When an amateur astrologist discovers an impact on the planet Jupiter, no one screams the end of professional astrologists, so why is it that when an amateur gets an image that pros did not get, it is the end of professional photojournalism ?
The Universe is huge and not even the sum of all professionally managed telescope can monitor it entirely. The Earth is certainly not that big but it is still a big place and certainly cannot be monitored by the sum of all pro photographers. So yes, and this is no newsflash, amateurs have, and will always get pictures that pros don’t have.
So why the big deal ? Well, here and there, companies spur out, claiming loud and far, that they can help any amateur make a fortune by bypassing all the traditional photo agencies, because, after all, they are all crooks.
These “new” companies claim they are the only option for amateur to sell their news pictures. They try to position themselves as the crowd sourcing photo journalism. The thing is, if anyone has a great news image, and hands it over to any of the top news agencies, they will make great money and be published everywhere. Reuters, AP, Getty, Polaris, Sipa and so on will gladly accept a great news picture from anyone, as long as its relevant and truthful.
Furthermore, these new citizen journalist companies, also use traditional editorial photo agencies. Mostly because they have no client base of their own. So all they do is become brokers between the amateur photographer and the established photo agency .
Their business model is the same as microstock and well explained in the long tail theory : make money with the sum of the multitude and not the single bestseller. These “best sellers” are just “call items ” creating an initial appeal, allowing the company to widen its client base.
Green and misinformed pro-journalists seem to get really confused by all this and like a fly is attracted by bright lights, get their little wings burned in the process. That is normal. Like a lot of other pros journalist, they got their degree in a school, not in the streets. The world they monitor is whatever appears on their company screens : If it is indexed by Google, then it must be real.
Pro and amateur photojournalism are not opposites . Its like saying there is a difference between women and men photo journalist. News does not care who took the picture, nor does the publication that wishes to use them. They are complementary, like amateur astrologists are extremely useful to the whole astrology community. Sure they will be a little annoyed that they didn’t get the picture, but that is mostly because they weren’t physically there.
So, please, lets stop getting excited every time an amateur gets an image published on the cover of the NY Times and proclaiming the end of pro photo journalism. It will happen, over and over again, like the sun rising every morning. Amateur photography brokers will continue to appear on a regular basis, playing on the general public ignorance’s of the market of photography and its real players. No big deal.