Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

The Photography Blog: Full-time photography is an endangered species, but so what?

Something I have written about before and has garnered some agreeing nods from not just photographers but people who care about imagery is highlighted again in this article by Alex Hare in The Independent. The reduction of quality in images used by the business world.

The problem is not just about the fact that it is becoming extremely difficult for anyone to earn a living as a photographer but also the reasons include the acceptance of really poor quality images by the advertising world and those involved with promotion of business and the impact that has on all of us as we become accustomed to and finally inured to crap images. This is dumbing down, we see it in all areas of journalism, we see it in the media, everywhere we look now there is a reduction of quality and professionalism gives way to the expediency of the bottom line. Sure no one can run at a loss and if there are cost savings to be made they are likely to be welcomed. But how businesses present themselves to their customers and potential customers, their professionalism, their intent on quality indicates what they consider their worth and that conveys to their customers. If a company does not think it is important to show off what they do as well as possible why should you trust them?

The British Journal of Photography carried an interesting piece about the photographer that has just won the prestigious World Press Photographer award.

It reported that the photographer in question, Samuel Aranda, was staring at his finances wondering how he was going to pay the next month’s rent when he received the call confirming his win.  On one level I find this slightly reassuring but, on another, very depressing.

Reassuring in that it means I’m not alone in wondering where the next pay cheque will come from, but depressing that even someone contributing regularly to major publications and providing us with important photo journalism of world events is under the financial cosh from doing so.

This anecdote is indicative of the experience of many of us in full-time photography.  No one can recall a time when there was less money available for photography whilst a demand to fill all the pages in our papers, magazines, websites or PR and advertising campaigns remains so strong…….

I found this cheap-skate, corner cutting photography insulted my intelligence and it seemed to me that if they couldn’t be bothered to show the country at its best in their advertising, then I couldn’t be bothered to go there.  It obviously costs less than commissioning some quality photography of what is undoubtedly a stunning country but, and I kid you not, it made me decide to got to Greece instead that summer in protest!

The bottom line is, I think we are at risk of losing something here.  I don’t mean some fancy, creative career for people like me that do photography full-time, rather a stream of quality photography that can only be produced by someone putting in the (full) time and dedication required to do it.

This has nothing to do with the amateur Vs. pro debate, by the way.  There are stacks of great photographers in the amateur category but they have other jobs and their work is therefore sporadic and limited in volume.  The issue is that without photography being valued enough to make it pay a full-time job, how can we have the flow of good photography the market is capable of carrying if the majority of the image suppliers are just dabbling, albeit to a high standard, during their weekends and summer holidays?...READ the full article here

Every week I get requests to offer an ‘exciting opportunity to my students’ this always entails an organisation or company asking if I will promote their event to my students. The events are usually commercial events and often not very exciting; vintage fairs, unusual theatre productions, fashion events and a whole host of other things not worth mentioning. These offers almost always expect to be provided with images from the students at no cost, sometimes including full copyright and no payment is offered for attending the event (one even suggest that the photographers might want to pay £20 to photograph a play!). They are saying ‘basically we want someone to do something for nothing’ and the benefit, ‘to improve their portfolios’. So, one, they are cheapskates, they should budget for a professional photographer if they need images, secondly they are prepared to use potentially poor or lesser quality images from students to promote their company or event, so what does that say about how they think of themselves. I get similar requests from charities that are holding funding events and these in general I do promote through this blog assuming the charity is doing something worthwhile.

Read the article join the debate, although we will never stop the rot completely we might manage to slow the slide towards mediocre images pervading our lives.

To end on a lighter note when searching for a photograph to illustrate this article I found sites just full of bad photography, here are a couple, click on the photographs to find more

Bad Paid-For Photos – Ellen Degeneres Photo Gallery

You Are Not a Photographer | Exposing fauxtographers since 2011

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