Photogs Probably Won’t be Replaced by Robots Anytime Soon, Study Finds


There are many reasons why “photographer” and “photojournalist” ranked so low on last year’s “best and worst jobs” list, but according to a paper released by The Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology at Oxford University, the threat of computerization isn’t one of them.

It might seem like a silly finding, but it’s significant in its own way. The study — which was put together by Drs. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne — argues that up to 47% of US jobs are in danger of being handed over to computers over the next 20 years.

Of the 702 occupation types studied, however, photographers (and, fortunately for us, writers) seemed to be dodging this bullet. With #1 being the least probable to be replaced and #702 the most probable, photographers rank at #91.

That might not be number 1, but the study calculates the probability that photography will be handed over to our future robot overlords at a measly 2.1%. (Side Note: Rejoice! Telemarketers ranked at #702, with a 99% probability of being replaced).


Not all photography-related vocations were so lucky though. “Camera and Photographic Equipment Repairers” and “Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators” ranked at #658 and #694, with a 97% and 99% chance of being replaced, respectively. And models, they rank at number #669, with a 98% chance of being replaced.

“Our findings imply that as technology races ahead, low-skilled workers will move to tasks that are not susceptible to computerization — i.e. tasks that required creative and social intelligence,” the paper states. “For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.”

Since photography already requires those skills, photogs are safe from this particular evil. To paraphrase rap artist Jay-Z, photographers got 99 problems, but robots ain’t one. Then again, how exactly will the photography industry look when all of your models are digital? … We’ll let you figure that one out.

You can read the full 72-page paper over on The Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology website by clicking here.

(via PopPhoto)

Image credits: TOPIO 3 by Humanrobo and Robot Eye by RuneForceRyan.

  • Rob S

    I think a better title would be jobs replaced by automation. Tour guides are listed as being very high on the list to be replaced but they wont be replaced by robots. They are being replaced by smart phones capable of telling you what interesting things are near you.

    The bigger problem for photographers is that they are being replaced by other photographers. Photography went from being expensive with high barriers to entry to inexpensive with almost no barriers at all. The result is a sudden glut of photographers.

    It hard to think of a career field that has ever experienced what photography has. Graphic design is easier with computers but you still have to be able to design things. Spell check and word processors have made typing easier but instead of an explosion of secretaries there are far fewer. Web designers went through a similar boom until CSS, Javascript and Python made it hard again.

    The explosion of photographers is running in parallel with “good enough” photography. My wife has a DSLR that gets almost no use while her iPhone would be better described as her iCamera with a phone feature. Still if she really wants to she can use her DSLR and get 90% of what used to require an expensive pro. Not good if you are in the photography business.

    But I personally have hope. Like building your own website, a lot of people are discovering that doing all of your own photography is a pain in the butt. And getting 90% only highlights the missing 10%. I am seeing people hire professional photographers for events that would never have had a pro before because they decided a little money is worth not having the hassle. If facebook has done nothing else it has created a world where every aspect of life needs a picture. For people with “competitive” social lives, having top quality pictures is a must. And with lots of “pros” available, the cost is pretty reasonable (Supply/Demand) compared to times past. So while it is unlikely that photography will ever get to a point where humans are not part of the process, the value of an individual picture is going down dramatically. As a working pro that might mean fewer high dollar gigs replaced by many lower paying jobs.

  • bob cooley

    Not likely to be replaced by robots, but highly likely to be replaced by “hey, doesn’t your cousin Manny take pictures? – let’s have him do them”… /sarcasm

  • David Vaughn

    How exactly will models be replaced? Are they saying that sometime in the future we will be taking photos of androids instead of real people? O_O

  • Antonio Carrasco

    no, you can already make 3D models look almost as realistic as humans. Also they won’t show up late and have a diva attitude.