If you wonder around the internet long enough, you’ll find lots of examples of why people think the internet and digital technology is good or bad. Depending on the background that opinion comes from, you’ll most times be able to ‘guess’ if the writer is for or against the digital world.
Like with all massive leaps in technology, there will be some winners and some losers. This has always been the same, the internet and digital technology cannot be held totally responsible. It is, after all, how we use the technology that is available to us that makes the biggest differences.
Hardly a day passes without some new headline about record companies and film studios suffering from the ease in which digital files can be shared, the illegal copying and the money they are losing. Rarely do you see any reports about the worlds aging population, less people in the typical record and compact disc buying age group, more competition from games consules, dvds and digital toys. 25 years ago the record companies had a product that people wanted with very little competition, now they have to compete for their piece of pie, try and give us the same regurgitated product and moan about not making as much as money.
Well, they aren’t the only ‘industry’ where things have changed because of the digital revolution. The stock photography industry and photography in general has also changed dramatically. 20 years ago that is how I made my living, over the last 10 years it has got increasingly harder for many photographers to make a living without a change in ‘attitude’.
There are still photographers who, like the record companies complain about not making as much money, who still see 15 or 20 years ago as the ‘good old days’, but they have to realise that the shift has happened and we have to change our ideas and skills to fit with today’s business conditions and opportunities.
I love digital photography, the speed in which I can see the shots I’ve taken, the ease in which I can alter things in my imaging software, but I also miss the days of shooting film. With film there was more time to sit around and ‘wait’, for the film to dry, the prints to dry or sit and have a coffee while the lab processed everything. There was an understanding from everyone that things took time. Now everything is ‘perceived’ as being immediate. You can do a days shooting, possibly a couple of hundred shots and the client expects them on their desk fist thing the following morning. They don’t think that each image still has to be processed, colour corrected, converted from a raw file to .tiff or .jpeg or sometimes both nnd rather than get the shot correctly set up before you take it, it’s taken with the ‘Oh you can just photoshop that out, can’t you?’ comment, but they don’t want to pay for the extra time it takes to do the work!
Some stock photographers who have been shooting stock images for a long time, don’t like the new ‘micro’ stock agencies as they under cut the prices of the traditional stock photography licensing system and pull the prices down. I’ve been on the receiving end of this and I don’t like it either, but with the economic situation the way it is and businesses having less money to spend, I can see why images users go to the cheapest supplier. There are some reasons why not using ‘micro’ stock or Royalty Free images are not a good idea on every project, but the picture editors should understand this if they know their job, it shouldn’t be down to the photographers to explain it to them.
The not understanding the business they are in also happens with some musicians that I work with on Somojo. This is the biggest problem that I see for the creative industries with digital technology. We are now all capable of being a ‘business’ with our shop front on the web, but I bet if you asked most people trying to set up and sell a product via a web site if they ever wanted to be a shop keeper, the answer would be NO!
So where does this leave everyone?
I think it’s too soon to really know or understand the long term effects for some businesses and industries. It’s good that we all have the chance to get our work ‘out there’ in front of an audience, but I often wonder if there is a limit to the exposure that most people will get via the internet. Especially with the growing number of musicians, bands and photographers out there, I don’t see it as being viable for everyone to be successful, no matter how good they are.