3 New Skills Every Photographer Will Need

Old school photographers might have experience, contacts and a bag full of equipment built up over the years, but young photographers now have an important advantage. While shooters who picked up their first camera more than a decade ago may be a dab hand in a darkroom that’s now been turned back into a closet, younger types tend to be more familiar with Photoshop and digital manipulation. When it comes to digitally preparing images for sale, they’re faster, more creative and less sensitive to the pain. Older photographers have had to learn to adapt. The need for Photoshop skills though are now well-known. Less familiar is a host of new techniques that photographers will have to master if they’re to stay on top of their industry and continue to make money out of their images in the future.

1.     On-Screen Imaging

Photoshop allows photographers to make corrections to their images and to prepare them for sale. Although the image editing software also allows for complete image manipulation, that sort of work is usually left to the designers. The photographer might clean up the image but the creation is still done in-camera. The degree of image-making photographers will be expected to do on-screen, though, may be about to expand in entirely new directions.

Lytro is a new camera company planning to release the first commercial “light field” camera later this year. The camera contains an array of hundreds of thousands of microlenses placed between a wide-aperture lens and the digital image sensor. Algorithms on the computer’s software then identify the path taken by each ray as it strikes a microlens, determine its direction  and calculate how the light would have appeared if the sensor were nearer to or further from the lens. The result is a live image that can be refocused after it’s been taken, changing the depth of field.

For photographers, that won’t change everything, and it won’t change anything at all just yet. At the moment, Lytro’s images are only a grainy 525 x 525 pixels, which makes them useful for the Web but unusable in print. And the power of a great picture will still lie in the composition. But the technology will develop, so that as they line up their shots photographers will no longer have to worry about where to place the focus. That will make for faster shooting and more options after the shutter has been released.

“Light field cameras unleash the power of the light, so you don’t have to go through the pain of taking 50 pictures to get that really great one,” the company says.

When it comes to selling, the question is whether buyers will prefer live images that allow them to choose their own focal point or an image whose center of focus has been set by the photographer. The preference might not be as obvious as it sounds. Some microstock photographers have already found that they can increase sales simply by reversing an image they’re already offering. Editorial photographers might be happy to shoot fast and let the editors decide how to finish the product, but stock photographers might well find themselves shooting once then creating multiple images on the screen from a single, fast shot. They’re going to be spending even more time in front of the monitor and less time behind the lens.

2.     Online Networking

Facebook and Twitter have already brought benefits to professional photography. Businesses hoping to advertise can use Facebook’s ads to reach demographics as targeted as engaged women, aged 25-35 within 50 miles of their business. Picture-tagging, too, has helped event photographers push their images to clients’ friends and relatives, a form of automated referrals. Twitter’s improved photo messaging may now make it a more important tool for photographers but its most important use is as a channel that creates professional connections rather than developing leads. Wedding photographers using the site have described how tweeting local designers has helped them to forge agreements for mutual recommendations.

The big change though may come from the rise of Google Plus. It’s still not entirely clear that the site will survive: Facebook’s half a billion members make for tough competition. But it’s already making its influence felt. Mark Zuckerberg’s site has updated its privacy policy since the release of Google Plus, and that’s likely to be just the beginning. Google Plus’s ability to send different messages to different groups — what the site calls “circles” — will bring a new kind of communication for both businesses and individuals. Photographers can now create circles for clients — and for people they’d like to make clients — and begin networking with them without harming their other contacts. For stock photographers, it’s an opportunity to talk directly to editors; for art photographers, a chance to build the kind of platform that interests galleries. This new targeted networking is something that both social media sites and businesses, including photographers, will have to get used to.

3.     Classroom Teaching

One thing that’s unlikely to happen in the future is that the photography business is going to get easier. Cameras like Lytro’s will only make it simpler for non-professionals to shoot great images, which means even more inventory chasing the same demand. To make a living out of photography then will require doing more than taking pictures. A number of professional photographers have already found that teaching workshops can provide a regular stream of additional income and can be an enjoyable way of earning from their photography skills. The need for supplementary income sources is only going to grow, and as more enthusiasts pick up cameras and realize that they can produce great pictures, so the demand for those classes will grow too.

Photographers will always need to take excellent pictures to earn money from their photos, but just as they’ve also needed skills that stretched into the darkroom and beyond, so in the future, photographers are going to need abilities that make use of all the new technologies likely to affect the photography industry.

7 comments for this post.

  1. Ansley Braverman Said:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I have been debating with myself whether or not to create a Facebook page for my business, and reading your analysis will go ahead with one. Also, it sounds like time to delve into Google+

    Hard to keep up with all these things!

  2. Photo Community Said:

    Nice tips. You could write an entire article just about Facebook advertising. When you compare that with Google Adwords it's almost a joke. Adwords usually result in a lot of money per click and a lot of spam, while FB seriously connects you to the people who care about what you offer (if you target correctly).

  3. ED Said:

    The opening paragraph of this article is a a bunch of stereotypical garbage. To say that older photographers are less creative and find it harder to adapt is nonsense. Adapt = learning (How did younger photographers acquire their PhotoShop experience? Are they just born with the knowledge?). I guess the 50+ year old photographers who are out there changing the world by utilizing social media, multimedia, and all other forms of media tools are hard to find according to this author. Older photographers are using the latest technology means out there to connect and tell their stories from portrait photographers to documentary photographers. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to use my walker and get back in my rocking chair and try to figure out how to use Facebook.

  4. Frank Said:

    @ ED

    I agree that the article overstated the benefits of being a younger photographer. However, you must realize the difference in expanding your creativity and skill base at a younger age when your mind is more impresionable (learned intuitively rather than with route mem.). Older photographers are generally more stubborn (I think you would be a good example) while younger photographers are still learning and adapting. All the cutting edge photography I see is coming from the 20 to 30 year old range. Not saying older photographers don't make good work, it's just more traditional/less adventures. I would love to look at any counter examples if you know of any...

  5. ED Said:

    @ Frank

    And how is that "cutting edge photography" working out for you? Selling a lot of images? It's ALWAYS about content! The cutting edge imagery that I suspect you are referring to is over-manipulated with no composition effort or direction whatsoever. Let's take a bunch of random shots and see what we can come up with; play with it in PhotoShop, add effects and filters, - or, let's be different and do a series of out-of-focus photographs. Yes, I prefer to remain stubborn and keep the traditions of photography alive. Ever hear of Richard Avedon? He completed a ground-breaking series of photographs called, "In the American West" when he was in his 50s. Again, it was all about the content. And, take a look at Jay Maisel's recent work. You are still saying that younger photographers are more creative which is nonsense.

  6. Curtis Said:

    Age.... immaterial. Artistic ability is something you are born with. Be it from Music to theater to photography... It is a way you view life and the world around you. Younger more creative? Not necessarily... Younger photographers understand how to manipulate photos with programs while being "old school" (and still own a 35mm camera) I strive to get it right when I hit the shutter release... And try to use as little "Fixing" as possible. If you take the time to learn your camera you won't need as much in the post production area....In other words, get it right the first time and you won't need to "fix it".

  7. Jens Lennartsson Said:

    Please. Lytro and whatever new camera ever to be released wont make it easier for non-pros to take great pictures. As long as there is professional art directors and image buyers you can only rely on you knowledge as a photographer. If you are a good photographer and a good marketer, new technology is no threat for us.

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