Are photo-posting social media apps like Instagram cheapening what photography means, or what it means to be a photographer? It’s a question up for debate and some people have vehement views. It’s fair to say that the kind of effects that are available at even the most novice fingertips would have been nearly impossible to replicate twenty years ago. What does that mean for the profession, particularly if photography is your bread and butter and you’re trying to find success in a competitive world?
Of course, professional photographers can usually tell quickly if a photo is the “real thing” or when it’s been manipulated by an app or software program. The average Joe, on the other hand, often can’t. Unfortunately, all those Joes and Janes are usually the bulk of who makes up your target demographics. However, that doesn’t “cheapen” the skills of a professional. Much like a fine wine, sometimes it takes someone in the know to appreciate it.
We All See With a Different Lens
Anyone can tell you when they like a photograph, when they think a photo is “good,” and when they think a photo is boring. However, this is just an opinion whether it’s a professional one or not. People can also tell you which coffee they prefer in a blind taste test and there will always be those who prefer a big brand instant cup over a gourmet, perfectly created masterpiece. This can be incredibly frustrating for professional photographer facing a team of supervisors who can’t decide which angle they want to take on an upcoming campaign.
There will also always be people who prefer an IKEA desk to hand crafted solid wood desks. That preference doesn’t mean the wood desks are no longer high-quality and “the best” as determined by those in the industry. The big difference between coffee and desks and photography is that we’re not faced with a plethora of cupping sessions and desk shopping on a daily basis.
Is the Industry Wide Open?
It might seem like everyone is a photographer nowadays from your niece with the Snapchat fish face to the “artiste” who thinks blurry carries a hidden meaning. However, just like every art, there will always be an inner circle. That inner circle is decided not just by your fellow photographers, but by who gets on-boarded in the marketing departments of the biggest or most on-trend companies.
Sure, the photo editing apps and software have opened up a world of possibilities but that actually means little to the real professionals. Consider these apps just another tool in your arsenal. Much like a toddler who enjoys playing with Dad’s key ring, it can be a fun toy but only Dad knows what it can really do. For photographers, mastering these tools can add diversity to their portfolio or even push business performance improvement. Some clients might have a particular fondness for Photoshop skills while others prefer you only use non-digital equipment. Diversification is key for success as a photographer seeking out traditional employment.
Should You Test the Waters?
Some photographers are totally old-school and won’t go near a digital camera, let alone photo editing software. That’s perfectly fine and props to them for sticking to their guns. The world of art demands a rainbow spectrum of players from the traditionalists to the cutting edge. However, if you’re on the fence it’s worth checking out the options. If you’re job hunting or looking to make a career shift towards a company with deep pockets, the more you know the farther you’ll go.
Maybe you’ll dabble in Photoshop and never go back to it. At least you gave it a shot and know what’s out there. It’s important to know what your critics, colleagues, and fans know. Remember that you have to understand and have knowledge of something in order to assess it and then reject (or accept) it.