iPhone replaces Chicago Sun-Times photography staff
Back in May, The Chicago Sun-Times axed its entire staff of 28 photographers, including a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist. Sun-Times reporters began immediate mandatory training on “iPhone photography basics.” The Sun-Times was bleeding too much financially and cutting its photographic expertise was the easiest thing to do. So there you have it. We’re seeing the end of professional photography, as we once knew it, the beginnings of an “anyone can do it” photography industry, and a continued skyrocketing of the “Free” business model.
The demise of professional photography
Back in the pre-Internet era, professionals could only produce the pictures that could sell newspapers. Black & White or color, photographic specialists were needed in both realms to attract the eyeballs necessary to help boost a newspaper’s circulation. While it was Eastman Kodak engineer Steven Sasson who first invented the digital camera back in 1975, it was not until 2001 when digital cameras were first mass-marketed to the general consumer with a then eye grabbing 4 megapixel technology. Flash forward to 2007 and Steve Jobs announcement of the very first iPhone with its 2.0 megapixel image technology. These developments helped to diminish the value of a professional photographer’s skills.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, photographers currently hold just over 61,000 jobs in the U.S. This in stark contrast when back in 2002, more than 130,000 photographers held jobs in the U.S. Over half of all photographers are now self-employed. Photography as a profession, however, is still projected to grow by 13 percent from 2010 to 2020. And the #1 culprit upending traditional photography practices? Technology.
Amateurs are the new professionals
Recognizing the intelligence, capabilities, and expertise of others was traditionally a hallmark of a wise individual. Today this model applies less and less. “Anyone can do your job” is today’s operating mantra. Building up a level of expertise over time becomes devaluated by technology’s constant evolution in making the complicated simpler. Digital photography is no exception. The “point and shoot” camera is becoming slowly irrelevant given the continued advancements in iPhone (and Android) image resolution. The iPhone 5 now delivers 8 megapixels worth of resolution providing an even greater level of detail, certainly more than satisfactory for the average user uploading images to their preferred social media channel. Given the precipitous decline in print newspapers, the digital journalists of today are becoming iPhone photographers generating visual content for their paper’s website.
It’s a free, free, free, free world!
The Chicago Sun-Times rid themselves of their full-time photographers and in exchange they purchased iPhones enabling it to produce photography for much less. It follows a consistent business model of choosing what is cheaper or even free to avoid anything that costs more money. CNN fired 50 of its staff less than two years ago, including a dozen photojournalists, citing “Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.”
It’s easy to malign the iPhone and its impact on the photojournalist profession. But for all you iPhone fanatics, snapping pics and uploading them by the thousands to Facebook or Instagram, it has actually done wonders in catering to your insatiable demand for convenience and improved photo quality. If anything, every one of you now reading this post is more interested in photography now than you ever thought imaginable. Matter of fact, some of you are salivating at the thought of mobile DSLR, which is now pushing the envelope of cellular photographic technology by the likes of Nokia and Sony.
iPhone forever alters consumer photography habits
In the end, for better or for worse, the iPhone has permanently changed the way consumers both view and take photos. Today’s photojournalists must face the grim reality of newspapers continuing to cut costs and further equipping their news staff with mobile phones to take the photos that were once their specialty. What’s a photojournalist to do? Former Chicago Sun-Times photographer Rob Hart has been documenting his life with an iPhone as a way to both “mock his situation and celebrate it.” But it’s only through training that a photojournalist does what many do with limited expertise and that’s tell a story. It is not a skill that comes naturally for most. But if you want to laugh out loud at the demise of the photojournalistic profession than by all means share some yucks with Stephen Colbert who lampooned the Sun-Times for its actions and also provided plenty of satire about today’s digital image saturated society.
BuzzFeed produced a video called What Happens On The Internet in 60 Seconds. According to the video, 27,800 photos are uploaded to Instagram every minute. Facebook users upload 208, 300 photos every minute. Nokia Executive Vice President Jo Harlow says 1.4 billion photos are taken every day with mobile phones.
Yahoo! estimates that by 2014 more than 880 billion photos will be taken, and if one of those images happen to be yours, and not of sufficient high quality, no one will waste their time viewing it. iPhone technology continues to boost image quality and consumers seem pleased.
Just how important is mobile imagery for you?