Strangely enough, the future of photography is in curation. With the onslaught of images invading the web in an ever growing pace, the task of finding the right image is becoming more and more arduous.
Strangely, because it is mostly in the editing department that companies are making cuts (pun intended) . The recent trend has been to let go of talented photo editors and curators, in favor of poorly designed algorithms , crowd-controlled selections or freshly out-of-internship semi-volunteers.
One would think that for website boasting millions of images, the ability to get to the right one would be a priority. But, because of the sheer volume, it has become almost impossible to have it done by human. While sites like Flick ( billions of images) rely on a sophisticated secret sauce of “rules” that allow certain images to bubble up, others, like microstock companies, rely on penny paid armies of humans spread out across the world. Still, the results is overwhelming.
For now, the burden is on the searchers. They are now the curators forced to push their way past irrelevant images to find the right one. It can be paralyzing .
Thus, the next step is to deliver the right image to the right person without them having to cut through pages and pages of sub par or irrelevant images.Because the volumes have become inhuman, the solutions offered are also inhuman : Each company are intensively trying to develop their own Google like algorithm that will magically extract the correct result. Is it working ? no. will it work, maybe. None, however, has thought to hire professional photo editors that could create a highly edited collection of perfectly selected images : The best of breed.
However, that would solve a lot of problems. Sure, there would be less choice. However, there would be much, much better results. See, the “Long Tail’ theory has polluted the photo industry in making people think that the more you offer, the more chance you have to be successful. A bit as if your local supermarket decided to carry everything ever made. Sure it could be appealing but could you imagine the size? Even Walmart decides what to carry and what not to carry.
Algorithms can not only be beaten, ( Google is constantly changing theirs) but they tend to create averages. Actually, they look for conformity. Thus promoting more of the same .Crowd sourcing ? well, that is also a source of average conformity. Crowd photo editing site like Fotopedia or Acquine are a good example of the results you get : Middle of the road images that everybody likes or that no one hates. Not really the curation that is so badly needed.
In order to different itself from the masses of camera crazy photo enthusiast, the photo industry needs to stop trying to compete with Flickr and its offering and start heavily editing its content for perfect results. It needs to reach out to those incredibly knowledgeable photo editors that the publishing industry has dropped and tell them to work their magic.
The future of photography business lies in its ability to continue to be a medium of excellence . For that, it needs to shed its goodenough branches in favor of its prettiest blossoms .