A few days ago the Reuters Photographers Blog posted a story with photos entitled Robo-cams go for Olympic gold. The post detailed the process of installing robotically controlled cameras in London for this year’s Olympics.
But unlike so many other pieces of new gear, this one doesn’t have everyone in the photographic community excited. Michael Shaw over at BagNews only half-joking says, “Today the Olympics, tomorrow the White House.” Conveying a fear that these cool new toys might just put some flesh and blood photographers out of the business.
These cameras still need an operator, but now one photographer can be in several places at once. Imagine one photographer sitting at a laptop with one camera at each goalpost and one on the 50 yard line of a football game. Or a photo editor in a New York office controlling a robot camera in the Press Briefing Room of the White House.
There are many applications for these types of cameras and some photographers might worry their jobs are going to be snatched away by a suped-up security camera, but I’m not and I’ll tell you why.
First off, the kind of photography these cameras are best at has never been the kind of photography I wanted to do. I never liked standing in the photographers’ box and I never liked shooting the kind of photo-op moments that happen at press conferences or on stages.
I like getting out, meeting people, and hearing their stories. I want to know my subjects, and I think that connection between subject and photographer is part of what makes a great photograph. Even if these cameras were mobile, they are a long way off from being able to make a real connection with the people and places they are photographing.
For photographers whose bread and butter involves waiting around for a press conference or standing in one corner of a field for that touchdown moment, it is time to start asking a few soul searching questions. Do the photos you take have your own unique style or could they have been taken by anyone with a basic grasp of technical skill? And are you afraid or unwilling to adapt to this changing industry?
If the answer to either of those questions is yes, you are in trouble regardless of what new technology comes along. There will still be jobs for people who are willing to adapt and take photographs with a unique eye. Even if those photographers are a mile away from their cameras and clicking the shutter with a mouse, their personal vision is what will continue to make them successful in this business.(Side Note: What the heck is wrong with the girl’s arm in that movie poster?)