Day 2 at the Pro Photo Summit. The day was dedicated to panel discussions related to the business of photography – the changing landscape of the industry that professional photographers work in.
Still vs. Video
Last year at the summit, the topic came up of whether or not video will eventually replace still photography. There were a few people who were already exploring this frontier – grabbing still frames from high resolution video feeds rather than capturing those frames with a still camera. After hearing about the logistical challenges faced by an organization like Sports Illustrated when going from hundreds of thousands of still images captured digitally, down to a few printed pages of a magazine, it’s not surprising that this is an interesting trend to keep an eye on.
As the resolution and ubiquity of high definition video grows, it may be appealing to dual-purpose video capture devices to produce both still and video. Due to the interest last year, a whole session was dedicated to this topic. Many photographers are finding that they have to embrace video as well to stay competitive. I don’t think that we’ll ever see a day where still photography disappears, but I predict that the devices themvelves will continue to converge. Today, black & white photography shot on film still exists, but is more and more being relegated to an artistic medium. Will the same thing happen to still photography someday?
The Impact of Digital
Digital photography is everywhere, with cameras becoming cheaper and better every year. The proliferation of cell phone cameras has brought a wave of ‘citizen’ journalism, by which amateur photographers are scooping traditional photo journalists when it comes to getting the first shots of significant events.
The number of full-time photographers is starting to decline, but the number of part-time photographers is through the roof. Combine this changing demographic with the end-to-end digital workflow (enabled by digital cameras, PCs, and the internet), and the result is a rapidly changing business landscape for professional photographers. New business models are emerging (such as micro stock), and content is being generated from new sources (your neighbor with their digital SLR in their free time).
Digital imaging is also changing the perception of photography. Digital images can be manipulated to such a degree that they no longer reflect reality. This changes the expectations that viewers have for photographs – reality is boring compared to the images that they have seen, so they both expect to see more fantastic images, while at the same time becoming more and more distrustful of what is being represented in the photos they are viewing.
3 Minutes to ‘Wow’
Bill Crow came up to quickly show off HD Photo. He presented this subject in more depth last year, but the reason I liked this demo was because he used the new Windows Live Photo Gallery to compare the results of HD Photo and JPEG. 🙂
Digital Rights Management
Professional photographers make their living by selling the photographs that they make. But we’ve heard throughout the summit (both this year and last) that one of the top challenges the industry faces is unlicensed use of photographs. We’ve all seen the issues faced by the music business when it comes to digital rights management. Digital photography faces many of these same challenges, although at different scales. Photographers will take millions of photographs over their career. Infringement may be overt (someone publishing an image with credit or royalties to the photographer), or more subtle (a client may have licensed a photograph for a specific use, and then utilize it beyond the original agreement – either intentionally or unintentionally).
Yesterday, there was an entire panel focused on specific copyright legislation that is pending before congress this year. This isn’t a problem that can be solved by technology, legislation, or litigation alone. It’s a hard problem to solve, with no quick or easy answers.
In Front of the Lens
Members of the Creative Coalition sat on a panel discussion regarding the relationship between the people in front of the lens, and the people behind the lens. Joe Mantegna and Ernie Hudson both commented on the paradox between the fact that in one situation they may have to pay to have their photo taken (and may not even have rights to use those photos themselves), while in other settings, they may be photographed without their permission in their personal lives and again they have no control over the images and how they are used. There are issues of ethics, legality, and business at play, and as usual, there’s no easy answer that satisfies the people on both sides of the lens in every situation.
When professional photographers take photos, they are adding to a collection of photos that they have taken over the years that is likely already terabytes in size. Managing a (growing) collection of that size, including backing it up, and accessing it is a huge problem. The members on this panel talked about a number of solutions to these problems, such as PhotoShelter, and Microsoft Windows Home Server (launching later this summer).
Too Many Megapixels?
There was an interesting panel discussion with representatives from Nikon, Canon, and Hasselblad. The question was: do we really need more megapixels? Some people seem to think so, but many others would rather see innovation in other areas – better dynamic range, less noise, etc. Although many people would like more megapixels, it’s not the best measure of quality. If you have enough resolution to do what you need to do today, more isn’t necesarily better – it’s just more. More megapixels lead to bigger files to manage, slower frame rates, and will show off the shortcomings in the quality of your lenses. But that doesn’t mean that the camera companies won’t keep giving us more…
Strength In Numbers
This panel discussion had representatives from four of the professional associations for photographers: ASMP, PPA, NANPA, and WPPI. These organizations are working to address many of the issues that were discussed in the other panel discussions.
– Scott Dart (program manager)