The professional portrait & wedding photography industry has drifted from one of professionalism and craftsmanship to just another commodity
Of course this is just my own opinion but it is an opinion formed through the refining fires of 40 years in the industry. It’s true, there are still true professionals and craftsmen in the industry but they are becoming more rare and difficult to find. Can this disturbing trend be fixed?
The advent of digital photography has opened the door to millions of new photographers, photographers who never would have taken on the challenge of professional photography in the “film days”.
You see, way back then there was no “back-of-the-camera” preview. The only way you knew that your shot was good was because you actually understood how to operate the controls on your camera to produce a properly exposed image on the film. You didn’t have to shoot hundreds or thousands of images to find a few usable ones. You had been trained in proper posing and composition techniques and to understand how to manually control the light reaching the film. You used professional grade equipment like Hassleblad and Mamiya medium format cameras. Your professional lab that processed your film and created your prints were adept at providing proper color balance and delivering prints that amazed rather than just satisfied. That same lab provided the only means of retouching: manually retouching negatives and prints using dyes and brushes.
There are many things that digital photography has helped us improve upon. Easier capture, easier, more efficient editing, back of the camera preview, easier exposure control, faster shooting and more. All of these enhancements are what have driven more people to try to break into the professional photography industry.
The very act of more people trying to get into professional photography has driven true professionals, those who have studied the craft, who have gone through apprenticeships, who have entered industry sponsored competitions, who have proven their skills with both their peers and their customers, to close their studio doors and find other work.
In my opinion this has caused the drift from professionalism and craftsmanship in the industry to photography as just another commodity.
So what’s the answer? How do we get back to professionalism and craftsmanship? I’m not sure but I do know that anyone that thinks they want to get into photography because it’s their “dream job” or because it’s their “passion” needs to do their research.
You do realize that the pay is terrible, your “passion” begins to wain rather quickly, the work never ends, if you want to get paid you shoot what other people want, and you are definitely not your own boss. Professional photographer Mike Randolph wrote an article titled 5 Reasons a Pro Photographer sometimes Regrets going Pro. If you think you want to be a professional photographer at least read this article.
After you’ve read Mike’s article and have decided you still want to undertake this endeavor to feed your “passion”, sit down and create a business plan that includes pricing that will sustain you, get funding, purchase professional grade equipment that will help you produce images from which you’ll be able to provide quality prints for your customers and learn how to use it properly, get a real business location, learn proper posing, composition and lighting techniques, find a professional photo processing lab, (not a big box store) and learn to work with your lab. Then buckle down and run a business not a hobby!