Next year will be ten years since I “went digital.” That fact prompted me to think about the next ten years. Yes, I have been using Photoshop for editing and printing my images for more than ten years. But when it comes to digital capture, I am nine years (and counting) into that technology. I recently came across information (including a nine year old quote that predicted where digital imaging was going to lead.) The great thing about that nine year old clairvoyant quote was how far away it was from talking only about technology yet how spot on it was in terms of predicting the impact of that same technology.
In 2003, Marc Canter (tech guru, serial entrepreneur and founder of Macromedia) said: “Five percent of the populace (probably even less) can create. The others watch, listen, read, consume. I think one of the destinies of digital technology is to enable the other 95% to express their creativity somehow.” To give you an idea how much that has changed, a few months ago, the Pew Research Center reported that “…more than 50 percent of American Internet users created or curated content online.” Five percent to fifty percent participation in nine years! Now that is a revolution!
After reading that, I had a few important “take aways” from that revelation.
The most obvious one is how that explosion in participation in on-line content creation explains the changes in the world of photography. Specifically:
If you are a commercial photographer working under the assumption that you still do something that 95% of the population can not, your days in the business are numbered.
If you are able to offer something to the new 45% (or more) who are using digital imaging to create content online, then you have a chance.
In my own case, I can’t say I was so smart to see this change coming, but I am fortunate to have developed an expertise in teaching photography at a good moment, just as the number of photographers looking to learn has grown exponentially. The problem is that my “market” is being flooded with other photographers who can teach (or think they can teach.)
The other part of that information that caught my eye was the phrase “…curated content online.” If you look at parts of the Pew research, they talk about content creators vs content curators. Snapping a photo or recording a video is obviously creating. At the same time sharing an image you like or a video that caught your eye, via social media is an equally simple form of curating.
Curating usually suggests working in a museum and assembling exhibitions for narrow audiences. In fact, blogging, gathering favorite images, running photo competitions, sharing videos, starting a photography center or any of a dozen other activities are examples of curating, something increasingly done on-line reaching large audiences. I blogged recently about how I think these activities are growth areas for those photographers who love the medium but are not necessarily interested in (or good at) making photos for strangers for money, the classical definition of a professional photographer.
How can accomplished photographers use their expertise to continue working in the photography world on the curating side? I am not sure, but we all know that every new “pro in the making” who enters the ever shrinking professional market is risking hurting themselves and the market they aspire to be part of. On the other hand, the photographer who can help others in the less developed but equally exploding “curating” side of the market, that photographer has a much higher chance of being in the business in another ten years.