Should you be worried about the future of our photography?

The ease of sharing images, cloud storage and social media have changed the face of the snapshot forever. But what does that mean for the future of professional photography?

Recently here in Canada an announcement of another business closure made many photographers nervous.

Blacks Photography, a retail photofinishing and camera store released a statement that they would be closing all their store locations across Canada by August 2015.

Blacks, a company that has been around for eighty-five years is just the most recent casualty of an ever changing retail environment. Is it possible that this is pointing us to the proverbial writing on the wall about our beloved photo industry?

What does it mean for us as professional photographers that a leading consumer photofinisher is closing it’s doors? Obviously it shows that consumer demand for small prints from their amateur photography has died. Facebook and smart phones have replaced family photo albums.

The ease of sharing images, cloud storage and social media have changed the face of the snapshot forever. But what does that mean for professional photography? Sports Illustrated (owned by Time) recently announced that it was laying off their whole photography staff. It should be noted that their entire staff was already down to only six full time photographers. But does that sound the death knoll for professional wedding and portrait photographers around the world?

I don’t believe it does. At least not for all of us.
Some months ago, Bryan and I interviewed Jerry Ghionis for a Sprouting Photographer podcast and during the interview we asked him if he had any predictions for the future of our industry.

Jerry told us that he believes that making a living as a photographer will get harder and harder. Not impossible but harder.

He mentioned that with the instant gratification possible these days with camera phones and sharing, part of the magic of photography is now gone.

How do we now create the magic then?

Jerry suggested the following; by the lighting, the posing, by the emotion we capture, the storytelling…

By the experience we give, the packaging of our products, the quality of our products, the way we communicate, by not meeting with clients in crowded coffee shops…

We discussed how the gap will widen in the future for photographers struggling to compete on price and product.

Walmart and Sears studios now offer location photography and business portraits, they also offer metal and canvas wall prints. Clients can create their own books and albums with free software. They do so knowing they must spend the time doing it at a lower cost for a decent quality.

Our products must stand head and shoulders above what clients can create for themselves. Our service must be exemplary. Our turnaround times must be convenient and timely.

Our level of customer service must make the client experience a true pleasure and if we can deliver on all fronts we can then be considered an excellent value for each dollar spent.

I also want to get you to think about this. Currently we are lucky enough to still have many fantastic companies that create and provide the ultimate in quality products for professional photographers. Let me list a few of them here,

Finao, Vision Art, Millers, GTA Imaging, AsukaBook, Black River, Bay Photo, Couture Book, Design Aglow, Graphi Studio, H&H Colour, Kiss Books, ProDPI, Queensberry, Simply Colour Lab, White House Custom Colour and the list goes on and on.

What do you suppose would happen to all these companies, and the gorgeous high quality products they provide us, if we all gave in and just sold digital files to our clients?

If the majority of photographers just took the “easy “route and decided not to provide a full service experience, I believe that one by one each of these amazing companies would have to close their doors or at the very least try to sell directly to consumers instead of dealing only with professional photographers.

I believe we owe it to our clients, we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our industry to put the “pro” back in professional and give not only great and original imagery but also a very high level of professional service and care to those who value professional photography.

I believe that those of us who who differentiate ourselves from the masses of image makers, will do more than survive. Those of us who carefully craft our brand and work hard at marketing that brand will flourish.

I stand fast to the belief that hard work, perseverance, and dedication to a phenomenal client experience will always provide  a steady stream of clientele who truly value the vocation we have chosen.

I am a proud professional photographer. Will you help me put the “pro” back in professional?

Let’s not worry about closures, layoffs or the purveyors of doom and gloom about our industry.

Make no mistake, we are not covering our eyes and ears and ignoring the signs of the times.

We are just being determined not to give in to apathy, and not to give up. SO many of the most successful entrepreneurs of our day found the road to success not to be a straight path but an uphill, hard climb.

We will decide that professional photography is alive and well and the future is bright for those who see the light. The light at the end of the tunnel is found in excellence, pride in our work, ongoing education, and a genuine concern for exceeding our client’s expectations.

 

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work…

10 Comments

  • Such a great post. Every photographer I know takes great pride in their work & this post enforces that.

  • robertnowell says:

    Thanks so much for your comment! It’s good to know our industry has some top flight professionals setting the bar.

  • Spot on – it is about the emotion, the storytelling, the way of seeing rather than the fact that it’s a photograph and they’re easily available. Paints and canvas are readily available in every town – but that doesn’t stop a good artist selling work.

  • Just when I was stressing about changing business models to include digital files, this article came along today and reaffirmed what I’ve been holding fast to…a tangible product that enhances families lives every day. Thanks for the boost!

  • I think in this fast, go-go society we have settled for mediocrity on many levels but quality is quality. Artists who stick to their guns and offer the full experience should be proud and I think longevity will be there too for you.

  • robertnowell says:

    Thanks for your comments,Simon, Deb and Chrisman! Deb, so glad the timing of this post was helpful to you.

  • james braund says:

    pleased to hear some positive remarks

  • Robert, you just wrote a nice article. My remarks on this point are that professional photography cannot die with the toys of this new era like social media and mobile phones. Yes they limit the need for classical film camera, but professional photography stands where it was, even improved alot. No one can take photos of their wedding with mobile phones. Similarly other huge events are still captured by professional photographers. Charms of mobile phones and social media is slightly decreased now a days as everyone has it. But professional photography is an art which everybody cannot practice. Cheers!

  • Agreed with the comment posted above. Robert, its true, no one can capture big and special events with just a cell phone camera. For example I am hosting a show in The Red River Revel festival this October in Shreveport LA, I have hired 3 professional photographers to capture the event. One to capture the artists on the stage, 2 for the audience and participants and 3 for covering the whole event. Its clear no body can do that will small cams or cell phones. Thanks

  • We no longer need professional scribes, but not everyone can write a useful technical manual, an engrossing novel, or even good web content.

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