About 5 years ago while attending Photo Plus in NY, I noticed an interesting keynote talk on the docket entitled “The Future of Photography”. When I arrived at the Expo’s theater, there was a sign at the entrance “The Future of Photography” with the word CANCELLED written across it, in red. I laughed at the irony.
I think that was the first year that I spoke at Photo Plus and my topic was geared toward photographers who were thinking about moving into motion. It was the only seminar listed that was about video or multimedia. Yesterday, I received this year’s Photo Plus seminar line up. Not only was there an entire track devoted to video, but many of the other seminars had video components to them.
What I didn’t see though was anything in regard to the “business of video”. It got me thinking about the future of photography because for me the future will not define photography by the type of camera that is used. A “photographer” will have a much broader meaning than it does right now. Fast forward 5 years – a photographer will more than likely be defined, as someone who shoots both stills and video, or maybe even just shoots video and frames will be pulled from it later for stills. That is not a science fiction fantasy anymore – it’s real and it’s now.
If you think about it, if we continue to narrow our definition of what a photographer is by the type of camera he or she uses, it may be a big mistake from a business point of view. We separate ourselves from amateurs and hobbyists and call ourselves professionals not because we know how to use a camera – (these days pretty much everyone can and does – take reasonably good photographs) – but because photography is our sole means of financial support. That part is changing and professional photographers are supplementing their incomes by teaching or other things.
The word professional has always been a bit different in terms of photography as compared to other professions. There’s no test you need to pass or license to obtain to be a photographer. Just about anybody can take photos and sell them. So what does it mean to be a professional photographer? It certainly isn’t just about being able to take a beautiful photograph. For me it’s about sustainability. It’s about being able to make a living pursuing a craft that I love.
To sustain oneself these days as a professional photographer is to first acknowledge that it means you are a visual communicator – regardless of what type of images you are creating. It also means that you must maintain sound business practices in order to be profitable. I put a value on my time and more importantly on my vision. I’m grateful that I live at a time that allows me the capability of producing, creating and monetizing my own dreams without the need for validation or a commission. In fact, these days with lopsided contracts that are not written in the interests of the content creator, we are far better off producing and publishing our own projects and getting a better return as well.
I don’t have a crystal ball but I see a future that’s ripe with possibilities for all types of imagery.