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Is the profession of a photographer becoming obsolete?

Many of us may think that with the development of high-resolution photo cameras on smartphones, the need for professional photographers is getting extinct. People can capture high quality photographs with their phones, with any kind of filters they want and for free. Besides, applications like Adobe Lightroom have enabled us to enhance the visual appeal of a cell phone photo at no extra cost.

Why would one need a photographer?

Most photographers can highlight a number of reasons for hiring a professional photographer. Here are their thoughts about it:

  1. “Just because people have cameras doesn’t make them photographers and just because someone has a pencil doesn’t make them an artist. In the same way having a word processor does not make you a writer and having a stethoscope doesn’t make you a doctor. There will always be work for professional photographers, artists, writers and so on. The people who hire such professionals know the difference” – says Andrew Hennigan.
  2. “I’ve been shooting for 28 years. I learn something new everyday. When I shoot people I know what the shot will look like before I shoot it. I know every nuance of light, where to put it, how to direct it, or not, my subjects are being directed even when they don’t know they are being directed.. learning photoshop is one more thing to master. This is part of a photographer’s toolkit as are lens choice and sensor size, lighting, distances, sizes, you can’t educate this stuff, it just takes years of developing vision. Camera still has nothing to do with it and everything to do with it.. a pro always has the right one and the right lens, he knows when to back up and zoom in and vice versa. I could write a novel, but I’m too busy shooting. Shooting a product is an entirely different thing to master.”  – states Jim Hancock.
  3. “Cheap cameras have been available for pretty much anyone for a long time already. Good cameras in phones is just the next step, more people will actually have a camera with them. I do not see how this would impact professional photography or art photography. Fine art photography can be done with any type of camera, even a phone camera, I am sure there are plenty of examples of this. It is highly unlikely that the demand for professional photographers would go away.” – claims Daniel Albinsson.
  4. “There is a big leap from declining jobs to being completely obsolete. Yes, event photography, documentation, and news journalism are all taking a hit. The need to record something happening, even weddings, are being taken care of by friends, co-workers, or wedding guests. Photography is being outsourced and crowdsourced to people already associated with the event organizer or going to the event. But there are LOTS of photography that won’t become obsolete. Magazines, websites and other users of professional photography really can’t get the quality they need from the crowd. Fashion photography isn’t about to replace Terry Richardson for some guy with an iPhone (which is ironic, since Richardson does a lot of work with non-pro gear when not shooting covers for Vogue; also, he is a total dick I hear). Even running through the grind of endless product shots for a web catalog is something that you hire someone to do; if only because it is time consuming.” – says Tod Gardiner.

Indeed, opportunities may be far fewer than they used to be since there is a big increasing competition, however, there will always be a place for the exceptional and pro photographers. Photography as an art form will never become obsolete but it is changing at a fast pace and becoming more professional, exceptional and of high-quality.

The opportunities may be far fewer than they used to be, but I believe there will always be a place for the exceptional image-maker. We can’t be in that headlong race to the bottom and still believe that what we’re making is worth anything. Photography as an art form will never become obsolete, but it IS changing and becoming more rarefied in the face of the growing ubiquity of photography becoming a common mode of self-expression. In other words, it is evolving for sure but not dying. Therefore, photographers would need to break into the market, develop their skills and raise them to a pro-level.

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