I've finally mastered a skill in which I was never really interested....until a client demanded it. Yeah. Phone stuff. Mobile camera apps.
Camera makers used to sell a lot of cameras based on what "professionals" were purportedly using. That's no longer even remotely applicable.
With all this in mind it was an easy advertising pitch for camera makers to trot out real, working professionals who used the company's cameras and could profess to good results and the overall reliability of the products. The top end models were almost certainly purchased by a higher percentage of full time pro photographers than are top line cameras now. I'd conjecture that fewer than one tenth of one percent of professional camera models are actually sold to people who use them for full time photo work and the vast majority sold are used by well-heeled hobbyists, or people outside the actual professional willing to play fast and loose with their credit cards in order to have cool tech.
Photography, as an overall profession; a way of making a living, has been in decline every single year since the capitulation of film to digital. According to surveys the average photographer working full time in 2019, in the USA, was making less than $ 50,000 per year. If you think someone grossing $50,000 a year (and netting far less) is a ripe candidate for a yearly update to the latest Sony A7RIV or Canon R5, and the lenses to go with it, and is happily upgrading every time a newer, "better" model comes out then you are living in a dream world of unicorns and sparkly marketing magic. Most self-employed photographers are going along with (based on statistics) some model of the Canon 5D and whatever zoom lenses (usually just two) that they bought whenever they decided to enter the market. And most, unlike yours truly, are not gear hounds at all. In fact, a larger and larger percentage of working photographers are female, and are also statistically less apt to chase the latest technology. They're doing just fine with whatever camera they have right now.
So, where are the "working photographers" that can act as front men for camera makers? Well, in fact, they are not working photographers at all but rather influencers, bloggers and vloggers who make their living hawking any and all cameras that the manufacturers send them to review via affiliate links, and their own home workshop products such as presets, workshops, tele-coaching, e-books, flash modifying gadgets, et al. Some adopt a system to shill because becoming identified with a single brand channels more and more product from that brand to their sites for quickie reviews and also "qualifies" their viewers. If the viewers are, for example, Sony users then a person who professes a preference for Sony cameras on their site will draw a crowd that is more interested in having their own purchases blessed and then more interested in clicking through an affiliate link to buy more product in the same family.
But this in no way means that the "influencer" has photography clients who pay him or her for work done or rights transferred. Nope, they're making T-shirts with funny photo sayings on them, pumping out videos behind paywalls that show you how to work with the cameras and lenses you just bought through their sites. Stuff you could learn handily, if you just read the freakin users manual. So, rather than work with gear under challenging conditions and turning out world class photos these "pros" spend their time, reviewing cameras from their favorite makers, setting up T-shirt sales on the web, shilling for SquareSpace or Luminar products, selling presets that will help make your images flat and overly saturated, and praying for more click throughs. They are also creating an entertainment product just for you. Their own rambling 10-15 minutes videos and reviews. All the drama, none of the meat.
Is that who you want to look to if you're considering a new camera system? That's like asking the Chevrolet dealer which brand of cars they recommend. Or a fellow bus rider which model Bentley you should buy...
The concept of the "professional" photographer that people over a certain age carry around in their heads is a construct that I would venture to say hardly exists in reality at all now. It's gone. There are fewer and fewer full time photographers and a lot more people who are jacks of all imaging trades, from quickie web design to one man hybrid camera video makers, to ersatz designers, who will also help design your T-shirt and in the next moment perhaps deliver your coffee as part of their other Door Dash job. And you think they have the need or the means to splash out for a Sony A1? And a couple of $2500+ lenses? Get real.
I'm sure there are a tiny, tiny number of working professionals who are in long term love affairs with their camera company's products. But just looking at my circle of photographer friends we are more driven to purchase by curiosity and boredom than any sort of spread sheet logic or well considered use case scenarios. I want to buy a Leica Q2 right now. But not because I've seen any work by any photographer who is getting paid by any client. No, the advertising from Leica shows a bunch of happy artists who are shooting to make themselves happy and that's about it. No one is showcasing a huge advertising campaign done for a huge company like Apple or Dell while touting a specific camera brand; or even the photographers who've shot the campaigns.
I can assure you that the photographers who actually are shooting for the biggest and juiciest campaigns are no more spending time on the web to tout product than Scarlett Johansson is opening for some dinner theater in Des Moines this weekend. But wouldn't she be so good in "Streetcar Named Desire"? Or "Our Town"?
The photographers who are pulling in big rates and even bigger usage fees wouldn't see much benefit in shilling for camera companies. Most of which would never pay anything close to the rates that real, top end pros can demand from authentic clients. It's that old "one tenth of one percent" rule. Offering a billionaire a toaster oven to move their bank account is... laughable.
There is a whole industry set up that's just about marketing, talking about, and benefitting from cameras sales. There are a few sites on the web that can support a whole team of marketers masquerading as "journalists" who actually drive many, many more camera sales than any current testimonials from working pros. The only problem is that these journalists aren't quite making enough hard cash, individually, to buy the cameras and lenses they'd really like to own and the cameras they have in their hands for a few weeks to test are never put to the kinds of real tests that a working pro shooting in a metal fabrication factory in Mexico or on an infrastructure project in the Florida Everglades, in the dead of Summer, would put to a camera in the space of a day.
I remember being a one time spokesperson for a camera maker at a big trade show for the photography industry. I could make nice photographs and we could stream them to big screens at the booth. But to be really transparent (which also means "honest") with prospective buyers we should have also noted that a crew of three support engineers was standing by the whole time fixing the cameras as they bricked and recycling them back to us to shoot. The excuse? We were shooting with "prototypes" or, we were shooting with non-final firmware. But believe what you will.
Are there still full time pros left? Let me know, I'd like to watch them in action.