Photography as We Know is Changing, and it’s Your Job to Change with It

Patrick Hall from Fstoppers and Pye Jirsa from SLR Lounge recently sat down for an in-depth conversation about how photography is changing in 2019. In a fascinating and insightful discussion that lasts almost 45 minutes, they ultimately try to tackle one question: is photography as we know it dying?

From the start, Hall and Jirsa draw a familiar parallel between what’s happening today with the rise of smartphones and social media, and what happened about 15 years ago when digital well and truly began to replace film in various professional settings. Digital, argues Jirsa, wrecked the learning curve dramatically, making it so much easier to “learn by doing” without having to invest tens of thousands of dollars.

But the discussion quickly moves beyond simply “more people have access to great cameras now.” What it means to be a successful photographer itself has changed. A photographer’s job, today, is much more than being able to take beautiful pictures; that’s only the baseline. The ability to build and engage an online audience is suddenly critical, and anybody who is sitting around arguing that they “shouldn’t have to” build an Instagram following or otherwise market themselves and their work is going to be left behind.

And that’s just the first 10-or-so minutes of the conversation…

As you might have guessed, the answer to that question from the beginning really hinges on your definition of “as we know it.” Remove that phrase, and the answer is a resounding “no”—more people are taking more photos today than ever in the history of photography. Photography isn’t literally dying. But if you add “as we know it” back in, the answer is pretty clearly “yes.”

Photography is changing: marketing is part of the job description, social media popularity becomes the yardstick by which quality is measured, and overall technical proficiency, argues Hall, is on its way down as a result. But there’s good news too. As Hall puts it near the end of the discussion, “I feel like the photograph is still as valuable, or more valuable than ever.”

We’d take that even a step further. As the bar to entry drops and more and more people outsource their creativity to the latest Instagram trend or some AI-powered post-processing slider, creativity and technical know-how are only becoming more rare and valuable than ever.

Check out the full video up top to listen to this whole fascinating conversation from start to finish. It’s not a quick-hit tutorial you can devour at your desk at work, but it makes for a great weekend watch.