Using the 60 Minutes definition of a Robot as a machine that can perform the job of a human, I now see this is what happened and happening to photography.
Why should you read this?
I want to outline the way to avoid obsolescence of today’s photographer, but I need you to understand why this is happening.
Many people understand how many people lost their jobs to outsourcing, but this is also happening due to a machine that performs a job of a human.
I think many newspaper photographer for example are now “Technologically Unemployed” due to things like smarter cameras and smarter phones.
Early 35mm film cameras didn’t even have a light meter in them and today there is a computer in the camera doing much of the computations that a professional photographer would do in the past.
Today’s camera is a robot that took over the job of the human: getting a good exposure and even focusing. This applies to all the clients that were hiring photographers for jobs that they knew what they wanted, but just didn’t know how to technologically make it happen. That is no longer a problem for those clients.
How to avoid obsolescence
Evaluate everything you are doing for clients. If any part of what you do can be automated assume this doesn’t give clients reason to hire you.
This doesn’t mean get rid of this service, but know that this is more of a commodity.
Evaluate all the resources your clients have and see what they have already designated to a machine.
Selfies are a good example where the machine has replace the photographer. In Wikipedia it says:
A selfie is a type of self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. The appeal of selfies comes from how easy they are to create and share, and the control they give self-photographers over how they present themselves. Many selfies are intended to present a flattering image of the person, especially to friends whom the photographer expects to be supportive. However, a 2013 study of Facebook users found that posting photos of oneself correlates with lower levels of social support from and intimacy with Facebook friends (except for those marked as Close Friends).
While self portraits go back to the brownie camera and using a mirror to take ones on photo, it was the advent of the camera phone and social media that these began to go viral.
I am sure this has hurt the portrait market. What I thought was interesting that these Selfies are viewed as narcissistic if people are not close friends. This means that Selfies on Linkedin are probably not a good idea.
Look to personalize your business model. Look for things you can do that are not easily automated. These personal touches are what clients will come back to you for over and over.
Too many photographers are looking to technology to separate them from the crowd, this is what makes them so easy to copy. Concentrate on your ideas, personality and creativity to separate yourself from the pack.
Look for the new technology and be an early adapter, because if you are the first in your community to offer something you can ride that for a while till the others start to copy you. Sometimes you can build your brand on always being the first to offer things in your market. You can charge a premium if this is your approach. If you are the late adopter to a fad you are entering a commodity market.
Here is a good exercise to help you think of ways to distinguish yourself. Think of those people you know that everyone enjoys. Now describe them on paper. After you do this with a few people you will see that their brand isn’t a machine, so why do so many photographers try and identify themselves by the camera they shoot?
Be innovative. Be creative. Be yourself.