Did Instagram announce the death of the professional content creator?
Yesterday, Instagram announced a long form vertical video channel on their app called IGTV. The concept was born out of data collected suggesting that consumers prefer to see amateur made content over that of professionals. Video from IGTV is designed for how the new generation of consumers and creators use their phones - vertically. If the idea of vertical video turns you off, you’re not alone but beware, you’d be limiting yourself as an artist or worse. You could be going out of business.
Change is scary but it’s constant. The death knell of professional photography as we know it happened years ago as publications and corporations struggled to understand internet culture. Companies lowered their advertising budgets and a whole new crop of quality amateur creators grew up happy to take small budgets. While they are using their smartphones as their main camera, you might be embarrassed about going out with a bag of gear but should you really?
My photography business took a huge hit at the end of 2016. Up until that point, I was creating well-produced advertising content for social media but then it suddenly stopped. Looking at the report cited in Instagrams press release yesterday saying, "And we've learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals.” it makes total sense why my business dropped. Sure, I was angry but I always look for the opportunity within chaos and I did not give up. What I saw was the opportunity to back away from an industry mainly stuck in the past which allowed me the time to see where photography was headed.
What you need to know is that creativity (read, content) is the future now of photography and that’s a very liberating feeling for us artists that to manipulate light. Sure, we use tools like lenses, light shapers, CMOS sensors, and smartphones to create, but what’s available to us is artistic freedom. Sometimes we might create for a screen, while other times it’s for a printed canvas and other times it could be both. A friend of mine who's a multidisciplinary artist, merges photography and painting into augmented reality pieces.
In his 2005 book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink writes “The future belongs to... creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning-makers. These people... will now reap society's richest rewards and share its greatest joys.” and he was right. Love ‘em or hate them, people like Kayne West and Steve Jobs employ(d) creativity to like a maestro conducts an orchestra. They knew what Daniel Pink wrote in his book years before but more so, and this is where the art comes in, they knew how to control the creative energy to build empires. They have a vision in their respective fields, saw the path and where there was none, forged their own. The future of photography is not the photograph, its vision.
What we should fear is not evolving as creators not vertical video or using a smartphone.
I remember teaching at Imaging USA in Nashville one photographer told me, “I’m fighting going into video” while another at a conference in Phoenix nearly wanted to fight me when I told them we’re in an age of screens. Now, many of you might be fighting shooting vertical video or maybe you’re fighting creating work with your iPhone. If this is you, if you are fighting change, check your ego and open your mind.
Surviving as a photographer now means being open-minded to the new. Thriving as a photographer means that you’re looking outside of the photography world, incorporating elements from other creative disciplines and not fighting change. The majority of the camera/photo industry is holding onto the past with dear life and they will until they run short of money. For instance, we’re seeing companies like Nikon and Canon struggle to take a simple mirror out of their camera…WTF. If you want to be ahead of the curve stay clear of holding onto that old school way of thinking and be open to the evolving art of photography. You should also be cautious about attending most large photo/video conventions which have turned into purgatory for technicians masquerading as artists. A visit to NAB or CES and you’ll be among hordes of old men dressed as penguins in black suits like they worked for IBM in the 60s.
Change is constant and every new generation brings change. Hold onto the good stuff from photography past but leave the old behind. Spend your money on experiences and work at developing your vision. Change is an opportunity to grow as a person so don’t fight it. What the world needs is photographers who live, who have a vision and are self-expressed.