12.14.2009

A rant about an editorial in the NYT by Thomas Friedman.

The following is from Thomas Friedman's Editorial in the New York Times from Sunday, December 13, 2009.  I am excerpting it according to the fair use provision of the U.S. Copyright Law to discuss it's interpretations about the new economy......

In this article Friedman is discussing his friend's re-working of an advertising agency to deal with the "realities" of the new economy...........My note are in red....

 "He illustrated this by telling me about a film he recently made for a nonprofit.
“The budget was about 20 percent of what we normally would charge,” said Greer. “After one meeting with the client, almost all our communication was by e-mail. The script was developed and approved using a collaborative tool provided by www.box.net. Internally, we all could look at the script no matter where we were, make suggestions and get to a final draft with complete transparency — easy, convenient and free. We did not have a budget to shoot new footage, yet we had no budget either for stock photography the old way — paying royalties of $100 to $2,000 per image. We found a source, istockphoto.com, which offered great photos for as little as a few dollars.
If there was no money in the budget for any production was there money in the budget to pay Greer's fees?  If so, how did the money get there?  Was it part of a negotiation?  If so, why wasn't appropriate money negotiated for all the other creative resources normally necessary?  In other words, how did everyone else's budget disappear while the budget for Greer remained?
“We could easily preview all the images, place them in our program to make sure they worked, purchase them online and download the high-resolution versions — all in seconds,” Greer added. “We had a script that called for 4 to 5 voices. Rather than hiring local voice talent — for $250 to $500 per hour — we searched the Internet for high-quality voices that we could afford. We found several sites offering various forms of narration or voice-overs. We selected www.voices.com. In less than one minute, we created an account, posted our requirements and solicited bids. Within five minutes, we had 10 to 15 ‘applicants’ ” — charging 10 percent of what Greer would have paid live talent.
(And, of course, when they've succeeded in eliminating all of the "live talent" in the market what will they do when the market recovers and clients demand original, creative and complex voice over solutions?  Will they wring their hands and plead ignorance?  Doesn't the work itself have an intrinsic value? Are all skills merely commodities?)
“Best part,” he said, “within minutes we had sample reads, which could be placed into our film to see if the voices fit. We selected our finalists, wrote them with more specific instructions and within hours had the final read delivered to us via MP3 files over the Web. We could get any accent or ethnicity we wanted. For music, we used a site calledwww.audiojungle.net,” where he could sample thousands of cuts of music and sound effects with the click of a mouse, and then buy them for pennies.
(How can Friedman, or for that matter, his friend Greer, not understand that by decimating each layer of creative businesses by not having the balls to charge liveable and sustainable production budgets they will create  a business model that will quickly go up the food chain.  Pretty soon,  if there is no solidarity among creative professionals the next step is to automate advertising and marketing or offshore it to third world countries.  People might say that this is a new "paradigm" driven by the web but what is really happening is that the massive destruction of creative markets, and other similar skilled markets, is leading to  people making non sustainable choices in order to survive for the moment.  As usual, only the consolidators are making any profit.  Eventually these vulture-like pricing strategies will push most of the creative class into poverty.)
By being able to access all these cheap tools, Greer got to focus on his value-add: imagination. The customer got a better product for less money. But he didn’t create many new jobs. For that, he needs the economy to pick up. “If we could only borrow a buck and invest,” said Greer, “we’d all be rolling again.”
(There is no proof that the client got a better product.  There is no proof the client got a good product. Only a groundless justification for cutting the profit out of three different areas of creative endeavor.  "Save yourself and forget the rest of the passengers!"  "Take him, not me!"  Finally, what does Greer need any additional capital for?  His supplier costs have dropped by a factor of ten.  He's doing his jobs for 20% of what he used to charge.  If his sole value add is imagination wouldn't he be better off eliminating all of his staff and just sit around being imaginative?  ........Imagination is the most readily available resource in all of the advertising world.  Hell, you can get better imagination from just about any six year old than you can from the typical ad man.  The real shortage is of skilled practitioners, and companies like Greer's are picking them off one at a time under the guise of "efficiency".  That Friedman applauds this makes me nauseous.  When the NYT downsizes him out of a job, replaced by random column generators, or "crowd-sourcing"  I hope he'll understand what he helped to destroy.  Makes me want to re-read the Lorax by Dr. Suess.)


What does this have to do with a column about photography?  Plenty.  In nearly every avenue of our lives big business is trying to figure out how to squeeze more and more cost out in order to  return huge profits to a smaller and smaller group of people (not necessarily the stockholders).  By denying quality suppliers a sustainable profit they drive the suppliers out of business or off shore.  By doing so they decimate support for local communities.  Photographers have been especially hard hit in the last few years by stock photography marketeers that market to the dreams of a vast army of amateurs, convincing them to work below their own costs (the very thing our government routinely accuses China of doing....it's called "dumping" when countries do it).  In this way legions of people, hungry for some sort of misplaced artistic recognition, subsidize companies owned by powerful corporations.   In a way it's similar to the way that state lotteries prey on the ignorance of the poorest segments of society.  They show off the "big winner" to a demographic segment that doesn't understand the statistical relevance of "one in ten million..."


In the same way the legions of microstock photographers don't understand that they are part of a system that drives the cost of "marketing intellectual property" to zero for companies so they can more efficiently take even more money out of the pockets of the very people who subsidize them.  Corbis=Microsoft.  


When mega corporations have succeeded in driving off the musicians and artists and filmmakers and all the other people who bring beauty and relevance to our lives what exactly will be left?  Canned music over fries at McDonald's?  Endless animated movies?  Billions of nearly identical photographs?  A broke middle class?  A poverty stricken class of skilled workers?  And when Google finally figures out which legislators have to be paid to make all books available free who will ever want to write a book again? Then what will you read?



Finally analogy:  If you take a great bottle of red wine and dilute it with several gallons of water is it still a great bottle of wine?  And if you train a new generation of people to drink the diluted wine will they have actually experienced good wine?


If we as a culture are willing to settle for less and less, where will it all end?  What will we have done to ourselves.....?  

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kirk, put on your asbestos suit because the true believers of the "free market economy" (meaning "I like your stuff and I want it for free!") will try to savage you for this one. Good luck.

John Krumm said...

Friedman's always been a giddy idiot about the "new" economy. But morally is it any worse than what we have done to factory work, and factory workers? Just because it's creative work is it worth any more? I tend to think human labor is always worth something, and we should pay a fair price for it. If anything creative work should be paid less that repetitive work, because it's a heck of a lot more fun.

kirk tuck said...

John, you are right. And I don't think we've done well by factory workers or the other people who helped build our economy. I think Thomas Friedman is less than bright if he can't see the writing on the wall where his own job is concerned. But maybe he believes his industry will be exempted because they have better lobbyists......

Mandáš said...

I totally and heartily subscribe all you wrote here, to the last comma...the real issure is the mis-recognition of the value of human work, in all his forms. Keep up the sword, together we stand! :)

Anonymous said...

John, you are right. And I don't think we've done well by factory workers or the other people who helped build our economy. I think Thomas Friedman is less than bright if he can't see the writing on the wall where his own job is concerned. But maybe he believes his industry will be exempted because they have better lobbyists......

Do not forget that Thomas Friedman is one of the elite and what is good for the worker bees does not apply to him and the other elite folks

kman ( worker bee who is running put of energy )

John Ricard said...

Kirk wrote: "And when Google finally figures out which legislators have to be paid to make all books available free who will ever want to write a book again? Then what will you read?"

Hopefully, I'll still be reading your blog. Posts like this are an illustration of who great it is.

Dave Jenkins said...

The NYT is living on borrowed money. With columnists like Friedman, Krugman, and Dowd, their readership is going to continue to go down.

I've been doing this for 40 years, and making a living in photography has always been hard. A few years ago, I made a decision to stop trying to compete with amateurs and cheap stock and began marketing myself in areas where reasonable business-people recognize that only a professional will do. For me, those areas are business portraiture and architecture. Maybe an odd combination, but it seems to be working out for me.

6p00d83451723b69e2 said...

Kirk

A great post, As you suggested Friedman will think this is a great idea until they outsource him to any one of us. It is ironic that the liberal NYT would support this view, after all this is essentially what got Karl Marx writing about exploitation of the worker. No one has been to the White House more than the President of the Service Workers Union, and he is certainly not for outsourcing....
Does anyone recall that Wal Mart used to advertise Made in America, no more.....only manufacturing creates wealth, or as Anne Richards observed, we will not get rich washing one another's hair or cooking one another hamburgers.
I linked this to my blog and we will have an assignment in my ethics class on this in the spring.

John said...

This is exactly what's been going on in the software industry for several years now. There are a lot of similarities between photography and software development. At first you struggle to learn the basic skills and techniques. But then, as you build up a collection of skills your creativite side starts to emerge and that's when you are at your best. Is it so hard to believe that it takes creativity to find the best way to solve a problem or to create, out of your own imagination, an elegant and beautiful product? Not everyone has these traits and I don't believe they can be taught.

I've been a software developer for 25 years and I've seen this same type of devaluation of skills and creativity going on. After being laid off, I was offered a consulting job in another state that would have paid $25 an hour, out of which I would have to pay my own travel and living expenses. Do the math on that! And, yes, I have been called a "Worker Bee" too!

There seems to be some kind of elitist thinking going on.. the idea that a few at the "top" are qualified to run things while the rest of us do their bidding.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I like it when you've got your dander up.

Vu Le, DDS said...

Kirk,

I admire your writing in general, but I think you are taking this a little too far. It almost sounds like you feel professionally threatened. Are you going to rant every time somebody does work at a lower fee than you? Lower price does not always mean lower skill, lower quality, or lower satisfaction. You claim that the client is not guaranteed better work or even good work, but it's the client's satisfaction that counts. After all these years, haven't you done at least one turd of a shoot that your client adored? Haven't you at least once seen an extraordinary shot from a total amateur with a rinky dink camera?

Cheaper work is not always a sign of mediocrity, but it's always a sign of a competitive market at work. Hard times challenges us to be better photographers, better producers, and better businesspeople.

In "Minimalist Lighting" you spend a whole chapter on how going small has been able to deliver comparable image quality. You shot smarter, saving you time, and therefore saving your clients money. Competition forces innovation and efficiency. It's unfortunate that many choose to deliver mediocrity at an attractive price point. But that's a choice.

I do a lot of volunteer work for non-profits who design on tight deadlines and tight budgets. iStockPhoto is a gift to designers who have minutes to turn something in. Art directors are smart enough to spend bigger money on important projects, and to conserve resources on less important ones. There are always going to be times when art directors want fast and cheap, and times when you need higher quality original work. And there will always be photographers in both categories, and many in between.

As a dentist by trade, I know that there will always be someone providing cheaper, faster dentistry. I also know that discerning people will seek out (and even pay more) for quality service.

This is not exploitation of any worker; everyone is willingly providing their personal quality of work at a fee which they believe the market will bear. The internet has not created lower cost or lower quality photography, it has merely aggregated what was always there. The internet is making it easier for people to compare portfolios and fees, and easier for small guys to make their way in. Weren't you an emerging photographer once? Why begrudge people the right to make their own decisions, even if you don't agree with it?

kirk tuck said...

Vu Le, thanks for writing. I love hearing from people in industries protected by state laws, licensing requirements, and other barriers to entry. You would change your tone if dentistry was open to all comers. I am not against fair competition. If you read closely you'll understand that I am against offering services below their sustainable costs.

I do much work for non-profits but I don't see the salaries for their staff or administration subject to the same competitive spirit that you would have artists embrace. They ask us how to do our jobs cheaper. A good rejoinder might be, "why isn't your organization all volunteer?" "Why should your salary not take a hit as well?" But it's a selective argument usually made by people without any skin in the game.

Why don't we allow all comers into an all markets in an unregulated way?

It's fun to postulate that creative talent will win out but no one can compete against free. Or work done below cost.

Of course I feel threatened. If you've been paying attention for the last year or so you'll find that anyone in a profession like ours is scared to death. We can do everything right and still lose it all.

In my books I never recommend cutting fees. I believe that there is an intrinsic value to art. Most arguments about efficiency swing on the presumption that all art is a commodity. It's not. It's a process.

Exploitation does not always involve direct, physical force. It can include misinformation, misdirection, etc. You can Madoff people out of more money than you will ever get a knife point.

You know that some people can already not afford dental services. Shall we allow legions of amateurs to take a crack at it as a way of opening up greater competition?

Free is only an "attractive price point" if you are buying.

I'm not suggesting that we disallow competition. I'm suggesting that there is a loss of value in the drive to zero.

Ab said...

You are spot on here Kirk, I almost see the article as an advertisement for these cost cutting ways.

There is a lack of respect today, where most individuals have an "I can do that" attitude, irrespective of what "that" is. My Grandmonther had a story she would tell:

A swordsman was out fighting, as they do, and managed in a duel to bend his sword... so he headed over to the Blacksmith. The blacksmith, upon close examination told the swordsman he could fix it and would be ready tomorrow... As the swordsman walked off he turned back to see the Blacksmith place the sword on a chair, and sit on it.

The next day he came back and was given his sword, good as new... he paid the fee and went out to do his business once more... again, he bent the sword. Well this time he thought... I will fix it myself, placed it on a chair, sat down... and broke it.

Her moral was even if it involves sitting on it, leave it to the professionals.

She was a woman who grew up in revolution russia, where times were tough, moved to Iraq, where times were tough thoughout much of her time there... and then lived with us in her old age in the UK... How can someone who experienced so much hardship has so much respect for the professional... and those that dont, have so little?

I am by primary trade a Graphic Designer, and most of my photographic work is product stuff to move projects forward... I still use professional photographers when needed. I HATE the stock look... most people couldn't dream of how many hours i have spent for thrifty clients surfing istock for bland images... most of them learn when a competitor uses the same image thus blending consumer recognition and wasting advertising dollars.

I dont agree these are market forces... these same market forces are turning our food into poison. And our brains into soup from most of the crud on television.

Sorry little rant of my own.

Great post Kirk.

Anonymous said...

Why are the ones who support this horrible idea of an "efficient market" the ones who have the least to lose? What happens when everything is cheap and good "leaves" the market? At some point the only thing left will be crap.

Jackson said...

Are you saying that dentists should not have barriers to entry or that photographers should have barriers to entry? I don't believe they are comparable at all. Dentists have safety and public policy issues that do not exist for photographers. Not the same ballpark.

And are you really rallying against non-profits? Non-profits are taking a hit. They do have less money to pay everyone, including creatives. They are laying off people and freezing salaries. You don't think they are just cutting money out of the creative budget and going along their merry way with all other expenses?

Its also a little strange to read a critique that employs much of the rhetorical language of leftist economic movements answered by comments that basically say "thats right, liberals are bad". Please everyone, pick an economic theory and stick with it. (If Kirk is really pro-factory worker - and I'm extrapolating - pro union, then his view is consistent and its the commentors I'm speaking towards)

kirk tuck said...

I think people should just understand that it's wrong to expect people to work for rates, or in ways, that are unsustainable. I support many non-profits. I'm sure they are cutting budgets but why should photographers and illustrators be expected to shoulder the lion's share of cuts when the fees remain intact for administrators, designers and ad agencies? I've never said liberals are wrong. I think all jobs should be well valued.

Just because a person in a third world country can do a thing (manufacturing, retouching, etc) cheaper than we can do it here doesn't mean that doing it here doesn't have value.

I think society at large, and bad economists in particular, have tried to divide the creative process in two. They are trying to quantify it as product. And that's wrong. It's a process and an art and a product intertwined and it's our creativity that's made us a financial superpower, not the mindless rush to join the lowest denominators in the entire world.

I am pro union. I am pro factory worker. And I assume, if you extrapolate from his admission that capitalism can indeed NOT regulate itself, I presume Alan Greenspan is now also a believer.

You may see this erosion of the creative class as just the play out of economic forces beyond our control but I see the sinister hand of capitalism at work in the most profound way.

The consolidators are not offering "new job opportunities" to people who previously could not participate in photography they are using these people to create products at much lower than the cost of production and allowing the people to make the investments in tools, time and training in order to have a product which is essentially free to the stock agency to sell. The meager amount returned to most of the people "donating" stock photos is less than the amount it would take to sustain any reasonable business.

Continued in the next post.........

kirk tuck said...

Continued from above......

I just think Thomas Friedman used bad examples in asking for an easing of credit to businesses. Obviously, more money given to Greer's business would not create good, new middle class jobs but would give him the leverage to deconstruct more and more currently profitable paradigms until the profit is driven out of every corner of the business. Then I assume, Friedman will have Greer move offshore. If Friedman simply suggested that Greer wanted to add employees or build a new building he would have had me. Why he had to add in the ways in which Greer bypasses proven suppliers to reduce his cost of goods is not cogent to his argument and certainly didn't win him friends around here.

I'm pro worker, pro content, pro artist and pro middle class. I have never believed in the trickle down theory. I am aghast at the idea that this is an argument couched as the battle between economic movements or freedom of commerce. It is neither.

As to licensing people and what not, it does constitute a non competitive barrier in those fields. I would suggest that we make medical schools and dental schools absolutely free for all who can pass the entrance requirements, flood the system with practitioners and let these people who are so assured that "quality" will prevail duke it out with hundreds and hundreds of highly trained, low cost options available. Directly in their markets. Give them a taste of a truly free market.

And as long as we're mulling over the topic of quality how the hell is a consumer supposed to know whether his dentist or gastroenterologist is of "superior quality" vis-a-vis his competitors? Are there contests of skill and strength that we can watch? Do they get rated like books on Amazon? Do the dentists send in patients as "entries" to dental awards contests like we do with ads in the ADDY awards? Or is it the quality of the chairs in the waiting rooms? Who can make this assessment? If the quality is so obvious why is it that we never hear which proctologist has the "golden touch"? And why do they all accept the same payment amounts from the insurance companies. You'd think the guy who does really, really good gall bladders would get tons more money than the guy who just does reasonable work. But they do get paid the same, for the most part. How does that work?

So.....where are we on this? Friedman's argument is flawed. The market can't be trusted (see Alan Greenspan's admission that Capital Markets can't self regulate....) and what do we have?

The knowledge that people don't always operate in ways that are good for their own (or their industry's own) long term good. And that markets don't have people's best interests in mind.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk,

Couldn't agree with you more. We are at a sad point in our society and culture, which I believe has been developing for over three decades.

At least we have averted a second great depression (I hope), but all the progress of the middle class in the years following WWII is going down the drain. There were decades of prosperity with regulation and unions and taxes on high incomes that did not lead to protectionism, or communism or totalitarianism, or a welfare state.

Deregulation and tax breaks for the very rich and powerful have created a gap between the rich and poor in the US that reminds me of the days of the robber barons (today's big banks) and child labor (Walmart's importation of cheep goods). I'm not THAT old to have lived back then, but I do read history.

How Wall Street can give million dollar bonuses to the people who created credit default swaps is completely beyond me.

We are not quite as bad as Dickens' London yet, but the people who are getting paid pennies for istockphoto contributions may be getting closer to Bob Cratchit before Scrooge's transformation than they realize.

The dentist has not yet had to face technology that challenges his income, but that may just be a matter of time, given research in fields such as biotech. And if only the very rich can afford a dentist, he may soon be underbid by his colleagues in competing to get pennies from the rest of us.

What worries me the most is that there do not seem to be enough thoughtful, decent, open-minded people with enough power and influence to counter the enormous pressure of the mega wealthy and mega corporations. The increasingly hostile level of discourse on talk radio and TV also doesn't help.

Thanks for airing some shared grievances in a responsible, respectful way.
M.

kirk tuck said...

Just to be clear: I like dentists. I have one. I am friends with two. I think they should be licensed. Public safety is important. Happy Holidays to Kavin and Matt!

Pete Appleby said...

Hi, Kirk. You've stirred up a tempest in a teapot. I enjoyed reading your post and the responses. I'll give my opinion, for what it is worth. The middle class, which used to be healthy, is dying. Very few are moving to the upper class. How many of us over the age of 50 are better off in economic terms than our parents were at the same age?

Manufacturing is a dying breed. The service areas, like the software example above, are going downhill. Our elected officials have better retirement, health care, and other benefits than the 'normal' middle class person, other than perhaps government employees. The large corporations and upper class dictate the actions of our government. The example of this editorial shows how wide the gap is in perspective from the haves and have nots. The few exceptions in terms of the middle class that I can think of are the few strong unions that are left. Our government has failed us.

Food for thought, not realistic, but thrown out there to stimulate the thought process.

1. Every elected official and government employee should have the same retirement and health benefits as the lower and middle class person.

2. Elected officials should earn the minimum wage per hour. That would result in a real living wage law being passed.

3. Any elected or appointed official, or government employee must not have any financial benefit from their position. Jail time and loss of pension for any violation, not matter how small.

4. Elected officials and bureaucrats must take a vow of poverty.

Yeah, I know, I am dreaming here. But it does feel good to rant once in a while...

Herman said...

I agree completely. For some reason photography is often seen as a cost center.
On avarage I get one email per gig I shoot asking if they can use my images. (Note: I do concert photography for fun, as a hobby).
I usually respond with my (very reasonable) rates.
And usually you never hear from them again, not even a "no thanks".

Strangely enough it seems that the emails I get from the musicians themselves are more positive about paying for photography.

PR firms on the other hand ... less so.

Now I don't have any problems with not getting moneys for something I do as a hobby, but I see no reason why not to charge a reasonable rate for work. After all it has value. It just starts to get tiring after a while to communicate a lot without any results.

Anonymous said...

"What worries me the most is that there do not seem to be enough thoughtful, decent, open-minded people with enough power and influence to counter the enormous pressure of the mega wealthy and mega corporations."

Well said. We need a billion people march worldwide, with real action. Power should be reclaimed by the people.

Vu Le, DDS said...

Thank you for posting my comment, for your well thought out response, and for respectfully elaborating on your argument. Very good points. My minor counterpoints:

1) I do happen to have competitors, er, colleagues advertising dental services at unsustainably low fees every day of the week in my mailbox. It is every practitioner's personal choice whether to play that game or not.

2) Dentists, "golden fingered" proctologists (is it the gloves?), and photographers all can charge whatever fee they want. In heavily competitive areas, PPO insurance companies can dictate what those fees will be. Even then, the established superstar doctors with stellar reputations can still demand (and get paid) rockstar fees. (no, I'm not one of them) In Europe, where medicine is socialized, people still pay out of their pocket for the superior services of a private doctor. Likewise, there will always be better photographers who can command higher, "sustainable" fees. It's getting harder and harder, yes, but it's still possible.

3) Dentists and doctors (at least in California) can't unionize because of strict antitrust regulations. And I'm not sure you could ever corral photographers into a union...there would be scabs a plenty.

4) There are no practical barriers to entry in dentistry in Southern California. If you want to go to dental school, the Armed Forces will pay 100% of the bill, or you can get a Federally subsidized loan. Dental schools are cranking out dentists as fast as they ever have in history. Heck, we're opening one more dental school in CA just to shake things up a bit. There is not a block or shopping center built without a new dentist office put in it. There are 14 dentists within 1 mile of me. We have FAR more dentists than professional photographers out here in OC. If you count only full time pro photographers, it gets even more lopsided.

5) The problem in both your field and mine is not just commoditization or competition, it's a lack of value perception. Many don't assign value to their oral health unless something hurts.

Likewise, people don't always value a well executed product or portrait shot. Facebook is littered with allegedly awesome photos taken at arms length with a cell phone in bad light.

Your argument is that devaluation comes from cut-throat loss-leader competition, my argument is that people wouldn't use free or cheap if it wasn't good enough for their non-discerning needs. If people really, truly wanted great photography (and knew what it was when they saw it), they would pay for it. I would agree with you that the most dangerous competitor isn't one who is better and charges more, it's the one who is good enough and charges much less. But your assumption is that unsustainable for you is unsustainable for everyone.

6) you're way too good of a photographer and a writer to feel threatened by stock bureaus and fly by nights. You can't buy your CEO's portrait at cheapstockphoto.com, and you probably won't drive him down to the department store photo studio. The reason you and I are both in still business in highly competitive fields is because we have built quality relationships based on providing quality service and quality product.

clune.org said...

First up, I agree with you on the problems of wealth only flowing upwards and the dismantling of the middle class, but I think there's something missing here, and it'd probably need another post to discuss.

The elephant in the room is this: if "good enough" is good enough, then photography is now too easy and cheap.

(Note the caveat there!)

Why pay a pro to do mug shots for a web site when you can (like my work) get the information officer to take the shots with a 3mpix point'n'shoot?

Why pay a pro to shoot the organisations Christmas card when the annual "have your photo chosen" comp produces work that is just as good as the jobbing pro used to produce?

Even if you want better quality, it's cheap. I've just had a 16x20" print done for my office. That would have cost a lot back in the day.

Autoexposure, auto-focus, TTL, chimping etc have made the technical side of photography easy. A quick look at the Strobist pool shows how many people can produce a decent (not great, but good) portrait.

In some senses, video is the new photography (cost wise). Jo down the hall might have video on his SLR but he won't have the stability board, the software, the lights, helpers etc to make a decent video.

As I said at the start, a decent look at this would take a long post. I'd like to read your thoughts.

kirk tuck said...

Dr. Vu Le hit one of the problems right on the head: Value perception. We could have a long discussion about that. Many good points in that comment as in the one right above. Look, I tend to get excited and write with a bit of hyperbole. The problems facing our society are more complex than any one photographer can grapple with. But each of us can commit to not selling ourselves and our products for less than their intrinsic value.....even if the masses don't "get it".

Some amateurs have always been as good as some pros. I guess the frisson is that in the old days you really had to master stuff to do the business and now it's easier to just dive in, disrupt the market, and then go back to the "real" job blissfully unaware of any dissolution that might have been caused.

Samir said...

"If we as a culture are willing to settle for less and less, where will it all end?" Good question. I guess we'll all know the answer in about a decade.

Win-lose relationships have an expiration date. It doesn't work in human relationships, and it doesn't work in business either. Win-win relationships are sustainable. If it's not win-win, then it will crumble; it's just a matter of when.

I'm wondering when the endless supply of amateur photographers willing to give away high quality images will crumble. Then we'll all see how things stabilize. I'm already seeing talented amateurs with pro-looking work getting out after they've dumped thousands of dollars into high dollar equipment. They can't see a financial return in this environment.

Daron said...

Wait until the nonprofit sees the same photos, same background music, or the same voices advertising something that they fundamentally oppose. They will be pulling their ads and blaming the agency.