The way that the general public thinks about photography has changed significantly in recent years. As recently as 20 years ago, a good photographer required equipment that quickly ran into the several thousand dollar range, and the patience and precision of a saint to work with their own shots in a darkroom. If they messed up a shot, there was no way of knowing for sure what the damage was, until they got back to the lab.
The advent of digital photography in the late 1990s and early 2000s, changed everything. Suddenly, photographers could see the shots that they had taken, the moment they had shot them, so they were able to decide then and there whether or not a re-shoot was required. The introduction of mobile phone cameras that could take standalone camera quality pictures around 10 years later, was the next advent in photography. Nokia´s N95 mobile phone, which was released in 2007, was one of the first examples of a mobile phone that could take pictures that were indistinguishable from those taken with standalone digital photography equipment, when they were printed at a standard size. Fast forward to the present day, and it´s become perfectly normal for most people to travel on holiday with only a mobile phone serving as their camera. The days of buying a disposable camera at the airport, and picking up photos covered in stickers from the chemist two weeks later, are well and truly behind us.
This boom in amateur photography (and of course, the rise of social media sharing of almost every photo that has ever been taken), has meant that the role of the professional photographer has started to change significantly. There are no longer significant barriers to entry when it comes to being a professional photographer. While it’s expensive to set up your own studio because of the cost of lighting, rent, and a whole host of other factors, becoming a professional photographer who works in outdoor settings is now easier than ever.
This means that photographers are now much more reliant on their skills and their existing back catalogue of work that they have, in order to stand out from the crowd. Ironically, in some cases, this can mean that it’s much more difficult for a photographer to break into the professional game, there are now so many people trying to make a living out of their hobby of taking snaps, that it’s difficult to get hired if you don’t already have a serious track record sitting behind you.
Many photographers will be forced to work for very little money for a long time in order to build up the type of reputation that is required to get that all important first professional contract. Like many other arenas, the advent of digital technology has radically changed the dynamic world of photography, and looks set to continue doing so. Whether those changes are a blessing or a curse, depends entirely on who you ask about it.