Out Of Focus
The introduction of smart phones, personal tech, and social media, sent a wave crashing down upon camera makers in the mid 2000s. In an effort to ride the wave, dedicated camera manufacturers expanded their product lines to include alternative versions of existing products differing in size, price point, and more importantly, features. It’s been nearly a decade since this wave of change and while these features are now fun and user-friendly, they are not compelling enough to keep consumers interested, or camera makers afloat. Camera makers need to spark interest in the act of taking pictures.
In the past, camera manufacturers placed more emphasis on the experience of photography and the art of making pictures, with features and details serving as a secondary justification for purchase, at the point of sale. The photographic experience was also clearly visible in major marketing campaigns which often depicted individuals with families in the park, backstage with rock n’ roll superstars, or knee deep in water, with rugged outdoorsman in the presence of wildlife. Now, at most, we see standalone images of products. Needless to say, things have changed— but so has the consumer.
With the products themselves being the focal point of nearly every current major marketing campaign, camera manufacturers have challeneged consumers to try products that were once reserved for the professional market— an undoubtedly lucrative step for the industry. However, in the wake of consumer empowerment, buyers have become less focused on exploring the possibilities of what they can create with these enticing products, and instead, have become more focused on the features, tech, and status that comes with owning them. Softer “bokeh"? More pixels? Faster lenses? The mainstream consumer wants it all and they want it now. Never mind the fact that they wouldn’t know how to fully utilize the tools, to begin with.
Adding to the confusion, the interest of mainstream consumers in this specialized market has created somewhat of an identity crisis for those in the profession. It used to be that being a “photographer" meant that a person earned a living taking pictures. At present, the meaning has been simplified to "one who takes pictures,” usually followed by another word to indicate a person's skill level in that trade. ie.: Professional photographer. Camera makers have jumped on this trend, referring to their products as being for the Consumer, Enthusiast, Amateur, or Professional market— all while selling the idea that owning their products will add one of those words to the consumer’s photographic title. Rather than pushing the potential experience of the person using the products, manufacturers have cultivated a “Status By Pricepoint” culture amongst consumers, dictating that the more consumers are willing to invest in their equipment, the closer to professional they are— but can a person really be considered one of the above, simply because they carry a dedicated camera?
Price wise, the line between Enthusiast and Professional has been blurred beyond the point of recognition. After all, consumers are more willing to spend copious amounts of money on goods and services than in previous decades, provided they are given the option to pick and “choose." While I appreciate the options, I am slightly less appreciative of the effect it has had on the general perception of photographers and photography, as a whole.