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Author Topic: The evolution of professional photography  (Read 8703 times)
fredjeang
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« on: March 18, 2010, 02:22:01 PM »
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Hi,

This topic is about photography as a profession.  
In that sense, opposed to the amateur (in the noblest way), as the only source of incomes.

I've post this thread here, it could have probably fit better in the coffe corner, but I found that it does also have
something to do with this website and a lot of articles and debates that have been involved.


Reading many posts, I realized that they are a lot of concerns, and excitements in the profession.
Things are changing, and they are changing fast. But there is a general feeling regularly expressed that it is not as fun
as, let's say 15 years ago? amongs the pros. Why is that?

Video seems to be a crucial point now. It's like the ones who does not want to deal with video, will have to anyway.

Internet also is powerfull. Can a photographer live exclusively from internet now, or in a short term?

Has the creativity been killed by technique and pressure? More work for less money? less fun? but also
more exciting technology and new techniques and languages.

Are you, professionals, more happy since digital, video capabilities etc...?

In other words, and sorry for my limited english, what do you think about the state of the profession now, and where are we going according to you?

Many thanks.

Cheers,

Fred.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2010, 02:27:43 PM by fredjeang » Logged
Pete Ferling
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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2010, 03:36:35 PM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
Hi,

...what do you think about the state of the profession now, and where are we going according to you?

Many thanks.

Cheers,

Fred.

Technology has done much to level the playing field, and most folks no longer require the services of a professional just to take and produce a print.

The admission for entry into the game is much, much less.  You don't need a dark room, years of honing the craft, or the all that associated gear that cost a second mortgage, etc.  Even so, Ebay is your best friend and one poor saps sell out is another's bargain start-up.  (i.e. I paid $75 for Mam 645M, with two lenses and an LED metered finder).

Access to information and learning is now a snap, with the largest library of "how to" right behind a google search, there's little need to follow someone in the know as a second shooter.  Unfortunately this has created a huge flux of able bodies willing to shoot anything for almost nothing just to have a portfolio.

I work full time in a studio (in-house) for my employer, and do side work.  The number one concern of any request is not "how good?", but "how much?".  Folks are broke or thinking twice before racking up another card.

I also do video, animation and program interactive content, hence my title as a "multimedia developer".  I doubt "photographer" would have held up to the same scrutiny when my employer merged with a bigger firm, and everyone but me in the Ad department was let go.  That was not easy thing to face, and my old boss is barely scrapping a living shooting the racing circuit.

In "leveling the playing field", it now matters how good you really are.  Artistic now has merit.  So does people skills and frankly, a greater desire to love the craft whether you expect to be paid or not.  In the end that's what matters.  I'm not sure if I could pay the bills on photography alone.   If I were to go free-lance full time, I would open a studio and go right into the corporate product photography that I'm doing now.  Even after doing the math, Health care and overhead on my own would take it's toll, and my bottom line would be no better than line 10 on my employers W-2.  In the end, I would have to wear many hats to make it work, and pictures would only play a part.

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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2010, 03:45:30 PM »
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Interesting topic.  I was talking with a young colleague at lunch today, mentioning the thread on web sites and asking how many had sales from their websites (answer: zero).  She does wedding and engagement party photography as a part time gig, seeing if it will generate funds enough to make it a ongoing business.  This is one area where the technology has really made a difference; you can quickly generate a CD of shots for the bride and groom.  Another good friend does the same thing using his weekends to do weddings, family portraits, etc.  I've been asked to do some pet photography jobs (since I don't need the revenue stream and probably don't have the patience to coax the dog to pose I turned it down).  Today our association had our annual meeting and we had a local photographer who I struck up a conversation with.  He had both a Nikon D300 and D700 with a bunch of lenses.  We talked a little shop about cameras which was fun and we exchanged the links to our galleries.  He does mainly corporate events during the week with quick turn around times.

What I don't know is whether those who specialize in landscapes are able to make a living without having to do some more commercial work.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2010, 04:12:37 PM »
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Quote from: Alan Goldhammer
... What I don't know is whether those who specialize in landscapes are able to make a living without having to do some more commercial work.
Just a reminder: even Ansel Adams was unable to pay his bills with landscape work alone for most of his life.

On the other end of the spectrum is probably someone like Thomas Mangelsen, who one year supposedly made $11 millions with his wildlife and landscapes.
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Slobodan

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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2010, 04:38:16 PM »
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For me, it comes down the definition of what a Professional photographer is?

The playing field IS more level, and if you are professional in your approach to the artistic direction in the creation of an image, from capture to delivery, then that defines itself.

How much income is derived from your professionalism, is now harder to define for a greater pool of equally talented photographers. The creativity afforded to the masses is what we should celebrate, as now there are many more people with an opportunity to express themselves artistically, without previous limitations on affordable gear.
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Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2010, 04:57:42 PM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
Hi,

This topic is about photography as a profession.  

Has the creativity been killed by technique and pressure? More work for less money? less fun? but also
more exciting technology and new techniques and languages.

Fred.
Digital photography is so quick and easy that few people bother to take the trouble to get the best out of their kit (let alone think about composition or "art"). Semi-pros and part-timers have taken over...

Standards have dropped, and few people are prepared to pay for quality... most people have not got a clue what is possible with the best modern equipment, so the customers do not know what quality is, and do not demand it.

I think that the professional photographers who survive (or make a good living) will be those who do not use the same kit amateurs use, or who can produce work appreciably better than amateurs can with DSLRs. If your market is weddings or magazine front covers and 24Mpx DSLR pictures are considered adequate, this poses a problem. (The one picture of my (2006) wedding that got framed was taken by a guest on a 6Mpx DSLR).

Is anyone else going to try to carry on where Canaletto left off?
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« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2010, 05:53:06 PM »
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Quote from: Dick Roadnight
Semi-pros and part-timers have taken over...

Standards have dropped, and few people are prepared to pay for quality... most people have not got a clue what is possible with the best modern equipment, so the customers do not know what quality is, and do not demand it.

Really, standards have dropped! Says who, you?

Quote from: Dick Roadnight
I think that the professional photographers who survive (or make a good living) will be those who do not use the same kit amateurs use, or who can produce work appreciably better than amateurs can with DSLRs. If your market is weddings or magazine front covers and 24Mpx DSLR pictures are considered adequate, this poses a problem. (The one picture of my (2006) wedding that got framed was taken by a guest on a 6Mpx DSLR).

Well, then is it the equipment thats makes the photographer, or photographers ability with the same equipment? I think we have heard this one verbatum. If i can produce better work than you with the same equipment, should you give up on the profession? How does one transfer from, as you so elequantly put it, semi-pro part timers, to becominga full time Hasslebald professional (as in deriving >50% of my taxable income)? What's wrong with the competition?

24Mpx DSLR is not adequate for weddings or magazine front covers?

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BFoto
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2010, 05:58:01 PM »
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Quote from: Dick Roadnight
Digital photography is so quick and easy that few people bother to take the trouble to get the best out of their kit (let alone think about composition or "art"). Semi-pros and part-timers have taken over...

Standards have dropped, and few people are prepared to pay for quality... most people have not got a clue what is possible with the best modern equipment, so the customers do not know what quality is, and do not demand it.

I think that the professional photographers who survive (or make a good living) will be those who do not use the same kit amateurs use, or who can produce work appreciably better than amateurs can with DSLRs. If your market is weddings or magazine front covers and 24Mpx DSLR pictures are considered adequate, this poses a problem. (The one picture of my (2006) wedding that got framed was taken by a guest on a 6Mpx DSLR).

Is anyone else going to try to carry on where Canaletto left off?

Is this your bio?

"My father was a farmer ...I studied Agriculture, then Agricultural (Electronic) Engineering. In the mid seventies I did some pro portrait photography. In the late seventies I did some commercial photography for the mower manufacturer where I was a Test/development engineer. I have been a computer programmer and Technical Author"


Seems you came from a different background yourself, caught a few lucky breaks in the industry you worked in, and progressed from there. And, now it seems you don't like others trying to follow your footsteps.

Reminds me of the current baby boomer argument against health care reform in the US. It's ok for them to be entitled to medicare as long as thay don;t have to share with anyone else.
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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2010, 06:03:42 PM »
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I agree that modern technology has made photography far more accessible to people now, I see that as a good thing myself. Also the darkroom skills are learnt much more quickly with modern software, again..this is nothing but good.

But I disagree strongly with the comments suggesting these tools, and the availability of reasonable equipment for a modest outlay, have degraded or reduced the appeal of quality photography. It's really as simple as this, the CD only shooter, won't get studio rates..so they don't try (and I can't blame them), they are trying to build up a portfolio, if they do that by taking jobs for poor wages, that's up to them (I've known a few work for nothing at all, to get experience)

Any established photographer simply is not competing in this segment, so price is not always a factor..the weekend warrior client, would not book a top level shooter. So live and let live I say..each has a place, if people pay..they dictate what they want. I've never understood why long established shooters complain about cut price people, they don't have any impact on your business. I think there is overpricing, and underpricing in the market, but it exists as it is, nobody going to change that.

Equipment wise, really don't know why this one comes up again. So you shot weddings with a D200 4 years ago, any cheap DSLR can match that low light wise, right now. I'd rather trust a good photographer with a Canon 20d and a 50mm from ebay, than a weak one with a D3x ;-)

Regarding convergence, I don't believe it will seriously impact stills photography either. If the wedding client cuts back, 9 out of 10 it's the video guy who gets the chop. Stills and video are separate specialities, some might offer both..I'm not sure it's easy to do that. So no overall I don't think things have got worse, yes a lot more competition around, but so what? Not a bad thing..

You can have a huge shed full of the finest wood carving tools known to man, but you need a craftsman to make something good. Thus the same applies to photography, the wealth of information and affordability of equipment, change nothing, you have to make your mark and stand out..that is all.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2010, 06:05:43 PM by barryfitzgerald » Logged
fredjeang
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« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2010, 06:56:01 PM »
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Quote from: barryfitzgerald
I agree that modern technology has made photography far more accessible to people now, I see that as a good thing myself. Also the darkroom skills are learnt much more quickly with modern software, again..this is nothing but good.

But I disagree strongly with the comments suggesting these tools, and the availability of reasonable equipment for a modest outlay, have degraded or reduced the appeal of quality photography. It's really as simple as this, the CD only shooter, won't get studio rates..so they don't try (and I can't blame them), they are trying to build up a portfolio, if they do that by taking jobs for poor wages, that's up to them (I've known a few work for nothing at all, to get experience)

Any established photographer simply is not competing in this segment, so price is not always a factor..the weekend warrior client, would not book a top level shooter. So live and let live I say..each has a place, if people pay..they dictate what they want. I've never understood why long established shooters complain about cut price people, they don't have any impact on your business. I think there is overpricing, and underpricing in the market, but it exists as it is, nobody going to change that.

Equipment wise, really don't know why this one comes up again. So you shot weddings with a D200 4 years ago, any cheap DSLR can match that low light wise, right now. I'd rather trust a good photographer with a Canon 20d and a 50mm from ebay, than a weak one with a D3x ;-)

Regarding convergence, I don't believe it will seriously impact stills photography either. If the wedding client cuts back, 9 out of 10 it's the video guy who gets the chop. Stills and video are separate specialities, some might offer both..I'm not sure it's easy to do that. So no overall I don't think things have got worse, yes a lot more competition around, but so what? Not a bad thing..

You can have a huge shed full of the finest wood carving tools known to man, but you need a craftsman to make something good. Thus the same applies to photography, the wealth of information and affordability of equipment, change nothing, you have to make your mark and stand out..that is all.
Barry,
Something in the air is telling me that video is going to be asked more and more to the photographer, or the video maker is going to be also asked for stills.
Not sporadicaly I mean.

Fred.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2010, 08:06:05 PM »
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http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp...essage=34821428
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Schewe
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« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2010, 08:34:55 PM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
But there is a general feeling regularly expressed that it is not as fun as, let's say 15 years ago? amongs the pros. Why is that?


Professionally speaking the answer is easy...

Photoshop

Plain and simple (and as plain as the nose on your face).

What 15-20 years ago was a valuable talent–being able to get, in one shot; a really well exposed, in focus well composed and basically really nice photographic image that is sought after by clients basically went away...

I used to do beer shots for Budweiser...I would think nothing of shooting 100 sheets of 8x10 film (marked up to $50/sheet) just to get one really nice beer pour. Now, if I were to shoot it, I would do about a dozen captures on a P-65+ and assemble the image...unfortunately, 15 years ago I could charge $400-500 per hour (yes, that's per hour) to do the imaging and retouching. Now, they would get some high school kid to do it for Jolt cola and Twinkies...

Photography is still as fun and challenging and frustrating as it's ever been (maybe more so cause of the tech) but commercially, it sucks to be a shooter these days...

Client's expectations (and demands) have been seriously lowered by Photoshop's capability to 'fix it in post'. And...the days of old where somebody who could get an 8x10 chrome "perfect" on film with no retouching ain't worth spit these days...

So, commercially, in terms of getting paid a lot of money to do really nice work with creative people (pick two of the preceding) just ain't that way no more.

So, if you are over 35-40 (or over like me) or so, none of the current commercial work is really all that thrilling in terms of shooting and money. If you are younger and don't know any better, well...it used to be a lot more fun!
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2010, 08:53:31 PM »
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Quote from: barryfitzgerald
Regarding convergence, I don't believe it will seriously impact stills photography either. If the wedding client cuts back, 9 out of 10 it's the video guy who gets the chop. Stills and video are separate specialities, some might offer both..I'm not sure it's easy to do that.

Maybe where you live ... that's not what's happening in NYC ...
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Joe Behar
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« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2010, 09:26:03 PM »
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Quote from: Schewe
What 15-20 years ago was a valuable talent–being able to get, in one shot; a really well exposed, in focus well composed and basically really nice photographic image that is sought after by clients basically went away...


Client's expectations (and demands) have been seriously lowered by Photoshop's capability to 'fix it in post'. And...the days of old where somebody who could get an 8x10 chrome "perfect" on film with no retouching ain't worth spit these days...

So, commercially, in terms of getting paid a lot of money to do really nice work with creative people (pick two of the preceding) just ain't that way no more.

Mr. Schewe,

I will respectfully disagree.

I deal with professional photographers every day of my working life and this is what I've seen.

Yes, there are a lot of guys (and gals) out there flogging "Don't worry, I'll fix it in Photoshop later" but the top work is still going to the craftsmen (and women) that would rather "pretouch" than retouch to get the shot right.

Starting out with a great photograph makes compositing, effects and retouching a lot easier and quite a lot of the time its still cheaper and better to pay the photographer to get it right than the retoucher to fix it.

Having said that, there is no doubt that the craft of photography is under attack on many fronts.

I don't have a crystal ball, so I wont prognosticate  the future, but I think the root skills such as lighting, focus control and, in the case of "people" shooting, an outgoing personality have a reasonable life left.

I think we all need to do a better job of being photography evangelists.

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Pete Ferling
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« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2010, 10:34:10 PM »
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Since I shoot for a dozen designers, I find it easier to shoot for less photoshop fixing, I've seen some shoddy post work of otherwise simple fixes.  When shooting a hundred parts in a single session, I find a savings is fussing for an extra fifteen minutes up front vs. hours on end in post.

Technology has helped though.  Thanks to tethered shooting and desktop sharing over the net, I can hold live sessions with designers across the country and quickly nail the shot they are looking for.   It's not all bad, just different.
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Schewe
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« Reply #15 on: March 18, 2010, 10:54:35 PM »
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Quote from: Joe Behar
Yes, there are a lot of guys (and gals) out there flogging "Don't worry, I'll fix it in Photoshop later" but the top work is still going to the craftsmen (and women) that would rather "pretouch" than retouch to get the shot right.

Well, tell that to the clients who are demanding smaller and smaller creative fees because they can just "fix it in post"...

It ain't the photographers that are pushing to fix it after the fact, it's the friggin' clients who won't pay top $$$ to have a true photographic craftsman spend a few days setting up and testing a shot. Look, in the 1980' and 1990's I would think nothing of booking out 2-3 days of PREPRO just for setting up a shot and testing out the lighting. and that was at $1K a day...you tell me where to find clients willing to pay a photographer to "dwell" on the creation of an image BEFORE the image has been captured?

I'm sure the photographers you work with (you sound like a digital tech) are trying really, really hard to get stuff right in capture. But if you were to ask them (if they would tell you and if they were old enough) what is it like now vs back when they were shooting film 10-15 years ago, gotta tell ya, they would be lying if they said it was more fun (and more money) now vs then.

Unless you are over 35-45 years old, you simply don't know what it was like then than vs now–and that has taken a lot of fun out of working as a pro.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2010, 10:57:13 PM by Schewe » Logged
Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2010, 05:02:37 AM »
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Quote from: Schewe
Unless you are over 35-45 years old, you simply don't know what it was like then than vs now–and that has taken a lot of fun out of working as a pro.
Was it really "fun" spending half a day taking different exposures with different light sources and filters on one sheet of film... and not knowing if you had got it right until you had developed the sheet film?

We now have the tools for better and easier mixed light shots, weather you take one shot and post fix, or layer different shot for light sources... and it is easier and less stressful (and more fun), as you can go home knowing that you "have it in the bag".
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« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2010, 05:37:47 AM »
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Schewe, you have made my day.

I have been retired quite a while now, but even so, I can agree with you about the decline - it has been my basis for suggesting the long lost Golden Era was lost many years ago.

I can give an example of this sort of thing happening even back in the 70s. Was a time around the end of the 60s when I was doing fashion for local branches of big chain stores in Glasgow, Scotland, and the rate I managed to get was around forty guineas per garment (a guinea was a pound and a shilling for those too young to know or care, and a fine established upmarket pro way of pricing upwards) and by the time the fashion scene went belly up for us all at the end of the 70s, l was scraping less than half of that per garment. Competition? By then, there was one guy other than myself left standing. The glitch was more simple than competition: the clients would not pay/could not pay, even when a lady's hat on sale in their shop was worth several times the fee! It boils down to corporate mindset, which evolves.

Another similar experience happened much earlier when I first opened my studio in '66. I had trained in an industrial photo-unit and perhaps because of that, a client (local factory of an international food giant) approached me to shoot some slides for a presentation they were going to make. I quoted two pounds a pop which, for forty rapid copies on line film was going to be eighty quid. Accepted. Came the invoice, the client actually came to see me to try to get a reduction. Why? Because his own salary was far less than that a week and, in his mind, regardless of quotation, my fee had to be exhorbitant.

I do believe that the answer to the problem for pros - and this has been started by Fred as a PRO MATTER and I wish only pros would contribute since only they have anything valid to add - is a mixture of two things: a legal obligation for anyone setting up in business to be obliged to get qualifications and the establishment of a qualifying body with muscle. Something along the lines of the Royal Institutes of Chartered whatevers that represent surveyors et al. Without that visible level of qualification photographers will forever be thought of a chancers with or without a talent and worth no more than that. It is all about being seen to be legitimate practitioners of something.

As far as my mind sees it, only those who suspect they wouldn't make it would object to having to earn the right to practise.

Regarding start-up costs: I began with film for next to nothing other than the cost of renting a studio and buying an Olivetti portable typewriter; considering what I have spent post-retirement on digital photography I know perfectly well that I still am miles from having a setup or even the understanding of digital processes I would consider fair to any client offering work today; no way do I think that today offers a cheaper entry into the business. You have to consider computers, expensive software, constant upgrades, all that stuff, not just a camera body. Film costs etc. were paid by clients, not the photographer, and were never thought of as impediments to getting work when they were the way of doing things; quoting such costs is a bogus manner of pumping up the supposed comparative value of digital. It might have a small value regarding stock, but did all stock shooters really waste that much material?  And didn't they save a hell of a lot of time otherwise wasted hunched at a desk?

Regarding the idea of 'photography has lost the fun factor' I am not so sure; maybe if you are at the top of the tree today you don't have to get so personally involved with post-shooting stuff because you can delegate and do something else or just play golf, sail your boat or lay the next top model, even all at the same time.  Maybe then, when you have the time to enjoy the success, it is still fun?

I recently saw on Bloomberg a wealthy South American entrepreneur giving the advice that you should never fall in love with your business. I think that illustrates our next greatest failure as businessmen.

Rob C

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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2010, 06:48:51 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
I do believe that the answer to the problem for pros - and this has been started by Fred as a PRO MATTER and I wish only pros would contribute since only they have anything valid to add - is a mixture of two things: a legal obligation for anyone setting up in business to be obliged to get qualifications and the establishment of a qualifying body with muscle. Something along the lines of the Royal Institutes of Chartered whatevers that represent surveyors et al. Without that visible level of qualification photographers will forever be thought of a chancers with or without a talent and worth no more than that. It is all about being seen to be legitimate practitioners of something.

As far as my mind sees it, only those who suspect they wouldn't make it would object to having to earn the right to practise.

Rob C


I can't actually believe I am reading this!

Rob are you seriously suggesting that Photographers should be "licensed", only permitted to practise if they have passed an exam or attained a qualification or some accreditation from a recognised body?

Every working photographer is already assessed, and that is by the clients who hire them. We're not doctors..there is an art element here! Should painters who sell their work be licensed too?
I've seen some posts on forums, but this is up to an almost unrivalled level of snobbery..with respect Rob, you're about as off the mark as is possible.
There is a lot more competition around, we know that..but if you're any good it should not have a massive impact on your business.

I'm dead against trying to "measure", evaluate photographers or license them, and I in no way consider myself a chancer..
« Last Edit: March 19, 2010, 06:53:32 AM by barryfitzgerald » Logged
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« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2010, 07:13:01 AM »
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Quote from: BFoto
Is this your bio?

"My father was a farmer ...I studied Agriculture, then Agricultural (Electronic) Engineering. In the mid seventies I did some pro portrait photography. In the late seventies I did some commercial photography for the mower manufacturer where I was a Test/development engineer. I have been a computer programmer and Technical Author"


Seems you came from a different background yourself, caught a few lucky breaks in the industry you worked in, and progressed from there. And, now it seems you don't like others trying to follow your footsteps.

Reminds me of the current baby boomer argument against health care reform in the US. It's ok for them to be entitled to medicare as long as thay don;t have to share with anyone else.
Amen, brother!
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