In a recent Yahoo press event discussing changes to the Flickr photo sharing service, CEO Marissa Mayer was asked why the Flickr Pro service was being discontinued. Her response, given 46 minutes into the interview, was a bit of a bombshell.
“…there’s no such thing as Flickr Pro, because today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there is no such thing really as professional photographers, when there’s everything is professional photographers. Certainly there is varying levels of skills, but we didn’t want to have a Flickr Pro anymore, we wanted everyone to have professional quality photos, space, and sharing.”
Hold on a minute there. Is the ex-Google executive trying to imply that photography is now a dead profession? Do those who make a living with their camera no longer exist in the eyes of Yahoo?
While the quote “there is no such thing as professional photography” seems pretty harsh, I’d like to venture out and say that’s not really what she meant. If you consider yourself a professional photographer, its easy to take this at face value and be insulted by it. There’s no shortage of that sentiment in various photography blogs and forums, but in my personal opinion, Mayer simply worded her statement poorly.
Mayer spoke from the perspective of a company servicing Flickr users. Once upon a time, professional photographers had cameras that captured far more megapixels than a consumer one and were more concerned with the quality of the uploads and downloads as well. The pro service was geared for those users because they would consume more resources and had greater needs from the service than the average camera-toting Joe. But times are changing, and with digital photography gear getting less and less expensive, the lines between consumer, prosumer, hobbyist, and professional have blurred quite a bit. These days, you can find the same Canon 7D used by professional wedding photographers or photojournalists in the hands of a soccer mom or high school student.
The non-professional photographers may not be as skilled, but the photos are the same size on the memory card and require the same resources to share. So, the needs of a photo sharing service, therefore, need to adapt to this new reality and no longer differentiate between the skill set of users.
In this regard, I don’t think Marissa insulted professional photographers at all, but merely stated the new reality. From Yahoo’s perspective, the needs of a consumer versus a professional are almost identical when it comes to the resources Flickr needs available. From strictly that perspective, one could argue there is no longer any such thing as a professional photographer.