Wrangling Technology

ASMP has just published a new book that helps photographers understand photo markets in the digital age, The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography. The chapters were written by several of ASMP’s most experienced presenters, including Tom Kennedy, Blake Discher, Judy Herrmann, Richard Dale Kelly and Barry Schwartz. My chapter discussed the relationship of technology to your art and business.  

Advancements in technology are among the most important change agents in both the art and business of photography. Most of us greet the new developments with a mix of amazement, uncertainty and varying degrees of enthusiasm. But we don’t often step back and take a look at the structure of technological change, which can help us formulate a strategy for dealing successfully with it.

Photography has always been highly dependent on technology, and the development of digital photography has only enhanced that relationship. Likewise, our businesses are ever-more influenced by the changing technological landscape in which we operate. In order to create a successful business producing photography, you need to be able to understand and work with technology.

In my chapter of The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography,  I outline the forces at work in technological development, and provide some tools to understand your place along the techno-savvy spectrum. And finally, I provide a list of steps you can take – in both the short and long terms – to use technology for your advantage, no matter where you fall on the spectrum.

An effective strategy for wrangling new technology has several components.  You need to be able to make some sense of how technology is developing around you. And you need to make a clear-eyed assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses in accepting and making use of new technologies.  And you need to create a strategy for the future that takes this assessment into account.

Technology development is not a magical black box that pops out wonderful (and sometimes threatening) new products. With a little unpacking, it’s possible to see some broad outlines of how it develops, and where the areas of heaviest action are. You can break development down on a technical level, and more importantly on a business level. In many ways the business forces are much more powerful than the technical. Let’s look at one example.

Right now we are watching a race for platform dominance in several important areas. The platforms include the ones we’ve come to expect: computer operating systems and applications. But there are much bigger races, in much less mature markets. These include mobile and device platforms, publishing platforms, cloud platforms, retail platforms, and social media platforms. The details and results of these races have profound effects on the way your photo business operates. And the choices you make now can have a big impact in the future.

To make sense of your place in the changing world of technology, you need to do some self-alaysis. Are you an early adopter of technology, or do you always come late to the party? There are advantages and disadvantages of each. And your long-term planning should be done in light of an honest assessment of your own strengths and interests. The early adopter needs to be wary of spending too much time chasing technologies that don’t pan out.  And the late adopter needs to be careful not to let the market pass by.

Armed with a better understanding of what is happening around us and inside us, it’s possible to make a plan for wrangling the messy business of disruptive technological change.