Historically photography has been the purview of the wealthy. In its early days the costs of indulging in this hobby were high and it was only followed by the fortunate few who could afford it.
As technology advanced the costs came down and photography slowly became available to more and more people.
As affordable cameras became available to the masses it began to a dichotomy of distinct types of photographer, the professional and the amateur.
Whilst professionals continued to stove for excellence and produce high quality work the amateur churned out photos by the crate load. These images became known as vernacular photography and represented a proliferation of images being taken by people who had bought a camera and was using to create a documented record of their lives.
Professional photographers where quick to decry this saturation of the image market and warned against the demise of professional photography as a whole a sentiment that would be repeated many times over the years..
The emergence of digital photography represented a serious paradigm shift for the photography world, one that we are still trying to quantify today. All of a sudden photography was available to everyone. It was fast, easy, free and coupled with the boom in social media the vernacular image found a ubiquitous role in the narrative of our existence. Photo sharing websites sprang up to satiate our desire to display our work as increasing numbers indulged this new technology as a hobby and many others flocked to higher education to pursue the dream of making money from this new addiction.
The plethora of images flooding the market has had a profound effect on the industry forcing some photographers to completely change the way they work. Although the vast majority of images held little suitability beyond a brief snapshot into someone’s life and as a collective may prove interesting as a form of study into modern day living there was always going to be a few outstanding photos that could be used or even sold. Stock websites were quick to encourage the casual user to submit images to them with the promise of making money and newspaper editors began to realise that they potentially had a reporter on every street corner, ready to grab images and send them in for little reward other than a simple acknowledgement.
The weakness in this vast array of digital content is that it is so ambiguous. Vast amounts images constantly flow into this photographic ocean to be swallowed up, lost and forgotten and this presents an opportunity for the professional. Image users have such a range of choice now that it can be a daunting task to sift through so many potential sources that a simple option may be preferable.
The photographer who takes the time to think of the end user can tailor their work to appeal to that user. Now the user will have access to specific content that meets their needs and removes the requirement to sift through thousands of potentials. The professional photographers needs to cultivate these relationships, develop a style that appeals to a certain market and then promote themselves in that area. However the market is always changing so being able to adapt and move with it is also essential for survival.