I can take a significantly better looking image with my iPhone today, than I could with a $22K digital camera in 1999. A teenager can share an image so much more easily with millions of people, for free, and do so so much more quickly, than I could as a photojournalist at The New York Times less than a decade ago… and that’s amazing, and at times of course: scary.

Both the QUALITY and COST have been evened out within our business: and historically that’s relatively rare.

The question we now must all ask ourselves as creative professionals is: how do we survive within this new landscape? (especially in one that is moving so fast!)

[…] Well then answer has been around for awhile. It’s nothing new: it’s called SKILL and KNOWLEDGE OF (and respect of) CRAFT.

Am I an idealist? SURE – but I also think I’m quite grounded in reality. And I think that as the cameras become ubiquitous, as everyone gravitates towards the same tools, the playing field will truly become leveled, and ironically we’ll discover that our only true differentiator in time will become the author’s understanding of how they can best put those tools into use. That is what will ultimately set us apart from one another. The exponentially increasing camera technology will indeed be its own worst enemy.

— Vincent Laforet

Read the whole post on: Vincent Laforet’s Blog.

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  1. Economic survival for creatives is based on business acumen. The advent of digital imaging and software designed to make everything and anything look “perfect” has diminished the importance of talent to all those who don’t actually create images. There are now several million people who can create images perfectly suitable for use by magazines, newspapers, web sites, books, blogs, ads, yearbooks and on and on. All professional photographers are daily in competition with others who work cheaper or “for free”. So many images are generated and “published” these days that there is no accurate way to come up with a precise number. Consensus is that “the” number is well into the millions per month.

    Sites and publications have rid themselves of skilled photo editors and in many cases have no photo editors at all. Almost every new image enters the world of commerce much like a pebble thrown into a water fall. Other than the person tossing the pebble, almost nobody else notices or cares. Cynical? You betcha. We have been singing this song for decades already.

    The photographers who have survived and thrived have done so because they treated their business like a business. They have: found a niche’ or unique market not filled by others, offer professional services in a business like manner, copyright register all of their work, pursue deadbeats and infringers, keep overhead to a minimum, charge for their services and obtain business advice from bankers, accountants, lawyers and other business professionals.

    It is increasingly difficult for viewers who are confronted daily with an endless barrage of photos from both amateurs and pros, to discern which ones are “better” or “professionally shot”. More importantly, they don’t really care. Image value is increasing based on the content of the photo. A crappy photo of Kim’s butt (pun intended) is unfortunately commercially far more valuable than 99.99% of all other “perfectly” rendered, artistically stunning and/or compelling images created on any given day by dedicated photographers whether they be a photojournalist risking his/her very life or a shooter doing personal work or another on an assignment in a studio anywhere in the world. Sad but true.

    Clients and ad agencies increasingly hire photographers who know how to service their clients with the same skills as other service providers without serving up any drama. In that respect independent photographers need to adopt the very same business skills that any other service provider possesses in order to turn a profit.

    Sorry folks. Talent still counts – just not nearly as much as it used to.

  2. you’re very very right about having business skills! but you also said…”There are now several million people who can create images perfectly suitable for use by magazines, newspapers, web sites, books, blogs, ads, yearbooks and on and on.”

    perfectly suitable does not often cut it…it might be ok for the yearbook but not when it comes to marketing to people who are art and design saavy educated consumers – it has to have a magic something. that is where TALENT comes in

    anyway i agree with your point overall but LaForet is also right when it comes to talent and craft

    • In a very contested lawsuit my adversary wisely stated, “Many very effective ad campaigns were run using mediocre or even amateur photography”. Unfortunately he was dead on correct.

      I can’t count the number of art buyers, art director, account people and photographic clients who have told me with under oath or over a scotch, that they couldn’t care less whether the images used in a given ad were viewed by others as “outstanding” “artistic” “clever” “unique” etc. so long as the ad “moved product”. In real life the value of an image or that of a professional model hinges only on its ability to steer eye balls and sell product. “Ars Gratia Artis” is only used by MGM for a split second before the start of their movies and even they don’t really mean it. You never hear the phrase or concept used in the world of commercial photography by someone who really means it.

      Remember ad people speak to their compatriots (and testify) differently when there are no photographers photographers in the room to listen. Again this assessment is, cynical, unfortunate but accurate.

      • Sorry…one more point…

        For years some photojournalists developed a false sense of security. they believed that cell phone cameras and so called “citizen journalists” could never serve as adequate substitutes for staff photographers. How did that work out for them? Countless newspapers of all sizes in all markets rid themselves of all or nearly all of their staffs. Large percentages of news images used in the media today have been shot by amateurs who have few skills and little training. Major media doesn’t bother to send professional journalists abroad preferring to use local people who happen to have a cell phone and be positioned where the action is. Those images are used by CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, NYT, Time etc daily because they are both cheap (or free) and adequate. These days “sufficient” trumps quality if quality costs 2 cents more than “adequate”

        Finally, there are countless web sites that do not employ anyone with the title of “photo editor”. The person deciding which image gets published at those site often has zero training or knowledge of photography nor even claims to possess any.

  3. Agree with the post and the comments. Suitable is, well, suitable for many publishers but that doesn’t make it memorable or elevating. That is where craft and talent and creativity come in and take a picture from image to photograph. How many of us are on instagram? I am and I love it, but 98% of the photos posted are *yawn*. Just because you snapped it doesn’t mean it’s worth seeing–lackluster light, meh composition, all the things that great photographers just get. But even a great photographer can’t make a living without being great at running their business.

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