A recent article by the print industry magazine Printweek about services for amateur photographers caught our eye. It interested us for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones is that the article highlights the problem with using the word “amateur”. I’ve written about this a lot before, but basically there are two meanings of this word today. One simply means someone who doesn’t earn money (or at least, not enough to live on) from a pastime. The other is a bit more pejorative and suggest someone who ‘dabbles’ but isn’t very good. These days, the latter definition is becoming less and less useful!
As the Printweek article suggests, as the price of great quality photographic gear gets lower, and the equipment needed to store and edit photos (basically, a decent-ish laptop with a copy of Lightroom) becomes more manageable, the ability of amateurs to produce truly stunning work is increasing. The difficulty for these increasingly skilled amateurs is that for those who wish to do so, turning professional is as hard as ever – possibly harder. The professional photography market is saturated, and as great quality photography becomes more achievable with low- to mid-range equipment, some jobs that required a professional with thousands of pounds worth of gear a decade ago can now be done by an amateur with a DSLR and a good eye, reducing the pool of available work.
So many of these gifted amateurs remain just that. These photographers are undertaking their photography purely as a hobby for the love of it (in the true original definition of the word “amateur” from the latin “amator” meaning ‘lover!). Some are doing it on a semi-professional basis undertaking occasional wedding or family shoots, landscape or wildlife work and charging a fee, but not really doing enough work to justify giving up the day job. In both cases, however, the standards of work involved can be exceptional – as Printweek puts it:
In short, the lines between a professional and the higher-end of the mass market are not just blurred, it’s debatable whether there is a line left there at all.
The problem for this group of talented amateurs and semi-pros is that there are print service providers targeting the high end of the professional market, and there are many providers hunting the business of the iPhone wielding instagram generation, but few providers offering a high-quality, good value service to the group of amateur photographers in between. Whether they’re looking for Giclee printing onto high quality art paper, large canvas prints, good quality acrylic mounting or maybe more unusual services like printing on metallic media or wood, often the biggest need is for some advice! What sort of paper can I use? How can I best show this photo? What can i get for a budget of £X?
Providing a truly professional standard service to amateur photographers is something that we at River Digital have been working hard on for some time now, and behind the scenes we’ve been investing a lot of time and money in buying new equipment and experimenting with different media and settings to get the best results. We’re confident now that we’ve got some great products to offer and we’ll be showcasing these over the next few months. In the meantime you can order some of them directly from our photo products sister site iPrintPhoto, but if there’s something you want that isn’t on there or you just need some advice, please contact us and we’ll do our best to help!