I hear it all the time in hushed tones—on jobs, in meetings, in studios, and on location—but few will dare say it publicly.
However, the subject needs to be brought out in the open so the bar can be raised on the art form of photography again.
What is this taboo subject? Many professional photographers feel and think that the new wave of "photojournalists" in the market never would have had the opportunity to be called professional photographers before digital photography became mainstream.
And while many photographers won't go on record saying this, they believe these newcomers are flooding the market, taking work from qualified professionals, and even leaving potential new customers with doubts as to who the professional is that they should hire.
That being said, I'm not about to bash photojournalism, photojournalists, or digital photography. Yes, it's true that digital photography has opened the door for many new photographers. It's also true that some of them have no interest in the art form of photography. They are only interested in making a buck. They buy a digital camera, set it on fully automatic, call themselves photojournalists, and set out on their way to pollute the work pool.
Unfortunately, this dilemma has hit some experienced photojournalists hard. They need to combat this problem head on. The most effective solution is to take the time to educate your clients.
To raise the bar, you have to differentiate yourself from them. Don't ever assume that the client will simply be able to see the difference in your work over theirs. Point out the differences. Share your philosophy, your style, your artistic workflow, the timing of the shot, the lighting and framing, how you capture feelings and emotions, and your passion for your art form. Explain what makes you unique and how you can fulfill their needs.
If you have already made the jump to digital, you know how digital photography and a digital workflow can enhance creativity and profitability. If you haven't, we need to talk about change. Change is inevitable in everything we do. It's a part of life, in all fields of work, and part of the natural order of evolution. While it challenges us every day, don't let change and technology steal your joy, your love, or your passion for photography.
Some people choose to embrace change. Some want to, but don't know how. Others fear they can't change. It overwhelms them.
There are a million convenient reasons not to move forward: I don't know Photoshop; what will people think if I use this camera; I would have to deal with new technology like histograms, white balance, compression, RAW versus JPEG; my camera was good for all of these years so why change now; the quality isn't good enough; what labs will I have to go to; I would have to constantly change with technology; I'm too old to learn, etc.
Get Over It
I can go on and on. Simply insert your excuse and move on. The hardest step is the first one—then take another and another, and before you know it, when you look back you can't see where you started. The reality is that you must change, adapt, and evolve to the needs of your demanding clients, or you will see a sharp decline in your business. It saddens me to say I have seen too many good photographers stay in a state of denial as the world evolves around them. It's sad to see these talent photographers lose their business.
Adapt or Be Left Behind
The simplest way to make the transition is to recognize you must adapt or get left behind. Then focus on your strengths—don't dwelling on your weaknesses. We all have them. Experiment—don't be afraid to try new things. Practice truly does make perfect. Workshops can also be helpful. Once you start, you'll feel rejuvenated, empowered, and know you've made the right choice.
Without a doubt, we are in a digital revolution. Some have figured out how to cope with it, yet many are still wondering what to do. I had to adapt to this situation myself and have thrived through it all. I have fully embraced digital photography—after getting over my denial. It has truly allowed me to evolve as a photographer. I love the speed and creativity it offers me.
I have a simple outlook on it all: Love what you do and it will show in your work. Constantly try to better your art form. Use whatever tools are out there to further and refine your craft, giving you the ability to create and enhance your abilities. I have found great success with blending photojournalism, traditional, and editorial styles. I find that this covers the shoot thoroughly and gives the client the best overall coverage from which to choose shots.