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Dan's Year-End Look

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Iliah, Dec 6, 2005.

  1. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    "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.


    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 The photographers who used to take my courses have been replaced by hobbyists who have the desire to get better images and the means to take serious training.

    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.

    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.

    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"
  2. RForshey

    RForshey Guest

    Hello Dan,

    As with any industry, change is eminent. The key, is finding a way to continue to make money while waiting for the dust to settle. New opportunities will arise, as they always do. It just won't be like it used to be, but what is?

    On another note, your latest book on Lab Color is truly excellent. Not only very informative, but well written. I use Lab color on about 90% of my images now and would even be so bold as to say I almost understand!
  3. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    Hello Randy,

    Should I forward that to Dan? :) 
  4. RForshey

    RForshey Guest

    If you're not Dan than absolutely! (I'm sorry, I just read the signature:smile: )
  5. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Thank You Iliah,
    I use LAB quite a bit. I have alot to learn and need much more time with the book. Not easy to understand for me at times.
    However I see a great improvement in alot of images. With limited knowledge as of yet, I run by LAB on 90% of all images to see what I can do there first.
    Thank You Dan..

    Thank you Iliah, for keeping us up-dated. Most appreciated.
  6. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    Hi Iliah! Good to see you. Thanks for bringing us Mr. Margulis's impressions of the state of professional photography. I find it however, a bit pessimistic - and maybe with good reason.

    I have been wondering lately about the state of photography as an artistic medium. I know this idea is recycled from the literary arts, but has every meaningful photograph already been taken? And are we only playing with variations on a theme now?

    If so, is there any such thing as a photographic artist anymore or are we all technicians? And finally, is digital photography different enough as a medium from film photography to save the art if all the photos have already been done (mostly on film?)

    --- Not that it really matters, because it's just plain fun to shoot.
  7. My two bits on that, Chris, is that it would only be the case that all of the interesting stuff has been done if we don't strive to do something different. Unique.

    Not just be a student of other's work.

    Sometimes I wonder if half the reason we find something attractive is because we find it familiar.
  8. Photography is like any profession / hobby. When we start off we are like sheep following the herd. There is a certain amount of comfort in that and it helps us learn the basics. It is only after the basics have been learned that a few brave souls branch off and create their own paths (and yes, small herds). Creativity is not necessarily a learned thing but rather inherent in our grey matter and even neophytes at photography exhibit that. It takes courage to set off on a new path and many times the derision of the masses cause the creative person to second guess where they are going.

    In the end a few will stand out from the crowd and even a smaller few will receive recognition for their work. I realize that I am in the main herd and probably always will be while I have produced a daughter that is blazing her own trail. There is room for both of us.

    Photograpy will continue to produce a few bright stars.
  9. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    Dear Chris,

    Dan's impression are based mainly on two things:

    1. poll of his pupils
    2. his own observations on the quality of photos he (and many of his colleagues) needs to solve

    Dan is not dealing with poor photos exclusively, and I do not think his opinion is biased by bad originals.

    As an example, I pointed him to Ron's photos, and Dan was quite positive about them :) 

    Lots of hard things are actually coming from the equipment we use. Limitations of digital (especially compared to good MF film shots in terms of resolution) beg for very different shooting skills and postprocessing. As I understand it, now we are in the middle of the learning curve. Maybe the need to concentrate more on such issues like exposure, white balance, and sharpness destructs a little from imaging.

    This should be temporary.

    Obviously, on the other side with digital we have an explosion of the volume of photography. The amount of skilled and vision-enabled should not grow the same steep way.

    One of Shakespeare's biographers "quoted" Shakespeare, saying that there are only three plots/motivs in literature; but infinite number of variations.

    In particular, I believe that each human being is unique, and portraits featuring emotion, done skilfully, are fascinating.
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