Photography Links

The death of career photography?

The New York Times on the changing face of the photography business:

Amateurs, happy to accept small checks for snapshots of children and sunsets, have increasing opportunities to make money on photos but are underpricing professional photographers and leaving them with limited career options. Professionals are also being hurt because magazines and newspapers are cutting pages or shutting altogether.

“There are very few professional photographers who, right now, are not hurting,” said Holly Stuart Hughes, editor of the magazine Photo District News.

It’s worth pointing out that what’s happening to photographers is little different than what happens to every profession tied to ever-cheapening technology. The tools become accessible and careerists can’t rely on economic barriers to keep out the competition.

The world survives without typists, for example, as it will with a reduced cadre of pro photographers.

The growth of digital insect photography

Here’s a chart I made this morning. It depicts the number of new photos tagged “insects” or “insect” uploaded over the history of the leading photo-sharing site Flickr. Note that the graph doesn’t show the cumulative total of insect photos on the site; rather, it shows the increase from year-to-year. Thus, even though the rate of increase slowed in 2009, the amount of insect content is still accelerating.

Interpretation of the chart is tricky. The increase may reflect several patterns: a growth in Flickr’s popularity, the growth of digital photography, and a growth in overall interest in insects.

I am particularly intrigued by the latter possibility. Is digital photography driving a renewed interest in arthropod diversity?

I would like to think so. Photography is certainly opening a new avenue for raising awareness about entomological issues and about insect conservation. But its effectiveness for outreach will depend on this pattern being driven by newcomers. If the increase in insect photos results merely from people already enthused about insects acquiring cameras, photography won’t pack nearly the same punch.

Acromyrmex versicolor

And now, some arachnids

Arachnids (you know, spiders and mites and things) never had much of a presence in my photo galleries.  While I could chalk their absence up to an obsessive focus on formicids, the reality is that I’m mildly arachnophobic.  Photographing spiders makes me squirm, so I don’t do it very often.

Oddly, it really is just spiders.  I don’t have any trouble with opilionids, mites, or even scorpions. And it isn’t all spiders, either. I’m rather fond of salticids. But there’s something about the form of some spiders that touches off a deeply instinctual revulsion. Embarrassing for an entomologist, but there it is.

Anyway.  The last seven years of photographing nature has brought a reluctant accumulation of arachnid photos, and I’ve finally collected enough to put them in their own gallery:

Arachnid photos at

The best insect photos of 2009

In 2009 the world’s macrophotographers- both amateur and professional- continued to capture breathtaking images of the arthropod microscape.  I’ve been bookmarking insect photos from around the web that catch my eye, and after spending some time this week reviewing the candidates I’ve selected nine favorites. Wow. These are the images from fellow photographers that most captured my imagination over the past year.

Together, by Jan Zajc


Where to for National Geographic?


National Geographic remains the world’s premier showcase of nature photography. But I often wonder for how much longer.

It is easy to maintain a virtual monopoly on high quality imagery when camera equipment and publishing are expensive and require a highly specialized skill set.  But neither of these things is true anymore.  Professional-quality photo equipment is broadly affordable. And numerous online venues allow anyone with an internet connection to distribute their photos for free.

Consider the following fantastic arthropod photographers, all from the galleries of the free online site Flickr:

While these amateur photographers show stylistic differences among themselves and from established Nat Geo insect photographers Mark Moffett and Christian Ziegler, I’m not sure one could find consistent differences in overall artistry between the amateurs and the professionals.  And given the abundance with which amateurs share their work online, it is now possible to get a fix of rich nature photography for free.  At any hour.  Without waiting for the mailman to deliver it.

Incidentally, I do enjoy Nat Geo when it arrives on our doorstep every month.  I’m not knocking the organization or the quality of their publication.  I just wonder about the brand’s longevity as a seal of transcendent quality when the world is now drowning in spectacular photography.