I've heard a couple of interesting stories today with regards professional photography and also noted that a mate of mine who has a studio in London has enough time on his hands to write articles relating to photography for the Guardian. Whether that's an indication of business being a bit slack or just him being such an organised and busy bloke he can do both, I'm not sure?
It was the case a few years back that photography was recognised by the public at large as being a trade. The general situation was that you couldn't go out and buy yourself a Nikon F3, FM2 or similar and start producing stunning near professional standard images as easily as scratching your nuts. Back in those days you had to buy film which was light sensitive and expensive on the account of the fact that it's full of silver. The silver you see is the chemical component that forms the image. The process of getting the film into the camera even these days completely baffles people that have just left school with a bag full of 'Good' grade GCSE's and even if you managed to get your £5 roll of film into the back of the camera, you didn't really know whether it was being advanced through the camera as you took the pictures. Taking the pictures..... Now there's a concept and experience that is also being lost to the past. This old skool technique restricted you to at best 36 images on a roll of film and even your enthusiastic uncle or Granddad might have got through a roll once every 6 months assuming that he took a few at Christmas, one or two at Easter and the rest would have been saved for the summer holidays. Because it was such a hit and miss process, time was taken and people would only use the camera on speical ocassions and then there was the wait and another cost while the film was processed.
The film would be taken to a chemist and then sent to a lab somewhere (France if it was Kodachrome). It was so expensive for this part of the process a deposit would be taken and the balance paid once the prints had come back with your negatives. Eventually after a week or so they would be returned and someone somewhere would have turned you metal cannister into 36 prints and 6 strips of negatives. The negatives were the most important part of the process, but 99.99% of the population simply discarded the negs in their yellow packs into a cupboard or draw in the house somewhere to get lost. You'd then with an air of excitement and resignation open the pack and go through the images looking at what you'd tried to capture and for most just getting a basic image irrespective of whether it was out of focus, badly composed or all the wrong colour was enough. I didn't matter that it had cost you a tenth of your weeks wages, what mattered was that you'd captured Aunty Mable or your Neice and you could see it was them.
But, if you were honest and compared them with the images that you saw in magazines or you looked at them in comparison with your wedding pictures you could see that there was a massive divide. The only person you knew that could get anywhere near that kind of quality was your Uncle John. He had one of those posh cameras with all the lenses and filters and stuff, he had loads of magazines and books and a tripod thing and it was his hobby. Your Aunty Joan was always moaning about him because all he ever did was play around with his camera, fiddling and spending hundreds of pounds on it taking pictures of boats and trains and stuff.
The fact was that up until about 10 years ago you still needed to be trained to be a professional photographer. You had to go to college or work as an apprentice or an assistant, for the most part taking 5 years to get your head around it and learning the necessary skills to go it alone and set yourself up as a professional. But then came digital and Canon. "You can Canon". They made idiot proof cameras and made them cheap. Auto- focus, auto everything and Nikon had to join in too, making cameras more and more accessible to everyone - Plumbers, Fireman, Publishers, Kids, all and sundry.
So, a mate of mine today (Teacher) speaking to a consultant at his work-place, the consultant was there over-seeing the process of laying everyone off (It's happening all over the UK) was trying to get his head round the redundancy process when she made a suggestion....
"Why don't you start working freelance"? Cos it's that easy!!!!
"Well" He replied, "It's not that easy anymore, when you put in a proposal for a job you always find that there's someone there who's willing to under-cut you on price, they've all got the kit these days and it's easily used to get a half decent result. So if you're asking for £800 a day". The Woman suddenly butted in....
"Oh yes, we've just had this with our Daughter, she's getting married in a few weeks and see was looking for a wedding photographer and the one that she was recommended to use by the people at the wedding fair quoted £8000!" Look of disbelief...... "Well of course we didn't go for that and in the end we found this gentleman that said he'd do it for free, so we're uing him. He's just reading all the books now so that he'll be able to do all the stuff on the day." My mate chipped in.
"Don't you think that there will be a difference in the photography, considering one is free and the other is £8000"?
"No, no, once this chap has done all his research he's bound to do just as well". My mate new that this Woman didn't have a clue and pondered whether she'd get a stone mason in to do her teeth next time she had a dental problem?
Next installment tomorrow.