Round Table: Has Social Media Killed the Fashion Photographer?

Social media, the rise of the smartphone and influencer marketing have all played roles in revolutionising the fashion industry. But while the changes have opened a variety of new doors, they have been slamming others shut. Fashion photography is no longer exclusive to the professionals, as it seems that anyone with a smartphone and a popular Instagram account can now hold their own in this realm. The question is not have these things changed the industry, because it is becoming abundantly clear that they have, but rather has the change been for the better or, the worse?

Apparel Magazine turned to the industry players directly involved in this new development to get the real story. We asked our interviewees: Do you think that fashion photography has suffered or flourished in this new technological age?

Adam Bryce – Professional Photographer

“There are a lot of brands trying to save money on imagery by not working with the best photographers because they see an image as an image, then there are others who see the difference and for this reason, are willing to invest more time and effort than ever. It’s almost as if it’s stretched the industry into two extremes and the middle ground of average image makers doesn’t exist.”

“I think the rise in film photography and professionals using this to their advantage to obtain looks that can’t be achieved by digital photography and require a massive set of skills and knowledge base, is in some way caused by the rise in social media photography, as it’s a way to stand out. I can’t speak for every image, but in general, professional fashion photographers should be able to achieve a lot more in an image and should be capable of better technical and creative results. In a professional environment, you have the skills and resources to create exactly what you need.”

Annupam – Professional Photographer

“I don’t find any differences in professional and social media photography any more, a good picture will always tell your viewer a story. With social media you have less than 30 seconds to get the viewers’ attention, people are scrolling through their Instagram and your image has to be unique for them to pause and view it. I don’t think you can differentiate between a professional and a social media photographer. You show up, deliver the best possible content and do that consistently

“[Social media photography] has opened up the doors for a lot of amazing talent to be seen, and it’s so good to see fashion weeks all across the world from the perspective each photographer, as they all have something equally amazing but different to share. Previously you would have only seen what a magazine editor wanted you to see, but now within seconds of a fashion show, you are able to see everything the designers had to showcase. As a professional photographer, the pressure is on you to have something that stands out and is unique.”

Mads Rafferty – Instagram Influencer

“Fashion shows are live, trends and styles go viral, unique designs are exposed, and fashion is now shaped by its consumers. It’s no longer a set season or style as the consumers are becoming the opinion makers. I use my iPhone as people find it more relatable. I have used professional equipment before, and companies have preferred my iPhone images because there was a higher interaction due to the fact that the consumers could relate to it.”

Sara Orme – Photographer

“Quality professional photography will always rise above snapshot social content. Nothing beats the depth, emotion and understanding of narrative that a good professional photographer can offer. However, both professional and social media photography are fulfilling a commercial need. [Social media photography] allows smaller brands and more photographers to get a little in the spotlight when they may never have had the opportunity in the past, and that has a lot of value.”

“On another note fashion may have been dumbed down a bit. Fashion photography has always had great conceptual ideas behind it, and now I wonder if it has given in to being more metrics-driven which often gives in to mainstream demands of the time. Every new generation comes in offering something different, and often cheaper rates, making themselves desirable for the time. Time has shown me this is short term thinking. Focusing on the here and now is great for the moment but I don’t think it is so great for longevity”

“In the end, it depends on the photographer and the depth they are willing to go, whether they are a social media or fashion photographer. There will be strengths in both genres, and it will ultimately come down to the individual.”