Challenges faced by Photographers (Part 1)

Those of you who read my little stories know I don’t spend a ton of time talking about photography.  In fact, this is probably the least photography oriented blog written by a photographer on our blue planet.

Part of that is because photographers love mumbo-jumbo that the average person doesn’t give a crap about.  Just look in a photo magazine.  “Oh, that’s a pretty photo!” You think, “I wonder how they did that?”  And, written under the photo is the mumbo jumbo.  “F11, 125 ISO 200 with a Nikon 28-200 set to cf. Light PS”
Creates excitement, doesn’t it?  Heart racing?  I much prefer talking about stripper nuns and/or a peeping Tom who happens to be the Pope.
That said, there are major challenges facing all photographers right now, and with this in mind, I think it’s time to spend a little time on what those challenges are, what makes a successful photographer, and a great image.
What are these challenges?  Well, for one, everyone now seems to think a cell phone photo is acceptable.  Photography evolved through this when digital cameras first rolled out: suddenly, the intern had a camera shoved into his hands and was told to go and catch great photos of the conference speaker.  When we bid our professional photography services, even for old clients, we were then told, “Oh, Jeff  now does that!”  Jeff was the college intern, and he also made sure there were bagels in the morning. 
Or, a new batch of “professional” photographers showed up: with point and shoot cameras and a “I’ll fix it in Photoshop” philosophy.  Those with the $300 point and shoots charged a quarter of the price as the photographer standing there with a $6000 Nikon DSLR.  And, here’s a hint:  the market for photographers charging a professional rate for professional photos tanked.  
Part of it is because non-photographers didn’t really know the difference between good photos vs. bad photos.  Somehow, if it was in focus, that was good enough.
The same thing is happening today with cell phones and iPads.  Everyone, suddenly (literally!) is a photographer.  Just recently my mom was covering a hearing on Capitol Hill, and the intern popped up to the photographer’s well in front of the hearing tables with…. drumroll….an iPhone.
“I doubt I’ll get what you get,” she said.
My mom was sitting there with $20,000 worth of equipment.  
First, the positive.  Smart phones have revolutionized social media, and with this new market for photos has come an upswell of work for photographers.  Now, suddenly, photos aren’t just published in traditional media — but are more likely to be published in blogs, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and social meida du jour.  The problem for photographers is with this new demand, smart phones have made it way easier to post a photo than a professional’s DSLR.  Any smart phone will let you post a pic right to social media.  No DSLR has the same function.  Most photographers are still tied to heavy post production — so, for that client who wants a photo right now for their blog, the iPhone photo often wins.  Why? It’s available and easy to post.
But that doesn’t mean the iPhone photo doesn’t suck.  In fact, it probably does.  But, once a client discovers that they can post their iPhone photos and get away with it — then, why, exactly, do they need you, Mr. Expensive Photographer?
The result is a client with lousy photos that they have instantly, and lousy photos they can post easily.  And because everyone is doing it — from their personal life to their professional — what’s acceptable as a published photo has suffered.  Again, most non-photographers probably don’t know (care?) about the difference.
Hell, I’m guilty of this!   When in Rome, I brought my Nikon with me.  It never left the room.  Every pic I took was with my iPhone.  Every pic posted to social media was from my iPhone.
But here’s my challenge: it’s one thing to post selfie photos from the Colloseium, another thing to post iPhone photos of a speaker testifying on Capitol Hill.  
So how do we, as photograhers, begin to compete in this new market?  How can we win against free?  How can we compete on easy upload to social media?  Maybe we should just put our hands over our face and sob into our pillows.
Or, overdose on Advil PM.
Or, read this series over the next few days.  I’m going to spend a little time talking about my views on today’s market, today’s photographer, and adjusting how you view your images.
Warning: it’s a tough read.  What I say is meant to challenge.  But: do you want to be successful (and great), or just…

This crappy photo, taken w/ my iPhone, shows my typical setup for shooting conferences, conventions, and candids.  Two things to note: when I needed a pic of my setup, I turned to my iPhone, and, (2) everyone will agree, that’s ok.
It’s not.  My bad.
This is a pic taken tonight with that setup.  I challenge you to get anything like this using an iPhone, point and shoot, or tablet.  Or, for that matter, a DSLR with a flash set to TTL.  To put the shooting environment in perspective, here’s a room shot.  This subject was against that solid wall you see to the right.
Tech info for photo geeks:
Above candid, 100, f5.6, ISO 3200 white balance set to 4760 95 mm on a 18- 300 zoom.  Room shot: 1/60 f 3.8 ISO 4000 color temp 4760, 22 mm on same 18 – 300 zoom.  
Both flashes set on manual for both shots.  In first candid photo, 1/4 on each flash, pointed almost straight up w/ a tiny bounce from internal bounce card.  TINY.  On room shot, both flashes set to 1/128 to add a little fill, and pointed nearly straight up at ceiling.  
Both photos came directly from my camera with no correction in any photo editing software.