"I've just finished my classes for the year, winding up with a couple of advanced courses consisting only of people who have already taken the first Applied Color Theory course and who are therefore fairly sophisticated both about color correction and about the state of affairs in the industry. For these reasons, I always ask the advanced classes about their practices and about trends as they see them. This year, I got some surprises that I thought I would share with the group, as I think they have ramifications about our business. [snip] THE DEMISE OF THE INDEPENDENT PHOTOGRAPHER As nearly as I can tell, the independent photography business is in a state of near-collapse. There is still wedding shooting and portrait work, of course, but corporate assignments are few and far between, as almost any company an now afford to open its own studio or whatever they choose to call it. In fairness, the photography business has been poor for some time, but this year seems to be something special. Many people are leaving the business or seriously scaling down the operation. It used to be that there was an elite group of photographers who could write their own ticket. No more. I have been astonished to hear that some of the very biggest names in the field have no more clients--"no" as in "none" as in "zero". They are moving into teaching, or full-time employment, because there's nothing else left. I've noted in my own courses that independent photographers, who used to make up about a third of my students, have almost vanished. In my advanced classes, there were, as noted, two professional photographers, but one supervises a photography department in an international corporation, and the other is heavily involved in retouching and other non-photographic services. The photographers who used to take my courses have been replaced by hobbyists who have the desire to get better images and the means to take serious training. BETTER, WORSE, THE SAME I always ask the advanced classes about quality issues and whether they perceive that things have gotten better, worse, or stayed the same in the last 2-3 years. As to the question of whether printers and other output are more knowledgeable than they used to be, recent years have seen the groups say that they are less knowledgeable. This year the result was much more mixed, with votes for all three responses. As to image quality, there was again a shift. Recent years have consistently voted that images from PROFESSIONAL sources are getting better, but that images from other sources are either the same or getting worse. This year the group was more pessimistic. They said that professional sources were delivering about the same quality as two years ago, but that other sources were delivering worse. As for the professionals, this makes sense to me. The industry naturally had a long learning curve with respect to digital photography, which accounts for the continual improvement in quality up until recently. Now, although equipment continues to get cheaper and better, we've learned most of what we're going to about how to use it. THE RISE OF THE BAD ORIGINAL As for the amateurs handing in stuff that's worse than it was two years ago, eventually the ready availability of quality digicams ought to make amateurs more sophisticated. For now, amateurs are discovering how much time and money they save by submitting their own shots for publication--even in therwise high-quality scenarios. There has always been a small market for correcting really bad images. Photo restoration is an important application, one that will become more demanding as more and more "old" pictures are in color rather than B/W. And certainly, every photographer who shoots animals, children, sports, or news events has the experience of working with an inferior shot that nevertheless has to be used because there's no way to shoot it again. And newspapers have always gotten all kinds of garbage from their advertisers, who of course expect it to print well. Up until recently, however, it wasn't worth the effort for most businesses to try to get good quality out of bad images. While my classes work on a lot of bad images because they offer a lot of hints on how to work on good images, historically only about 1 in 10 students actually often have to work on really poor images in real life. As you can see from the composition of my advanced classes, that number is increasing rapidly. Throughout 2005, I think at least 25% of my classes had to work on such images. Often these students would say that they were actively discouraging their clients from submitting them. To that, my reply is that you can discourage it all you like, but that's how it's going to be. THE RISE OF ADOBE RGB I noted a couple of months ago that at Photoshop World, surveys indicated that almost everyone was using either Adobe RGB or sRGB in spite of perceived problems with both. At one Photoshop World it was a 50-50 split; at the other it was not quite 60-40 in favor of Adobe RGB. Yet in my advanced classes the vote was 10-2. I find this surprising, especially among those who are only concerned with CMYK output. I'd regard this as proof of the power of negative publicity. If you are good at color correction (and these people are) AND if you never have to output to anything but CMYK, then on the assumption that sRGB and Adobe RGB are the only choices in the world, then sRGB is superior. But there's been so much anti-sRGB rhetoric that people seem to be ashamed to used it. Dan Margulis"