We are on the cusp of changes regardless politically of what next months voting results. Although many would like America to be like it was in the past anyone who is a serious photography enthusiast knows that is a fading interest. The digital photography world has almost completely obliterated the film photography of the last century and more. My Shutterbug readers are nearly all over 50 years of age and they are getting older and of course fewer. I have not received any e-mail from a younger photo enthusiast in recent years, but maybe that’s because I’m an old guy even though someone new to reading Shutterbug does not know what my age might be.
That today is different than yesterday I am reminded of by my colleagues, those who write about digital media because computer editing photo images is my primary subject. For instance one magazine just featured new 27 inch LCD computer displays, and not one is a model I could recommend for a serious digital photographer. All three are LED backlit which demands using the newest display management system to accurately calibrate and profile the display. In addition all three have a color range limited to the sRGB range that is just 2/3rd the color gamut of any camera that offers Raw files from the sensor capture. Additionally all are very bright with a high white luminance that may not allow adjustment to reproduce the equivalent of paper white to be able to edit for color managed printing.
But displays are a small part of computing changes. Microsoft is about to offer Windows 8 and so far it is not known how many older software applications and hardware devices like scanners will be supported. And today’s commentary is critical,”Where is the Start button?” All brands of desktop personal computers are reporting fewer sales and have concerns the demand will continue to be smaller, as more and more users buy tablets. Even the camera companies are concerned about their future prospects as more smart-phones and tablets offer better and better built-in cameras. Even Google is now offering a Chrome laptop at a very modest cost, further weakening the market for the established brands.
In the 20th century although serious and professional photography was a small niche specialty it was led by sufficient companies like Kodak, Dupont, Canon and Nikon as well as many smaller brands that were able to maintain long and consistent places in the marketplace. But today, with digital photography so dependent on computer editing and processing, the photo imaging industry is even a smaller, largely ignored step-child of a much newer technology.
However, the needs of marketing for professional photographic services will continue and high-end photo and graphics computing products will remain. But as there are fewer and fewer professional quality-level enthusiasts left over from the 20th century film days, the smaller number of camera sales will drive prices for high-end photo and graphics computing performance to pricier levels beyond the reach of most amateurs. That will weaken and narrow the interest now supportive of these products. The aspiring wannabe professional will face an increasing challenge to afford involvement, competing and establishing themselves at a profitable level. And it is easy enough for advertising and marketing illustration to option other ways to produce marketing images of products in what is a volatile and changing segment of the consumer industry.
So, am I painting a bleak scenario for a future of serious photographic enthusiasm? No one knows what tomorrow may bring. There may be new technology options that will make enthusiasm both practical and exciting, I cannot imagine. But being too old and too tired to still participate fully as I did in the 20th century, and realistically not inclined to look very far ahead is its own bias. Maybe I know too well the 20th century will not return or be repeated.