It was once impossible for photographers to compete with television broadcasting, particularly with regards to the immediacy of television. The introduction and subsequent adoption of high-quality digital cameras has allowed photographers to revolutionise the manner in which they work.
Because photographers are no longer required to process film this has reduced production time significantly. A process that once took days (shipping film, processing, and then scanning) now takes a matter of minutes thanks to digital cameras, laptop computers and satellite modems.
Initially, the results provided by digital cameras were less than satisfactory and the entry cost was very high compared to that of �analogue� cameras. The cameras themselves were less than ideal for working professionals, being very bulky, slow, and reliant on awkward technological solutions.
But digital photography has come of age in the past two years, and those relying solely on analogue technology are a minority. The Agence France Presse, the world�s olderst news agency, began using digital technology in 1996, with agency wide adoption in 1998. More recently, the AFP has begun using wireless technology to transmit images in real time from photographers to photo editors.
There are many benefits for photographers and agencies using digital technology. The Internet has become the single most important business tool for photographers and their agencies, with many of their business models being wholly reliant on it as a means of dissemination.
Both WorldPictureNews and VII Photo are excellent examples of web-based agencies. VII and WpN are relatively new structures (both were founded in 2001), and have become market leaders. WpN photographers regularly publish material in periodicals such as Time magazine, Newsweek, and the National Geographic Magazine.
Thanks to electronic storage of images, fewer staff and smaller offices, operational costs are greatly reduced. To view images and purchase them is near instant, and their market reach is now truly global.
As John Stanmyer, one of the co-founders of VII recently said: �The appeal [with digital] was this concept of self empowerment. I realized [...] that I needed to take responsibility for myself not just as a photographer but also on a business level.�
However, digital has also created a number of challenges. One of the key difficulties concerning digital photography is the increased workload faced by photographers, as they increasingly become autonomous production units.
It is no longer a question of going out and reporting a story. Deadlines have tightened (and in light of the global market, multiplied) requiring photojournalists to file images as soon as possible, in order to effectively compete with their peers.