The End of Photography
This has been going on for a while and it is effecting more than just photography. Music copyists and typographers were the first to go (anyone remember them?) Journalist and photographers are trying to think of ways to reinvent themselves as their professions are transformed. It was described in a rather famous article and book from a few years ago, The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen.
There are not as many clients as there used to be for high-end professional photography and the expectations have changed a great deal. I work at an ad agency—exactly the kind of large big-city ad agency that kept dozens of local photographers well-fed a decade or two ago. We still use a lot of photography, but more and more of it is destined for 72 ppi reproduction on the web (2 inches tall) rather than 300 dpi magazine spreads, transit posters or billboards (30 feet across). A great deal of this photography is done by a new kind of professional. Not the old-time professional photographer with the big studio and staff but the new breed of art director-photographer who shoots in a converted conference room down the hall, ten minutes later is editing the photo on their Mac and can show you the finished layout later that afternoon.
Are they as good at photography as the old-time pro? Not usually. But they are good enough for what they need—and from a concept and style perspective know exactly how to get what they are looking for. Advertising photography is headed the same place that advertising typography went. The market will no longer support trained specialists. To make a career you need to combine photography, typography, design, layout, sometimes even coding and programming. These non-specialists may not be as good at any one thing as the old pros. But the best work that is coming out of ad agencies today is far superior to what was done a decade or two ago.