A year and a half ago in September 2010, MacUser’s Dave Stevenson lamented the “Tragic Demise of the Professional Photographer,” suggesting that photographers were being disintermediated by online stock libraries and more simply, the rise of the amateur snapper. But that was months before the advent of Instagram, arguably 2011’s most celebrated iPhone photography app, and Pinterest, the first pinup darling of 2012. Both apps have become well-trafficked hubs for professional photographers. Instagram, an iPhone app, lets amateurs create interesting snapshots and portfolios by providing a variety of photo filters. Pinterest gives users the tools to create bulletin boards of visual media. The significance of both apps’ popularity is evidence of the social media pivot towards curating and displaying visual media.
Text doesn’t tell the full story, especially when it comes to local marketing. Realtors understood this first as they went out armed with video cameras and used specialized publication services like WellcomeMat to edit and present professional home listings. Airbnb, the hot social rental startup, has enlisted an army of local professional photographers to help stamp out the badly-lit photos of cluttered living rooms that made the perception of renting other people’s homes iffy (they did mine, on the right, for free and yes, the listing looks a lot more professional).
Google also created a photo shoot pilot program called Business Photos concurrent with the launch of Google Places in 2010. Last week Google announced expansion of the pilot program by offering up a directory of Trusted Photographers to shoot the retailers and restaurants that depend upon visuals for marketing. This puts Google Maps/Places in a stealthy pole position to dominate local marketing by being the main geo-location resource where retailers can upload their visual marketing media. One can imagine what’s next: video reviews from satisfied customers just like Triple D, housed on Google Places not the restaurant website.
The plight of the professional photographer mirrors a recurring pattern of Internet disintermediation. Artists first bemoan that social media produces content that competes with their specialized offering, but pivot back to relevancy when they realize their unique skills can be marketed to the larger online market.
Patrick Kitano is founding Principal of Brand into Media, a strategy group for social brand management solutions, and administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of Media Transparent, and contributor to Social Media Today, Daily Deal Media, and The Customer Collective. He is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email email@example.com.
Top image courtesy of Flickr user Dominic’s Pics.