“The photography space, as you know, has been flooded with imagery because the barrier to entry for photography has dropped so dramatically. Previously, you had to know how to focus, you had to know how to expose, you had to know how to color correct. All that’s now gone, and it’s largely an automatic function.”
What he’s doing is pointing out that photography as gotten so easy literally anyone can do it. Now photographers, and myself as a photographer would argue that it’s not all that simple, and the quality of the content separates the art from the crap, but one sad truth is a lot of the photography industry out there doesn’t require much talent. One of the things I notice (and it honestly saddens me) is how much great work there is out there. I’ve seen hundreds of ’emerging’ photographer’s websites who are more than just competent, they show their style, technical know how, and ability to self edit. Yet many of these photographers cannot and will not achieve the success they could have in another era simply because there are not enough jobs out there to sustain both their businesses and their life.
Photography is not worthless, but it certainly is worth-less. The same thing happened to music after Napster. Record sales aren’t going to support that industry, just as mid level ad jobs can’t support every studio out there.
Some of Clint’s more interesting comments had to do with how he built up a business that could be sustainable long after the digital arrow broke the bubble of sustainable business models.
“In 2004, I saw a lot of this stuff coming and so I got involved in High Dynamic Range Imaging. But not so much for the pictorial display of the imaging, but its ability to do image based lighting and rendering. I was trying to figure out what was going to be the next great change in photography or imaging. And, with movement towards the web, people more and more, want their information interactively. So if you’re a photographer you need to understand how your component becomes interactive, because the still image, while it may have impact, has a lot shorter shelf live, if only because there’s more imagery out in the world.
So, I thought, “where is the next threshold of imaging?” And my sense was that it’s a combination of interactivity and CGI.”
“Here’s the overall concept. When you look at a marketplace and when you look at your business, you have to figure out, “How can I maintain a barrier to entry?” Barriers to entry can be cost, they can be complexity they can be access. I can’t photograph the president of the United States but some people can.
So, how do you build a wall around yourself? It used to be your ability to focus, process, expose, etc. and that whole wall has completely fallen down. So, that’s what everybody’s trying to figure out, and that’s why I went in this direction, because the barrier to entry is so high.”
That was a pretty smart move if I do say so myself. If I had the technical know-how to pull of some of what I see coming I might be able to position myself in the same place. Fact is though that I can’t just be a photographer, I’d have to also be a CGI animator, web designer, and videographer (to start). Those are the jobs of what I thought were 4 different kinds of people and in my experience lately one person is going to be expected to have these skills.
I invision the production house having more of an impact than the individual in the coming years. Look at Chase Jarvis (my opinion of him aside) he’s not a photographer, he’s a team. And that team made an iPhone app for god’s sake. I never took the iPhone development class in college. In my opinion if you want to build a successful studio, go meet some people working in other mediums and see what you can do together. Just taking pictures these day’s ain’t gonna cut it.
It’s a lot I have to think about. It requires a big re-imagining of my definition of success.