Is Good Enough a New Problem?

Thanks to an evening of hanging out on Twitter I was made aware of an excellent blog entry by Chuq Von Rospach (@chuq on Twitter). I encourage you to read his post as he does an excellent job of making the point that many professional photographers are in big trouble. They are. But I’m not entirely sure that his argument captures the whole story.

As I understand his point he argues that professional photographers are suffering because we as a culture have decided that the pictures we can make ourselves with our cellphones and entry-level DSLRs are proving to be good enough. I’m sure that is a huge factor. But is good enough a new thing?

Didn’t we all once go to weddings with disposable cameras placed on every table at the reception? Hasn’t there always been the “Uncle Fred” in the family that would bring his Nikon with two different lenses to the chapel to try to capture his own photos? Weren’t there once entire industries built on processing millions of rolls of vacation pictures, little league game pictures, prom photos on the front porch, et al, for decades? And don’t we all now post every interesting snapshot we capture with our cameras on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?

Hardly any of those pictures would be confused with being of a professional quality. We as consumers have long been willing to accept the snapshot as good enough for almost all of our photography needs. So what else changed that is causing us to be more willing to not hire a professional photographer?

I would have to assume that it has much to do with our culture continuing to become less formal. Professional photos almost always have a formality to them. Classic poses. Perfected looks that say “we made an effort” to produce this image. We live in a world that increasingly rejects formality. Every day is casual Friday. We get our news from bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, and Instagrammers. The formal press is dying as well.

Professional photography isn’t just in trouble because Uncle Fred got a new Nikon and Cousin Sue bought the new iPhone. Professional photographers are in trouble because the market for their work is shrinking. Aunt Edna’s pictures aren’t good enough – they are exactly what the customer now wants. The professionals that figure that out first and can provide the customer what they are now looking for will survive. The others will fail. That is how the market works.

That’s how I see it at least.