If you have ever had a 15-year-old child before, you know your weekends are spent running errands just to give your child practice behind the wheel of the car. We have to log 60 hours of driving time before our daughter receives her license, so we are letting her play “chauffer” whenever we have the time. She is considerably better at it then she was a couple of months ago, so it’s easier now to look around at the scenery rather than concentrate on her skills.

This weekend we drove by an old Blockbuster store, and I started thinking about the change in the video industry. I remember a time when the big thing was to run up to the video store to get a movie for the weekend. That slowly morphed into Netflix, which gave you more convenience of getting your movies and dropping them off, but still didn’t solve the problem of getting the movie you wanted, when you wanted it. Change that today, and you can stream any video you want, anywhere you want. From mobile devices, Smart technology, and even your Google tv, you can have instant access whenever you want it. Which of course has caused old relics like Blockbuster to file for bankruptcy.

And of course industry change doesn’t end there. Look at landline telephones. More and more people are abandoning their traditional landline phones in favor of cell phone only. You used to pick your phone company based on how much they charged for long distance; now you use cell phones with one payment plan for all of your long distance needs. And if you talk continuously with people from around the world, use VoIP or Skype, and connect via the Internet. You can talk anywhere, anytime for one low price.

Every single industry that has had major change over the last 20 years is due to technological advancements. And photography is right in there with them.

Go back 20 years, and you purchased a camera based on the lenses you chose to use. If you wanted to change your output, you invested in different types of film. Film is where the magic happened, and together with a great lens gave you a dynamic photograph. You had to rely on your expertise to create the perfect image within the camera, because you wouldn’t see the results until the final processing took place. But the magic occurred at inception – at the moment you pressed the trigger and captured the image.

Fast forward to today, and that’s no longer the case. With today’s software programs, the magic no occurs when you process the digital file. It no longer matters what happens when you press the trigger, what matters most is what you do with the file after it’s captured. (yes, I know you can argue this point, but with the magic of Lightroom, Photoshop and other programs, you really can completely change an image after it was captured.)

And lets look at the professional photo lab industry. Just a few years ago, there was a processing lab on every street corner. Running your film in for one hour development was an industry standard. Even on the professional level, every major city had a number of labs to choose from. Here in Denver, we had four. Now we’re down to one. And most professional labs have completely changed the way they do business. They are more than a processing lab, they’ve become marketers as well. They create unique products you can only get at a professional lab, and provide you with the tools to sell it to your customers. And they provide online tools that help you take your products to the web, and help get you sales from anywhere in the world.

So photography has changed, and it won’t go back to the way it used to be. If you captured an image on film, you had to wait to see the results, knowing the only way you captured a great image is if you pressed the trigger at the right time. Today, we find “spray and pray” photographers, who simply take hundreds or even thousands of pictures at one event, then spend hours in production making the magic happen during processing. Old schoolers may argue this isn’t true photography, but isn’t it just the way the industry has morphed?

Skip Cohen wrote an interesting article last week, When A Picture Becomes a Photograph. I like his line of thinking.

Ultimately, its not the picture, or the file, that has value. It’s the final output, and the way you present your artwork to your customer that determines its value.

If you hand over a digital file, its simply a picture. But if its printed on professional paper in rich vivid colors, it changes into a photograph. When you mat and frame it professionally, or use picture after picture to build a story within a professional album, it ceases to be a picture – it becomes photography, and true artwork.

Photographers today have to realize that the traditional studio has gone the way of Blockbuster. The technology is old, and you will never bring it back. To simply snap an image doesn’t cut it anymore. What gives you value as a photographer is going the extra mile.

  • Add in the entertainment factor.
  • Present your clients with the “WOW”.
  • Give more than they could ever get with their own little point and shoots.
  • Set yourself apart by becoming an artist, not just a picture taker.

That’s the only way to succeed in the new millennium.

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