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The Demise of the Professional Photojournalist 133

Dan Gillmor has a piece up on his Center for Citizen Media blog about the coming decline in the venerable professions of photojournalism and videography. It's hard to fault Gillmor's argument that the ubiquity of Net-connected cameras and cell phones will mean that, for breaking news at least, a pro will rarely if ever be the ones who capture the shot or the footage that gets widely published and reprinted. The comments to Gillmor's post are worth reading. One reader pulls out the figure that a billion camera phones will be in use globally by 2008.
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The Demise of the Professional Photojournalist

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  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:07PM (#17201314) Homepage Journal
    One might make an argument for this, but I am not quite so sure this is the "demise of the professional photojournalist" for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the ability to effectively communicate. Sure a picture can tell a thousand words, but that photograph needs to be placed in context. I take lots of photos [] that describe what I see, do and where I go, but I would never think of myself as a professional journalist. These images for me are a means to communicate and keep in touch with family and friends (a blog, right?), not to disseminate the news to the rest of the world. The fact that sometimes images from my site do resonate with news agencies/institutions or individuals around the world is cool, but it is a rarity that I get requests for re-publication (one every three months or so) and it is not how I make my living.

    Additionally, there is also the issue of ethics that most professional publications usually get right, but there are the admitted occasional screw-ups []. Usually however, there are issues of image/video provenance to deal with that may not always reflect reality ("I found it on the Internets, so it must be true!") that editorial boards put through a vetting process to filter out much of the fakery/deceipt.

    The Internet has enabled the ability to democratically (small "d") reach huge masses of people with relatively few resources and I expect that we will see more citizen reporting as the years go on. It may in some cases also challenge the mainstream media for particular stories, but the reality is that most folks have other jobs/things that keep them busy and they do not have the resources or time to become professional journalists. When they do obtain the appropriate resources/time/credibility, they have just crossed over into the world of the professional journalist.

    Technology will cause things to change and serve as a destabilizing influence for many established institutions, but I think we will always have and pay people who relate the news to us, bring us the wider world and tell stories. This will become especially more important as increasing percentages of societies become more specialized and fragment their time into narrowly defined regions of interest/study.

    • by Sunburnt ( 890890 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:11PM (#17201370)
      I agree; camera phones will provide a new source of visual information, but only as a result of their ubiquity. This sort of media exposure for fortunately-placed amateur videography is not exactly new (think Zapruder film), and there will be a place for highly-produced news photography as long as there is any sort of professional media.
      • I agree with Suburnt because the most important photo journalists are the ones that are willing to put their ass on the line. Not to diminish the occaisonal photographer but I do belive that those who do "highly-produced" material (using Sunburnts wording) by seeking it out will always make valuable contributions. So mod Sunburnt up. Think about it, he has a point.
        • by laffer1 ( 701823 )
          Yes and most of us are assuming local news. What about other situations like say Iraq? How many of us are in Iraq with cell phones. I'm not saying that locals will not take photos, but its unlikely they will get attention in our media. (regardless if you're american like me or live somewhere else) News can happen anywhere. Also, news outlets do interviews with people. I don't see a professional journalist wanting to take a photo for time or newsweek with their 1 megapixel sanyo they got at the local
          • by racermd ( 314140 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:37PM (#17203580)
            I haven't seen all the comments below just yet, but here's reinforcement of the posts before mine: The availability (some might say ubiquity) of digital cameras is a near-perfect analog to the proverbial thousand-monkeys-in-a-room. Sure, we might see some amazing pictures of world, national, or local events, but it's not the quantity that makes the difference. It's the quality.

            As an amateur photographer myself, I know how difficult it is to communicate effectively in a purely visual medium. There's a number of factors that must be considered - color, light, framing, depth-of-field, etc. All of this is before we start to get into the actual camera settings required to effectively capture the image. It's definitely an art, and it's not going to go away any time soon. And don't give me any crap about how technology can take the guesswork out of it. Yes, you can make perfectly good snapshots (NOT photographs) with a point-and-shoot camera in automatic mode. Almost always, those settings are meant to give consistent results, not artistic results. (Although, one could make the argument that using the automatic mode itself can be a tool in the artist's kit. I digress..)

            Rather, what I see happening in the future is camera-phones, compact digital cameras, and fixed web-enabled security-style cameras (among others) will bring us the most current images of breaking news while actual journalists will arrive later (if deemed newsworthy) and provide a higher quality product for the public to consume. It's not very much different than the situation today.

            After all, most of the people I know aren't actively looking for events to submit to news agencies. Most of the photos and videos they take are newsworthy only to themselves and perhaps their family and friends. Only if something major happens will it wind up on someone's sensor or film. I seriously doubt people are going to change all that much in the near future.

            That's my take on it, anyway.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Kjella ( 173770 )
              Almost always, those settings are meant to give consistent results, not artistic results.

              In 98% of the cases, being at the right spot and getting the picture is what matters. As long as the picture didn't under/oversaturate so the information is completely lost, you have a good picture that can be fixed up. Not so if you missed the shot. Of course, if you're doing photography as art that's different, but if you're essentially there to document it doesn't take more than a layman.
              • by fbjon ( 692006 )
                Good point, but you still need skills to pick out a subject. Randomly shooting around in the heat of a battle is unlikely to give any interesting results. Also, camera phones have usually very bad zoom ability. Nobody wants wide-angle shots of something far away.
        • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @09:18PM (#17202658)
          Yep, the most important photographs of the 20th century tankman [],Iwo Jima [],Hindenburg [], etc were all taken by professional photographers despite the near ubiquitous access to cameras, especially during the second half of the century when mass production made them so cheap they literally were available in the checkout lane alongside gum and candy. I don't think that more access to crap is going to make people stop wanting something high quality. Heck look at porn on the net, there's tons of it available for free yet I don't see Vivid et al going out of business.
          • by toQDuj ( 806112 )
            Never mind that iwo jima was a set-up photograph shoot... Artistically, it's nice.
            However, the pulling down of the Hussein statue during the America-Iraq war, could only be described as tacky.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:33PM (#17201646)
        Every time I see an amateur video on the news I think "that's interesting, but it's too bad they didn't get a professional cameraman there in time."

        Camera phones... shudder.
        • Exactly. Imagine watching Gov. Wallace and the National Guard, for example, on YouTube with a shaking image, filled with students' heads and scratchy wind noise. Today such footage would exist, but nobody would be aware of it unless there was no professional present. The "macaca" moment is a great example of the latter.
        • Every time I see an amateur video on the news I think "that's interesting, but it's too bad they didn't get a professional cameraman there in time."

          Yeah, so? The point is that's usually impossible. Gadget-freaks obsess about image quality, but if you want images of an event as it actually happened, the choice is often between "something" and "nothing."

          Yes, there will always be a market for high-quality searing images of the aftermath of an attack or natural disaster. But now, there's a market for im

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
            Did you read the article (yeah, I know, stupid question). The thesis is that professional videographers and photographers who cover breaking news are going to find themselves unemployed.

            So when there's a choice between something and nothing, which do you choose? Something, obviously. But how does that mean the pros are going to be out of work? Amateur video will continue to be used as it is now, and always has been -- used when nothing better is available and even then usually as short clips preceding a
            • Most of the work happens AFTER the camera has done it's job.

              I agree with everything else you said, but this I have to take issue with. Most of the work happens before the camera is pointed. Photojournalists put a lot of thought into the story they want to tell and the kind of images they need to tell that story. They spend a lot of time and money finding out what the story is and getting into position to be able to capture it, and then put a great deal of effort getting into the right place at the right time to produce the composition they want. After the shot, there's still a lot of work to be done, mostly selecting the right image from among the hundreds or thousands of photos shot, plus some effort in post-processing it to maximize its impact (though without altering the image -- photojournalists should not be doing that).

              I'd argue that pros put in the bulk of their work before the shot even for unplanned, opportunistic shots. Years of practice are required so that when that split-second opportunity comes, the photographer recognizes it and automatically grabs the perfect angle and composition to maximize the power and impact of the image, then snaps the shot with perfect focus, DOF and exposure, all without even thinking about it.

              Taking crappy pictures is easy. Anyone who happens to be in the right place at the right time can do it. Taking great photos, powerful images that resonate with viewers and say something important requires either extraordinary luck, or extraordinary skill, both artistic and technical.

              I'm an amateur who is working hard at learning to take good photos, and although my efforts have improved my photography, what I've really learned is just how large the gap is and how much there is to learn. My photos today are dramatically better than the snapshots I took even a year ago; I've learned a great deal about composition, lighting, color, form and all of the technical details that go into producing a high-quality image. I'm pretty happy with my pictures, but when I look at professional work it blows me away. Even shots that had to have been taken by pure reflex are technically perfect and composed with exquisite artistry. I'm sure I'll spend the rest of my life working toward that skill level, but never achieving it.

              Professional photographers of all sorts, including photojournalists, aren't going anywhere. People enjoy beautiful, artistic, emotionally powerful images that not only tell a story but do it with style and visual impact. You don't get many of those out of a crowd full of cellphone cameras.

              • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
                I actually wrote that, then deleted it before submitting to keep things simple. I agree completely. Photojournalists and photographers put in a lot of planning before they start. Most of getting great shots is making sure you're in the right place ready to take advantage of opportunities, then recognizing them when they present themselves. A good photographer (and videographer) will see something and know what he wants the shot to look like before he ever looks through the camera.

                Once you've GOT the pic
            • OK, I'll grant the article's premise about photojournalists going extinct is silly.
            • The role of professional photographers will be greatly deminished by orders of magnitude if their careers are limited to going to places where they can be killed because no one else will risk it. On every OTHER part of the planet the amatuers will rule.
              • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
                That was an example. In EVERY situation, if you have professional footage available, that's what you'll go with. Amateurs will rule when there's no pro around... exactly as they do now.

                Professional news organizations are going to have to do something to differentiate themselves from the amateurs, otherwise nobody will pay for their services. The thing that will differentiate them is not carrying freely contributed amateur footage of everything because a billion bloggers will be doing that. It will be qu
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      The problem is that stuff like newspapers don't use good quality printing, so you can get away with a lesser camera. Camcorder quality is improving, but more people are just using cell phone cameras to shoot photos or record video, and those cameras are still pretty bad. A lot of online stories by the news organizations don't have much by the way of photos either, the ones that I do see are very low res, whether or not it was taken by a good camera.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Spackler ( 223562 )
      As a photojournalist myself, I see the continued need. Sure, right place at the right time is great for cameraphones and pocket digital cameras, HOWEVER, the photo editor of any paper above podunk town status will still need pros to go out and shoot news or sports. It is the experience and the ability to know that they will get a usable shot under any circumstance that they pay for. If they send you somewhere, and you come back with junk, you tend to not last long. If you show up with a pocket camera as
      • by Eivind ( 15695 )
        Yeah. I agree. Pro photographers will still be needed. Perhaps less than before, but still needed.

        For unpredictable events, it may be the amateurs "wins", because actually *having* a picture/film of something beats not having it, regardless of quality.

        If someone had actually filmed the lorry-driver in the swiss-alps tunnel stopping and putting out a fire on his lorry *twice* before, extinguisher empty, and the lorry still burning, deciding to drive the thing out to avoid an inferno -- it wouldn't *matte

    • Indeed.

      People have been able to write for millenia, but the overwhelming majority do not write novels or newspaper columns. There's more to profesional photography then point and shoot.

      There will always be a place for the camara on the spot in an unexpected situation, there's nothing new there.

      What we have here is another 'new technology x will kill old technology y' class of prophecy. These are so pointless. I mean, we still have a vinyl record shop in my town, and it does plenty of business..
  • New Legislation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thunderstruck ( 210399 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:13PM (#17201390)
    A good headline like this should always be followed with a call for new legislation. We need to protect the industry. Perhaps we could ban trafficking in illicit news-related photographs, or the use of technologies that allow unrestricted sharing of such photographs on the internet.

    On the other hand, the few photojournalists I know can usually take vastly better pictures of a newsworthy event with a disposable camera than I can with a phone/camera of any kind. Maybe talent will save the industry instead.
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 )
      > On the other hand, the few photojournalists I know can usually take vastly better pictures of a newsworthy event with a disposable camera than I can with a phone/camera of any kind. Maybe talent will save the industry instead.

      And on the gripping hand, the few Farkers and Something Awful goons I've seen can usually do vastly better Photoshopping of newsworthy events with a pirated copy of Photoshop 5.0 than any Reuters photojournalist can do, even with a DSLR that costs more than a small country and a

      • by fbjon ( 692006 )
        So what? Photoshopping skills are really not what you're looking for in photojournalism.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cashman73 ( 855518 )
      Funny that you should mention that. It looks like Senator John McCain might be thinking along similar lines [],...
    • I wasn't quite sure where "legislation" came from, as I didn't RTFA...

      But, Sebastiao Salgado is about all I need say.
    • Ok, I hereby call for legislation which prohibits the showing of bad pictures in public. Out of focus, improperly composed, people at a slant with the tops of their heads cut off (unless that's the way you found them), and boring pictures of nothing passed off as examples of journalistic purity will get you exiled to Saskatoon. In January.

      There goes Gannett, and my local Fox affiliate.
  • Eh, not so soon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daeg ( 828071 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:18PM (#17201460)
    I work with dozens of journalists and videojournalists (TV). While yes, some people do send in video news for us to use, most of the time it sucks. Horribly. Probably the largest use of user-contributed content to-date (with success) is CNN's iReport. However, not even all of the iReport stuff is end-user information -- much of it comes from the other newspaper and television stations that work with CNN.

    Intelligent people or not, the population does demand a certain amount of traditional news. Some things can easily be covered in the future by freelancers or bloggers (like concerts and local events), but a blogger has nothing riding on being wrong. Journalists, at least, have their credibility--and whole career--on the line with big stories. If they are grossly factually incorrect, their career (at least in the big, large-pay markets) will be completely destroyed.

    What does a freelancer or blogger have to lose? Nothing. A blogger "journalist" can simply get a new domain and start all over again, possibly using their old content to backdate content to make themselves look established as their new identity.

    Sure, a journalist can simply change markets to escape criticism, but they can't change their name. What they say and what they do follows them forever.

    While traditional mediums may be on the slow decline (Newspaper and local television), that doesn't indicate that they will become useless. Do you really trust these up-and-coming "journalists" to, say, explain to your grandmother why her voting location changed? Which "journalist" would she believe? They could all be wrong, for all she knows.

    Most people will come to realize that non-professionals can hold a much stronger, and covert, bias than traditional journalists could ever hope to hold.
    • Re:Eh, not so soon (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rubberpaw ( 202337 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:26PM (#17201556) Homepage Journal
      Additionally, professionals are much, much better at documentary photojournalism as well as photojournalism for pre-organized events, such as sporting events and political events.

      I suspect that amateur photography will continue to push the professionals to do yet better. This can only be a good thing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cashman73 ( 855518 )
      If they are grossly factually incorrect, their career (at least in the big, large-pay markets) will be completely destroyed.

      Not necessarily true. The whole Al Capone's Vault fiasco [] didn't exactly kill Geraldo Rivera's career. Granted, it didn't help, and it made him look like an ass on national tv. But he's found other roles in other areas.

      On another note, it's a darn good thing we didn't send him into Iraq to look for WMDs,... or did we, and that's the real reason we didn't find anything there?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by EvanED ( 569694 )
        On another note, it's a darn good thing we didn't send him into Iraq to look for WMDs,... or did we, and that's the real reason we didn't find anything there?

        He was over there embedded with some US troops.

        Then he aired a description of their troop movements as part of his news broadcast (including a map drawn in the sand), and the Army essentially booted him.
    • Intelligent people or not, the population does demand a certain amount of traditional news. Some things can easily be covered in the future by freelancers or bloggers (like concerts and local events), but a blogger has nothing riding on being wrong. Journalists, at least, have their credibility--and whole career--on the line with big stories. If they are grossly factually incorrect, their career (at least in the big, large-pay markets) will be completely destroyed.

      This is how it should work but unfortunatel
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:21PM (#17201502) Homepage Journal
    have powerful enough software to add their own fake smoke into the scene? That is the mark of the professional journalist :P
  • A photojournalist will have a far better idea of what he's doing than some schmuck with a cameraphone. You can easily tell the difference between a pro shot and an amateur one, and that won't change no matter how many cameraphones there are in the world.
    • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )

      A photojournalist will have a far better idea of what he's doing than some schmuck with a cameraphone.

      There's no doubting that; but the idea is, if you throw an infinite number of rocks at an infinite number of monkeys, eventually you'll hit Einstein on the head.

      • Right. And alt.writing.fiction.mysteries is going to put Stephen King out of business any day now.

        There's a reason why professional photojournalists get paid for what they do, and it's not just because they have cameras. The only people who are going to feel threatened by a bunch of untrained people with cameraphones are the hacks.

        It's like feeling threatened as a programmer because any kid can grab a copy of emacs and gcc and write the next Oracle. Just because anyone can, doesn't mean that training and ta
        • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )
          I'm not sure anyone's going to feel threatened ... or, if they do, I don't really see why they should.

          I agree with you, only the hacks would be out-of-luck with this arrangement. The photojournalists who can take a photo that tells a story will still be in good shape and will still have plenty of hard news to cover. There's so much demand for news, no number of professional photojournalists can keep up with it anyway.
    • How great of a picture can a professional photojournalist take of an event he's not there to cover? Would it be better or worse than the picture the amatuer IS there to capture?
  • by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:36PM (#17201688)

    1 billion poorly lit, poorly framed, grainy images from cameras where people believed mega pixels === quality.

    How did we ever live with slightly less timely clear images that were composed well?!

    Besides, it's challenging enough to get alleged photo professionals whose careers depend on it not to add smoke to Lebanese buildings. How much is your reputation as a news agency going to be worth after your fiftieth photoshopping scandal because no on has a career to put in jeopardy but their odds of selling the single shot go up massively if it's more impressive?

    Sure, some of the less valid photographers will face competition and things may get a little tighter for the great ones - but there'll always be a need for reliable quality backed by a scandal proof reputation.
    • 1 billion poorly lit, poorly framed, grainy images from cameras

      Maybe if we assemble these correctly we can see the image of a news scene from a fly's composite eye view... hmmmmm... nope, never mind, they still look like shit.

      When I think of photojournalism, I think of the person who can not only take a picture of some news scene, but who can frame it in a way to put a human context on what has/is happening to convey more information than what is just in the picture.

      Don't believe me? Go look at the Pu []

  • by mandelbr0t ( 1015855 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:37PM (#17201690) Journal
    I don't think that journalism is the only profession that has been radically changed by the introduction of the Internet as a distribution medium. The same argument about distribution being within the reach of the unwashed masses still applies to pretty much anything that involves distributing some kind of content to an end-user. We were worried about indie artists obsoleting the Big Music Industry, amateur filmmakers taking money away from Hollywood, traditional news sources becoming obsolete, FOSS obsoleting commercial software development. And yet, none of this has happened.

    To some degree, the work of amateurs has been more widely viewed and accepted due to things like blogging, YouTube, online photo galleries and more. And FOSS is a serious competitor for all kinds of business applications. In the end, however, there's a few things that keep the pros in business, and likely will continue to do so. Professional content creators (just to keep things generic) have experience, reputation and capital. Most amateurs are lacking in at least one of those areas. In the rare and brilliant case where an amateur lacks none of the above, they remain an amateur because they've chosen to commit the bulk of their time to some other profession.

    Only when experience, reputation and capital have nothing to do with successfully creating unique and interesting content do I see the pro's job in danger. The Internet has enabled more amateurs by reducing the capital required to enter the market, allowing for one to gain reputation in a myriad of online communities, and experience by contributing freely and easily to the public domain. All of this free content is simply competition for the pros, who are pros (presumably) because they are one of the best. Conclusion: The Internet does enable amateur content creators to succeed, but the pros will continue to succeed by improving the quality of their work.

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:39PM (#17201722)
    Good news photogs are still going to get the shots they've always been there for. They also get access to places and events that other people don't get access to. Being part of the press corps does give you that chance to capture Gerald Ford tripping down the stairs, or Bill Clinton ginning up some Oscar-worthy tears, etc. But to the extent that a lot people are more interested in stuff that happens to normal people, even cheesy low-res MPGs are more relevent because they exist.

    The other thing, here, is the presence of more enthusiasts' cameras in and around events/scenes that would normally never rate the presence of a professional. Not the county fair, etc., but oddball sports/leagues, minor-league political events, that sort of thing. I've found that some of my own special-interest events (outdoorsy stuff among the bird dog crowd) has been bone dry of any media coverage that doesn't come from within. Um, except when the vice president accidentally peppers a lawyer while quail hunting - then all the sudden everyone wants images from that world... for exactly a week, anyway.

    But when I shoot stuff at an event, there can be twenty other people there with their cell-phone-cams, and it's the nerd with the heavy duty DSLR that produces the images people actually want. Most folks simply won't carry around enough glass to produce the sort of images that a pro or an insane amateur can produce, since it's just too inconvenient. Doesn't matter how many pixels a cell phone's sensor can pack in - the laws of physics are still in the way of those tiny lenses producing really good workable images, especially of active subjects in mediocre light.

    I've also found that carrying a macho camera and strobes gets you in places. It's sort of like all of those times that I used a mic cable and got around college bar cover charges saying, "I'm with the band."

    But the sheer number of images produced by all of those portables (say, the stuff from the Madrid train bombings) will certainly result in lots of web/broadcast coverage that an assigned pro would never produce. But what a professional (with his/her practiced eye, journalistic sensibilities, better gear, and credentialed access) can produce will never be replaced by the ubiquitous phone-cam. These things are complimentary, not mutually exclusive. But look at how the Michael Richards video clip circulated... that stuff will certainly eclipse other material's airtime when it's compelling enough.
    • by MBCook ( 132727 )

      Your average person knows NOTHING about a camera. Look at people at the next event you go to. At my college graduation a few months ago there were a couple of kind of people. One was the "pros" who had DSLRs and such and maybe got decent pictures (it was rather dark in the hall). Next was the prosumers who got OK pictures. After that was the point & shooters who got terrible pictures (both due to camera reasons and holding the camera at arm's length). Last was the people trying to use cell phones as cam

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mobby_6kl ( 668092 )
        I was actually surprised by the level of relationship most people have with cameras once I started paying attention. Even most of my friends, who aren't technically challenged, seem to have little understanding of the cameras or principles of photography. I don't consider myself a very good photographer and don't even use a DSLR, but this seems like basic stuff.

        For example, one guy was using the built-in flash on an object waaay beyond the range, and then was surprised that the photo was waaay underexposed.
    • I think with the wide availability of low-cost digital still cameras, MiniDV camcorders, and built-in cameras on cellphones, people in public will have to be FAR more careful of what they say or do. It has, essentially, turned the average citizen into papparazis.

      Why do you think Michael Richards got into such trouble over that racist and obscene language routine at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles a few weeks ago? It was because someone with (probably) a cellphone with a built-in camera that records video a
  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:57PM (#17201936) Journal
    This article is retarded. I am a professional photographer [], although not a photojournalist (while my wife is).

    Go pick up a copy of your local newspaper. Or the USA Today. Look at the images that accompany the stories. Now see how many of them are "news as it happens" images, besides planned events like sports or political functions. Very, very few. Pictures of traumatic events, captured as they happen, make up about 1% of a professional photojournalist does. Most of it is either:

    • Feature stories photography. These are either portraits of people being profiled in articles, or images that illustrate a story. The paper hires a photographer ahead of time and arranges the photo shoot. There is not a job an amateur with a camera phone is going to do well.
    • Sports photography. High school sports, college sports, whatever. This is a field for which your greatest assets are connections to get you on the field, a strong knowledge of the sport, and, oh, yeah, a $4,000+ high fps camera body and a $3,000 - $7,000 400mm or 600mm f2.8 lens so you can crank your shutter speed up high enough to freeze action, and open your aperture wide enough to blow out the distractions in the background. Not a job for an amateur with a camera phone.
    • News coverage of planned events. Political rallies, parades, community events, etc etc. An experience professional with a good eye and professional equipment is going to do a much better job than, again, a schlep with a camera phone.

    These are the things photojournalists actually do, none of which are going to be replaced by random amateurs with point and shoot cameras. So, according to the author, photojournalists are going to be put out of a job by people doing something that photojournalists don't actually do. What's next? Are vending machines going to put gourmet chefs out of business? They're everywhere, and get you fed for a lot less!
    • Pictures of traumatic events, captured as they happen, make up about 1% of a professional photojournalist does.
      Yup, that's a nice succinct statement of the problem solved by camphones.
    • by AEton ( 654737 )
      Okay, I'll bite: where do you get a 600mm f/2.8?
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Are vending machines going to put gourmet chefs out of business? They're everywhere, and get you fed for a lot less!

      That's an interesting example. You're certainly correct in thinking that a 4-star restaurant doesn't fear competition from vending machines. On the other hand, technology has put a whole segment of food vendors out of business. If you were low or moderate income, you used to rely on delis, diners, street vendors, grocers, butchers, produce stands, and a lot of other such small businesses, mo

      • The article you linked said absolutely nothing about small businesses being shut down by competition from vending machines. What was the point of that?

        My point stands. The unwashed masses with their camera phones fill a completely different niche than professional photojournalists. Hordes of random people with camera phones will have a better shot at capturing random news events, like terrorism or sudden natural disasters. but that's not what photojournalists do or ever have done. Photojournalists prima
        • by fm6 ( 162816 )

          You're the one the brought vending machines into the discussion. You claimed that random folks with camera phones don't compete with photojournalists for the same reason vending machines don't compete with gourmet restaurants. My point was that this analogy is too selective and therefore flawed: it makes more sense to compare how vending machines, and other mass-market food vendors, compete with all food vendors.

          By the same token, random bystanders with camera phones do indeed have an impact on the photoj

  • Statistically generated photojournalism can be intriguing on a large scale. Who would have imagined, even 15 years ago, having a spontaneous tragedy, like the first plane hitting the North Tower, filmed by chance? An average joe capturing something random like the Kennedy Assassination or even Rodney King beating, back in the 60s and even 90s, was mind-blowing. Although the technology was different, between 1960 and 1991, the probability someone happened to have a camera in hand to record an event was proba
  • by ribond ( 149811 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @08:14PM (#17202086) Journal
    the ubiquity of the technology does not in any way detract from the usefulness/worth of professional people to run it.

    Visual Studio express free downloads from MS has not resulted in management writing their own code
    Hammers & paint @ home depot has not caused massive layoffs of contractors
    Everyone has a pocketknife but surgeons are still employed.
    Many many crappy cameras in the wild does not mean that people will start liking crappy pictures

    I like nice pictures. Blogging hasn't (yet) killed journalism/professional writing. I expect photogs will survive.

  • The luck factor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2006 @08:19PM (#17202138)
    Some photographers are famous and produce pictures that form the rememberance of our times or even lead to change by altering public opinion. I can think of three pictures that went a long way to souring the public on our wars in Viet Nam and Cambodia. [] "John Filo's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a fourteen year-old runaway, kneeling over the dead or dying body of Jeffrey Miller, shot in the mouth by an unknown Ohio National Guardsman." ml [] "The 12 or 14 negatives on that single roll of film, culminating in the moment of death for a Viet Cong, propelled Eddie Adams into lifelong fame. The photo of the execution at the hands of Vietnam's police chief, Lt. Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan, at noon on Feb. 1, 1968 has reached beyond the history of the Indochina War - it stands today for the brutality of our last century." Ph%C3%BAc [] ". Associated Press photographer Nick Út earned a Pulitzer Prize for the photograph."

    As far as I know, these photographs were the high point of otherwise unremarkable careers. By luck, the photographer was in the right place at the right time.

    On the other hand, through skill, there were photographers who always managed to be in the right place at the right time. [] There will always be jobs for photographers like him no matter how many cell phone cameras there are.
    • I have a pretty low opinion of photojournalists and find the 'luck factor' explanation compelling. Those without luck do such things as fake scenes like how photojournalists creatively moved stuffed animals near bombed out buildings in beriut or were knowingly manipulated by hezbollah PR people just to get that one shot that would make their careers. Its a field full of unethical people doing something closer to art and fabrication than reporting. If they go the way of the dodo, well, it wont be surprising
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
        Wow. A couple of examples of unethical behaviour and you condemn an entire industry? I doubt there are any more unethical photojournalists than there are in any other field.
      • by tim_uk ( 123339 )
        It's just as well that none of us lucky smudgers could give a flying fuck about your opinion then. Moron.
    • The factors involved seem to be being present when a photo opportunity happens, recognizing a photo opportunity, having a half-decent camera, and having the skill to produce a well composed photograph (instead of a blurry mess with half a thumb).

      Being present is somewhat a matter of luck. However, photojournalists (like other journalists) spend more time than most people in many areas where "newsworthy" (IE: "I can turn that into a story!") events are more frequent. This improves their chances.


  • Within the comments on Gilmore's blog posting, many people are already pointing out that citizen journalism is not dependable. Sure, we capture some moments to terrific effect (JFK assassination), but news isn't all big events surrounded by crowds. The majority of photos published in newspapers or video footage broadcast on televised news programs are of stale topics like meetings or portraits of people involved in the news. If news agencies were to dismiss their photography staff, they'd find themselves s
  • Dan Gillmor has a piece up on his Center for Citizen Media blog about the coming decline in the venerable professions of photojournalism and videography...

    But the good news is, there's expected to be a huge increase in the professions in the editing room, including: image stabilization, contrast color adjustment, sound retouching (to remove all of the "Holy crap, dude, check out this plane that's on fire. Swwweeeeeeet!!!! I'm getting it all with my camera!").

    Part of why the pros are pros is not becau

  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @08:47PM (#17202416) Homepage
    Take a look at graphic design. I think it's a pretty good parallel to what's happening in photography (my SO is a graphic designer, so I have some insight into this).

    There used to be a lot of graphic designers and it used to be that a lot of them made it their bread-and-butter business to do restaurant menus, business cards, leaflets - any kind of small scale, frequently revised job like that. It wasn't glamorous, but it paid the bills between the big jobs.

    Then DTP happened. And when people could start churning out the simple stuff on their own, that marked gradually dried up. The truth is, while a menu for a neighbourhood joint designed and set by the owner and cranked out on a badly trimmed Kinko's machine is clearly inferior to what a professional will do, it is good enough. The price premium a professional will charge (and has to, to stay in business) just isn't worth it, no matter how much better the results.

    For a lot of graphic design like that, the cost of entry - and the baseline quality you get - for interested amateurs is compelling enough that there is no price point at which you can make a living churning out the stuff anymore. The market for "pro" work has shrunk substantially even as the total amount of work has increased. The high-end jobs are still there, naturally, but those were a pretty small proportion of the whole job market.

    I suspect it is the case with stock photography and some news and feature photography as well. There's enough people doing decent enough work and selling it through cheap stock agencies - or licensing it completely for free, just for bragging rights - that the bottom will fall out of those markets as well. Just as for graphic design, the high-end stuff will still be there of course - and is arguably even more important than before - but not that many people will be able to make a living on doing it. The top, the cream of the crop, will be just fine. The journeyman base, however, will probably not be very large anymore.
    • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @10:06PM (#17203054) Journal
      You're right, the stock photography market is completely in the toilet. Getty made sure of that. You can't make much a living when the web-based stock clearing houses charge $1 for an image, regardless of use, and pay the photographer $0.15. You better hope your image gets bought A LOT.

      In terms of professional photography in general (wedding, portrait, commercial), the whole industry is in a very strange place right now in the aftermath of the digital revolution. Digital has given the illusion that photography is now easier, so everybody who ever thought, "Hey, I like taking pictures...I could be a photographer!" has set up a website. True, it's easier to learn the fundamentals of photography now, since you don't have to pay for film or wait for developing, but in fact getting a quality image from a digital camera is much harder than film! The exposure latitude of digital is much smaller than that of film. With film you could be off by 2 stops either way and the lab would fix it perfectly. With digital you get a half a stop under and a third a stop over. After that it's never the same. Color is another big issue. Professional processing labs would adjust your images depending on the color of the light under which they were exposed, and their experts knew what they were doing. Now people are doing their own color, and, simply put, not everybody has an eye for it. Before, even a crappy photographer could deliver an image that was at least well exposed and color-correct, just because the lab did those last two parts for them. Today, not so much.

      On the flip side, the quality of high-end professional photography is MUCH better today that it ever has been before. Digital gave creative and talented professionals a whole new set of tools, and the results have been amazing. The result is that the quality of good photography has gotten better. Bad photography has gotten worse, and now there's much, much more of it.
      • The exposure latitude of digital is much smaller than that of film.

        I'm not sure what you mean by exposure latitude. If you're referring to the amount by which your exposure can be off and still get something of a decent photo, then you're right. If you're referring to the amount of dynamic range that can be captured, then that isn't true, at least not for most films.

        Digital sensors handle a slightly wider dynamic range than most film. That said, film *is* more forgiving. If you graph the dynamic r

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by meta-monkey ( 321000 )
          Yes, I was talking about "latitude" as in "forgiveness." That makes it easier to get an acceptable image from film than from digital.

          And yes, you can still have a pro lab color correct your files. You can even pay people to process your RAW images. My point was about the glut of new "professional" photographers who don't understand these issues, don't understand color, and don't even have an eye for it, but like taking pictures, so they've put up a website and started calling themselves professional phot
          • Yes, I was talking about "latitude" as in "forgiveness." That makes it easier to get an acceptable image from film than from digital.


            My point was about the glut of new "professional" photographers who don't understand these issues, don't understand color, and don't even have an eye for it, but like taking pictures, so they've put up a website and started calling themselves professional photographers. They're doing their own color, poorly, because it's cheaper.

            Also agreed. I'm among them, actually, but (a) I don't call myself a pro, and (b), I *know* what I don't know, and I want to do it myself so that I can learn. The way I know that I'm learning is that I look at my pictures from a few months ago and think "what crap! Those skin tones are all wrong." I fully expect to say the same of today's photos six months from now.

            By the way, you have some beautiful images on your website. I especially like your landscapes.

            Thank you very much. I'm quite proud of those -- although I think it's a good sign that every month or two I see new flaws in

  • Journalist in general are already being replaced by pretty people. Look at Sixty Minutes. Five years ago the average age of a reporter there was nearly sixty and male. Now it's under fifty and female. In the old days reporters researched and wrote their own stories. Now they read copy. Old fashion journalist will largely be extinct by the end of the decade. There are a few younger ones taking up the mantle like Anderson Cooper but even he's aging. Journalist are being traded for "Personalities". It's a very
  • NOT! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @09:45PM (#17202872)
    This is like saying that the availability of the Internet is going to destroy all fine literature. Professional, high-quality work is always in demand. Consumers will just have more choice and photojournalists will have to differentiate themselves with higher quality.
    • Right. It's just the bad photojournalists - that is, 90% of them* - who will be out of a job.

      * Sturgeon's Law.
      • Right. It's just the bad photojournalists - that is, 90% of them* - who will be out of a job.

        I know you were being sarcastic, but if 90% (or whatever percent) of current photojournalists can't compete favorably against a kid with a cell phone, I say they really ought to get out of their business anyhow. If you don't provide real value by your efforts, then society should not encourage you to keep doing them.

  • I'm not buying it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KoshClassic ( 325934 ) on Monday December 11, 2006 @09:53PM (#17202928)
    Ubiquitous cell phone cams does not equal the demise of the professional photojournalism.

    Yes, a lot of photos are taken by people with cell phones when there is no photojournalist in site. Before cellphone cams became wide spread, those events simply wouldn't have been photographed. So cell phone cams are not exactly invading a marketspace traditionally dominated by professional photojournalists - they are invading a marketspace that has traditionally been vacant - thus I claim photojournalists are not competing with cell cam users.

    Photojournalists are out there, right now, shooting the same type of events they've always shot. They'll continue to do so.

    And show me a cell phone cam photo and a photo shot by a professional photojournalist from the same event, and I'll choose the photojournalist's shot 999 times out of 1000. Its not because his camera is better (some day, cell phone cams might catch up, who knows?). Its the photographer. There's a reason why these people are pro's and make their living doing it - photographic talent. Joe Schmoe with his cell phone would have to be extremily lucky to stumble into a better picture than the pro is going to take.
  • Hang on, doesn't that mean that due to my local hardware store being so handy and being able to order things cheaply, plumbers, carpenters, builders etc. are all out of a job?

    Cheap cameras of decent quality don't magically turn your average schmoe who doesn't want to know anything beyond how to turn it to manual and go click into a pro photo journalist.
  • million monkeys (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ilmarin77 ( 964467 )
    So, let's give million monkeys million cameras and wait when they produce something like this. []
  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @01:44AM (#17204416) Homepage
    The web caters to people that think "everyman should be able to do this", even when they can't. So, "citizen journalists" will eventually overwhelm paid profressionals just because people have no way to determine the difference.

    It all comes down to what are people looking for. Quality? Or just quantity. Or just a low price? A newspaper or web news site can "afford" far more when publishing freely contributed content vs. professional content they have to pay for. So, we're more likely to see free stuff. Not only that, but the difference between professional and amateur may not mean much for tiny, cropped down images on a web site.

    The other thing the web can't stand is the idea that material isn't being published because it isn't "appropriate". Would a newspaper or TV news program show a picture of a person "believed to be a rapist?" However, if someone has a cell phone camera picture of someone leaving the scene of a rape, you can bet some web site will put it up with the caption "He did it!!!!" What does this do to the idea of a fair trial?

    The idea of the "citizen journalist" pushes this over to a distributed model. Authority is a difficult problem in distributed systems and the "democratic" nature of the web seems to abhore the idea of any authority at all. This makes it very difficult to tell if you are looking at a clever fake or the truth. Sure, you might get different web sites with different material. OK, what is truth? Majority wins? Or is there something else that we can judge this stuff by? Right now, I would say it is unlikely there will be a standard and people will be left on their own. Truth could be a very slippery concept.
    • Uh...

      Would a newspaper or TV news program show a picture of a person "believed to be a rapist?" However, if someone has a cell phone camera picture of someone leaving the scene of a rape, you can bet some web site will put it up with the caption "He did it!!!!" What does this do to the idea of a fair trial?

      Nancy Grace.

      Seriously, I don't disagree with your concerns, but the mainstream media is already there. The quality of reporting and analysis on all but the most bland, uncontroversial subjects is ob

  • There have been billions of people capable of writing for many years, yet professional writing seems bigger than ever, with political leaders making vast sums of money just by penning a book. The problem isn't whether everyone can do it, it's who can do it well. No matter how good the equipment is, only a small percentage of users generate the best quality, and the institutionalizing species we are, we'll only want to see the product of the top percentage no matter how good everyone else is.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."