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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prosumers Take Over the World

(Yes, I'm going there...)

If you live in the world of photography or film and have not yet heard the word "prosumer", it's time to study up. The word prosumer is a portmanteau formed by combining the words professional and consumer. It is also defined by the two words, a professional consumer. Businesses see prosumers as a cash cow. It's a blurry market segment of people who can afford to buy professional grade equipment for non-professional uses.

This market segment is what has changed the world of photography. Since Kodak came out with the Brownie film camera through the first digital camera and even more now, the line between amateur and consumer is continually disappearing.

How about an example, you say? I am a professional photographer of ten years. I make 100% of my living off photography, and I am continuously confused by the general public to be a hobbyist when I am out on the streets. I get it all the time. Someone sees a photograph I have taken or a shot in the back of my camera on the LCD screen, and they blurt out, "Wow! You have an amazing camera!" Let's be honest, it feels like a slap in the face, but I know that this has to be coming from someone who knows absolutely nothing about photography. The comment is directed to the equipment because that is what the large-scale camera companies have advertised to the general public. They want everyone to think that purchasing a top of the line camera will produce professional results. Come on, people; it's not true! You still have to learn how to ride a bike. Once you learn, you practice. A very small percentage of people who ride a bike make the decision to go pro and compete in the Tour de France.

Another example, you say? What about every time I am hired to snap some professional portraits of a local doctor. Shortly after the introduction, the Doc likes to acknowledge that he also uses the same camera as the one I am holding. (Prosumer defined!) Obviously, this doctor is not a full time photographer. He is supporting himself off his day job, or he would not be needing a photograph of himself in his working environment. When was the last time you heard someone say, "My doctor did the photography at my wedding!". No doctor would use their weekend to work as a photographer. Their camera was purchased simply because they could afford it, and it was marketed as "professional grade", top of the line equipment.

Problem + Solution

The problem comes in to play when the amateur photographer makes the decision to become a professional. The proclamation of "turning pro" is usually done prematurely. There is no photography license that is needed to register yourself a professional; you simply make the conscious choice to utter the words to another human being and it's done. What the amateur-turned-"professional" doesn't realize is that it takes knowledge and dedication to become skilled. You do not wake up one morning and see every little nuance of beautiful light coming from its source and reflecting off surfaces and know how that is going to translate in the camera.

There is no shame in being an amateur, and everyone who is in the midst learning photography should embrace the excitement of learning something new. Don't rush into being a professional! Enjoy the creation of an image without the pressures of having to use it to put food on the table. Just remember this, there are contracts involved when turning pro, and if you can't deliver, you will be royally screwed!

For the true professionals, it's a passion -- not a hobby. Professional photographers are who they are because they live, eat and breathe what they do. They wake up in the morning thinking about it, and they cannot stop until they are satisfied, which is usually never.

So the next time someone compliments how amazing my camera is for the wonderful results it produces, I will swallow my 5 years of schooling coupled with 10 years of professional experience, big-name client list and most of all my pride. Because, after all, it is all in the camera, right?

1 comment:

Scott Mann said...

Great post.

Almost every service industry has a similar look to outsiders.

Anybody can fix it a car with a few tools and info off the internet. But last time I tried that I'm pretty sure I made it worse.

Many people are self-diagnosing their ailments instead of going to the doctor. That's probably not wise.

Some of our clients at Highforge tried to build their own websites or hired a student to do it before later hiring us to do it right.

Hiring an amateur photographer when you need professional results is a great way to ruin a shoot. When a perfect image is important, don't cut corners.