In speaking to students during San Jose State University’s Professional Development Day, Santa Cruz Sentinel photographer Shmuel Thaler mentioned that he was glad that he was not in our shoes, trying to enter photography at a time when the quantity and quality of student portfolios is numerous and outstanding. For examples of some of this work, one needs look no further than this years College Photographer of the Year winners.
This increase in quality can be attributed in part to a growing amount of professionalism within the field. Photographers entering the field today commonly have degrees in journalism or photojournalism, or at least some form of four year degree with a good deal of experience behind a camera.
Of course, the other explanation lies in the continued advancement and proliferation of digital camera technology. This can be seen, in my opinion, in this sports action photo taken by Chris Detrick which received the Award of Excellence in this year’s CPOY competition. A great photo such as the one linked to above was probably one that, in the days of film, most students would only dream about taking. This would mainly be due to the prohibitive cost of developing the countless rolls of film that were shot in an attempt to get that one frame where the ball was in focus. With more pressing concerns such as tuition, textbooks, rent, and food, I would imagine that paying for frame after frame of blurry baseballs would not be high on the to-do list.
Digital photography has obviously changed this situation. Now, I can sit behind the plate with my 2GB card and shoot frame after frame, limited only by the length of the game, until I get that one magical image. Has this improved photography? In some ways it has and in some ways it hasn’t. While attending Brooks, they made the change from teaching the beginning courses with film cameras to going all digital. After the change, the faculty seemed to be of the impression that working with digital cameras made technical knowledge of cameras increase less rapidly, though the quality of work was better initially than work that came from beginning students using film cameras.
What effect does all of this have on students? There are more students picking up photography quicker, with less jobs being available…not anything that a journalism student hasn’t heard before.