You’ve probably heard about the 28 full time photographers that were recently laid off by the Chicago Sun-Times. I want to talk about it in a different light than most of the news; I’ve heard a lot of Armageddon-like chatter from the photography industry and I’m not buying it.
What I hear Photographers Saying
There are many who think that the photographer is being further marginalized as cameras get better and better and phones like the Galaxy S4 and iPhone5 sport incredibly good cameras that people have on them at nearly all times. The concept of crowd sourced news and journalism imagery is ever increasing; especially as news companies look to cut costs. I hear people saying that we should expect less and less value to be given to photographers in all industries as technology gets better and better. New cameras, super high ISO, photos than can be focused after they’re taken and so forth can only lead to a reduced value for photography.
What it Really Means
In my opinion the layoffs are much more about the turmoil the paper-print industry is facing and not a reflection of the photography industry. The death of print has been slowly creeping in for the past decade. I would not consider the layoffs a prelude to the death of the professional photographer, but rather the reduced interest in having a newspaper on your table every morning. I think the news companies are in a mess much like the music industry was ten years ago. The news agencies are waiting for their ‘iTunes’ to rescue them and bring revenue back to reporting. In the past years we’ve witnessed the Chicago Tribune needing to sell assets and I look at the Sun-TImes layoffs as much the same. Companies have to do whatever it takes to survive. I know I would — will. In truth, nobody can pay for what they cannot afford.
The End of the Professional Photographer
No. No. No. People will still pay for quality photography. So why won’t the Sun TImes pay for it? Because they can’t. When digital cameras first came out you could hear all the photographers squealing about the end of photography – the end of wedding photography. The digital camera had automatic mode and you could see and erase your images in real time. Why would anyone hire a professional photographer when any Joe-Schmo could use a digital. Fact of the matter is the digital camera did not kill the professional photographer.