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march 30 2010

The Assault of the Amateur

written by: Christian Oth

The New York Times posted an article about how photography is on a shrinking path. It is an interesting assessment of the state of assignment photography, but as far as the aesthetics of photography go, I couldn't disagree more. It has never been easy to 'make it' in photography and the fact that the commercial/editorial landscape has shifted and is undermined by amateurs is nothing new to an ever-evolving industry.

Landing a career in photography is not as easy as just going to college, building a portfolio and, poof you have a career. The photography world is saturated, one has to be not only talented but also extremely hard-working and savvy to have a fighting chance at making this a career. The failure rate has always been enormous. This is nothing new.

What IS new, as the article says, is that the amateurs are undercutting pro photography. But what the article doesn't mention is that the consumption of photography has also increased tenfold.

Verite06photo by Michael Falco


We live in a much more media-rich visual world. It is a well-known fact that people just don't read anymore. Everything nowadays is supplemented with media. There are simply different opportunities out there, than the traditional assignment photography business model.

I would also like to make the statement that photography has never been this good, especially in the wedding world. The pros on the top end of the market have gotten so remarkable, and I simply relish the fact that wedding photography has been elevated to these incredible heights in our little niche.

This has also opened up incredible opportunities for the pros out there who are truly talented: the average couple has now a much higher appreciation for photography than, say 10 years ago. It is absolutely incredible what is happening in the industry right now in terms of aesthetics and vision. The growth of really good, stimulating photography has been enormous. 

Weddings nowadays have become such incredible visual feasts. Anyone who hires an amateur for their wedding is simply rolling the dice.


Read the New York Times Article here



Syed over 4 years ago

Love your take on the NYT article - very insightful. But the best part is the last - " Weddings nowadays have become such incredible visual feasts. Anyone who hires an amateur for their wedding is simply rolling the dice." I couldn't have put it better !! Rock on : )

Jane Shauck over 4 years ago

Completely agree. Thanks for posting this! Jane

Renee Cobb over 4 years ago

Good points about the demand for photography!

stephen henry over 4 years ago

Yes Christian you make a valid point about the growing size of photography consumers along with participants. I'm not sure how sustainable it is across the board but the "top end" will survive for reasons both real and imagined. I'm a little uneasy with the increasingly hedonistic nature of so much of the wedding industry. Weddings themselves represent an apogee in human nature, but the so much of the wedding industry including a lot of wedding photography is over blown nonsense, in a very needy world. I never said I wasn't a hypocrite. Love your work though.

Victor Consaga over 4 years ago

You make several very good points. SO many times I've heard other photographers complain about amateurs. There will always be amateurs, but we are professionals. We must conduct ourselves as such with higher standards and business practices.

G.E. Masana over 4 years ago

I commented on that article and as a fellow working professional, I can appreciate your point about those who choose to "roll the dice" when there's such a talented segment of photographers for them to choose from. Make one wonder why. I think it's about the perception or mind set of that consumer type: they settle for "good enough" rather than pay the difference for experience, talent, skill and service for such a personal product that will survive for generations. They'd rather pay an average wage in return for an average job, which to me, for artfully and emotionally documenting imagery that will be in the family for generations and ultimately become an heirloom, doesn't make sense, but to them, it does. Which further means, I care more about their wedding photography then they do! That being the case, those folks are not cut from the same cloth and therefore, not clients for the better photographers.

karl bratby over 4 years ago

you of course speak the truth, but the amateur problem is even worse in UK as we seem to have to educate our public who very few of seem to put any value on pro photography, i shoot in both US and UK and there is a big difference in public perception. The wedding sector is the worst with its over saturation of photogs since they deem it as easy money and easy to shoot, the specialist sectors are less affected by them but are now in dire straights with the recession... hard times for most im afraid apart from the chosen few. We should remember that we are just photographers, we are not saving lives or changing the world.

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