due to a previous shoot and the quality of the photos taken. I have a strong horse background and take care to try and capture the right gait of the horse, movement and shots that reflect the activity the horse is competing in and the like. There was a commitee meeting about a week before the Championships shoot and the commitee was voting on approval to pay for the engagement. Some one put forward, why are we paying for a photographer, my friend has a really good camera and will do it for free and just the sale of photos - that was that. The shoot at the event didnt go well and there was a number of complaints why I had not been engaged. This attitude has done a lot of damage to the equine photographers trying to make a living and two I know of have since left that genre as thier primary genre and moved onto some thing else, one out of photography.

    I have said for a few yrs now that most people dont know what a quality profession photo is until they see one :-) For some scenarios I think this is due to an emotionally attachment to the subject. I see this often in the horse industry when someone loves a photo of their horse even when the photo is a tad blurred etc. I think you can take advantage of emotional attachment when producing a beautifully taken and edited photo of which fits into what I hope to do moving into retirement - taking advantage is not great wording, but for me there is great pleasure in taking a photo of a subject someone or a group of people are emotionally close to and making it the best the photo I can deliver and hopefully above the expectation of the buyer - capturing the character of the subject and such. No doubt this is what many successful photogs do but delivering is the talent of the photographer. Fair to say I am still learning towards that goal.

    Hmm, just read back and realised I am ranting a bit :-) - thanx for contributing to the thread farmmax
    Last edited by mikew09; 29-01-2017 at 6:21pm.

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    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/
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    It is still possible to make money from photography, as a retirement hobby, but I don't think there is any secret formula too it. I retired and several friends suggested that I could make money from photography. I thought about it and decided that I would hate taking weddings or product shots or kids riding BMX bikes, so maybe I wouldn't bother. Instead I'd take photos of what I really liked and just share them on the internet. Then various people in the US, Europe, China and finally Australia started to get enthralled by my fungi photos. It has been truly amazing as the interest hasn't waned and if anything has increased year by year. I do almost no marketing, although I do run a facebook page, and I would say that my photographic skills exceed my business skills by quite a long way (which gives you some idea of my business skills).
    I've got no idea how you would go about planning something like this as it was completely unplanned, but that's the story of my life. For me it comes down to doing what I am really passionate about and the rest will follow, and if it doesn't? To hell with it, just do it anyway.

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    The Commander
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    That is an inspirational story Steve. Just spent some time on your site and the fungi shots etc are truly amazing mate. I remember reading some time ago (and am pretty certain it was on AP) that a photo of a fungi had been taken but the fungi had not yet been identified etc - quite a find I imagine - was that you Steve?

    Great work and a great story too - Very few of us get to do what we love and get paid for it. Retirement is a bit of a scary place to be heading and I appreciate you sharing your story, very interesting Steve.

  12. #12
    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/
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    Unnamed mushrooms are really quite common, Mike. It is rare to find an unnamed animal or even a tree, but there are lots of unnamed fungi that are. The problem is finding someone who is prepared to do all the work to name them, so most are just refered to as part of a section or subsection.
    Retirement can be a bit scary. How do you fill your time? Photography is a good option and it is great if you can get paid a bit for it too. My suggestion is to do what you really like as you may not get paid very much for it. That way you don't mind if you get paid very little, or maybe nothing, for what took you 100s of hours of effort. I take photos because I love to take them, not because I can see a sale coming along. If you have been a pro photographer then you can ease yourself into retirement, but I don't think that most people can create a marketing based paying hobby for retirement, unless their hobby is marketing. You mention the horses. I'd stick to that since you probably enjoy taking the photos anyway and if you sell them then that is a bonus or if they give you expense paid trips to horse shows.. I have a good technique for working out what to charge. I ask the person who is buying what they would normally pay or what they expect to pay. That can give you a starting point for negotiaton. Some say nothing and won't budge, then you have to decide if you will support them for nothing. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes you get a pleasant surprise when they tell you how much. Don't ask the internet to tell you what is a reasonable price. They don't know and they often have other motives and may be happy to see you not do the work. I had a friend who really liked taking wedding photos (strange but true). He would take friends weddings because he enjoyed doing it. Then more and more friends and friends of friends started asking him to take their weddings. He just couldn't do them all, so he stared charging in an attempt to reduce the number of requests. Now he's given up his day job because the wedding thing has become full time. I do a similar thing, just not weddings. I sometimes have to remind myself that I am doing this because I like doing it and I will refuse to do those things that are not fun, even if they pay well. I also do many things that pay nothing, because I support the outcome. I don't agree with the idea that you have to get paid for all the work you do. I you hate your work, then fair enough, but if you would do it anyway ...

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    Hi Mike, I agree there are way too many photographers and even more photography enthusiasts. I (most humbly) think it's easier to earn money by selling things that will help photographers than selling the photos themselves. E.g. in the old days, when you post a good photo, people may be interested in purchasing the photo, but these days, when you post a good photo, a lot of people may be more interested in knowing how to produce that photo instead of purchasing it.

    I guess what I'm suggesting is selling things like, photoshop actions, lightroom presets, photo stocks for manipulation/stitching, online tutorials/workshops, etc, and use your photos/images as product advertisements. In fact, personally I've seen more people earning money that way than selling their images.

    I hope it goes well for you.
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    The Commander
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    Thanx Steve, that's a great insight - really appreciate your comment mate.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thats is a very good point piczzilla - I think I did comment that training appears to be a big part of a lot of successful photographers these days but you have rithgly highlighted this. Jason Lanier, Aaron Nace, David Hoey, Gary Fong, Trey Ratcliff, Serge Ramelli, Tony Northrup and the likes of Adoramam just to name a few immediately off the top of my head. All offer those services in additional to their base photographer services.
    Trey Ratcliff has taken it to another level and offers training for Quad copters as he beleives it is a big part of a photographers tool box these days.

    I am an ex-trainer, Military and then IT along with IT consulting for a number of yrs. I have in the past given thought to were training may fit in a photography for me as I loved to train - I am a bit of a talker :-).

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    Member formerly known as : Lplates Glenda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikew09 View Post
    .... I have a strong horse background and take care to try and capture the right gait of the horse, movement and shots that reflect the activity the horse is competing in and the like...
    And that's the secret - although you obviously have to get it past the tight fisted committee members as well.

    I went to a PSQ convention in Yeppoon last year and one of the guest speakers was a young lady who shot rodeos/campdrafts etc professionally. It was really interesting hearing her say what sort of shots the riders were looking for. I've never been a rodeo fan but found I really enjoy shooting them and of course the shots I really like are when they get bucked - apparently that would never sell as they want shots which show them totally in control, which is understandable.

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    I have no doubt that professional photographers could be replaced by intelligent camera at some point and I think it's a risk we need to be aware of. With driverless cars, it won't be long (20 years max) before a camera that will identify the best possible angles, the best framing, the best filters and tell a complete novice where to move to get the best photo. It will probably use a database of the top photos for given scenarios.

    I think niches will exist for now, but I think photography is a dying breed long term.

  17. #17
    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MissionMan View Post
    I have no doubt that professional photographers could be replaced by intelligent camera at some point and I think it's a risk we need to be aware of. With driverless cars, it won't be long (20 years max) before a camera that will identify the best possible angles, the best framing, the best filters and tell a complete novice where to move to get the best photo. It will probably use a database of the top photos for given scenarios.

    I think niches will exist for now, but I think photography is a dying breed long term.
    And with the extinct pro togs - and possibly at this rate, much of humanity - we will need races of trained
    animal species to appreciate the output of such devices. Make the cameras self-replicating and add the
    capacity for improvement... Hmm! Homo cameratus (cross between camera and apparatus)

  18. #18
    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/
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    Quote Originally Posted by MissionMan View Post
    I have no doubt that professional photographers could be replaced by intelligent camera at some point and I think it's a risk we need to be aware of. With driverless cars, it won't be long (20 years max) before a camera that will identify the best possible angles, the best framing, the best filters and tell a complete novice where to move to get the best photo. It will probably use a database of the top photos for given scenarios.

    I think niches will exist for now, but I think photography is a dying breed long term.
    I presume that was just intended to garner a response. Well, here's one. That is very, very silly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Axford View Post
    I presume that was just intended to garner a response. Well, here's one. That is very, very silly.
    I personally think you're underestimating technology and how quickly the progression of technology will impact things. When you consider how quickly a phone manufacturer can die in the market (at the peak of the Nokia invasion, if someone told you in 5 years time that Apple and Samsung would be the biggest phone manufacturers, people would have called it out as bull), I think we can only assume that cameras will undergo similar changes. We have smile detection, eye detection, pre-focus and cameras taking photos before and after you take the photo to make sure that you get the perfect photo. They already have scene recognition to identify landscape, portrait, night etc. That's just the start. How long do you think it will be before a camera has the technology capability to look at a scene, identify the best possible crop, and tell the user the angle is wrong based on rules like thirds, parallel lines etc? 5 years is a long time in technology, 20 years is a lifetime. If someone isn't already working on it, they will be soon.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    But, Steve. Where, then, do you put FB, Twitter, and other other recent social plagues?

    MM's prognosis is as valid as any. I think Asimov was only partly right. It will be "We, Robots"

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