This might not be such a bad time for photographers. For years, old pros — meaning experienced and skilled professional photographers, as well as myself — have been complaining that everyone was becoming a photographer and that the public in many ways has lost respect for photographers. Now I am seeing a slow yet measurable reversal of this trend.
True I can give you a dozen great reasons why the photo industry is super depressed. But as digital cameras reach incredibly high resolution and continue to be infused with even greater computer-like intelligence, old-fashioned film is more popular than it has been in nearly ten years! With audio CDs long eschewed in favor of MP3 files and the abundance of online streaming sources, the simple vinyl LP record is in resurgence and you can buy an LP player more easily than was possible ten years ago.
Most of the burgeoning ranks of today’s professional photographers will never be able to amass the experience they need to master their craft. There simply are too few concerned and critical clients who care enough to invest in meaningful imagery to give countless amateur pros the numbers of gigs, shoots and projects they would need to hone their skill set to what it should be. But the discerning client is realizing this, and that is a positive thing.
Sophisticated technology can salvage image opportunities by avoiding catastrophic camera settings and steering them to produce decent record shots or the occasionally good shot. But the properly experienced photographers’ mind interprets the moment to make a meaningful image, while technology only salvages the moment to keep it as a memory. It makes sense that those investing money in a photographer would value meaningful imagery. So while many of today’s pros boast having experience in the dozens and many cite experience in the hundreds, few will ever benefit from the experience that only thousands of weddings can provide the professional and translate to satisfaction for the more critical consumer.
Craftsmen can only think in the terms they know. There are so many photographers out there today who desperately want to know more and be better, but it is impossible for them to find anyone who knows more and is willing to teach. Listening in on photographers chatting we visit online photo forums filled with desperate questions, mostly superficial answers, and the always popular rules of thumb. Fact is that photographers may be categorized by the approach they take to business more than by their images which generally are either more posed or less posed.
Customers want to be educated consumers. It is easy to read up on the latest trends and compare those. That is why gimmicks are selling. But just as audiophiles turn to LPs, and traditionalists chase the look of film, discerning clients are realizing that the intangibles are the true values that will make their investment in imagery special, and that excites me about 2017 and the years to come.
Gary Rabenko is artistic and technical director of Rabenko Photography and Video Arts. 516-593-9760, firstname.lastname@example.org