Is it over for conventional photography?
The first question is what do we mean by conventional photography? In this context I mean a still image. Not a video. Actually the lines are blurring between video and stills but we will get to that a bit later. Let's start by looking at what is threatening stills photography, because it is an industry in decline.
The obvious threat is that images of a reasonable quality have become easier to create as technology has advanced. There is no debating this, it is in my opinion self evident. The ease of image creation has led to the mistaken idea that all photos are now equal. That anyone can take a fantastic photograph and that skills mean nothing because technology has replaced the skills. This is simply not true. Some people consistently take better photos than others. Some people do it so well and so consistently that they are able to make a living at it. So why is the commercial photographic industry in such turmoil?
I believe there are two reasons. The first is that fantastic quality professional level images are not always needed. Just as we are sometimes happy with a burger, it happens that a phone generated home made image is perfectly adequate on many occasions. Professional photographers are needed when we want more than the equivalent of a drive through burger. The second threat, and by far the more serious, is video.
Humans are fundamentally hard wired to track motion. We are the planets alpha predator and animals know that when we appear they must freeze if they are to stand a chance of surviving. Our eyes are drawn to anything that moves. Its unconcious and ridiculously powerful. In the struggle for eyes video has a crazy advantage over still images.
A consequence of the migration to electronic media is how easy its has become to show a video compared to a still image. A little rectangle on a website, you click on it and off you go. Thirty seconds of entertainment, multiple images, viewpoints, titles, instructions and music in one tidy, tight little bundle. Still images invariable require the navigation of a confusing array of thumbnails that may or may not open into larger images perhaps in another tab, perhaps not, all with text interspersed between the images, a navigational nightmare. Still images get killed in this contest. Video is more engaging that still images and is easier to deploy on the web in many instances.
Then there is the blurring of lines between video and still photography. It no longer requires a different camera, just a flick of a switch turns still cameras into high end video cameras. Online, still images and videos are more and more frequently stitched together into a slideshow type of package. I don't even know what to call this, other than clever. You can get an idea of what I am saying with the video below.
Seventy five percent of internet traffic is now video. Four hundred hours of video are uploaded to Youtube every minute. Video used in email campaigns has been shown to increase click throughs by as much as 300%. It's not should you use video but why are you not already doing so. Production costs of video were always much higher than stills photography, that gap has narrowed dramatically.
Personally I began working with video some time ago. I feel very confident that video is helping my clients remain relevant and profitable. It is a fun and rewarding medium and I am convinced it is a more cost effective way of making sales. Thats the bottom line.
Is it over for still photography? No I don't think so. After all people still write poetry, but then when last did you buy or read a poetry book?